Case 994

DATE: August 24, 2020
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. H.W.

HEARING DATE: May 29, 2020, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Mr. Dean F. Embry, Chair
Professor Lynne Howarth, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Julie Farmer, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Ms. Lily Harmer, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Mr. Giancarlo Gillespie, Representative for the Student, Downtown Legal Services
The Student

In Attendance:
Mr. Christopher Lang, Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

The Student was found guilty of the following offences: (1) one count of having intent to commit the offence of forging or in any other way altering or falsifying an academic record under s. B.i.3(a) and B.ii.2 of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”); (2) two counts of knowingly engaging in a form of cheating, academic dishonesty or misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation not otherwise described in the Code in order to obtain academic credit or advantage under s. B.i.3(b); and (3) one count of plagiarism under s. B.i.1(d).

In determining sanction, the Panel considered a Joint Submission on Penalty (“JSP”) from the parties along with a Book of Documents on Sanction from the University and a Book of Authorities on Sanction from the Student’s representative. The Panel noted that in accordance with University of Toronto and M.A. (Case No. 837, December 22, 2016) and R. v. Anthony-Cook, 2016 SCC 43, the Tribunal should only refuse to impose a penalty that is jointly submitted if that penalty would be fundamentally contrary to the interests of the University community and unreasonable or unconscionable.

The Panel heard submissions from the parties that focused on four major factors: the character of the Student, the likelihood of repetition of offences, the nature of the offences and the detrimental effect the offences had on the University. With regard to the character of the Student, the Panel noted that the Student had no prior finding of academic dishonesty and treated her admission of guilt to the plagiarism offence as an indication of remorse and willingness to take responsibility. Juxtaposed to this is the fact that the Student did not admit guilt, and therefore, there is no indication of remorse or willingness to take responsibility as it relates to the more serious offence of intent to forge documents. This intent stems from the purchase of a stamp and seal that contained text and design elements almost identical to the stamps and embosser used by the Office of the Registrar of UTM. The Panel was not provided with any further mitigating circumstances that would explain the Student’s behaviour. The Panel was asked to consider the sequence of events that led to both charges as an aggravating factor in analyzing the Student’s character and likelihood of future offences. The Panel found that to treat the sequence of events as an aggravating factor would amount to improperly treating the first offence as a “prior offence” in the absence of a finding of guilt. Therefore, since a finding of guilt had not been made on the first offence, the Panel refused to treat that as a prior offence or an aggravating factor. The Panel noted that the nature of the offences is a significant factor. The Panel outlined that plagiarism strikes to the very core of the relationship between the University and its students and that an attempted forgery offence is even more serious. The Panel found that the plan to research and acquire an official looking stamp and seal was deliberate and premeditated, therefore, the potential mischief that the stamp and seal could have brought would have been extensive. The Panel treated this potential as a detriment to the University and found that the potential detrimental effect on the University must be deterred.

The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a grade assignment of zero in the course; three-year suspension; four-year notation on the Student’s academic record and transcript; and a report to the Provost for publication.