Case #924

DATE: June 20, 2018

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. X.L. (“the Student”)
Hearing Date(s): May 14, 2018
Panel Members:
Mr. Paul Michell, Chair
Professor Pascal van Lieshout, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Alexis Giannelia, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University, Paliare Roland Barristers
Ms. Hailey Bruckner, Articling Student, Paliare Roland Barristers
In Attendance:
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Dr. Kristi Gourlay, Manager & Academic Integrity Officer, Office of Student Academic Integrity, Faculty of Arts and Science
Professor Ryan Balot, Department of Political Science, Witness for the University
Mr. Zhichao Tong, Teaching Assistant, Witness for the University
Mr. Sean Lourim, Technology Assistant, Office of the Governing Council
Not in Attendance:
The Student
Trial Division - s. B.i.1(a) – forging or falsifying a document or evidence required by the University – resubmitting a substantially altered version of an assignment for re-grading – forged Turnitin record – student not present – notice provided – grade of zero in the course, three-year suspension, four-year transcript notation, and a report to the Provost with the Student’s name withheld
The Student was charged with two charges of forging or falsifying a document or evidence required by the University contrary to s.B.i.1(a) of the Code, or in the alternative two charges of academic dishonesty contrary to s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The charges related to an essay that the Student had submitted for course credit. After receiving her mark from the teaching assistant, she resubmitted a modified version of the essay for remarking by the course instructor, claiming it was the first essay. In support of her application to have her paper re-graded, she provided the University with a falsified Turnitin report, which reported that the essay had been submitted prior to when she received feedback from the teaching assistant (and with a different word count) than what the University Turnitin records indicated.
The Student did not attend the hearing. The Panel found that adequate notice of the hearing had been provided to the Student based on evidence that the Student had been represented by counsel from Downtown Legal Services (DLS) at a number of case conferences, but ultimately, they were unable to represent her because they had difficulty obtaining instructions from her. Upon the withdrawal of the Student’s counsel, counsel for the University sent emails to the Student at the two email addresses and attempted to contact the Student at the phone number that DLS had provided (and at the phone number listed for the Student in ROSI). On the basis of evidence from the teaching assistant and the course instructor, as well as an administrator who testified that the Turnitin report provided to the University had been falsified, the Panel found that the Student was guilty to the two charges of forging or falsifying a document contrary to s.B.i.1(a) of the Code. The University withdrew the alternative charges.
The University requested: (1) that the Student's degree be suspended for a period of three years; (2) that the sanction be recorded for a period of four years on the Student's academic record and transcript; and (3) that the case be reported to the Provost with the Student’s name withheld. The Panel applied the Mr. C. [Case No. 1976/77-3; November 5, 1976] factors, noting that the nature of the offences were serious, that the re-grading process that provides students with the opportunity to have an assignment reviewed only functions if an assignment is the same as the one originally submitted (N.B. [Case No. 538; August 14, 2009], submitting a substantially altered version of the original document undermines this process ( L.Y. [Case No. 883; July 11, 2017] at para. 19) and the academic integrity of the University ( F.M. [Case No. 522; May 5, 2009] at para. 42) and corrodes the trust between a teaching assistant and the students. The Panel referred to in J.Z. [Case No. 928; June 5, 2017], which addresses the principles for forging an academic record that are equally applicable to forging a Turnitin receipt – that the offence is serious, that forgery is difficult to detect, and that forgery is only rarely a product of inadvertence, rather it is the product of planning and knowing participation. Though it was the Student’s first offence, the Student did not attend the hearing so there was no evidence of any other extenuating circumstances.
Absent mitigating circumstances, the Panel concluded that the sanction proposed by the University was reasonable, and in line with cases that had imposed a three-year suspension and a four-year transcript notation where the student committed multiple offences (B.D., [Case No. 845; July 26, 2017]) or had a prior academic offence (Z.M. [Case No. 632; November 10, 2011]. The Panel ordered that the Student: (1) receive a grade of zero in the court, be suspended from the University for three years, have a transcript notation for four years, and that the decision be reported to the Provost with the Student’s name withheld.