DATE: April 23, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. R.S.
HEARING DATE: January 15, 2021 & February 17, 2021, via Zoom
Ms. Dena Varah, Chair
Professor Pierre Desrochers, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Arlinda Ruco, Student Panel Member
Ms. Tina Lie, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Carmelle Salomon-Labbe, Associate Director, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances
Not in Attendance:
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 the Student knowingly represented an idea or expression of an idea or work of another as their own in a final exam. The Student was charged alternatively under ss. B.i.1(b) and B.i.3(b) of the Code for knowingly obtaining unauthorized assistance in connection with the final exam and 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 other academic advantage.
This matter was originally scheduled to proceed on January 15, 2021, at which time Assistant Discipline Counsel attended, and the Student did not. Assistant Discipline Counsel advised the Panel that the Student reached out to University members the morning of the hearing asking about the Tribunal hearing. The Panel heard evidence from an Academic Integrity Coordinator at the School of Applied Sciences confirming the same. As a result of this evidence, the Panel adjourned the matter to afford the Student an opportunity to participate in the proceedings. Pursuant to the Panel’s Order, the adjourned hearing date was marked as peremptory on the Student. At the adjourned date, neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The University provided evidence to indicate that subsequent to the adjournment, the Student did not answer any further correspondence from the University. The University further provided evidence of their attempts to communicate with the Student via email to advise of the new hearing date and invite him to participate; these attempts also went unanswered. The Student did not advise that he required any further adjournments or that he was unable to participate in the matter as scheduled. Therefore, given that the Student did not respond to the subsequent communication from the University and the ample notice of hearing, the Panel ordered that the hearing could proceed in the Student’s absence.
Regarding the charges laid under s. B.i.1(d) of the Code, the Panel examined the evidence of the Professor who taught the course for which the final exam in question was submitted. The exam was submitted through a code checker which identified two issues: (1) similarities between the Student’s submission and the code of another student for two questions; and (2) the answer to one of the Student’s questions contained a different variable than the one provided to him as part of his exam. The Professor indicated that he reviewed the code and determined that it was identical to the one provided to another student in a different group as the Student. The similarities between the two exams are the most persuasive evidence. The evidence is clear that, at least, the Student and the other students, collaborated on the exam. This collaboration is a breach of the Code and could support a finding on both the first or second charge. The Panel was satisfied that the Student’s use of the starter code of another student makes it more likely that he was relying on the other student’s work and ideas rather than the other way around. The Panel found 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 in connection with a final exam, contrary to s. 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) of the Code.
In determining sanction, the Panel considered the facts of the case, the principles, and the factors relevant to sanction. Given that the Student did not participate in the hearing, there was no evidence of any mitigating factors or the character of the Student. The Panel considered the serious nature of the offence, the detriment to the University and the need for general deterrence. In their consideration, the Panel noted that the seriousness of the offence cannot be overlooked as it undermines the very foundation of academic integrity and if plagiarism is left unchecked, it can undermine the credibility of the institutions. Upon review of the University’s submissions as well as the relevant case law, the Panel accepted the sanction proposed by the University. The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the course; a suspension for just over 22 months; a notation on the transcript for just over 34 months; and a report to the Provost for a publication.