Case #719

DATE: April 11, 2017

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. W.K. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): February 16, 2016; April 13, 2016; August 25, 2016; August 30, 2016; October 6, 2016; November 2, 2016; January 16, 2017
Panel Members:
Ms. Sarah Kraicer, Barrister and Solicitor, Co-Chair
Professor Ernest Lam, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Alice Zhu, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland, Barristers
Ms. Lauren Pearce, Articling Student, Paliare Roland, Barristers (February 16, 2016, April 13, 2016)
Ms. Emily Home, Articling Student, Paliare Roland, Barristers (August 25, 2016, August 30, 2016, October 6, 2016, November 2, 2016, January 16, 2017)
In Attendance:
The Student
Dr. Kristi Gourlay, Manager & Academic Integrity Officer, Office of Student Academic Integrity, Faculty of Arts & Science (February 16, 2016, April 13, 2016, August 25, 2016, August 30, 2016, November 2, 2016, January 16, 2017)
Professor John Britton, Dean's Designate, Faculty of Arts & Science (February 16, 2016, April 13, 2016, August 25, 2016, October 6, 2016, January 16, 2017)
Dr. William Ford, Educational Psychologist (October 6, 2016)
Mr. Paul Russell, Associate Registrar, Student Services, New College (October 6, 2016)
Ms. Krista Osborne, Administrative Assistant, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances (February 16, 2016)
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances, (February 16, 2016, April 13, 2016, October 6, 2016, January 16, 2017)
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances (April 13, 2016, August 25, 2016, August 30, 2016, November 2, 2016)
Mr. Sean Lourim, Technology Assistant, Office of the Governing Council (August 25, 2016, August 30, 2016, October 6, 2016, November 2, 2016, January 16, 2017)
Ms. Michelle Henry, Observer, newly-appointed Tribunal Co-Chair (August 25, 2016)
Trial Division - s. B.i.1(a) and s. B.i.1(d) of the Code – falsified personal statement in petition for academic accommodation – plagiarism – course work purchased from commercial provider of essays – guilty plea – Agreed Statement of Facts – facts admitted in an ASF relating to a charge that is later withdrawn can still be used in considering remaining charges – plea agreement with no Joint Submission on Penalty – presumptive penalty of expulsion for purchased essays – aggravating factors include two prior offences, disregard for previous warnings, no acknowledgement of responsibility, conduct during the hearing – assignment of zero in the affected courses; immediate five-year suspension pending expulsion; and report to Provost
The Student was charged with 13 counts of misconduct under sections B.i.1(a), B.i.1(b), and B.i.1(d) of the Code, or in the alternative, s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The Parties produced an Agreed Statement of Facts (ASF) and entered into a plea agreement. The Student pled guilty to two charges of making false statements in documents seeking academic accommodation contrary to s. B.i.1(a) of the Code and six charges of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. The plagiarism charges related to work that was submitted for course credit in four different courses that was either purchased from a commercial provider of essays, copied from lecture slides, an on-line forum, assigned course readings, or from academic articles. The Panel found the Student guilty of these eight charges. The University withdrew the other charges.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the Panel applied the principles set out in University of Toronto v. Mr. C (Case No. 1976/77-3; November 5, 1976): (a) the character of the person charged; (b) the likelihood of a repetition of the offence; (c) the nature of the offence committed; (d) any extenuating circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence; (e) the detriment to the University occasioned by the offence; and (f) the need to deter others from committing a similar offence.
The Student had previously been sanctioned for two separate incidents of plagiarism. The Panel found this history, combined with the large number of incidents of misconduct at issue, the fact that these incidents were committed shortly after the Student had already been warned and disciplined for prior offences, and that they were committed while the Student was under a transcript notation for the prior offences, were strong factors which indicated that there is a significant likelihood that the Student was likely to repeat the offences. In addition, the Panel found that the Student had failed to take responsibility for his actions. Further, the Panel found that the Student’s conduct at the hearing constituted an aggravating factor for the purpose of sanctioning. The Student’s lateness, lack of preparation, and inflammatory accusations against counsel and the Panel demonstrated a lack of respect for the University and its discipline process and raised serious concerns about the Student's continued inability to govern himself in accordance with the University's standards, rules and responsibilities.
The Panel found that the offences of plagiarism and filing a false petition were very serious acts of misconduct that occasioned detriment to the University and required a strong need to deter others. The Panel referred to the Discipline Appeal Board decision, University of Toronto v C., H. and K. (Case No. 596, 597, 598, November 23, 2011) which held that purchasing an essay is generally sanctioned by an expulsion because it involves intention, planning and deliberate deception, a 3rd party commercial element, and is often more difficult than other types of plagiarism to detect. The Panel found that falsification of information in a petition was a very serious offence because it took advantage of the University's petition system which is intended to provide students who experience genuine personal difficulties or circumstances with a means to obtain extraordinary relief from academic requirements and deadlines. By submitting false information in his personal statements, the Student breached his relationship of trust with the University and undermined the integrity of the petition system.
The Student argued that the Panel could not consider the facts in the ASF where he had admitted to purchasing an essay because those admissions related to the unauthorized assistance charge, which was subsequently withdrawn by the University when the Student pled guilty to the plagiarism charge that related to the same incident. The Panel held that the withdrawal of a charge by the University does not have the effect of preventing the Tribunal from taking into account facts admitted in the ASF that relate to the withdrawn charge. The facts concerning the unauthorized assistance charge related to and supported the charge of plagiarism to which the Student pled guilty. Furthermore, the Panel found that the argument that "plagiarism" is a different charge than "purchasing an essay" was also not consistent with Tribunal jurisprudence, which commonly considers purchased essays as a form of "plagiarism" under the Code.
The Panel did not find that the Student’s mental health and learning disabilities to be mitigating factors in the circumstances because the evidence failed to establish that these disabilities had any temporal or causal link to or were a justification, explanation or excuse for the commission by the Student of the offences. The Student was sanctioned with a grade of zero in each of the affected courses; an order that the Student be immediately suspended from the University for up to 5 years pending an order of expulsion; and an order that the case be reported to the Provost for publication with the Student's name withheld.