Case #810

Case 810 - Motion
DATE: August 5, 2016

PARTIES: University of Toronto v B.S.
Hearing Date(s):
January 27, 2016
June 28, 2016
Panel Members:
Sana Halwani, Chair
Maria Rozakis-Adcock, Faculty Member
Raylesha Parker, Student Member
Appearances:
Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel
Ms. B.S., the Student
Yelena Goren, Counsel for the Student
Witnesses:
Laura Bisaillon, Instructor of the Course, UTS
Maryam Saatian, the Student’s dentist
Eleanor Irwin, Dean’s Designate, UTS
Ms. B.S., the Student
Ms. A.G.K., the Student’s mother
In Attendance:
Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Krista Osbourne, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(a), s. B.i.1(d) and s. B.i.1(f) of the Code – forged documents, plagiarism, and concoction – Student forged a medical certificate and committed plagiarism and concoction of sources in relation to a Paper in the Course – finding on evidence – finding on guilt – grade assignment of zero; 3-year suspension; 4-year notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; case reported to Provost for publication
Student charged under s. B.i.1(a), s. B.i.1(d), s. B.i.1(f) and, in the alternative, two offences under s. B.i.3(b). The charges related to allegations that the Student submitted a forged Verification of Student Illness or Injury form in support of her request for academic accommodations for the Course, and that the Student committed plagiarism and concocted sources in connection with a paper submitted for the Course. The Student did not submit the Paper on time, and in her request for extra time and she provided a three medical certificates ostensibly from her dentist. The dentist attended the hearing and confirmed that she completed the first and third medical certificates, but that she had not completed the second certificate and had not seen the student on the alleged date.
At the conclusion of the Course Instructor’s testimony (after she had been cross-examined by the Student and the Panel had been given an opportunity to ask questions, and she had been excused from the hearing), the Student requested to bring the Instructor back for further questioning. The Student claimed that she believed she would have another opportunity to cross-examine. The Panel ruled that the Student had had ample opportunity to question the Instructor, and emphasized that the Tribunal process was clearly explained on the Tribunal website.
The Student’s complaints that she was dealt with unfairly by the Course Instructor with respect to the calculation of the late penalty applied to the paper was not within the jurisdiction of the Panel. The Panel also emphasized that any belief that the Student may have had about unfair treatment would not justify either a forged medical note or a plagiarized document.
With respect to the Student’s allegations of racism or harassment on the part of the Course Instructor and the Dean’s Designate, the Panel concluded that the discovery of the alleged academic dishonesty was a result of the usual investigative process and not a targeting of the Student in any way. Moreover, the student’s allegations were irrelevant to the charges or the reason they were laid. The Panel noted that there are other avenues for the Student to pursue such allegations.
With respect to the Student’s submissions in her argument at the end of the hearing that she had been treated unfairly at the decanal level, the Panel decided that any such objections should have been raised at the outset of the hearing and cannot be dealt with in closing argument (pursuant to s. C.i.(a)11 of the Code) and that, in any case, there was no merit to those submissions.
The Student’s mother provided evidence of the great stress the Student and her family suffered through the process. The Panel emphasized, however, that the Student did not address the Panel. As such, she did not take responsibility, express remorse for her actions, or provide any evidence of circumstances that would mitigate her sanction.
Majority:
With respect to the forgery charge, the Panel took into account the multiple discrepancies between the second medical certificate and the verified first and third certificates, the credible and consistent testimony of the dentist who allegedly completed the second certificate, and the Student’s implausible testimony. The Panel concluded that the Student was guilty of forgery contrary to s. B.i.1(a) of the Code.
With respect to the plagiarism and concoction charges, the Panel took into account the evidence of verbatim or nearly verbatim plagiarism gathered by the Dean’s Designate and the Student’s testimony that she was fully aware of the University’s policies on plagiarism and proper citation procedures. Though the Student claimed that she did not knowingly plagiarize or concoct sources, she provided no evidence to refute the University’s evidence. The Panel concluded that the Student was guilty of knowingly representing others’ ideas as her own and failing to properly cite sources in the paper contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code and that she knowingly concocted sources contrary to s. B.i.1(f) of the Code.
The University then withdrew the alternative charges.
At the hearing for sanction, the Student was represented by new counsel. Her counsel sought leave to allow the Student to bring a motion for an order directing the University to provide the Student with a transcript of the first day of the hearing, and asked that the sanction hearing be stayed pending resolution of that motion. The Panel denied the Student’s request for leave to bring the motion because the hearing date was peremptory on the Student and because she had been given numerous opportunities to obtain the transcript well in advance of the sanction hearing.
The Panel took into account the serious nature of the offences in determining the appropriate sanction, noting that the offences called into question the Student’s character and that the forged medical certificate goes beyond the walls of the University and implicated a member of the medical professions. The Panel also noted that the fact that the Paper was only worth 15% of the Student’s grade does not detract from the fact that it involved plagiarism and concocted sources; on the contrary, that the Student would commit this level of dishonest conduct at this stage of her career for a paper worth 15% of a final mark is troubling. Similarly, the fact that the Student obtained two other authentic medical notes does not detract from the fact that she forged a third. Further, the Student refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing and showed no remorse, instead blaming others for her behaviour. The Panel concluded that the multiple offences and the Student’s behaviour warranted an increase from a 2-year suspension (currently recommended by the Provost as the appropriate sanction where a student has not committed any prior offence), to a 3-year suspension. The Panel imposed a grade assignment of zero; a 3-year suspension; a 4-year notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; and that the case be reported to the Provost for publication.
Dissent:
Prof. Rozakis-Adcock dissented as to the forgery charge, noting that the failure of the dentist to keep records of the Student’s visits, her willingness to make false claims as to the Student’s medical condition, and her backdating of the third certificate displayed dishonest conduct, which allows for little weight to be placed on her testimony. As such, Prof. Rozakis-Adcock did not believe that the University had met its burden of proving on a balance of probabilities that the Student forged the second medical certificate, and would not find her guilty of this charge.