Case 1186

DATE: September 21, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. N.A. ("the Student")

HEARING DATE: June 21, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Mr. R.S.M Woods, Chair
Professor Ian Crandall, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Madison Kerr, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP

Not in Attendance:
The Student

Hearing Secretary:
Ms. Nadia Bruno, Special Projects Officer, Office of Appeals, Discipline and Faculty Grievances

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 she knowingly represented the ideas of another, or the expressions of the ideas of another, as her own work in a mid-term essay. 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 the mid-term essay.     

Neither the Student nor a legal representative of the Student appeared at the hearing. The Panel waited 15 minutes after the hearing was scheduled to commence to allow for the Student to appear. After that time, the University requested that the Panel proceed in the absence of the Student pursuant to the University Tribunal’s Rules of Practice and Procedure (“Rules”). The University provided evidence that the Student had been served at her ROSI-listed email address with the charges, a disclosure brief, and the notice of hearing. Furthermore, the Student did not respond to any requests to schedule a meeting with the Dean’s Designate. Rule 9(c) of the Rules provides that service can be effected via email to the student’s email address contained in ROSI. Based on the evidence, the Panel was satisfied that the Student received proper and adequate notice of the charges and the hearing. The Panel noted that evidence that the Student had personally accessed their ROSI email account after the charges and the notice of hearing were sent would have established actual notice of the charges and the notice hearing. However, the Rules do not require the University to establish actual notice. The Panel further noted that students are responsible for monitoring their account and they fail to do so at their own risk. Since the charges and the notice of hearing were sent via email to the Student’s ROSI listed email address, the Panel found that the Student had reasonable notice of the charges and the hearing pursuant to rule 13 of the Rules. The Panel therefore proceeded to hear and consider the University’s evidence in the Student’s absence pursuant to rule 17 of the Rules.  

The Panel considered the affidavit evidence of the Assistant Professor who taught the course for which the mid-term essay in question was submitted. It was the Assistant Professor’s evidence that the syllabus advised the students that their written work would be scanned for plagiarism using Turnitin.com. Upon review of the Student’s essay, Turnitin.com discovered that the mid-term essay contained numerous verbatim and nearly verbatim passages from a variety of sources, none of which were cited. The Panel noted that the third to fifth paragraphs of the mid-term essay were taken almost verbatim from one source without proper attribution. The Panel further noted that such a large-scale incorporation of another’s work could not have been accidental. On the evidence presented by the University, the Panel found that the Student was guilty of one count of knowingly representing, as their own, the ideas or expressions of ideas of a source, 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 received affidavit evidence of an Academic Integrity Specialist (“AIS”) with the Student Academic Integrity team at the Faculty of Arts and Science. The AIS’ affidavit confirmed that the Student had committed an act of plagiarism in connection with an assignment in another course and this matter was resolved at the departmental level where a final grade of zero was imposed. The Panel considered the principles and factors relevant to sanction discussed in University of Toronto and Mr. C. (“Mr. C. factors”). Regarding the character of the student, the Panel noted that there was no evidence before them of the Student’s character, however, the Panel noted that the Student committed a similar offence just a few months prior to the current offence. Given the evidence of the prior offence, the Panel noted that there was a real risk of a repetition of the same offence. Regarding the nature of the offence, detriment to the University and deterrence, the Panel noted that plagiarism is a very serious offence that strikes at the heart of the University’s core values of honesty and integrity and harms the reputation of the University as a whole. It has the potential to affect other students adversely by allowing cheaters to obtain grades higher than they actually merit by presenting the work of others as their own. Plagiarism cannot be tolerated and in order to discourage others from committing similar offences, plagiarism merits serious sanctions. The Panel found no evidence of extenuating circumstances. Upon review of the relevant case law and the Mr. C. factors, the Panel found that the sanction proposed by the University was appropriate as it was within the typical range of sanctions imposed on students found guilty of a second plagiarism offence. The Panel imposed the following sanctions: a final grade of zero in the course; a three-year suspension; a four-year notation on the transcript; and a report to the Provost for publication.