Case #719 - Appeal

DATE: February 20, 2018

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. W.K. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): December 12, 2017
Panel Members:
Ms. Lisa Brownstone, Barrister and Solicitor, Chair
Dr. Ramona Alaggia, Faculty Panel Member
Professor Elizabeth Peter, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. Sean McGowan, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Ms. Lisa Freeman, Courtyard Chambers, Counsel for the Student
Mr. Robert A. Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Barristers
In Attendance:
The Student
Dr. Kristi Gourlay, Manager & Academic Integrity Officer, Office of Student Academic Integrity, Faculty of Arts & Science
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline & Faculty Grievances
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, Appeals, Discipline & Faculty Grievances
Mr. Sean Lourim, IT Support, Office of the Governing Council
Discipline Appeal Board – Student appeal from sanction – request to set aside order of expulsion and impose a suspension - s. B.i.1(a) and s. B.i.1(d) of the Code – eight offences committed during a six month period - falsified personal statement in petition for academic accommodation – plagiarism – course work purchased from commercial provider of essays – guilty plea – Agreed Statement of Facts – conduct during the hearing relevant in determining the Student’s character as well as likelihood the Student would follow University rules in the future – Panel entitled to give little weight to medical evidence where author not available for cross-examination – appeal dismissed - assignment of zero in the affected courses; immediate five-year suspension pending expulsion; and report to Provost
Appeal by the Student from the sanction of expulsion that was ordered by the Tribunal after the Student pled guilty to committing eight counts of academic misconduct contrary to s. B.i.1(a) of the Code and s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. The Student argued that the errors of law committed by the Tribunal is that they had applied irrelevant considerations in determining the appropriate sanction and mis-apprehended the evidence. The Student requested that the sanction of expulsion be replaced with a five-year suspension.
The Board rejected the first ground of appeal, finding that the Panel had made limited and appropriate use of the Student's conduct at the hearing. The Student’s conduct at the hearing was relevant to their character (a factor clearly relevant to sanction) and also in the concern that the Student would not follow rules of the University if the relationship between the Student and the University were not severed. The Board dismissed the Student’s second ground of appeal, the misapprehension of the evidence, because in the absence of the ability to cross examine the authors of the reports their underlying information could not be tested. The Board found that the Panel was entitled to admit the medical reports submitted by the Student but then place little weight on their contents because the Student did not call the authors of the report to testify so cross-examination on their contents did not take place. Though the Board found that there were no errors in law committed by the Panel, even if they were wrong in this respect, the errors in law alleged by the Student would have been too minor to warrant granting a new hearing.
The Board refused the Student’s alternative argument that his unique circumstances (diagnoses of learning disability, anxiety and depression) warranted an expansive reading of the Board’s powers to substitute a different penalty on compassionate grounds. The Board’s three reasons for dismissing this argument were: (1) at the time of the offences, the only contemporaneous medical evidence showed that the Student was seeing physicians for other, non-mental health related illnesses; (2) the only mental health expert who did treat the Student testified that there was no nexus between the Student’s learning disabilities that would cause him to commit the offences; and (3) the earlier cases to which the Student referred as precedents for a lesser penalty did not involve the number and severity of offences as those that the Student admitted to committing in this case. The Panel’s sanction of 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 were upheld. Appeal dismissed.