Case #645

DATE: May 20, 2011
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. A.T.

Hearing Date(s): March 24, 2011

Panel Members:
Mr. John Keefe, Chair
Dr. Chris Koenig-Woodyard, Faculty Member
Ms. Emily Holland, Student Member

Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel for the University
Ms. Allison Worone, DLS for the Student

In Attendance:
Mr. A.T., the Student
Dr. Martha Harris, Academic Integrity Officer
Ms. Natalie Ramtahal, Coordinator, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Trial Division – s. B.i.1(d) of Code – plagiarism – coursework purchased from a commercial provider of essays – Student first denied; he admitted when confronted with metadata – Agreed Statement of Facts and Agreed Statement of Facts on Penalty – guilty plea – finding of guilt – prior plagiarism offence – Student only acknowledged fault when confronted with overwhelming evidence – Student cooperated with the University, attended and testified at the hearing, and exhibited general remorse – likelihood of repetition – purchasing academic work is at the most serious end of spectrum of plagiarism – University vulnerable to this type of offence as it is very difficult to detect – grade assignment of zero for course; five-year suspension; recommendation that the Student be expelled; permanent notation on transcript; report to Provost

Student charged under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. The charges related to allegations that the Student submitted an essay purchased from a commercial provider of essays. The Student first denied the allegations but admitted to having purchased the essay when confronted with metadata fields that showed the original author being listed as someone else. The parties submitted an Agreed Statement of Facts and an Agreed Statement of Facts on Penalty, and the Student pleaded guilty to the charges. The Panel found the Student guilty under s. B.i.1(d). The Panel proceeded to consider whether it should impose a recommendation of expulsion or a five-year suspension. Regarding the Student’s character, the Panel noted that the Student had a prior plagiarism offence although it was not the most serious in nature (the imposed sanction was zero on the assignment and a reduction in the course grade by 20 marks). The Panel also noted that the Student only acknowledged his fault when he was faced with overwhelming evidence. Although he cooperated with the University by entering into an ASF and an ASF on Penalty, attended and testified the hearing, and exhibited genuine remorse, because of his prior offence, the Panel was not entirely convinced that there was no likelihood of a repetition. The Panel found that there were no extenuating circumstances, and the fact that the Student began the process of purchasing the essay two weeks before the due date showed that it was a deliberate act, not a lapse in judgment. The Panel stressed the serious nature of the offence by stating that purchasing academic work was at the most serious end of the spectrum of plagiarism. The Panel also found that because purchased essays were very difficult to detect, the University was very vulnerable to this kind of commercial activity; thus, there was an overwhelming need to impose sanctions to deter others as well as to reflect the seriousness of the offence. The Panel concluded that these factors called for a recommendation of expulsion rather than a five-year suspension. The Panel imposed a grade assignment of zero in the course; a five-year suspension; a recommendation that the Student be expelled; a permanent notation on the Student’s transcript; and a report be issued to the Provost.