Case #976

DATE: January 25, 2019
PARTIES: University of Toronto v D.K.
Hearing Date: November 2, 2018
Panel Members:
Ms. Michelle S. Henry, Chair
Professor Pierre Desrochers, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. Abdul Sidiqi, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
In Attendance:
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Not in Attendance:
The Student
Trial Division – s. B.i.3(a) of the Code – falsified academic record - Student did not attend hearing – Student given reasonable notice of hearing – the Code extends to public misrepresentation online of a student’s academic status and history - finding of guilt – five-year suspension; recommendation that the Student be expelled; report to Provost for publication with Student’s name withheld
A hearing of the trial division of the University Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) was held on November 2, 2018 to consider charges brought by the University against the Student under the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995, (the “Code”). The Student was charged with an academic offence pursuant to s. B.i.3(a) of the Code on the basis that she falsified her academic record by publically misrepresenting that she held either a Doctor of Philosophy degree or a Doctorate in Education from the University.
The Student did not attend the hearing, although affidavit evidence submitted by the University demonstrated that the Student had corresponded with Discipline Counsel about the hearing. The Tribunal therefore concluded that the Student had received reasonable notice of the hearing in accordance with the notice requirements set out in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act and the University Tribunal Rules of Practice and Procedure. The Tribunal proceeded to hear the case on its merits in the absence of the Student.
Affidavit evidence submitted by the University explained that the Student had registered for the Doctor of Philosophy Program in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in 2010, but that the Student had not reached the stage of candidacy when her registration lapsed in 2016. The Student’s registration remained lapsed at the time of the hearing. Although the Student had not completed the academic requirements of her program, she nevertheless represented that she held either a Doctor of Philosophy degree or a Doctorate in Education from the University. The misrepresentation appeared in her LinkedIn profile and in her resume posted on her website. The misrepresentation also appeared in an article the Student wrote and published online.
Before considering the question of liability, the Tribunal considered whether the alleged misrepresentation could constitute falsification of an academic record under the Code. The Tribunal referred to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Divisional Court) decision in Shank v. Daniels, 2002 Carswell 71 and concluded that the Code extends to the public misrepresentation of a student’s academic history and status online. In doing so, the Tribunal adopted the reasoning of the Divisional Court in Shank v. Daniels that the public has a stake in the integrity of the information contained in a student’s academic record, and not merely in the integrity of an official piece of paper certifying the information.
The Tribunal found the Student guilty of the academic offence of falsifying an academic record as defined in s.B.i.3(a) of theCode. Before making a decision on penalty, the Tribunal noted that the Student’s correspondence demonstrated a blatant disrespect for the discipline process and that the Student continued to engage in the misrepresentation even when directed to cease and desist by the University. The Tribunal also noted, among other things, that there was no evidence of any mitigating or extenuating circumstances. The Tribunal stated that it must send a strong message to other students that misrepresenting one’s academic history and status is a serious offence that will lead to a recommendation of expulsion.
The Tribunal imposed the following penalty: immediate suspension up to five years or until a decision is made on expulsion, whichever comes first; a corresponding notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; a recommendation of expulsion from the University; and publication by the Provost of a notice of decision and sanctions imposed, with name of Student withheld.