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Frequently Asked Questions from Instructors & Staff

  1. Who handles the cases of students enrolled in other Faculties/divisions taking FAS courses?
  2. What should I do if a student becomes upset during our meeting?
  3. What happens if an offence occurs during a Faculty examination?
  4. I only found a few plagiarised sentences in a paper worth more than 10%. Do I have to forward it to OSAI?
  5. How much of the paper do I need to go through to establish that an offence has occurred?
  6. Is it an offence if a student doesn’t put verbatim source text in quotation marks, but includes an accurate citation?
  7. I have a Turnitin.com report for a student’s paper. What do I need to look for?
  8. How long does it take to resolve an allegation of academic misconduct?
  9. Can’t I just assign a grade of zero for the assignment?
  10. It sounds like a great deal of time and effort are required. Do I really need to follow these procedures?
  11. I invited a student for a meeting, and have received no response. What should I do?
  12. The Code says “it shall be an offence for a student knowingly to…”; what if the student says that s/he “didn’t know”?
  13. Does intent matter?
  14. Can a student drop a course after an alleged offence has been detected?
  15. I’ve been invited to attend a divisional meeting. Do I have to attend?
  16. My TA has more experience with the situation. Can my TA attend a divisional meeting?
  17. What does “nothing the student says [at the instructor/student meeting] may be used or receivable in evidence” mean?
  18. What if I have other questions?

  1. Who handles the cases of students enrolled in other Faculties/divisions taking FAS courses?
  2. The Faculty/division in which a student is enrolled. Cases involving non-FAS students should be sent directly to the appropriate Faculty. If a case involves students in two different Faculties, usually the cases will be resolved by a single Faculty in consultation with the student’s home Faculty. Please contact OSAI if you need a list of contacts at other Faculties.

  3. What should I do if a student becomes upset during our meeting?
  4. Try to be supportive, yet objective. Explain that your meeting is a part of a fair process to address these kinds of situations, and direct them to their College Registrar for further advice.

    If you have concerns that student may harm himself or herself or possibly endanger others, please contact one of the resources below. If the student is in active distress, you may need to accompany them to the appropriate resource or wait until help arrives.

    • Student Crisis Response: (416) 976-7111
    • Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS): (416) 978-8070
    • Community Safety Office: (416) 978-1485
    • Campus Police 24/7 (non-emergency): (416) 978-2323

  5. What happens if an offence occurs during a Faculty examination?
  6. In this situation, the allegation is brought forward by the CPO (chief presiding officer) of the examination and can be sent directly by the Exams Office to OSAI for resolution, without an instructor/student meeting. OSAI may contact the instructor for course information or grades, but usually doesn’t require the instructor to attend the meeting. If you wish to attend the meeting, please let OSAI know. The instructor and Chair (or designate) are always copied on formal correspondence between OSAI and the student regarding the allegation.

  7. I only found a few plagiarised sentences in a paper worth more than 10%. Do I have to forward it to OSAI?
  8. Yes. OSAI will do a thorough examination of the paper, which more often than not results in the discovery of additional plagiarised material. Go through enough of the paper to find several examples of plagiarism to show the student. If OSAI confirms that the plagiarism amounts to only a few sentences, the sanction may be less severe. If you are unsure of the nature of the plagiarism, please contact OSAI.

  9. How much of the paper do I need to go through to establish that an offence has occurred?
  10. As much as is needed to show examples of plagiarism to the student.

  11. Is it an offence if a student doesn’t put verbatim source text in quotation marks, but includes an accurate citation?
  12. Yes. The Code’s definition of plagiarism makes clear that it is an offence to use the words of another without acknowledging that they are not one’s own, i.e., through the use of quotation marks. This is a very common offence. Depending on the extensiveness of the copying, the sanction may be less severe than if a student were not to acknowledge a source at all.

  13. I have a Turnitin.com report for a student’s paper. What do I need to look for?
  14. The Turnitin similarity index tells you the percentage of the paper showing textual similarities with other sources. Sometimes the misconduct is obvious when a paper has a very high similarity score (such as 60% or 70%), but it is common to find serious problems in papers with lower similarity scores (such as 15-20%). Before proceeding with an allegation, review the Turnitin Originality Report to confirm suspicious matches, and to eliminate “false positives” – material that has been quoted and referenced properly or is otherwise not problematic. There are different settings within Turnitin that you can adjust that can exclude bibliographies or material within quotation marks: please consult Ryan Green or Saira Mall at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation for more information.

    If you proceed with an allegation, submit a copy of the Turnitin Originality Report, as well as a hard copy of the essay in question, to OSAI. You may receive a request to email an electronic copy of the originally submitted file (e.g., Word .doc/.docx file).

