DATE: May 7, 2019
PARTIES:University of Toronto v. N.H.
Hearing Date: April 18, 2019
Ms. Roslyn M. Tsao, Chair
Prof. Kimberly Widger, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Julie Farmer, Student Panel Member
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland, Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Mr. Chew Chang, Paralegal, for the Student
Ms. Jennifer Dent, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d) of Code – plagiarism – Student submitted a purchased essay for course credit – Agreed Statement of Facts – guilty plea – Joint Submission on Penalty – request for back-dated suspension granted because Student did not contribute to delay in resolving charges and has not taken further courses pending resolution of charges – students caught submitting purchased essay should receive sanction on serious end of spectrum to deter others – no prior offence – early admission of guilt - grade of zero; five-year suspension to commence one year prior to date of hearing; corresponding notation on Student’s academic record.
The Student was charged with two counts of academic misconduct under the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he purchased an essay online and submitted it as his own work for course credit. Specifically, the Student was charged with plagiarism under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code, as well academic dishonesty under s. Bi.3(b) of the Code.
The Student attended the hearing with an agent. The parties submitted an Agreed Statement of Facts (ASF) wherein the Student admitted to knowingly committing the offence of plagiarism by submitting an essay as if it was his own work, knowing that he had purchased it from a third party. The Student had previously admitted to this plagiarism during a meeting with his Dean’s Designate, where he also expressed a desire to apologize to the professor. Based on the ASF and a review of the relevant documents, the Panel found the Student guilty of plagiarism under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. The University withdrew the remaining charge.
The Parties submitted a Joint Submission on Penalty (JSP) in support of a five-year suspension from the University commencing on a date one year prior to the hearing. The Panel accepted the JSP and, in particular, the parties’ recommendation that the suspension be back-dated by one year. The Panel’s decision to back-date the suspension was based on the following undisputed facts: (1) the Student had not taken any further courses at the University pending resolution of the charges, and (2) the Student had not contributed to the delay in resolving the charges, but apparently sought to have the charges resolved as early as possible.
In evaluating the JSP, the Panel considered the need for general deterrence, noting that the nature of the offence and detriment to the University were significant because this type of plagiarism is sometimes difficult to identify. The Panel further stated that when a student is caught, the sanction should be on the serious end of the spectrum to deter others. The Panel also considered the need for specific deterrence, but found that this was of lower concern because the Student had no prior history of academic misconduct at the University and because he admitted guilt early in the process, explaining that he had a heavier course load pressure at the time. Finally, the Panel stated that the requested penalty was in the appropriate range of sanctions in these circumstances and noted that there was a very high threshold for departing from a JSP requiring the Panel to find that the acceptance of the JSP would be contrary to the public interest and bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade assignment of zero in the course; a five-year suspension from the University commencing approximately one year prior to the date of the hearing; and a corresponding notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript for a five-year period or until his graduation from the University, whichever occurs first.