Case 1104

DATE: June 24, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. G.G.

HEARING DATE: March 22, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Ira Parghi, Chair
Professor Gabriele D'Eleuterio, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Elizabeth Frangos, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Ms. Lauren Pearce, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Sonia Patel, Articling Student, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP

In Attendance:
Ms. Krista Kennedy, Administrative Clerk & Hearing Secretary, Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

Not in Attendance:
The Student

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 the ideas of another, or the expressions of the ideas of another, as his own work in an assignment. 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 an assignment.       

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The Panel waited fifteen minutes after the hearing was scheduled to commence to allow for the Student to appear. The University’s Policy on Official Correspondence with Students provides that students enrolled at the University must maintain current contact information in their record in the University’s record of academic history and student information (“ROSI”) and must update that information if it changes. Rule 9 of the Rules provides that service can be effected via email to the student’s email address in ROSI. The University provided evidence that the Student had been served at his ROSI-listed email address with the charges, a disclosure brief, and notice of hearing. Counsel for the University provided further evidence that their office attempted to contact the Student via Facebook message, on two separate occasions, advising the Student that Counsel had sent an important email to their University email address and to check the email. Counsel for the University also attempted to contact the Student via telephone to the number provided to the University in ROSI. An individual answered the phone and Counsel asked if they had reached the Student, identifying them by name. The individual asked for Counsel to identify themselves which they did and then again asked if they had reached the Student. The individual hung up. Counsel called back and attempted to explain the purpose of the call, but the individual hung up before Counsel could offer the explanation. At a later date, Counsel attempted to call the phone number again but received a message from the operator indicating that the person whom Counsel had called was not taking calls; the line then disconnected. The Student was subsequently provided an opportunity to provide submissions in relation to the request of the Provost of the University for the hearing 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, email correspondence, and Facebook messages to the Student went unanswered.  The Panel found that reasonable notice of the hearing had been provided to the Student in accordance with the Rules and the SPPA, therefore the Panel ordered that the hearing proceed in the Student’s absence.    

Regarding the charges laid under sB.i.1(d) of the Code, the Panel considered of the Professor who taught the course for which the assignment in question was submitted. The Panel received evidence from the Professor that the Student submitted the assignment via Turnitin.com and the Turnitin Originality Report indicated that the Student’s assignment had a 41% similarity index to other sources in the Turnitin database. Based on this Originality Report, the Professor provided evidence that he reviewed the Student’s assignment more closely and observed that it did not cite any outside sources. The Professor provided further evidence that the assignment contained significant portions that closely matched portions of two outside sources that were identified by the Turnitin Originality Report. The Panel noted that the Professor’s evidence closely mapped over ten passages in the Student’s assignment that were copied verbatim or nearly verbatim and that the outside sources were not cited. On the evidence presented by the University, the Panel found that on the balance of probabilities the Student was guilty of one count of knowingly representing the idea of another, or the expressions of the ideas of another, contrary to section B.i.1(d) the Code. Given the Panel’s finding, the University withdrew the charge under s. B.i.3(b).  

In determining sanction, the Panel considered the principles and factors relevant to sanction discussed in University of Toronto and Mr. C. (“Mr. C. factors”) and determined that it was important to consider the serious nature of the offence, the great detriment to the University and the strong need to deter others from committing similar offences. The Panel noted that this offence is serious in nature and causes great detriment to the University and its students. The Panel further considered the Tribunal’s case law, including University of Toronto and Y.G (Case No. 802, September 28, 2015), which indicates that plagiarism corrodes academic integrity at the University and undermines the relationship of trust between the University and its students. The Panel found that, for these reasons, plagiarism is considered a very serious offence that requires a serious penalty. Upon review of the relevant case law and the Mr. C. factors, the Panel found that the sanction proposed by the University was appropriate. Without the Student’s participation, the Panel found no evidence of mitigating circumstances or factors that would prevent the Panel from imposing a serious penalty. The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the course; a two-year suspension; a three-year notation on the transcript; and a report to the Provost for publication.