Case #914

DATE: February 18, 2018

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Q.L. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): November 24, 2017
Panel Members:
Ms. Sandra Nishikawa, Barrister and Solicitor, Chair
Professor Pascal Riendeau, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Sherice Robertson, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland, Barristers
Ms. Nisha Panchal, Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Officer, Office of the Dean &
Vice-Principal Academic, UTSC
Ms. Margaret Roberts, Facilitated Study Group Coordinator, The Centre for Teaching and
Learning, UTSC
In Attendance:
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk and Hearing Secretary, Office of Appeals,
Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Mr. Sean Lourim, Technology Assistant, Office of the Governing Council
Not in Attendance:
The Student
Trial Division - s. B.i.1 (d) – plagiarism – ideas in class assignments, research assignment, and in the final exam represented work that was not the Student’s – hearing not attended – sufficient notice provided – finding of plagiarism where no original work to compare alleged plagiarism with – plagiarism based on different quality of work - final grade of zero in the course; three-year suspension; the sanction be recorded on academic record and transcript for four years; and that the decision be reported to the Provost for publication with the Student's name withheld.
The Student was not present at the hearing. In determining the preliminary issue of whether the hearing could proceed in his absence, the Panel referred to sections 6 and 7 of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act (the “Act”) and Rule 17 of the University of Toronto Rules of Practice and Procedure (the “Rules”), which provide that a hearing may proceed in the absence of a Student where reasonable notice of an oral hearing has been given to a party in accordance with the Act. Given that the University made numerous attempts to serve notice on the Student by email, courier, process server, and telephone; as well as the fact that Counsel had a telephone conversation with the Student, during which she specifically advised him of the hearing date, the Panel concluded that the Student was given reasonable notice of the hearing in compliance with the notice requirements of the Act and the Rules. Further, the University led evidence that the Student’s University email account had been accessed, after the emails attaching the charges and the disclosure brief had been sent.
The Student was charged with three charges of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, with alternative charges of unauthorized assistance contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code; and further alternative charges of academic misconduct not otherwise described contrary to s.B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to course assignments and a research paper that the Student had submitted for course credit that contained passages that did not seem to reflect the Student’s language abilities; as well as the Student’s final exam which included significant portions that had been copied from the exam materials themselves. The Panel found the Student guilty of the first charge of plagiarism in submitting a research assignment that was not his own work contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. Upon this finding of guilt, the University withdrew the alternative charges relating to the research assignment and did not proceed with the remaining charges.
The Panel noted that this was not a typical plagiarism case, since the turnitin.com report assessed the research assignment at 0% similarity to other work so there was no original text to compare it with. Referring to the case University of Toronto v W.J. (Case No. 815, January 19, 2016), the Panel found that it all that was necessary to constitute plagiarism is that a student represent someone else’s work as their own. And that in this case it was clear given the different quality of English contained in the research assignment compared to the Student’s previous assignments, in-class work, and final exam that the Student submitted work that he did not write as his own.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the Panel referred to the Mr. C. factors: the character of the person charged, the likelihood of repetition, the nature of the offence, the need to deter others from engaging in similar behaviour, the detriment to the University, protection of the public, as well as any extenuating circumstances. (University of Toronto v Mr. C., Case No. 1976/77-3; November 5, 1976 at p. 12.). The Panel emphasized that plagiarism is a serious offence, which strikes at the core of academic integrity (University of Toronto v D.S., Case No. 554, October 7, 2009 at para 39) and warrants a significant sanction to reflect the seriousness of misconduct. In this case, the Student was provided with the opportunity to obtain assistance from his instructor, but instead continued to submit plagiarized work for course credit. It was the Student’s first offence and took place during his first term at the University. The Student’s failure to participate in the hearing deprived the Panel of being able to consider any mitigating or extenuating circumstances. The Panel ordered: (i) the Student receive a zero grade in the Course, (ii) the Student be suspended for three years, (iii) a notation of the suspension be placed on the Student’s record for four years, and (iv) that the case be reported to the Provost with the Student’s name withheld.