DATE: May 19, 2015
PARTIES: University of Toronto v D.H.
Hearing Date(s): April 8, 2015
Bernard Fishbein, Chair
Bruno Magliocchetti, Faculty Member
Alberta Tam, Student Member
Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel
Glenroy Bastien, Counsel for the Student
Horim Lee, the Student’s former roommate
Kristi Gourlay, Manager, Office of Student Academic Integrity
Anwar Kazimi, Assistant Secretary, Governing Council
The Student’s Mother
Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.3(a) of the Code – altered academic record – transcript altered in employment application – ASF – admission of guilt - attempt to mislead University – prior offence – mitigating circumstances – three-year suspension; four-year transcript notation; case reported to Provost for publication
The Student was charged with circulating an altered transcript contrary to s. B.i.3(a) of the Code. The charge related to a transcript submitted to an employer (CAA) that omitted two semesters.
The matter proceeded by way of an Agreed Statement of Facts (ASF) in which the Student pleaded guilty to the charge. It stated that the Director of Career Services at Rotman Commerce, upon looking into a concern of a second employer, noticed that the Student’s CAA application omitted two semesters of information. The matter was reported to the Office of Student Academic Integrity and the Student met with the Dean’s Designate were he admitted to knowingly having altered his transcript to conceal a grade and annotation. He made this admission after first denying the charge, claiming the omission had been in error as he was rushed. In his confession he advised that he was under familial stress and had learned his lesson from a prior academic incident. He advised the Designate that he had sent a letter of apology to the employer and that they responded that they appreciated his being forthcoming. At the time of the meeting however, he had not sent the letter of apology. The manager at the Office of Student Academic Integrity requested a copy of the letter and response from CAA and the Student replied with an email containing several documents. The Student admits that none of these were from CAA and that he knew them to be misleading. The Student had a prior offence involving an altered test resubmitted for remarking. He had admitted his actions and expressed remorse and received a more lenient sanction than usual, including an notation on his transcript for two years, and a warning against future misconduct. The Student sent an email to the Vice-Provost requesting reconsideration of the penalty imposed for the first offence. This request was dismissed. The Student was also removed from all courses in the Fall 2014 semester as he had deferred four exams and had not yet written them.
The University proposed a sanction of a three-year suspension, a four-year transcript notation, and that the case be reported to the Provost for publication. The Student submitted a penalty of a two-year suspension and a two to three-year transcript notation. The Student testified on his own behalf and called a witness in addition to the ASF. He testified that he had come to Canada from a difficult background in Korea with only his mother and sister. He was under financial pressure and stressed by a drive for success. He was overwrought with guilt by the first academic offence. He had been in an abusive relationship, ending with his partner being prohibited from seeing him by way of a peace bond. Additionally, to explain why he omitted the semesters from his transcript, he explained that he had been advised at a seminar to present himself to employers in the best light possible and the importance of getting a foot in the door. The Student indicated that this was what he was trying to do in presenting an incomplete transcript to CAA and that he did not understand the request to be for an official transcript. He further testified that he had handwritten a letter to CAA but had procrastinated sending it. The Student provided evidence that he had sought medical assistance and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. The Student’s former roommate testified that the Student’s mental health had deteriorated throughout the year and that he believed the Student regretted his actions.
The University asserted that the Panel should look to the Code, the Mr. C case, and other Tribunal jurisprudence for guidance. Appendix C of the Code states that the recommended sanction for a second offence ranges from a two-year suspension to expulsion but is only guidance and is not binding. The University referred the Panel to the penalty factors from the Mr. C case, specifically the Student’s character and high likelihood for repetition. The University also highlighted the seriousness of the offence, need for deterrence, and detriment to the University. The University admitted that there were some mitigating circumstances but that these had already been factored into the lesser sanction the University sought. The Panel was referred to a number of previous cases, though they were all first offences with no agreed penalty. The Student stressed his difficult circumstances and referred the Panel to a Supreme Court of Canada decision for the proposition of individual proportionality with respect to sentencing. The Student also referred to the Mr. C factors focusing on mitigating circumstances and noting that, as the conduct was not public, the University’s reputation was not sullied.
The Panel, noting the difficulty of the decision, determined that the penalty would depend on the wisdom of the Tribunal to fine tune a sanction. The Panel found the sanctions were not hugely different and that the penalty sought by the University was not disproportionate given the Student’s situation. The Panel found that there was no case it was referred to in which a two-year suspension was imposed for this type of offence. The Panel imposed a suspension of three years, a notation on his academic record for four years, and that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.