DATE: May 6, 2020
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Z.D. (“the Student”)
HEARING DATE(S): March 12, 2020
Ms. Erin Dann, Chair
Professor Richard Day, Faculty Panel Member
Mr. David Allens, Student Panel Member
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Renuka Koipillai, Downtown Legal Services, Representative of the Student
Ms. Meg Cormack, Downtown Legal Services, Caseworker
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Office of the Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances, University of Toronto
The Student was charged with seven counts of academic misconduct under s. B.i.3(a) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that she knowingly used or possessed unauthorized aids or obtained unauthorized assistance during several exams by accessing the internet and performing Google searches. She was enrolled in several courses in which tests were conducted online using Canvas software on the Quercus learning management system (“Quercus System”). This system logs a student’s activity while they are engaged in writing a test or exam online. Students were not allowed to use any aids during the tests, nor were they permitted to access any online or outside assistance. Furthermore, the tests and exams contained a statement warning that the exam was proctored and electronically monitored, and that the use of any written or electronic material was not permitted. Reference to academic conduct and offences with a link to the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters was also included on the tests.
The Student attended the hearing and was represented. The University and the Student submitted an Agreed Statement of Facts (“ASF”) and Joint Book of Documents (“JBD”). The facts admitted in the ASF related to six charges.
In May 2019, the Student provided a written statement to the Board of Examiners, in which she accepted responsibility for her actions. The Board referred the matter in keeping with the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. She also took responsibility for her actions of academic misconduct during a subsequent meeting with the Vice-Dean, Partnerships, Faculty of Medicine. She stated that she regretted her actions and apologized. The Student was suspended from her program pending completion of the Tribunal process.
Regarding the proposed sanctions, the Panel explained that in many cases it stated that absent exceptional circumstances, panels are expected to accept and implement joint statements on penalty. It referenced the Discipline Appeals Board decision in The University of Toronto and M. A. (Case No. 837, December 22, 2016), where the Board stated 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). The Panel concluded that the joint submission was reasonable and appropriate. It considered the following factors: the nature of the offences; the detriment to the University occasioned by the offences; the need to deter other students from acting in a similar manner; the character of the Student; and the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence. While acknowledging the seriousness of the offences and noting that they had taken place repeatedly over several months, the Panel also considered mitigating factors, namely (1) that the Student had no prior history of academic at the University, (2) that she had admitted guilt during an early opportunity and (3) that she had cooperated throughout the process, including entering into the ASF and JSP. According to the Panel, these actions and her testimony demonstrated insight and remorse.
The Panel agreed with the rationale as per the JSP to backdate the commencement of the sanction. In making this decision, the Panel considered the Student’s admission, which occurred at an early stage; the fact that she had not contributed to any delay in resolving the charge and, the nature of her program.
The Panel imposed the following sanctions: grade assignment of zero in four courses; suspension from the University of Toronto from May 23, 2019 to August 31, 2022; notation on academic record and transcript from the day the Panel makes its Order to August 31, 2024 or her graduation from her program, whichever occurs first; report to the Provost for publication of a notice of the decision and sanctions imposed, with the name of the Student withheld.