Case 1212

DATE: November 3, 2021
PARTIES: University of Toronto v. I.S. ("the Student")

HEARING DATE: September, 2021, via Zoom

Panel Members:
Ms. Cynthia Kuehl, Chair
Professor Ken Derry, Faculty Panel Member
Ms. Alena Zelinka, Student Panel Member

Appearances:
Mr. Robert Centa, Assistant Discipline Counsel, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Ms. Janette Clough-Jones, Counsel for the Student, Coghiels & Associates
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 and Academic Matters, 1995 (the “Code”) on the basis that she knowingly represented as her own an idea or an expression of an idea and/or the work of another in a final paper. 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 a final paper.      

The Student attended the hearing and was represented by counsel. The Student and the University submitted an Agreed Statement of Fact (“ASF”). The Panel noted that the ASF outlined that the Student acknowledged that she had knowingly represented the ideas of another person, the expression of the ideas of another person and the work of another person as her own, thereby knowingly committing plagiarism contrary to section B.i.1(d) of the Code in respect of the final paper she submitted for academic credit. The ASF further outlined that upon review of the paper, the Professor who taught the course for which the final paper was submitted noticed that almost all of the paper was taken verbatim or nearly verbatim from an outside source. The Student did not cite this source. The Panel noted that the Student met with the Dean’s Designate and admitted she knowingly plagiarized the final paper. In light of the ASF and submissions of counsel, the Panel found that the Student represented as her own an idea and/or work of another in the final paper, contrary to s. B.i.1(d) of the Code. Based on the Panel’s finding, the University withdrew the alternative charge.

In determining sanction, the Panel considered an Agreed Statement of Facts on Penalty and a Joint Submission on Penalty (“JSP”). The Agreed Statement of Facts on Penalty outlined that the Student had been sanctioned on four previous occasions for academic offences. The Panel noted that in each of these cases the Student received a sanction at the Department or Dean’s Designate level, and accordingly there was no referral to the Tribunal. The Panel heard submissions regarding the appropriateness of the penalty and reviewed the relevant decisions of the Tribunal submitted by the parties. The Panel noted that it ought not to impose a different penalty than agreed to by the parties unless to do so would bring the administration of the Tribunal into disrepute or be contrary to the public interest. In drawing this conclusion, the Panel referenced the Discipline Appeals Board’s decision in University of Toronto and M.A. (Case No. 837, dated December 22, 2016). Furthermore, the Panel carefully considered the factors set out in the University of Toronto and Mr. C. (Case No. 1976/77-3, November 5, 1976) (“Mr. C. factors”). The multiple instances of plagiarism were of concern to the Panel. Both counsel noted that the Student had demonstrated insight and remorse since the beginning of this process. The Panel noted that this remorse and the prospect of rehabilitation mitigated against a more severe penalty. Regarding the likelihood of the repetition of the offence, the Panel noted that the Student had four prior academic offences. Although the Student showed great remorse, there remains a concern about possible repetition, therefore a significant period of suspension was appropriate to guard against the likelihood of repetition The Panel also considered the nature of the offence. Plagiarism is a very significant academic offence and one that the Panel found to be very deliberate in nature, given the extensive duplication of an outside source. The Panel further noted that the University must be able to trust that students complete research and work on their own or provide proper citations as part of the University’s accreditation process. The Panel considered the detriment to the University and the need to deter others from committing similar offences. The integrity of the University, and the values of the degrees it confers, is affected when students engage in academic misconduct. This has potential impacts on the University’s reputation in the community and on the other students who graduate from it. There is a need for specific deterrence in this case given the gravity and the repeat nature of the offence. Having regard to the cases presented by counsel, the submissions of the parties, and in light of the consideration of the Mr. C. factors, the Panel agreed that the JSP was appropriate in the circumstances. The Panel also found that the JSP would not bring the administration into disrepute nor be contrary to the public interest. The Panel imposed the following sanctions: final grade of zero in the course; five-year suspension; six-year notation on transcript; and a report to the Provost for publication.