Case #981

DATE: March 4, 2019
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. O.R.

Hearing Date(s): December 3, 2018

Panel Members:
Ms. Shantona Chaudhury, Chair
Prof. Pascal van Lieshout, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Alice Zhu, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Ms. Tine Lie, 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.1(d) of Code – plagiarism – Student submitted an essay for course credit knowing it contained verbatim or nearly verbatim text from the essays of two other students - Student did not attend hearing – reasonable notice of hearing was provided, but University not obliged to show Student had actual notice of hearing –– finding of guilt – plagiarism warrants strong penalty to serve as deterrent – no evidence of remorse or extenuating circumstances – final grade assignment of zero for course; two-year suspension; three-year notation of sanction on transcript; and publication of notice of decision and sanctions, with Student’s name withheld.

The Student was charged with one count of academic misconduct under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly represented the work of two other students as his own in an essay submitted for course credit. The student was charged, in the alternative, with one offence under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code (unauthorized assistance) and, in the further alternative, one offence under s. Bi.3(b) of the Code (cheating for academic advantage).

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University submitted affidavit evidence indicating that numerous attempts had been made to notify the Student of the hearing. The Panel stated that while there was no evidence confirming the Student had actual notice of the hearing, the University had no obligation to prove actual notice: the question before the Panel was whether the University had taken reasonable steps to notify the Student of the Charges against him and of the hearing. The Tribunal concluded that the Student had received reasonable notice of the charges and 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 therefore proceeded to hear the case on it merits in the absence of the Student, and the Student was deemed to deny the charges against him.

On the question of liability, the evidence established that the Student’s essay consisted essentially of the first paragraph of one student’s essay and the last paragraph of a second student’s essay. The Panel concluded that the Student had clearly copied from two other essays stating that the similarities were undeniable. The Panel therefore concluded that the University had established on a balance of probabilities, using clear and convincing evidence, that the Student was guilty of academic misconduct contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. The University withdrew the alternative charges.

On the question of sanction, the Panel noted that plagiarism is a serious offence that undermines the relationship of trust, learning, and teaching between students and the University. The Panel stated that plagiarism warrants a strong penalty to serve as a general deterrent to others. The Panel found no evidence of remorse, understanding, mitigation or extenuating circumstances to justify a lenient sentence in this case and imposed the following sanctions: a final grade assignment of zero for the course; a two-year suspension from the University; a notation of the sanction on the Student’s academic transcript for a three-year period; and publication by the Provost of a notice of decision and sanctions with the Student’s name withheld.