  15. How long does it take to resolve an allegation of academic misconduct?
  16. A straightforward, fully-documented case in which the student is cooperative, and no unforeseen difficulties arise should be resolved within two to four weeks of reaching OSAI. We currently resolve 95% of our cases in less than three months. Factors that may slow down resolution include:

    • time of year/volume of total cases being handled (e.g., end of term);
    • a student not responding to attempts at contact;
    • a student in crisis (requiring delay of the process);
    • incomplete documentation (missing student grades, assignment weights, syllabus);
    • the complexity of a case, requiring additional investigation.

  17. Can’t I just assign a grade of zero for the assignment?
  18. No. Only the Chair (or Designate) is authorized under the Code to impose sanctions for academic offences. While reporting and resolving an offence may take time, a centralized resolution process helps facilitate fairness to students and consistency in sanctioning. It also helps to identify repeat offenders. It is also important to keep in mind that if procedure is not followed, a student could file a legitimate complaint.

    Reporting offences can help to identify students experiencing difficulty, and lead them to connect with resources. Going through the “process” is often necessary for students to ultimately recognize that they need to make changes in their work habits, and/or to seek help for underlying issues affecting their academic performance.

  19. It sounds like a great deal of time and effort are required. Do I really need to follow these procedures?
  20. Yes, the Code prohibits informal resolution. Technically, you could be considered an accessory to an offence should you not follow the proscribed procedures. Again, this ensures fairness to students and avoids any potential complications and/or legal difficulties that come from a matter being resolved “under the table”. You can save time by using the templates which are available.

  21. I invited a student for a meeting, and have received no response. What should I do?
  22. Give him/her one more opportunity to meet with you, with a deadline to respond (a template is available). Indicate that if you have not heard from him/her by the deadline, you will assume that s/he does not wish to meet with you and will send the case directly to the Dean’s Office.

  23. The Code says “it shall be an offence for a student knowingly to…”; what if the student says that s/he “didn’t know”?
  24. In the Code, “knowingly” is defined as what a student “ought reasonably to have known” at the time of the offence. The University expects students to know the rules, and instructors go to great lengths to remind students of the rules. Therefore, “I didn’t know it was wrong or against the rules” is not an acceptable excuse. If there is evidence that an offence occurred, an allegation can be made.

    A useful analogy is a speeding violation: you may not have known that you were driving over the speed limit, but it is, nevertheless, a violation if you are speeding.

    However, if the Dean’s designate concludes, after meeting with the student, that the offence was truly accidental, the sanction is likely to be less severe.

  25. Does intent matter?
  26. No, and yes. No, it does not matter for establishing whether an offence occurred. An offence is an offence regardless of intent. However, intent or lack thereof may be relevant for sanctioning. (Keep in mind that most students the Dean’s designates meet say that they didn’t intend to commit an offence.)

  27. Can a student drop a course after an alleged offence has been detected?
  28. No. Students may not withdraw from a course if there is an allegation under investigation, or if sanctions have been imposed; they remain responsible for all required work in the course. Meet with students as soon as possible after identifying a possible offence and remind students of this rule when you meet with them. If you discover that a student has withdrawn from a course after you have identified a concern, please notify your department administrator who can reinstate the student in the class.

  29. I’ve been invited to attend a divisional meeting. Do I have to attend?
  30. Usually not. The Code requires that OSAI invite the course instructor to the meeting, but you do not have to attend. If OSAI feels that it would be beneficial to the process for you to attend, we’ll make that clear. Your role would be to answer course related-questions for the Dean’s designate, participate in questioning and discussion, and offer any input or insight into the student’s explanations. Most meetings take about 30 minutes. All meetings are held in the OSAI office, Sidney Smith Hall (100 St. George Street), Room 1047.

  31. My TA has more experience with the situation. Can my TA attend a divisional meeting?
  32. Yes, as long as your TA is compensated with time allocated in their TA contract. TAs can contribute to a divisional meeting by providing their account of any interactions with the student, observations in an exam situation, support provided in tutorial, or any other details relevant to the case.

  33. What does “nothing the student says [at the instructor/student meeting] may be used or receivable in evidence” mean?
  34. This part of the Code means that nothing the student says to you at your original meeting can be used against the student if the case is heard by the Tribunal, which is a legal process where “evidence” is given. However, the divisional meeting is considered to be part of the investigation, and is not a legal process. Therefore, information from the instructor/student meeting may be referred to within the divisional meeting.

  35. What if I have other questions?
  36. Please call our office at (416) 946-0428 or email us at osai.artsci@utoronto.ca and your questions will be directed to the Officer responsible for your case.

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