DATE: March 11, 2014
PARTIES: University of Toronto v S.H.K.
Hearing Date(s): February 20, 2014
Roslyn Tsao, Chair
Charmaine Williams, Faculty Member
Lucy Chau, Student Member
Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel
The Student, via Skype
Lucy Gaspini, Manager, Academic Integrity and Affairs, UTM
Sinéad Cutt, Administrative Assistant, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Trial Division – s. B.i.1(b) of the Code – possession of an unauthorized aid– Student attended hearing via Skype – agreed statement of facts – finding of guilt – Joint Submission on Penalty – two prior sanctioned offences – mitigating mental health issues neither excuse nor justify conduct – cooperation throughout process and sincere remorse – final grade of zero; three-year suspension; notation on transcript until graduation; report to Provost for publication
The hearing was conducted via Skype as the Student resides in Taiwan. The Student had the opportunity to seek legal advice but declined representation. The Student and the University entered into an Agreed Statement of Facts (ASF) in which the Student admitted to committing the offence of knowingly using or possessing an unauthorized aid (notes) under s. B.i.3(b) during a quiz. The Student was also charged with an offence under s. B.i.3(b), in the alternative, which was withdrawn. The Panel accepted the guilty plea.
The parties presented a Joint Submission on Penalty proposing a final grade of zero in the course, a suspension of three years, a notation on the Student’s transcript until graduation and that the case be reported to the Provost for publication. The ASF contained relevant circumstances including that the Student had come to Canada from Taiwan seven years previously and that the Student had been sanctioned for academic misconduct on two prior occasions. The prior offences involved the possession of notes during an examination, for which the Student was received a grade of zero and a notation on her transcript for six months, and submitting an assignment prepared with unauthorized assistance, for which the Student received a zero on the assignment. The Student met with the Dean’s Designate, pleading guilty to the offence at that time, and explained that she had suffered from anxiety and depression since she was a teenager, had been on medication and was isolated. The Student provided documents stating that she sought assistance from UTM Health and Counseling, had been hospitalized for suicidal ideation and depression and was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with Major Depressive Disorder. The Student left Canada earlier in the year, returning to Taiwan where she is looking for work, but intends to return to the University at the end of her suspension. The University would have sought a more serious penalty than a three year suspension but for the Student pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity and full cooperation during the process, the Student seeking and complying with medical treatment and the Student’s expression of remorse. The University also submitted that “while the Student’s depression and anxiety are relevant to the appropriate sanction, her medical condition nether excuses nor justifies her unacceptable conduct.”
The Panel noted that the Student’s mental health challenges were relevant to penalty for this Student. The Student was aware of her academic dishonesty and her mental health history is not a mitigating factor on the basis that her ability to know “right from wrong” was not impaired. The Panel accepted the joint submission and imposed a final grade of zero in the course, a suspension of three years from the day of the order, a notation on the Student’s transcript until graduation and ordered that the case be reported to the Provost for publication. The Panel noted that had the Student not cooperated, provided insight into her personal circumstances and expressed sincere remorse, the Panel would have imposed a more serious penalty given the prior offences.