Case #911

DATE: November 2, 2017

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Y.S. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): August 3, 2017
Panel Members:
Mr. Shaun Laubman, Lawyer, Chair
Professor Richard B. Day, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Sophie Barnett, Student Panel Member
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Barristers
In Attendance:
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk and Hearing Secretary, Office of the Appeals,
Discipline and Faculty Grievances, University of Toronto
Mr. David Jones, Technology Assistant, Information Commons
Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Factor-Inwentash, Faculty of Social Work
Professor Luc De Nil, Vice-Dean, Students, School of Graduate Studies
Not in Attendance:
The Student
Trial Division - s. B.i.1(d) – plagiarism – Ph.D. Student who failed to properly cite sources – student not present – reasonable notice provided with proof that email had been accessed and courier package signed for by someone with same first initial and last name – jurisdiction – work submitted in capacity as a research assistant and not for course credit – prior offence – student ought to have known her citations amounted to plagiarism - notation longer than suspension – suspension of three years, transcript notation for three years, and report to the provost.
The Student was charged with plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, or in the alternative one charge of unauthorized assistance contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code, or in the further alternative, one charge of academic misconduct not otherwise described contrary to s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to written work that the Student had produced as a research assistant which included insufficient citations. Specifically, the Student had failed to put quotation marks around text to show that it was directly copied and she often failed to cite the primary sources for the material but instead cited the secondary sources that had been cited in the primary source.
The Panel found that reasonable notice of the proceeding had been given to the Student and that the hearing could proceed in the Student’s absence based on evidence that a courier package that included the Charges and Notice of Hearing was sent to the Student’s address in Israel and signed for by a person with the same first initial and last name as the Student. As well, the University established that the Student’s email account was accessed recently, after numerous emails regarding the Charges and the Hearing had been sent by the University to that email account.
The Panel addressed two jurisdictional issues: (1) whether the Panel had jurisdiction over the Student when she was employed as a research assistant; and (2) whether the Code applied to work prepared as a research assistant for a faculty member. With regards to the first issue, the Panel referred to the case University of Toronto v. A.A. (Case No. 528, January 14, 2009) and found that the Panel had jurisdiction over the Student’s conduct as a research assistant because being a student at the University is a status, and that being a research assistant requires that status of being a student. As a student, she was bound by her obligations to the university community, including the commitment to academic integrity contained in the Code. As for the second issue, the Panel acknowledged that it was not a typical case where the Code was being applied to an assignment or an exam but that the relevant provisions of the Code include language that it can apply to “any other form of academic work” and that the work performed as a research assistant fit within that broad definition. Though there was some evidence that the Student may not have understood what she submitted constituted plagiarism, the Panel found that even if the Student did not actually know that she was committing the offence of plagiarism, as a Ph.D. student, she ought to have known that her citation style was deficient. Upon the Panel finding the Student guilty of plagiarism, the University withdrew the alternative charges.
In determining a sanction, the Panel referred to the Mr. C factors (Case No.: 1976/77-3, November 5, 1976), particularly: (1) that the plagiarism in this case was less serious than instances when no source at all is referenced; (2) the Student apologized for her actions and admitted that she was perhaps not qualified to continue in the Ph.D. program; (3) the Student had a prior offence and was warned about the consequences being more serious for a second offence; (4) the plagiarism in this case would have directly affected the Professor had it not been identified – an aggravating factor that is muted by the idea that this was a first draft and further editing and checking of the work by the Professor was expected; and (5) the Student withdrew from the Ph.D. program, which would remain on her academic permanently and make her chances of re-offending low. That the Student was a “strong student” was not a factor in the Panel’s decision. Taken together, the Panel found that the lack of intention to deceive on the part of the Student coupled with the seriousness of the offence of plagiarism warranted a penalty of a suspension for two years from the University; a notation on the Student’s transcript and record for three years; and a report to the Provost.