Case #798

DATE: March 1, 2016

PARTIES: University of Toronto v S.J.
Hearing Date(s): December 8, 2015
Panel Members:
Andrew Pinto, Chair
Kathi Wilson, Faculty Member
Yusra Qazi, Student Member
Appearances:
Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel
Lauren Pearce, Student-at-Law, Paliare Roland Barristers
John Carter, Dean’s Designate, Academic Integrity, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Neeraj Sood, Course Teaching Assistant
Piero Triverio, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
Jaro Pristupa, Director, Information Technology
In Attendance:
Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Krista Obsourne, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d), s. B.i.1(c), and s. B.i.1(b) of the Code – plagiarism, impersonation, and unauthorized aid – Student plagiarized computer code for an assignment from an online software repository – Student used other University students’ computer accounts to send an email impersonating the Course professor in an attempt to obtain the examination – Student copied from his lab partner during the final examination – hearing not attended – reasonable notice of hearing provided – mere reference to medical reasons to explain missing the hearing did not constitute a request for adjournment – finding on evidence – finding on guilt – no prior offences – three offences committed within a short amount of time considered to be three first-time offences – Student’s statement that he was depressed and anxious was not sufficient to be considered as a mitigating factor – aggravating factors of lack of remorse and the severity of the student’s deception – grade assignment of zero in both courses; 5-year suspension or a suspension until the Governing Council’s decision on expulsion; corresponding notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; recommendation of expulsion; case reported to Provost for publication
Student charged with one offence under s. B.i.1(d), three offences under s. B.i.1(b), one offence under s. B.ii.2, one offence under s. B.i.1(c) and, in the alternative to those charges, three offences under s. B.i.3(b) and one offence under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. The charges related to separate allegations that the Student committed plagiarism with respect to an Assignment in one Course, that the Student attempted to obtain an advance copy of the final examination in another Course by personating a professor of the Course via email, and that the Student used unauthorized assistance in the final examination in the second Course by copying from another student during the examination. The Panel noted that the Student had no prior offences, and that the acts happened within a reasonably short amount of time (2 months) such that they should be considered three first-time offences. The Student was not present at the hearing. The Panel concluded that the Student had reasonable notice of the hearing via email, and the Student’s lawyer acknowledged that the Student knew the hearing would proceed in his absence. The Panel held that the lawyer’s reference to “medical reasons” as a reason for the Student’s absence did not constitute a request for an adjournment.
Student was found guilty of the plagiarism charge, the impersonation charge, and the unauthorized aid charge. The other charges against the Student were withdrawn. The Panel accepted the evidence of the University’s witnesses, who described how the Student copied directly from a publicly available software repository for the Assignment, how the Student obtained the login information of three other University of Toronto students and sent an email to a professor as if coming from the Course Professor’s email but really coming from another student’s account, and how the Student copied from his lab partner’s examination. The Panel noted that the Student had gone to extraordinary lengths to commit academic misconduct. The circumstances surrounding the phishing email were particularly egregious because of the considerable planning, deliberation, and deception involved, including the identity theft of three university students’ userIDs and passwords and the personation of a professor. The Student showed no remorse when confronted with the charges; accordingly, a more severe sanction was required here than would be had the Student pleaded guilty and expressed remorse. The Student’s statement that he was depressed and anxious, without more, did not rise to the level of sufficiency required for the Panel to consider it a mitigating circumstance. The Panel imposed a grade assignment of zero in both courses; a 5-year suspension or a suspension until the Governing Council’s decision on expulsion; a corresponding notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; a recommendation of expulsion; and that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.