Case #1004

DATE: February 26, 2020

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. G.Z. (“the Student”)

HEARING DATE: December 3, 2019

Panel Members:
Ms. Ira Parghi, Lawyer, Chair
Professor Michael Evans, Faculty Panel Member Mr. Bradley Au, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg, Rothstein LLP

Not in Attendance:
The Student

In Attendance:
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances, University of Toronto

The Student was charged under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) for knowingly using or possessing an unauthorized aid in a final exam that he wrote in partial completion of the requirements for a course.  

The Panel waited 15 minutes after the hearing was scheduled to commence, but 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, initial notice of hearing, revised notice of hearing, several affidavits, the University’s Disclosure Brief and a copy of the University’s Policy on Official Correspondence with Students. The University also contacted the Student via private messaging on Facebook and via his ROSI-listed telephone number. It also provided evidence that the Student had accessed his ROSI email address four months after the University had first communicated with him in respect of the hearing. The Panel granted an order permitting the hearing to proceed in the Student’s absence.

Relying on Rule 61 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure (“Rules”), the University sought to tender evidence by way of affidavit. The affiants were not in attendance at the hearing. Rule 62 of the Rules requires that an affiant must attend a hearing if an adverse party wishes to cross-examine on their affidavit. Since the Student had not indicated any wish to cross-examine the affiants, the Panel consented to the University’s request. No evidence was tendered on behalf of the Student. The hearing proceeded on the basis that the Student had denied the charges. The onus was on the University to establish on the balance of probabilities that the Student had committed the offence charged.

The syllabus for the course in question stated, among other things, that students were not allowed to use any books, notes, calculators or scrap paper while writing the final exam. During the final exam, the Chief Presiding Officer and the Student’s professor saw formulae on the Student’s palm. That information was not permitted in the exam. The Dean was subsequently informed and made numerous attempts to meet with the Student. Due to the Student’s unresponsiveness, the matter was forwarded to the Vice-Provost for review.

The Panel concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, the Student was in possession of an unauthorized aid during the final exam — namely, course content handwritten on the palm of his hand — and thus was in contravention of s. B.i.1(b) of the Code. The Panel acknowledged there was no evidence that the Student had actually used the notes to help him during the exam. The offence under s. B.i.1(b) is the possession of an unauthorized aid, whether or not the aid is used. No aids were permitted in the test. The notes on the Student’s hand were capable of being used as an aid. As such the offence was made out on the facts.

On the issue of sanction, the Panel noted that as a consequence of the Student’s non-participation, it had no evidence before it as to any extenuating circumstances that might have weighed in the Student’s favour by mitigating or explaining his conduct. Having regard to the character of the Student, the Panel noted that the Student did not participate in the hearing or pre-hearing University procedures. Had he done so, this might have signalled a willingness to respect the University’s processes. The Panel also observed that the offence was serious, the detriment caused to the University by the offence was significant, and the need to deter others from committing a similar offence was considerable. The Panel further noted that the use of unauthorized aids is a threat to the integrity of the University’s processes for evaluating students, is profoundly unfair to other students, and jeopardizes the University’s reputation. According to the Panel, these considerations urged against imposing a milder sanction than those typically applied in similar cases.

The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a grade assignment of zero in the course; two-year suspension; notation on the Student’s transcript and academic record, commencing on December 3, 2019 and ending on December 2, 2022; report to the Provost for publication of a notice of the decision and the sanctions imposed, with the Student’s name withheld.