DATE: March 20, 2015
PARTIES: University of Toronto v M.G.
Hearing Date(s): December 17, 2014
Roslyn Tsao, Chair
Ernest Lam, Faculty Member
Simon Czajkowski, Student Member
Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel
Brian Harrington, Course Instructor
Eleanor Irwin, Dean’s Designate, UTS
Wayne Dowler, Dean’s Designate, UTS
Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(b), s. B.i.1(d) and s. B.i.3(b) of the Code – student does not appear – unauthorized assistance – plagiarism not made out – no past misconduct – Mr. C factors used in penalty escalation from decanal to tribunal level – grade of zero in course; six-month suspension; two-year notation on transcript; report to Provost for publication
The Student was charged with two counts under s. B.i.1(b), in the alternative, two charges under s. B.i.1(d), and, in the further alternative, two charges under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code in a computer programming course. The Student did not attend the hearing and brief adjournment was made. The Panel was satisfied that the Student had reasonable notice of the hearing and had been served, by mail, email, and phone call, in accordance with the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the University Tribunal and the hearing proceeded.
The University called the course instructor as a witness. He testified that in the course, partnership with another student was encouraged, but must be registered and dissolved with permission of the instructor. The students were also warned against and given guidelines on cheating. The Student’s work on the first assignment submitted was measured as being 75% similar to another student’s (L), though the two were not partners. As was his practice, the instructor emailed the Student to discuss the similarities and issue a warning but the Student did not respond nor meet with the instructor. On a second assignment the Student’s submission was suspiciously similar to an assignment submitted by another partnership which included L. The instructor recalled that he had denied a request for a partnership of three students, though he could not recall if it was the Student’s request. The instructor emailed the three students and emailed the Department Chair’s Designate indicating that two of the students had already been identified for similarities on the first assignment. The Student did not write the final exam but the other implicated students (L and Y) did.
The Dean’s Designate became involved with L and the alleged misconduct of failing to register as a pair with the Student on the first assignment and after forming a group of three students on the second assignment, not discarding that work. The Dean’s Designate confirmed L’s acceptance of misconduct and that it constituted an offence under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code. A different Dean’s Designate became involved with Y who refused to admit guilt as the Student had done no work and Y and L had done all of the work for the second assignment in good faith. Y eventually admitted being part of a three-person group and received a light sanction.
The Panel found the Student guilty of obtaining unauthorized assistance on two assignments contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code. The Panel did not find that the University established that the Student had committed plagiarism as that would require Y or L to testify that the Student had copied their original source material. The University withdrew the alternative charges.
The University sought a penalty of a grade of zero in the course, a two-year suspension, and a notation in the Student’s academic record for two years. The Student had no prior record of academic misconduct and had not registered at the University since the Winter 2013 term. The Panel did not treat the case as a “plagiarism case” as the University had not made out the requisite requirements for that charge and at most the Student did not register his partnership for the first assignment and collaborated with two other students instead of one. Additionally, the escalation in penalty between the Student and Y and L was his failure to participate in the process. The Panel referred to a case before the Discipline Appeals Board (DAB) that considered the escalation of penalty at the decanal level to the trial level. The DAB held that the Mr. C factors are what warrant an escalation in penalty, not whether or not the student triggers a hearing. The Panel then applied the Mr. C factors and assigned a grade of zero in the course, imposed a six-month suspension, ordered a notation on the Student’s transcript for two years, and ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.