Case #851 - Sanction

Case 851 - Finding

DATE: March 1, 2017
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Y.Y. (“the Student”)

Hearing Date(s): November 30, 2016

Panel Members:
Ms. Johanna Braden, Barrister and Solicitor, Chair
Professor Michael Evans, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Yusra Qazi, Student Panel Member

Apearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland, Barristers
Mr. Peter Wuebbolt, Barrister and Solicitor, Counsel for the Student
The Student

In Attendance:
Ms. Krista Osborne, Administrative Assistant, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances Mr. Sean Lourim, Technology Assistant, Office of the Governing Council
Ms. W.Z. (Mother of the Student)

Trial Division - s. B.i.1(b) - unauthorized aids – cheating by copying another student’s exam responses – sentencing principles – first offence – defending oneself in a disciplinary action can be consistent with cooperation – transcript notation longer than suspension – nexus required between medical condition and commission of offence – penalty start date – grade of zero, suspension of two years, transcript notation of three years, and report to the provost.

The Student had been found guilty of using an unauthorized aid during an exam contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code for copying answers off of the person sitting next to her in the exam room during her final exam. The Panel convened this hearing to determine the appropriate penalty.

The Panel reviewed prior decisions that set out that cheating during exams, whether through the giving or receiving of unauthorized aid, generally results in a suspension of at least two years if it is a first offence, with a longer suspension often being ordered in subsequent offences. The exact length of suspension depends on factors such as the student’s cooperation, evidence as to mitigating factors, and the precise nature of the misconduct. Further, the cases suggested that it is common for transcript notations to last for a longer time than a suspension. This ensures that if the Student returns to the University following the suspension, administrators and others are alive to the student’s history and can monitor the student’s progress as may be appropriate. Transcript notations also ensure a returning student knows that he or she may be watched more closely, thereby encouraging the student to abide by the rules (e.g. University of Toronto v R (June 6, 2014, Case No. 708); University of Toronto v S (February 8, 2012, Case No. 635); University of Toronto v L (November 3, 2008, Case No. 527); and University of Toronto v L (April 11, 2005, Case No. 2004/05-04)).

Applying these principles along with the Mr. C. factors to the present case, aggravating factors were the serious nature of the offence, the detriment to the University’s reputation occasioned by those who cheat on examinations, and the need to deter others. Mitigating factors were that it was the Student’s first offence and that she had participated in the discipline process. That she had defended herself against the allegations was not to be held against her. The Student’s claim that an unresolved medical condition played a role in the offence was at odds with the submission that she would not repeat the offence. Without clear and specific medical evidence explaining the role of the Student’s illness in her commission of the offence, the Panel did not treat the Student’s medical condition as a mitigating factor.

The Panel determined that the penalty should be deemed to have started when the hearing began on its merits (five months prior to the current proceeding) because the delay in convening the penalty hearing was not within the Student’s control. The Panel accepted the University’s submission on penalty of a grade of zero in the course; a two-year suspension; a notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript for three years; and a report to the Provost.