Case #916

DATE: March 12, 2018

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. M.S. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): December 15, 2017
Panel Members:
Ms. Cheryl Woodin, Chair
Professor Pascal van Lieshout, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Natasha Ramkissoon, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University, Palaire Roland Barristers
In Attendance:
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Professor Luc De Nil, Vice-Dean, Students, School of Graduate Studies
Mr. Brian Alexic, IT Support, Office of the Governing Council
Not in Attendance:
The Student
Ms. Julia Wilkes, Counsel to the Student, Wardle Daley Bernstein Bieber LLP
Trial Division - s. B.i.1 (d) – plagiarism – graduate student - passages in a dissertation copied from unattributed source – hearing not attended – agreed statement of facts – joint book of documents – joint submission on penalty – guilty plea – no prior offences – undertaking – joint submission should not be rejected unless its acceptance would bring the administration of justice into disrepute – final grade of zero in the course; degree recall; permanent notation of the sanction be recorded on academic record and transcript; and that the decision be reported to the Provost for publication with the Student's name withheld
The Student was charged with one charge 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 the Student’s dissertation, which contained several passages that had been copied verbatim or nearly verbatim from works of another scholar. The plagiarism came to light after the Student had graduated and approached that scholar to supervise his postdoctoral project. The Student and his counsel consented to the hearing proceeding in their absence. The matter proceeded by way of agreed statement of facts (ASF) and a joint book of documents. Portions of the ASF were removed from the decision at the request of the Student on the basis that they summarize information relating to the Student’s medical circumstances which need not be published. The Student pled guilty to the first charge of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. Upon the Panel accepting the Student’s guilty plea to the first charge, the University withdrew the alternative charges.
The parties submitted a Joint Submission on Penalty (JSP) requesting: (a) final grade of zero in the course; (b) that the degree be cancelled and recalled; (c) the sanction be permanently recorded on academic record and transcript; and (d) that the decision be reported to the Provost for publication with the Student's name withheld. The JSP was accompanied by an undertaking that the Student not enrol in, or apply for admission to, any program or course at the University until the Fall 2020 term or later. The Student also undertook to return his degree certificate to the University and consented to the removal of his thesis from the University library and any affiliated organizations or databases. In deciding whether to accept the JSP, the Panel considered the plagiarism within its broader context. Mitigating factors included that it was the Student’s first offence, he had cooperated throughout the discipline process, and that the plagiarism was committed while the Student’s dissertation was on an expedited timeline. Aggravating factors included that the Student had been confronted about he attribution problems prior to submitting his dissertation, the seriousness of the offence, and the fact that it had occurred in the context of a dissertation thesis, which has significant visibility. Further, the Student intended the thesis to form the basis for a book, where it would have had even greater prominence and visibility as a representation of the University’s academic quality. The Panel found that the threshold for departing from a JSP had not been met in this case (The University of Toronto and M.A. (Case No. 837, December 22, 2016). The Panel accepted the parties’ JSP and ordered:(a) final grade of zero in the course; (b) that the Student’s degree be cancelled and recalled; (c) a permanent notation of the sanction be recorded on the Student’s academic record and transcript; and (d) that the decision be reported to the Provost for publication with the Student's name withheld.