Andrea Gordon, Toronto Star, February 7, 2018
Five years after facing the first explosive allegations of plagiarism, Chris Spence has lost his fight to hold onto his PhD at the University of Toronto.
An appeals tribunal at the university has upheld an earlier ruling last June that recommended stripping the former education superstar of his doctorate after it found 67 examples of passages in his dissertation allegedly taken from the work of others without proper credit.
“Plagiarism, particularly plagiarism of the nature and extent found in (Spence’s) thesis is a very serious offence,” the appeals tribunal said in its decision, dated last Friday.
The independent tribunal’s recommendation last June to cancel the degree is consistent with decisions in all similar cases at U of T and “was neither procedurally unfair nor unreasonable,” the appeals panel concluded. “Indeed, we think it was correct.”
However, that may not be the final word on the subject, according to Spence’s lawyer Darryl Singer.
Spence now intends to seek a judicial review of the decision in Ontario divisional court and has until March 2 to file a notice of application, Singer said in an email.
At the appeal hearing at U of T in November, Singer argued the original ruling should have been overturned and a new hearing held on the matter because neither Spence nor his lawyer participated.
His lawyer at the time withdrew from the proceedings when Spence failed to appear. He was living in Chicago and working with at-risk youth at the time and sent word he couldn’t be present for medical reasons.
But the appeals tribunal dismissed that argument, citing years of procedural delays, evidence that Spence had “been given numerous indulgences and adjournments” as well as warnings, and that he’d repeatedly failed to provide any medical evidence that he could not participate.
Spence was the popular education director of the Toronto District School Board in early 2013 when accusations of plagiarism surfaced involving newspaper articles he’d published, including in the Star, blogs, books and later his PhD dissertation.
In December 2016, the Ontario College of Teachers found him guilty of professional misconduct and imposed its harshest penalty on him, revoking his teaching licence. Spence has said he is appealing that ruling in divisional court.