DATE: April 10, 2019
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. L.E.
Hearing Date(s): November 23, 2018 and January 11, 2019
Ms. Sara Zborovski, Chair
Professor Georges Farhat, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Daryna Kutsyna, Student Panel Member
Mr. Robert A. Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Krista Osbourne, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d) of Code – plagiarism – Student knowingly represented the work of another as her own and knowingly included the ideas and expressions of another without appropriate acknowledgement or citations in an essay submitted for academic credit – hearing adjourned to provide additional time for Student to respond to notice of hearing – service by both email and courier to address provided by Student in ROSI in Cairo, Egypt - Student did not attend either hearing – reasonable notice of hearing provided – finding of guilt – no mitigating factors – no engagement in the discipline process – no response by Student to considerable correspondence from the University – grade of zero; two year suspension from date of hearing; corresponding notation on Student’s academic record for three year period from date of hearing; and publication by Provost of notice of decision and sanctions with the Student’s name withheld.
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 she knowingly committed plagiarism by submitting an essay for academic credit containing an idea and/or an expression of an idea and/or the work of another that she did not cite appropriately. Specifically, the Student was charged with plagiarism under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, and in the alternative, academic dishonesty under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code.
Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared on the first day of the hearing, November 23, 2018. The Panel heard evidence of the efforts taken by the University to serve the Student with notice, including service by email to the email address provided by the Student in ROSI and service by courier to the address in Cairo, Egypt, provided by the Student in ROSI. The Panel heard evidence that the Student had last logged into her University email account on September 17, 2018 (prior to the first attempts of the University to notify her of the charges). It also noted the short period of time between the service of the materials on the Student in Cairo (on November 15, 2018) and the first hearing date (November 23, 2018). The Panel adjourned to allow the Student additional time to respond to the notice of hearing. Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared on the adjourned hearing date, January 11, 2019. The University advised the Panel of additional attempts to serve the Student with notice of the new hearing date, including service by delivery to the Student’s address in Cairo, Egypt, which was received on December 1, 2018. Although it was confirmed to the Panel that the Student had neither accessed her University email account nor provided a forwarding email address in ROSI, the Panel was satisfied that the totality of attempts made to provide notice to the Student (and particularly given that the notice of hearing had been received at the Student’s address in Cairo, Egypt) demonstrated that notice had been adequately provided to the Student in accordance with the requirements of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act and the University Tribunal Rules of Practice and Procedure. As such, the Panel decided to proceed with the hearing in the Student’s absence.
The Panel heard evidence from the teaching assistant responsible for grading the Student’s work, who explained that he had noticed quotation marks in odd places in the Student’s essay and a wide variance in the quality of the language, with grammatical errors mixed in with the use of very sophisticated language. Upon carrying out an internet search for the phrases used by the Student in the essay, the teaching assistant discovered a number of websites containing similar and/or verbatim language. No citations were provided in the Student’s essay to any of these websites. The Tribunal determined that the evidence clearly established that the essay submitted by the Student contained ideas that were not her own and that were not cited appropriately. The Tribunal found the Student guilty of plagiarism, contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the Panel noted the seriousness of the offence of plagiarism, stating that this offence strikes at the heart of the integrity of academic work and is widely understood to be an unacceptable form of cheating. The Tribunal noted that students at the University are made aware of this when they enrol and are reminded throughout their time at the University by their professors and instructors of the importance of integrity and the prohibition of any form of academic cheating including plagiarism. The Tribunal also noted that students are given significant guidance on how to specifically avoid plagiarism. In this case, the Student did not respond to considerable correspondence from the University on this issue, did not attend the hearing and as a result, there were no mitigating circumstances for consideration. The Tribunal imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero; a suspension from the University until January 11, 2021; and a notation of this sanction on the Student’s academic record and transcript until January 11, 2022. The Tribunal also ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication of a notice of the decision and the sanctions imposed, with the name of the Student withheld.