Case #901

DATE: September 6, 2017

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. D.K. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): June 20, 2017 and July 18, 2017
Panel Members:
Mr. R.S.M. Woods, Barrister and Solicitor, Chair
Professor Faye Mishna, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Alexis Giannelia, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland, Barristers
Mr. Olando Vinton, Elita Chambers, Counsel for the Student
In Attendance:
The Student (June 20, 2017 and July 18, 2017)
Ms. Chelsea Laidlaw, Assistant to Mr. Olando Vinton, Elita Chambers (June 20, 2017 and July 18, 2017)
Professor Roberta Fulthorpe, University of Toronto Scarborough (June 20, 2017)
Professor Luc De Nil, Vice-Dean, Students, School of Graduate Studies (June 20, 2017 and July 18, 2017)
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances (June 20 and July 18, 2017)
NOTE: Under Appeal
Trial Division - s. B.i.1(d) - plagiarism – graduate student – copying work from unattributed sources in a series of essays – copying work from others in an application for a scholarship from a third party – marital problems and health issues insufficient extenuating circumstances – English language proficiency not an excuse for plagiarism – no prior misconduct – final grade of zero in the affected courses, immediate suspension for a period of five years pending expulsion, recommendation of expulsion, permanent transcript notation, and report to the provost.
The Student was charged with three counts of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, or in the alternative, one count of academic misconduct not otherwise described contrary to s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to two essays and a research statement in an application for a scholarship that contained significant portions of text that were the ideas or work of another person that the Student had represented as her own ideas. The Panel found the Student guilty of the three charges of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. Upon the Panel’s finding of guilty on the plagiarism charges, the University withdrew the alternative charge of academic dishonesty.
In determining the appropriate penalty, the Panel applied the factors described in University of Toronto v N. A (Case No.: 661, February 29, 2012): (i) the character of the person charged; (ii) the likelihood of a repetition of the offence; (iii) the nature of the offence committed; (iv) any extenuating circumstances surrounding commission of the offence; (v) the detriment to the University occasioned by the offence; and (vi) the need to deter others from committing a similar offence. The Student had no prior record, but the Panel found that the plagiarism was too significant and too pervasive in the Student's work to merit anything other than the most serious sanction available. The Panel emphasized it was particularly egregious that the Student was a graduate student who had used the work of others three times. The plagiarism in the application for the scholarship was a particularly aggravating circumstance as the Student was putting forward as her own a project being undertaken by another student in the same lab as she had been working. The Panel did not find any extenuating circumstances in the Student’s personal circumstances, specifically, her marital problems, lack of proficiency in the English language, or medical issues. The Panel was troubled by the Student’s comment that she would not be in this situation if someone had noticed her plagiarism earlier. On the last two factors, the Student’s actions reflected poorly on the University, as the plagiarism was on an application for funding for a scholarship from a third party.
The Panel referred to several decisions that held that an immediate suspension and a recommendation to the President of the University that the student be expelled is the appropriate penalty where there are multiple incidents of plagiarism by a graduate student, when the improper conduct relates to obtaining some financial benefit, potentially deprives another student of some benefit, or reflects poorly on the University as a whole (The University of Toronto v. O.G. (Case No.: 587, April 14, 2010); The University of Toronto v. D.D. (Case No.: 593, September 3, 2010) and The University of Toronto v. K. K. (Case No.: November 3, 2009)). The Panel ordered a final grade of zero in the affected courses; immediate suspension from the University for five years pending expulsion; a recommendation of that the Student be expelled; a permanent notation of the sanction on the Student’s academic record and transcript; and that the matter be reported to the Provost for publication.