DATE: February 17, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. E.C. (the "Student")
Hearing date: August 19, 2020, October 19, 2020, October 26, 2020 and November 9, 2020, via Zoom
Ms. Cheryl Woodin, Chair
Professor Ernest Lam, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. Sean McGowan, Student Panel Member
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Mr. Eunwoo Lee, Downtown Legal Services, Representative for the Student
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Ms. Krista Kennedy, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, Office of Appeal, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
The Student was charged under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly used or possessed an unauthorized aid, or aids, or obtained unauthorized assistance on a mid-term test. In the alternative, the Student was charged under s. B.i.3(b) of the Code on the basis that the Student knowingly engaged in a form of cheating, academic dishonesty or misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation in order to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage in connection with a midterm test. The charges stem from allegations that the Student copied, or attempted to copy, answers from another student’s test paper during a midterm test.
Regarding the charge laid under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code, the Panel heard evidence of the Invigilator, an expert on statistics and analysis, the Professor who taught the course for which the midterm test in question was completed, the other student whom it is alleged the Student obtained assistance from without authorization, and the Student, himself.
The Invigilator testified that he became suspicious of the two students when he noticed that they were making animated and mutual head movements back and forth towards one another. He became further suspicious when he noticed that the other student had large block letters on his test booklet. However, the Invigilator confirmed that he could not directly conclude that the Student was cheating. The Professor who taught the course for which the midterm test in question was completed testified that he was present throughout the test and approximately thirty minutes into the test, the Invigilator raised a concern with the Professor about the two students. The Professor further testified that he did not observe any of the Student’s behaviour directly, however, due to the concerns of the Invigilator the Professor subsequently reviewed their tests and determined their test answers were identical. Based on the findings of the Professor’s review, the knowledge that the two students were sitting together during the test, and the observations of the Invigilator, the Professor concluded that an academic offence might have occurred. The University relied on an expert witness to provide an independent expert opinion on his analysis of the multiple-choice responses of the students in the class to identify any patterns or anomalies in the answers. The expert witness is a Professor at the University of British Columbia (“Expert”). The Expert provided evidence that there were two pairs of students within the class that produced anomalous results. It was his evidence that based on the analysis of the answers of the two students in question, there was a 30% probability that the similarities in their test results were not attributable to misconduct. However, once learning that the two students were sitting beside one another, the Expert testified that he determined there was a more than 90% probability that the results were due to misconduct. The Expert acknowledged that his analysis could not determine which student within the pair might have been looking at whose test paper.
The Panel observed some conflict in the evidence between the Student and the Invigilator as to the exchange between them during the test. The Student testified that he raised his hand to ask a question and looked up at the same time whereas the Invigilator states that the Student looked up, made eye contact with the Invigilator and then raised his hand. The Student was also able to provide clear information pertaining to what question he asked the Invigilator and what relevance it had in determining the answer for the question.
On the evidence presented, it was not clear to the Panel that the charges were made out on clear and convincing evidence. Therefore, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence that the Student had attempted to look at the other student’s test paper, evidence regarding the similarity of the two students’ test results is insufficient to establish that an academic offence was committed by the Student.