Case #969

DATE: April 29, 2019
PARTIES:University of Toronto v. I.R.
Hearing Dates: August 16, 2018 and January 28, 2019
Panel Members:
Mr. R.S.M. Woods, Chair
Prof. Dionne Aleman, Faculty Member
Ms. Natasha Brien, Student Member
Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Mr. Hatim Kheir, Representative for the Student, Downtown Legal Services (August 16, 2018 only)
Hearing Secretary:
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d) of Code – plagiarism – Student knowingly represented the work of another as his own in five written assignments submitted for course credit in three courses – Agreed Statement of Facts – admissions of guilt – Student did not attend second hearing date dealing with sanction – reasonable notice of hearing provided - sanction phase proceeded in Student’s absence – reason to believe Student would reoffend – extent of plagiarism significant – no extenuating circumstances - final grade of zero in three courses; suspension of just under four years; notation of sanction on academic record and transcript until graduation; and publication of notice of decision and sanction imposed with name of the Student withheld – permanent notation not appropriate
The Student was charged with five offences under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) for knowingly representing the work of another as his own in five written assignments submitted for course credit in three courses. The Student was charged, in the alternative, with five academic offences under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code (unauthorized assistance) and, in the further alternative, with five academic offences under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code (cheating for academic advantage).
The parties submitted an Agreed Statement of Facts (ASF) in which the Student admitted that he knowingly committed plagiarism on five separate occasions. Based upon the evidence and the very clear admissions of guilt made by the Student, the Panel found the Student guilty of fives counts of plagiarism contrary to section B.i.1(d) of the Code. In accordance with the ASF, the University withdrew all remaining charges.
Neither the Student, nor a legal representative, attended the second hearing date. Although Downtown Legal Services had represented the Student at the first hearing date, it had withdrawn by the second hearing date on the basis that it could no longer contact the Student. The Panel was nevertheless satisfied that the Student had had notice of the resumed hearing and determined that it would proceed with the sanctions portion of the hearing in the Student’s absence.
In determining the appropriate penalty, the Panel considered the Student’s character noting that the Student’s admission of guilt and cooperation in preparing and submitting the ASF were positive factors demonstrating the Student’s acknowledgement that his acts were wrong. On the other hand, the Panel also noted that there was good reason to expect the Student to reoffend because, despite having been caught and spoken to by his professors, the Student had not ceased his academic misconduct when warned about it and given the opportunity to continue his studies. The Panel further noted that the plagiarism in this case was significant. This was not a case of missing citations; this was a case of whole paragraphs, even more or less whole articles, written by others, being presented as the Student’s own work. The Panel found no extenuating circumstances based on the evidence before it. Although there was some suggestion that the Student had been ill, there was no evidence to support that suggestion. The Panel noted that the Student’s actions reflected very poorly on the University and that other students needed to be deterred from such behaviour, a goal that only a serious penalty would achieve.
After considering the range of penalties imposed in similar cases, the Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in all three of the courses in which the Student submitted plagiarized work; a suspension from the University of just under four years; a notation of the sanction on the Student’s academic record and transcript until the Student’s graduation; and publication of a notice of the decision and sanction imposed with the name of the Student withheld. In doing so, the Panel specifically rejected the University’s submission that a permanent notation on the Student’s academic record was appropriate given the number of offences involving serious plagiarism. The Panel stated that if the Student returned to the University to complete his studies, then he should be able to move forward after graduation without a notation of sanction on his academic record.