Case #714

DATE: October 11, 2013
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. N.R.


Hearing Date(s): September 13, 2013

Panel Members:

John Keefe, Chair
Wayne Enright, Faculty Member
Saneea Tanvir, Student Member


Appearances:
Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Jeff Marshman, Student Representative, DLS

In Attendance:
Kristi Gourlay, Manager, Office of Academic Integrity
Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Sinéad Cutt, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(a) and s. B.i.3(a) of the Code – forged documents and forged academic records– email sent to four professors containing false information and forged academic records – emails containing fraudulent information are not forged documents – Agreed Statement of Facts – guilty plea accepted for charges under s. B.i.3(a) but rejected for charges under s. B.i.1(a) – modified guilty plea to charges under s. B.i.3(b) accepted – Joint Submission on Penalty – first offence – Student admitted guilt early and cooperated throughout – Student had only one credit remaining to graduate – Student expressed genuine remorse at hearing – transcript forgery among the most serious offences – misconduct involved considerable planning and deliberation – Joint Submission on Penalty accepted – suspension and notation deemed to have commenced the date the Joint Submission on Penalty was signed by the Student to avoid unintended increase in severity of sanction -- five-year suspension; seven-year notation; report to Provost for publication

Student charged with four offences under s. B.i.1(a), four offences under s. B.i.3(a) and in the alternative, four offences under s. B.i.3(b). The charges related to four separate emails sent by the Student to four separate professors on the same date, each of which allegedly contained false or falsified information. The Student pleaded guilty to the charges under s. B.i.1(a) and s. B.i.3(a) and the matter proceeded by way of an Agreed Statement of Facts. The emails were sent to request each professor act as her graduate supervisor. Each email contained the same statement that the Student had been granted conditional acceptance to the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program at the University. At the time, the Student had not been accepted to the Graduate Program. The Student had been advised that her application would be placed on hold pending receipt of her final grades. A forged academic transcript was also attached to each email. The Panel expressed concern with respect to whether the emails could be properly characterized as forged, altered or falsified documents for the purposes of s. B.i.1(a). The Panel observed that although the information contained in the emails was fraudulent, the emails themselves were not falsified. After deliberation, the University and the Student agreed to amend the Agreed Statement of Facts so that the student would plead guilty to four offences under s. B.i.3(b) in relation to the emails instead of four offences under s. B.i.1(a). The Student would also plead guilty to the four offences under s. B.i.3(a) in relation to the academic transcripts as anticipated. The Panel accepted the revised guilty plea and the University withdrew the four charges under s. B.i.1(a). The parties presented a Joint Submission on Penalty. The Student was in her final year at the University and had only one credit remaining in order to graduate. The Student acknowledged guilt at the earliest possible opportunity and cooperated throughout the disciplinary process. She expressed genuine remorse at the hearing. The Student had no prior record of academic misconduct. Transcript forgery is at the most serious end of the range of sanctions. Considerable planning and deliberation went into the falsified academic record in this case. The alteration of marks was not insignificant. Falsification of records strikes at the heart of the honesty and integrity which is at the core of the academic experience and evaluation. The Panel accepted the joint submission, noting that in the absence of the mitigating factors, the sanction could very well have been expulsion. The Panel imposed a five-year suspension, a seven-year notation on the Student’s transcript, and ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication. The Panel observed that if the suspension took effect from the day of the hearing, the Student would in fact be suspended for more than five years because the Tribunal was sitting shortly after the commencement of the Winter term. Accordingly, the Panel, with the consent of the parties, amended the Joint Submission on Penalty to provide that the suspension and transcript notation would commence on August 26, 2013, which was the date of the Student’s signature on the Joint Submission on Penalty.