Case #708

DATE: June 6, 2014

PARTIES: University of Toronto v S.R.
Hearing Date(s): March 31, 2014
Panel Members:
Sarah Kraicer, Chair
Ernest Lam, Faculty Member
Afshin Ameri, Student Member
Appearances:
Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel
Lucy Gaspini, Manager, Academic Integrity and Affairs, University of Toronto Mississauga
Marija Stankovic, Course Instructor
In Attendance:
Sinead Cutt, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Not in Attendance:
The Student
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(b) of the Code – unauthorized aid – collaboration with another student on midterm – Students not at hearing – collaborating student admits guilt – finding of guilt – second offence – grade of zero in the course; two-year five-month suspension; four-year academic record notation; report to Provost for publication
The Student did not attend the hearing, which was postponed at his request. The Panel, therefore, first addressed whether to proceed in the Students’ absence. The Panel was satisfied that the Student had reasonable notice of the hearing and had been served, by letter, email, phone calls, text message, and courier, in accordance with the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the University Tribunal. The University did briefly make contact with the Student who was in Pakistan at the time. The Student advised that a text message followed by an email was the best way to contact him. The University followed this method and received no response.
The Student was charged with offences contrary to s. B.i.1(b), s. B.i.1(d), s. B.i.1(a)(ii), s. B.i.1(a)(iv), s. B.ii.2, and in the alternative, academic misconduct not otherwise described in the Code contrary to s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to a midterm test in which the Student allegedly collaborated with at least one other student. Specifically, the Student copied and shared answers with another student and attempted to do the same with a third student. The Student’s answers were virtually identical to the second student’s. The University withdrew the fourth and fifth charges and advised that if the Student was found guilty on the first charge, the rest would be withdrawn as well.
The course instructor testified that toward the end of the midterm in question a student notified her that two students were talking behind her and one of them had asked her to share her answers with them. The instructor noted their names and found that the students’ exams shared marked similarities. The Student was emailed to arrange a meeting with the manager at the Office of Academic Affairs to discuss the allegations. The Student responded that he was in Pakistan and a meeting was scheduled for when he returned. He did not respond to any further emails and did not attend the meeting. The other student involved was summoned to the hearing but did not attend. An affidavit delivered to the Tribunal stated that the second student met with an Undergraduate Assistant at the University and admitted collaboration on the exam. A sanction of a grade of 40% in the course and a notation on his transcript for 12 months was assigned.
Based on the students’ testimony and the similarities between the midterms the Panel found the Student guilty of knowingly obtaining unauthorized assistance contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code. The balance of the charges were withdrawn.
The Student had a previous offence which had been settled at the departmental level. He was advised that in the event of further misconduct the allegation would be treated as a second offence. The University sought a grade of zero in the course, a suspension of two and a half years, a notation on the Student’s transcript for four years, and that the case be reported to the Provost for publication. The University submitted a penalty harsher than that received by the other collaborating student because of the prior offence and lack of participation in the process.
The Panel then considered the penalty factors from the Mr. C case, namely the character of the Students, likelihood of repetition, nature of the offence, detriment to the University, and the need for deterrence. The Panel distinguished the other collaborating student’s punishment finding that, unlike the Student, he had been cooperative and admitted his guilt. The Panel considered like cases and found that they called for a zero in the course, a suspension of 2 to 5 years, and a notation on the transcript ranging from 4 years to graduation.
The Panel imposed a grade of zero in the course, a suspension of two years and five months, a notation on the Student’s transcript for four years, and ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.