Case 1077

DATE: November 2, 2020

PARTIES: University of Toronto v. J.H. (“the Student”)

HEARING DATES: August 6, 2020, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Mr. Dean Embry, Chair
Professor Kimberley Widger, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Emily Hawes, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP

Not in Attendance:
The Student

In Attendance:
Ms. Krista Kennedy, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, Office of the Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances, University of Toronto

The Student was charged under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that he knowingly represented an idea or expression of an idea or work of another as his own in an assignment to obtain an academic credit. In the alternative, the Student was charged under ss. B.i.1(b) and B.i.3(b) of the Code on the basis that the Student knowingly obtained unauthorized assistance in connection with an assignment and knowingly engaged in a form of cheating, academic dishonesty or misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation in order to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage.  

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 provided with an opportunity to provide submissions in relation to the request of Assistant Discipline Counsel for this matter to proceed electronically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Student did not respond to this request and the hearing was ordered to proceed electronically. The charges, notice, and other email correspondence to the Student went unanswered. The Panel found that that the Student had been provided with reasonable notice and proper service in accordance with Rule 14 and 9 of the Tribunal’s Rules of Practice and Procedure and therefore determined it would proceed to hear the case on its merits in the Student’s absence. 

The assignment in question required the Student to write an interactive tree-map visualization tool in which the Student was provided with a “starter code” which he was required to build upon to create the envisioned tool. The course in question was taught at both the St. George and University of Toronto Mississauga (“UTM”) campuses at the same time in which the “starter code” was the same. However, there were two non-operative changes made to the code to differentiate between the two campuses. The Student’s assignment contained the UTM started code instead of the one provided to the St. George campus students.

Regarding the charges laid under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, the Panel considered the possibility that the Student generated his own original work and it was somehow shared or accessed by other students without his knowledge, however, the Panel found that the identical or substantially similar contents of the Student’s assignment compared to the assignments of the other students and the use of the UTM “starter code” makes that possibility unlikely. The Panel found that it was more likely than not that the Student was guilty of one count of knowingly representing an idea or expression of an idea or work of another as his own, contrary to section B.i.1(d) of the Code. Given the Panel’s finding, the University withdrew the charges under ss. B.i.1(b) and B.i.3(b).

In determining sanction, the Panel declined to treat the Student’s lack of participation in the process as an aggravating factor as it is the Panel’s finding that the Student’s lack of participation is not evidence that the Student has no insight or is not remorseful and it would be improper to infer anything from the lack of participation or attendance as there is no evidence before the Panel as to why the Student did not participate in the process. Without the Student’s participation, the Panel found no evidence of mitigating circumstances or factors and accepted the University’s submission on penalty. Given the seriousness of the offence the Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the course; a two-year suspension from the University; a three-year notation of the sanction on the Student’s transcript; and a publication by the Provost of a notice of the decision and sanctions imposed with the Student’s name withheld.