DATE: July 29, 2020
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. T.L. (“the Student”)
HEARING DATES: December 11, 2019 and January 30, 2020
Mr. Andrew Pinto, Chair (as he then was – after the decision was made, the Chair was appointed a Judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario)
Professor Ken Derry, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Natasha Brien, Student Panel Member
Ms. Lauren Pearce, Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Angela Guo, Mandarin Legal Services, Paralegal for the Student
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances, University of Toronto
The University filed two sets of charges against the Student. The first set involves two counts under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (“Code”) for knowingly forging or in any other way altering or falsifying an academic record, and/or uttering, circulating or making use of such forged, altered or falsified record, namely, two documents that purported to be reference letters from two of his professors, which he submitted to King’s College London. Alternatively, the Student was charged with two counts under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code. The second set of charges pertained to one count under s. B.i.3(a) for knowingly forging or in any other way altering or falsifying an academic record, and/or uttering, circulating or making use of such forged, altered or falsified record, namely a document that purported to be a transcript of consolidated academic record from the University of Toronto, which he submitted to King’s College London. For this offence, he was also charged alternatively under s. B.i.3(b.
The parties provided a partial Agreed Statement of Facts (“ASF”), a Joint Book of Documents (“JBD”), as well as a Joint Submission on Penalty (“JSP”). They agreed that both sets of charges should be consolidated and heard together.
The issue in dispute was whether the Student knowingly participated in the submission of false documents to King’s College London, or alternatively, whether the Student knew, or ought to have known, that false documents had been submitted in his name as part of the application, and he did nothing to correct the problem. In the Panel’s view, the Student’s exceptionally weak and circumstantial evidence did not support his claim that only his parents were involved in the application to King’s College London together with GESG China and that he was not involved in any way and had no knowledge of this arrangement or application. The University’s circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, was compelling and highlighted several key inconsistencies, unexplained coincidences and problems with the Student’s arguments.
Citing the Discipline Appeals Board decision in The University of Toronto and M. A. (Case No. 837, December 22, 2016), the Panel reiterated that a joint submission on penalty “may be rejected by a panel only in circumstances where to give effect to it would be contrary to the public interest or would bring the administration of justice into disrepute” (para 25). It indicated that the threshold for rejecting a jointly proposed sanction is high and concluded that the threshold had not been met in this case. It accepted the parties’ JSP. According to the Panel, the seriousness of the offences required a significant sanction for the purposes of general and specific deterrence. It held that the jointly proposed sanctions were within a range that was consistent with other similar cases and were not unreasonable. Regarding the mitigating factors, the Panel noted the Student’s cooperation by entering into a partial ASF and his acceptance, insight and remorse exhibited at the sanction phase, after being found guilty, by apologizing and entering into a JSP.
The Tribunal imposed the following sanctions: up to four-year suspension, until December 31, 2023; up to five-year notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript, until December 31, 2024; report to the Provost for publication of the decision and the sanctions imposed, with the name of the Student withheld.