Case #648

DATE: November 12, 2013
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. C.E.


Hearing Date(s): April 9, 2013; May 27, 2013; June 26, 2013

Panel Members:

Michael Hines, Chair
Joel Kirsh, Faculty Member
Peter Qiang, Student Member


Appearances:
Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Glenn Stuart, Barrister and Solicitor
Justin Bumgardner, Lecturer (Course Professor)
Miriam Avadisian, a Student
Ivan Ampuero, Campus Police
Charles Helewa, Campus Police
Maeve Chandler, a Student
The Student's brother
The Student's mother

In Attendance:
The Student
Lucy Gaspini, Manager, Academic Integrity and Affairs (UTM)
Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(b) of the Code – unauthorized aid – Student brought completed Mid-Term Exam Booklet into final exam -- Student took materials seized by professor and fled – inability to determine whether materials were aids or not attributable to actions of the Student; Student must therefore provide credible, cogent evidence to support his contention – post-offence conduct more consistent with guilty mind than honest panic – finding of guilt – first offence – extraordinary post-offence conduct and deliberate deception is an aggravating factor – positive reference letters given little weight because authors were unaware of alleged misconduct – evidence of personal tragedy does not mitigate when used to support factual innocence rather than contextualize guilty conduct – grade assignment of zero in the course; three-year suspension; four-year notation on transcript; report to Provost for publication -- Decision issuance delayed for reasons beyond Student’s control; suspension and transcript notation deemed to begin on final day of hearing rather than date of issuance


Student charged with one offence under s. B.i.1(b) and in the alternative, one offence under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to an allegation that the Student knowingly used or possessed an unauthorized aid in the exam hall during a final exam. Specifically, the Student was alleged to have brought a completed Mid-Term Exam Booklet from the same course into the final exam. The Student claimed that the Mid-Term Booklet he possessed was from an unrelated course and therefore was not an aid for the purposes of s. B.i.1(b). Both the Mid-Term Exam Booklet and the Final Exam Booklet were seized by the professor during the exam after a brief struggle with the Student. The professor gave the seized materials to the Chief Presiding Officer in the exam hall. Before the exam was finished, the Student grabbed the materials that had been seized and ran from the exam hall. Campus police were contacted and met with the Student for an interview two days later. During the interview, the Student informed the interviewing officer that he had ‘stashed’ the materials at the bottom of a staircase in the same building in which the exam had been written. The materials were recovered. The Mid-Term Exam Booklet that was found alongside the Final Exam Booklet was from an unrelated course. However, the professor testified that the completed Mid-Term Exam Booklet he had seized from the Student was from the same course. When shown the unrelated Mid-Term Exam Booklet found by the staircase, the Chief Presiding Officer denied that it was the Mid-Term Exam Booklet that had been handed to her by the professor during the exam. The Panel observed that the inability to definitively answer whether the Mid-Term Exam Booklet was related or unrelated was entirely attributive to the actions of the Student. The Panel noted that, while that fact did not relieve the University from the ultimate burden of proof, it obliged the Student to provide credible, cogent evidence to demonstrate how the facts are best explained by his contention that the Mid-Term Exam Booklet in question was from an unrelated course. The Panel found no reason to disbelieve the evidence of the professor that he observed the Mid-Term Exam Booklet was from the same course. The Panel found inconsistencies in the evidence of the Student, and concluded that the Student’s behaviour in seizing the exam and fleeing was more consistent with a guilty mind than with an honest student whose panic was nevertheless so extreme as to rob him of any vestige of rationality. The Panel concluded that the Student was guilty of the offence under s. B.i.1(b).

The Student had no prior disciplinary record and provided two letters of reference which spoke highly of him. The Panel noted that the authors of the letters appeared to be unaware of the conduct in question and consequently attribute little weight to these references. The Panel treated the Student’s extraordinary conduct after his materials were seized by the professor, and the protracted and deliberate course of deception he engaged in afterwards, as aggravating factors. The Panel acknowledged the series of personal tragedies experience by the Student in the months preceding the events in question. However, the Panel concluded that these tragedies could not be used as mitigating factors because the Student relied on them in attempt to provide an innocent explanation for his conduct which the Panel rejected. The tragedies did not explain or mitigate the fact found by the Panel that the Student had attempted to mislead the Tribunal. The Panel found that the Student was unlikely to repeat this type of offence and that it was not therefore necessary to prevent his return to the University altogether. The Panel imposed a final grade of zero in the course, a three-year suspension, a four-year notation on the Student’s transcript, and ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication. The Panel noted that for reasons beyond the Student’s control, it had taken more than four months or the Decision to be issued. The Panel therefore directed that both the suspension and the transcript notation be deemed to have commenced on the final day of the hearing, rather than the date of issuance.