Case 1211

DATE: September 23, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. P.L. ("the Student")

HEARING DATE: July 6, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Michelle S. Henry, Chair
Professor Mike Evans, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Parsa Mahmud, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Mr. Ryan Shah, Summer Student, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Mr. Antone Liu, Counsel for the Student, L&B LLP

Not in Attendance:
The Student

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

The Student was charged under s. B.i.1(c) of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that the Student knowingly had someone personate her in a midterm examination. In the alternative, the Student was charged under s. B.i.1(b) of the Code on the basis that the Student knowingly used or possessed an unauthorized aid or obtained unauthorized assistance in connection with the midterm examination. In the further 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 a midterm examination.

The Student and the University were represented by counsel. The Student and the University submitted an Agreed Statement of Facts (“ASF”) and a Joint Book of Documents (“JBD”). The Panel noted that the ASF outlined that the Professor who taught the course in which the midterm examination in question was submitted noticed that two students appeared to have uploaded each other’s ID. The Student uploaded the solution with the photo ID and signature of another student and the other student uploaded the solution with photo ID and signature of the Student. The ASF outlined that the Professor found this suspicious and set the two answers aside for further investigation. Approximately a week after the midterm examination, the Student emailed the Professor and admitted to the misconduct. At the Dean’s Designate meeting, the Student admitted that she hired a person to write her midterm for $200.00. The Student further admitted that she permitted this individual to log into her Quercus account using her login credentials to complete the midterm in her name. The Panel noted that the ASF outlined that the Student confirmed that the statements she made to the Dean’s Designate were true and accurate. Based on the ASF and JBD, the Panel found that the first charge had been proven with clear and convincing evidence on a balance of probabilities and therefore, the Panel accepted the guilty plea with respect this charge under s. B.i.1(c) of the Code. Given the Panel’s finding, the University withdrew the alternative charges.

The University and the Student submitted a Joint Submission on Penalty (“JSP”). Counsel for the University provided submissions on the high threshold required for the Panel to deviate from a JSP. As set out by the Appeals Board in The University of Toronto and S.F. (Case No. 690, October 20, 2014), only truly unreasonable or “unconscionable” joint submissions should be rejected (para. 22). The Panel also heard submissions regarding the appropriateness of the penalty, reviewed relevant past decisions of the Tribunal, and considered the factors set out in University of Toronto and Mr. C. (File 1976/77-3, November 5, 1976). The Panel noted that the Student’s admission of wrongdoing came very early on. She provided a candid explanation along with the Student’s desire to have the issue resolved as soon as possible. The Student’s admission of guilt demonstrated insight. The Panel accepted that the Student was under stress in her personal life however, her explanation did not justify the mistake. The Panel also considered the serious and deliberate nature of the offence and the detriment to the University. Counsel for the University stressed that there is a need to send a strong message of deterrence in order to communicate the seriousness with which these decisions are taken. Furthermore, the University pointed out the commercial element of the offence since the Student paid for an individual to complete the midterm on her behalf. Having regard to the submissions, past decisions and the Mr. C. factors, the Panel accepted the JSP, as it was reasonable. The Panel imposed the following sanction: final grade of zero in the course; five-year suspension; five-year notation on the transcript; and a report to the Provost for publication.