Case #651

DATE: April 10, 2012
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. O.O.


Hearing Date(s): April 10, 2012

Panel Members:
Mr. William McDowell, Chair
Prof. Annette Sanger, Faculty Member
Mr. Shakir Rahim, Student Member


Appearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Mr. O.O., the Student


In Attendance:
Ms. Lucy Gaspini, Manager, Academic Integrity Affairs
Mr. Jason Marin, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d) of Code – plagiarism – passages from essay taken verbatim from internet sources – Agreed Statement of Facts – guilty plea – finding of guilt – Joint Submission on Penalty – Undertaking to complete writing workshops – prior academic offences of similar nature – Panel acknowledged that a joint submission should not be rejected unless its acceptance would bring the administration of justice into disrepute – Panel accepted Joint Submission with reluctance – timing of Undertaking – suspicious unsettled facts – better to address academic deficiencies before and not after repeated academic offences – serious nature of the offence and harm to the university – grade assignment of zero for course; three-year suspension; report to Provost – Panel rejected the Student’s motion for a ban on publication


Student charged under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student submitted an essay containing passages taken verbatim or nearly verbatim from internet sources. The parties submitted an Agreed Statement of Facts. The Student pleaded guilty to the charges, and the Panel found the Student guilty under s. B.i.1(d). The parties also agreed on a proposed penalty: a grade assignment of zero in the course and a three-year suspension. As part of the resolution, the Student signed an Undertaking which required the Student to take workshops at the university’s writing centre. Before the current offence, the Student had committed two similar plagiarism offences. In considering whether to accept the joint submission, the Panel acknowledged that a joint submission should not be rejected unless it is contrary to the public interest in that the proposed penalty would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. The Panel stated that it accepted the joint submission with reluctance. The reasons for reluctance were as follows. First, the Panel considered it unfortunate that the Undertaking was offered after the Student’s third offence and not his first offence. Second, the Panel remained suspicious of some of the facts agreed by the parties. Because of the University’s half-way position in which it accepted reports submitted by the Student while stating that it did not accept the truth of all the facts submitted, the Panel was asked to accept the Student’s “exquisite bad luck in relation to motor vehicle accidents, coupled with a poorly supported medical/psychiatric explanation.” The Panel stated that this way of proceeding runs the risk of confusing the Panel. Third, the Panel also stated that it agreed with the view regarding undertakings expressed in Y.K. (Case No. 631), that the student’s academic should be addressed before, and not as a result of academic offences. Finally, the Panel stressed the harm that the offence of plagiarism brings to the university and stated that a penalty of expulsion would not have been out of line for the Student. As according to the joint submission, the Panel imposed a grade assignment of zero in the course; a three-year suspension; and a report be issued to the Provost. The Panel rejected the Student’s motion for a ban on publication as the question of publication was settled in the joint submission; the Panel found it abhorrent that the Student said because his family donated to the university, there should be a ban on publication.