Case #989

DATE: March 4, 2019
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Z.Q.
Hearing Date: February 20, 2019
Panel Members:
Ms. Sana Halwani, Chair
Prof. Georges Farhat, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Xian Deng, Student Panel Member
Appearances:
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland, Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
In Attendance:
Ms. Tracey Gameiro, Hearing Secretary and Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Not in Attendance:
The Student
Trial Division – s. B.i.3(a) of Code – forgery of academic record – Student knowingly forged, circulated or made use of a document purporting to be a degree certificate from the University of Toronto – forgery detected when independent third party requested verification by University of forged degree certificate – Student did not attend hearing – reasonable notice of hearing provided - finding of guilt – general approach of Tribunal is to impose recommendation for expulsion when falsified degree is used and no mitigating circumstances – no remorse, character evidence or mitigating factors – no engagement in the discipline process – five-year suspension; recommendation for expulsion; and publication by the Provost of a notice of decision and sanctions with the Student’s name withheld.
The Student was charged with one count of academic misconduct under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly forged, circulated or made use of a forged academic record, namely, a document purporting to be a degree certificate from the University of Toronto.
Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University submitted affidavit evidence demonstrating that numerous attempts had been made to notify the Student of the hearing. The Panel was satisfied that notice had been adequately provided to the Student and decided to proceed with the hearing despite his absence.
The evidence established that the Student was a registered student at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and that he had registered for a handful of courses between 2011 and 2013, but never fulfilled his graduation requirements and never received a degree from the University of Toronto. In August 2017, the University of Toronto received a request from Auradata Inc. to verify the authenticity of a degree parchment purportedly issued by the University of Toronto to the Student. Auradata Inc. provides degree verification services to employers seeking confirmation of a candidate’s accreditation. The University determined that the degree parchment was not authentic, and further confirmed that the Student had never received a degree from the University of Toronto. The Panel concluded there was clear and convincing evidence that, on a balance of probabilities, the Student had committed an academic office under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code by either forging, circulating or making use of the falsified record.
On the question of sanction, the Panel noted that Appendix C of the Code states that, absent exceptional circumstances, the Provost will request that the Tribunal recommend expulsion where a student has falsified an academic record. The Panel observed that the general approach of the Tribunal has been to impose a recommendation of expulsion when the offence is as serious as the use of a falsified degree and where there are no mitigating circumstances. Given that the Student had not participated at any stage of the discipline process, the Panel found that he had not shown any remorse, not presented any character evidence and had not raised any mitigating factors to warrant a more lenient sanction. Although this was the Student’s first offence, the Panel nevertheless concluded that a recommendation of expulsion was appropriate because of the seriousness of the offence and the Student’s complete lack of engagement in the discipline process.