Case #923

DATE: August 30, 2017

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. O.E. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): August 9, 2017
Panel Members:
Mr. Paul Michell, Chair
Prof. Pascal van Lieshout, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Sherice Robertson, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University, Palaire Roland Barristers
Ms. Lucy Gaspini, Manager, Academic Integrity & Affairs, Office of the Dean, University of Toronto Mississauga
Ms. Alexandra Di Blasio. Academic Integrity Assistant, University of Toronto Mississauga
Mr. Robert Sniderman, Law Student, Downtown Legal Services, for the Student
In Attendance:
The Student
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Mr. Sean Lourim, Technology Assistant, Office of the Governing Council
Ms. Breese Davies, New Co-Chair (observing)
Trial Division - s. B.i.1 (d) – plagiarism – ideas in an essay copied from another student – agreed statement of facts – joint book of documents – joint submission on penalty – guilty plea – three prior offences – undertaking – Panel acknowledged that a joint submission should not be rejected unless its acceptance would bring the administration of justice into disrepute – Panel accepted Joint Submission with reluctance – final grade of zero in the course; specified date for suspension; the sanction be recorded on academic record and transcript for seven years or until graduation, whichever is earlier; 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 an essay that the Student had submitted for course credit that contained passages that were verbatim or nearly verbatim to those contained in an essay that another student had submitted in the previous term. The matter proceeded by way of agreed statement of facts and a joint book of documents. 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) a four-year suspension; (c) the sanction be recorded on academic record and transcript for seven years or until graduation, whichever is earlier; 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 complete at least six writing workshops offered by the University within the first two terms in which she is next registered for a course at the University. The parties did not seek an order with regards to the undertaking, and clarified for the Panel that it was a separate agreement between the Provost and the Student as the Code provides no authority to the Panel to order a Student to give such an undertaking. The Panel reviewed the case University of Toronto v. O.O. [Case No. 651; June 13, 2012], at para. 22 and University of Toronto v. S.A. [Case No. 591.; May 13, 2011] in accepting that an undertaking is a mitigating factor supporting a JSP.
In deciding whether to accept the Panel considered the Mr. C. factors [Case No. 1976/77-3; Nov. 5, 1976] and a number of cases where students had been expelled for committing fewer plagiarism offences (University of Toronto v. K.P. [Case No. 660, February 6, 2012 - (two plagiarism offences: prior plagiarism offence)]; University of Toronto v. O.O. [(plagiarism offence: two prior plagiarism offences)], and University of Toronto v. S.A.M. [Case No. 657; September 11, 2012, (plagiarism offence: two prior plagiarism offences)]. Based on these cases, the Panel concluded that the present case would have warranted a more stringent penalty than that proposed by the parties, were it not for the JSP.
Despite these cases, the Panel found that the narrow circumstances that would permit them to depart from the JSP were not present. The Panel referred to the DAB decisions University of Toronto v. M.A. [Case No. 837; December 22, 2016], University of Toronto v. S.F. [DAB Case No. 690; October 20, 2014] as well as the Tribunal’s prior decision in University of Toronto v. Z.Z. [Case No. 918; March 28, 2017] which emphasize the key role of JSPs in the University's discipline process and the narrow circumstances where the Tribunal may depart from them. The Panel found that mere disagreement with a JSP is not enough, and that the JSP here did not meet the test of bringing “the administration of justice into dispute," nor was it "fundamentally offensive", or "truly unreasonable or unconscionable" (M.A.., paras. 24-26). The Panel accepted the parties’ JSP and ordered:(a) final grade of zero in the course; (b) a suspension until August 31, 2021 (from date of Tribunal Order); (c) the sanction be recorded on academic record and transcript for seven years or until graduation, whichever is earlier; and (d) that the decision be reported to the Provost for publication with the Student's name withheld.