Case 1177

DATE: August 24, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. Y.N.C. ("the Student")

HEARING DATE: June 29, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Mr. Bernie Fishbein, Chair
Professor Julian Lowman, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Arlinda Ruco, Student Panel Member

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

Hearing Secretary:
Ms. Carmelle Salomon-Labbé, Associate Director, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

The Student was charged with fourteen counts under the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”). The charges are as follows: (1) two counts of knowingly representing as her own, an idea or expression of an idea, and/or the work of another in two assignments, contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code; (2) one count of knowingly using or possessing an unauthorized aid or obtaining unauthorized assistance in connection with a test, contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code, and (3) five counts of knowingly forging or in any other way altering or falsifying a document or evidence required by the University of Toronto, or uttering, circulating or making use of such forged, altered or falsified document, namely, a medical certificate in support of a petition to lift a three-year academic suspension. In the alternative, the Student was charged with four counts of knowingly engaging in a form of cheating, academic dishonesty or misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation in order to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage contrary to s. B.i.3(b) of the Code and two counts of knowingly using or possessing an unauthorized aid or obtaining unauthorized assistance in connection with a test, contrary to s. B.i.1(b) of the Code.

The Student attended the hearing but declined the opportunity to speak at all stages of the hearing. The Student and the University submitted an Agreed Statement of Fact (“ASF”), a Joint Book of Documents (“JBD”), an Agreed Statement of Fact on Penalty (“ASFP”) and a Joint Submission on Penalty (“JSP”). The Panel noted that the Student agreed to all the facts, pled guilty to all the charges, and agreed to the penalties sought by the University. In view of the ASF, the admissions of the Student including the guilty plea, the Panel concluded that the University had established the violation of the Code with respect to all eight charges. Based on this finding, the University withdrew the six charges made in the alternative.

Counsel for the University made brief submission in support of the JSP. The Panel noted that Counsel for the University pointed them to the high threshold established in the jurisprudence to depart from a joint submission. A departure from a joint submission should only be done in cases where the joint submission was truly unreasonable or unconscionable (University of Toronto and S.F. (Case No.: 690, October 20, 2014) at paras. 16, 18, 20 and 22; and University of Toronto and M.A. (Case No.: 837, December 22, 2016). The Panel noted that the JSP in this case was not unreasonable or unconscionable.

Counsel reviewed the traditional factors established in the jurisprudence to be considered in determining sanction. The University conceded that the Student had admitted her guilt at the first opportunity and cooperated throughout the University’s discipline process by pleading guilty, thereby accepting some ownership and responsibility of her actions. However, the Panel noted that this was more than outweighed by the other factors when they were properly weighed and considered. The Panel observed that there was a legitimate concern about the likelihood of repetition of the conduct since there had been a prior offence and eight offences that repeated themselves in a very short period of time over several months. The Panel noted that there were not any mitigating circumstances, nor were any identified. Upon review of the nature of the offences, the detriment to the University and the need for general deterrence the Panel noted that they all weighed heavily in favour of accepting the JSP. Both plagiarism and unauthorized assistance are very serious offences that undermine the teaching and learning experience of the University which, therefore, warrant strong messages of general deterrence. The Panel discussed that forgery had repeatedly been found in the jurisprudence to be among the most serious offences (University of Toronto and Y.K. (Case No.: 855, March 10, 2017) at para. 39). Furthermore, the forgeries were of medical certificates which impairs the University’s processes to accommodate disabilities. The Panel noted that the offences were aggravated by the fact that the medical certificates were purchased. Upon review of the relevant case law, the Panel accepted the JSP. The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the affected courses; a five-year suspension or until Governing Council makes its decision on expulsion, whichever comes first; a corresponding notation on the transcript; recommendation that the Student be expelled, as per s. C.ii.(b)(i) of Code; report to Provost for publication.