DATE: October 7, 2019
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. H.A.
HEARING DATE: July 8, 2019
Ms. Johanna Braden, Chair
Professor Julian Lowman, Faculty Member
Ms. Natasha Brien, Student Member
Mr. Robert A. Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Jennifer Dent, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Not in Attendance:
The Student was charged with two counts 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 falsified, circulated or made use of two forged academic records, namely, documents purporting to be Confirmation of Enrolment letters from the University dated June 23, 2017 and September 6, 2017 respectively.
Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University provided evidence that the Student had been served at his ROSI-listed email address with the charges and notice of hearing. The Student was subsequently served with a revised notice of hearing changing the name of the Chair; and a second revised notice of hearing, changing the location of the hearing. Neither of the revised notices changed the date or time of the hearing. The Panel noted that there was evidence that the Student had accessed his email account after service of the charges and the original notice of hearing which notified him of the date and time of the hearing. The Tribunal was satisfied that the Student had been given reasonable notice and therefore determined it would proceed to hear the case on its merits in the absence of the Student.
The Student was registered at the University from Fall 2015 to Fall-Winter 2016-2017. A Risk Assessment Officer at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“ICRCC”) received two letters from the Student in support of the Student’s application for a study permit replacement. The two letters sent by the Student to ICRCC purported to be Confirmation of Enrolment letters from the University, but were forgeries. The two letters were clearly forged and were not genuine letters from the University. There was no direct evidence that the Student forged or altered them himself; the only evidence was the letters sent to ICRCC and then to the University for authentication. The Tribunal found it more likely than not that the Student, at the very least, circulated and made use of two falsified Confirmation of Enrolment letters so that he could fraudulently obtain a study permit replacement allowing him to remain in Canada.
The Tribunal was satisfied that the two forged letters were “academic records” for the purposes of the Code. The Tribunal noted that the definition of “academic record” contained in the Code includes “any other record or document of the University ... used, submitted or to be submitted for the purposes of the University.” Although the Panel noted that Confirmation of Enrolment letters are typically used to satisfy third parties regarding a student’s academic standing, they serve an important purpose of the University. They represent an official control mechanism for verifying enrolment, so that only students registered with the University can claim the benefits associated with registration. The Panel found the Student guilty of the two charges.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the Panel noted that although this was the Student’s first academic offence, the dishonest conduct was repeated and the falsifications were deliberate and careful. There was no evidence of extenuating circumstances, as the Student declined to participate in the hearing. The Panel noted in particular that when people fake their University enrolment with immigration officials, they put honest international students at a disadvantage, jeopardize the University’s reputation and undermine the University’s efforts to accommodate and support international students. The Panel also stated that the need for general deterrence is a significant concern as this type of offence is hard for the University to police. The Panel concluded that a five-year suspension would not be appropriate; had the Student appeared and given credible, truthful evidence of compelling mitigating circumstances that helped to explain the misconduct, the Tribunal stated that it might have concluded differently. As the Student did not attend, the Tribunal found that the most severe sanction, a recommendation of expulsion, was the most suitable.
The Tribunal imposed the following sanctions: immediate suspension for a period of up to five years; recommendation of expulsion from the University; and publication by the Provost of a notice of the decision and sanctions imposed with the Student’s name withheld.