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These resources describe the
University policy on academic misconduct
process for handling an allegation of academic misconduct, including plagiarism
The University’s policy on academic misconduct is found in the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters (“the Code”). Other policies deal with the general conduct of students (the Code of Student Conduct) and with research ethics. For information regarding allegations of research misconduct, please visit the website of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation.
Students in graduate studies are expected to commit to the highest standards of integrity and to understand the importance of protecting and acknowledging intellectual property. For example, it is assumed that they bring to their graduate studies a clear understanding of how to cite references appropriately, thereby avoiding plagiarism. The student’s thinking must be understood as distinct from the sources upon which the student is referring. Two excellent documents entitled How Not to Plagiarize (of interest to students) and Deterring Plagiarism (of interest to faculty) are available for reference. Regarding plagiarism, the Code includes the following statements:
B.i.1. It shall be an offence for a student knowingly:
(d) to represent as one’s own idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of academic work, i.e., to commit plagiarism.
Wherever in the Code an offence is described as depending on “knowing”, the offence shall likewise be deemed to have been committed if the person ought reasonably to have known.
Other academic offences include the possession and/or use of unauthorized aids in examinations, submitting the same paper for different courses, forgery (whether of academic records or other documents), concocting facts or references to sources, personating someone, and other forms of cheating and academic dishonesty. Please refer to sections B.i.1. and B.i.3. in the Code for detailed descriptions of offences applicable to students.
While offences are often related to coursework, they can be found outside the context of courses (e.g., theses). Furthermore, according to section B.i.4. in the Code, “A graduate of the University may be charged with any of the above offences committed knowingly while he or she was an active student, when, in the opinion of the Provost, the offence, if detected, would have resulted in a sanction sufficiently severe that the degree would not have been granted at the time that it was”.
Academic misconduct by graduate students is taken very seriously. Following procedures outlined in the Code, cases involving graduate students are handled by the Chair/Director of the Graduate Unit and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. Students are encouraged to ask their graduate unit about specific practices in their discipline related to appropriate citation practices. It is the responsibility of the student to be informed and to “cite it right”.
(Appendices available for download: Checklist for Code Cases, sample Letter to the SGS Dean for referring a case to SGS, and informal procedures for meeting with the Dean.)
In all cases of alleged academic misconduct by graduate students:
The relevant Dean is the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). (Exception is graduate students registered at the Toronto School of Theology)
References to Chairs and Departments in the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters (“the Code”) and these guidelines refer also to Graduate Chairs/Directors (and their designates) and to Graduate Units, respectively. Where the word “Dean” is used, it is understood to refer to the Dean’s designate as well.
Education & Prevention
While not explicitly mentioned in the Code, teaching students about and taking steps against academic misconduct (even at the graduate level) is fundamental to encouraging good academic behaviour. As plagiarism in course assignments is the most commonly-seen offence, we strongly encourage instructors to include information about the need for academic integrity, with a reference to the Code, in their course outlines. The University has a website with advice on promoting academic integrity; the Writing Centre has information specifically on Deterring Plagiarism (aimed at faculty) and on How Not to Plagiarize (aimed at students). The University of Toronto Library also has several guides regarding plagiarism and citation.
If potential academic misconduct comes to an instructor’s attention, the instructor should immediately inform the student and invite him or her to discuss the matter. Two points are worth noting at this stage: first, nothing the student says (including confessing to an offence) can be used in evidence against him or her; and second, it is not the instructor’s role to decide if the student has committed an offence or determine the appropriate sanction(s). If after the discussion the instructor believes that the student has committed an academic offence, he or she must make a report to the Chair. If the potential case of misconduct comes from a thesis or program examination (e.g., comprehensive exam), it may be the supervisor who reports the case to the Chair.
In the case of an assignment worth 10% or less of the final mark for a course, the Chair may deal with the matter if the student admits to the offense and the sanction is not more severe than a mark of zero for the assignment. Otherwise, the Chair will refer the allegation to the SGS Dean. When an allegation of academic misconduct is referred to the SGS Dean, it is helpful to provide full information (a checklist is available, as is a template letter for making the referral). The allegation will then be considered at SGS.
The Dean’s Meeting
If the decision is made to proceed with the allegation at the decanal level, SGS will arrange a meeting between the SGS Dean and the student. The Chair and the instructor (or supervisor) will also be invited. The student’s home Graduate Unit Chair (or designate) will also be invited where the alleged academic offence occurred in another unit. Invitees are not obliged to attend; they are invited to assist the SGS Dean by bringing information and insights on the case.
In advance of the meeting, copies of the Code and an informal summary of the procedure will be made available to the student; the SGS Dean will confirm that the student has understood these during the meeting. The SGS Dean will normally begin the meeting by reviewing the allegation with only the faculty invitees present. The student will then be called in to discuss the matter; invitees are welcome to add to the discussion.
In cases where the student admits to an offence at this meeting, the student may be asked to wait in a separate area while the SGS Dean considers the matter in consultation with invited faculty; the student will then return and the SGS Dean will inform him or her of the outcome. There are three possible outcomes in cases where the student admits to an offence:
dismissing the matter,
imposing one or more of the relevant sanctions in the Code, or
referring the matter to the Provost for consideration of laying charges under the Tribunal Procedures.
In cases where the student does not admit to an offence during this meeting, there are two possible outcomes:
In some circumstances, the SGS Dean may determine the outcome of the matter at a later date.
These guidelines are primarily concerned with allegations of academic misconduct involving graduate students which can be resolved at the decanal level using the Divisional Procedures (see C.i. of the Code). All matters can potentially progress to the Tribunal Procedures (and students have a right to pursue those procedures), but the Divisional Procedures exist to offer a resolution which is less burdensome in many ways, for both the University and students. As such, the Divisional procedures do not describe a formal adversarial process.