Case #918

DATE: March 28, 2017
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Z.Z. ("the Student")

Hearing Date(s): March 9, 2017

Panel Members:
Mr. Paul Michell, Chair
Professor Maria Rozakis-Adcock, Faculty Panel Member
Amanda Nash, Student Panel Member

Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland, Barristers
Ms. Lucy Gaspini, Dean's Designate, Manager, Academic Integrity & Affairs, University of Toronto, Mississauga
Ms. Elizabeth Kurz, Law Student, Downtown Legal Services, for the Student

In Attendance:
The Student
Ms. Krista Osborne, Administrative Assistant, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Trial Division - s. B.i.1(d) and s. B.i.1(b) of Code - plagiarism - course work purchased from commercial provider of essays - guilty plea - Agreed Statement of Facts - Joint Submission on Penalty accepted - presumptive penalty of expulsion for purchased essays - assignment of zero in the course; five-year suspension; notation on academic record and transcript for five years; and report to Provost

The Student was charged with two charges of plagiarism contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code and two charges of obtaining unauthorized assistance contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code, or in the alternative, academic dishonesty contrary to s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student had purchased two assignments from a commercial provider of academic essays and submitted them for course credit. The Parties agreed on the facts relating to the offences. The Student admitted to committing the offences and pled guilty to one charge of plagiarism and one charge of unauthorized assistance. The University withdrew the other charges. The Panel accepted the Student's guilty plea.

The parties submitted a Joint Submission on Penalty (JSP) of a grade of zero in the course; a five-year suspension; a five-year notation on the record and transcript; and a report to the Provost. The Panel was provided with supplementary submissions on how the JSP fell within the range of sanctions in the case law. The Panel was referred to cases that held that purchasing academic work and submitting it for credit was amongst the most egregious offences a student can commit because purchasing academic work is difficult to detect and it provides clear evidence of intention, deliberation, and knowing deception along with a commercial element that is very distant from the core values of the University (University of Toronto v S.C., N.R.H., and M.K.K. cases No. 596, 597, 598, November 23, 2011). These cases suggest that a presumptive sanction is an expulsion, which can be adjusted based on recognized factors. Where expulsion is not the result in a particular case, then only in the rarest of circumstances would anything less than a five-year suspension be appropriate. The Panel found that mitigating circumstances in this case were: it was the Student's first offence, the Student immediately admitted to the offences when confronted by his Professor and cooperated with the discipline process; the Student showed remorse; without the Student's cooperation, the dishonesty would have been very difficult to prove; and the Student provided the Provost with the names of the individuals who had sold him the essays.

The Panel was also referred to University of Toronto v M.A. (December 22, 2016, Case No. 837) that set out that a JSP can only be set aside in narrow circumstances where: (1) giving effect to the JSP would be contrary to the public interest or bring the administration of justice into disrepute; (2) the JSP is fundamentally offensive to the entrenched set of values and behaviours which members of the University are expected to uphold; and (3) the JSP is truly "unreasonable or unconscionable". The Panel characterized departing from the JSP as a stringent test, and though the Panel may have imposed a different penalty, the circumstances did not fall within the narrow ones that justified departing from the parties' JSP. Applying these principles to the present case, the Panel accepted the parties' JSP. The Student was sanctioned to a grade of zero in the course, a five-year suspension; a five-year notation on the Student's record and transcript; and a report to the Provost.