Case #675

DATE: April 23, 2014

PARTIES: University of Toronto v O.K.
Hearing Date(s): March 4, 2014
Panel Members:
Sana Halwani, Chair
Joel Kirsh, Faculty Member
Jenna Jacobson, Student Member
Appearances:
Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel
Sylvia Schumacher, Lawyer for the Student
In Attendance:
The Student
David Walders, Acting Secretary, Governing Council Secretariat, Observer
Natalie Ramtahal, Coordinator, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d) and s. B.i.3(b) of the Code – plagiarism – adjournment to retain counsel granted –Agreed Statement of Facts – guilty plea – two prior offences – Undertaking to complete Academic Skills Workshops – Joint Submission on Penalty – grade of zero in the course; three-year suspension; four-year transcript notation; report to Provost for publication
The Trial Division of the Tribunal was convened to consider charges under s. B.i.1(d) and, in the alternative, s. B.i.3(b) of the Code laid against the Student. The Student appeared unrepresented and was granted an adjournment to retain counsel. A second Notice of Hearing was issued with new panel members. On the basis of a joint request by the Student and University, the original Chair ordered the matter could proceed before a new Panel as the original panel had not heard any evidence.
The Student pleaded guilty, the matter proceeded on the basis of an Agreed Statement of Facts and the University advised that if the Student’s plea was accepted, the alternative charge would be withdrawn. The charges arose from an assignment the Student submitted in hardcopy and on Turnitin.com, an online plagiarism detector, which detected significant similarities between the Student’s paper and online sources. The Professor met with the Student and referred the case to the Office of the Dean. The Student then attended a Dean’s Designate meeting where she indicated she hadn’t intentionally plagiarized and abstained from pleading. The matter was then forwarded to the Provost.
The Student’s guilty plea was accepted, and the alternative charge was withdrawn. The Student had committed two previous plagiarism offences. She was given mark deduction penalties and a one-year transcript notation. The Student had also entered and Undertaking to complete eight Academic Skills Workshops and she would be unable to graduate until their completion. The Undertaking formed the basis of the Joint Submission on Penalty which contemplated a three year suspension. The Panel considered cases of Undertaking, appreciating their value, but felt they are more appropriate at discovery of a first offence, not when the Student is facing expulsion. The Student spoke and expressed remorse. The high threshold for rejecting a Joint Submission on Penalty was not met and the Panel accepted the parties’ submission.
The Panel found the Student guilty of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d), assigned a grade of zero in the course, imposed a three-year suspension from the date of the hearing, ordered a notation on the Student’s transcript for four years or until graduation and ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.