Case #709

DATE: July 10, 2017
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. C.S. (the "Student”)

Hearing Date(s): June 20, 2017

Panel Members:
Mr. Bernard Fishbein, Chair
Professor Ann Tourangeau, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Susan Mazzatto, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Barristers
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Barristers
Ms. Maryan Shahid, Summer Student, Paliare Roland Barristers
Ms. Carol Shirtliff-Hinds, Shirtliff-Hinds Law Office, Counsel for the Student (for adjournment request only)
Mr. Vincent Rocheleau, Articling Student, Shirtliff-Hinds Law Office (for adjournment request only)
Professor Luc De Nil, Vice-Dean, Students, School of Graduate Studies

In Attendance:
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances ("ADFG")
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, ADFG
Mr. Sean Lourim, Office of the Governing Council, IT Specialist
Ms. Nora Gillespie, Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Vice-President and Provost, University of Toronto

Not in Attendance
The Student

Trial Division – plagiarism – Section B.i.1(d) of the Code – request for adjournment – anxiety attack – mental health issues– requirement of medical corroboration – jurisdiction over graduates – student not present – revocation of degree – deliberate delay – purpose of expulsion where student already graduated – final grade of zero in the affected course, degree recall and cancellation, permanent notation on transcript, removal of thesis from library, recommendation of expulsion, publication of decision with name withheld

The Student was charged with one charge of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, or in the alternative one charge of academic dishonesty under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to events that occurred in 1996, when the Student's Ed.D. dissertation was submitted with at least 67 passages of text, including some passages that were several pages long, that had been copied from unattributed sources. The issue came to light in 2013, over ten years after the Student had been granted his degree. At a meeting with the Dean’s Designate, the Student admitted to copying the passages in his dissertation from unattributed sources.


Since 2013 when the charges were first laid, there had been a number of interlocutory decisions and adjournments that delayed this hearing. Dr S. did not attend the hearing, but had a representative request for a further adjournment on his behalf because he was experiencing mental health issues, specifically, he had an anxiety attack the previous day. The Panel declined to adjourn the hearing because: (1) unsubstantiated mental health issues did not meet the standard to grant an adjournment of “actual disability or incapacity to participate” in the proceedings; (2) the Student had failed to make mention of any health-related issues in the Divisional Court proceedings that had occurred days earlier, which raised the inference that the Student did not intend to travel from Chicago to Toronto for the hearing; and (3) the Panel was not advised that the Student was hospitalized or under immediate medical supervision due to an acute crisis. Given the protracted history of the proceedings, the Panel inferred that the Student was aware of the need for medical evidence to corroborate his application for adjournment. In the absence of any medical evidence, the Panel declined Student’s application for an adjournment. The hearing proceeded without the Student's or his representative present.


The Panel found that in the Student’s dissertation there was clear evidence of plagiarism in the sheer number and extent of non-attributed sources had been used repeatedly and had been altered and changed in an attempt to hide their real sources. Upon the Panel finding the Student to be guilty of plagiarism, the University withdrew the alternative charge of academic dishonesty.


The Panel found that the Student had committed a serious form of plagiarism, both in terms of sheer volume and in terms of tailoring unattributed sources to fit the Student’s thesis while concealing the original sources. Though the Student had admitted to plagiarism at the Dean’s Designate meeting, the University’s view was that the Student had deliberately delayed the disciplinary process in the subsequent years. While the Panel acknowledged that the Student had the right to make the University establish its case, the Student’s conduct throughout the disciplinary process led the Panel to infer a lack of remorse, a lack of appreciation of the gravity of the offence committed, or any other mitigating circumstances.

The Panel imposed a final grade of zero in the affected course, that the Student’s Ed.D. degree be cancelled and recalled, that the cancellation be permanently noted on the Student’s academic transcript, that the University remove the Student's thesis from any library, and that the decision be published with the the Student's name withheld. Due to the severity of the Student's academic misconduct, the majority of the Tribunal (Co-Chair dissenting) also recommended that the Student be expelled in order to make it clear that any future academic engagement of the Student at the University was prohibited.