The former director of the Toronto District School Board will ask the University of Toronto to withdraw charges of plagiarism and academic dishonesty due to a number of “procedural irregularities,” his lawyer says.

Chris Spence resigned from the TDSB in January, 2013 after admitting to plagiarizing passages in several newspaper opinion pieces he had written while employed by the board.

Two months later the University of Toronto filed academic charges against Spence, saying that he “knowingly represented” the ideas of another as his own work in his 1996 doctoral thesis titled “The Effects of Sport Participation on the Academic and Career Aspirations of Black Male Student Athletes in Toronto High Schools.”

Speaking with CP24 on Wednesday, Spence’s lawyer Selwyn Pieters said that his client will seek to have the charges withdrawn during a July 15 hearing because the “university took too long to process the matter” and did not have permission to run the thesis through the anti-plagiarism website

“They are legal arguments that go to the fairness of the matter and while they may be considered technicalities they do have some weight,” Pieters told CP24 on Wednesday.

Pieter said that his client did not “knowingly plagiarize” his thesis and therefor will plead not guilty to the charges.

In the charges against him, however, the University of Toronto accuses Spence of submitting the thesis “knowing that it contained ideas that were not your own and which you did not properly attribute to the source of the ideas.” The charges also state that the thesis contained “verbatim or nearly verbatim text from other sources.”

“The offence calls for knowledge and Dr. Spence hasn’t admitted that he knowingly plagiarized any articles,” Pieters said.

University defends timing of hearing

If Spence is found guilty the University of Toronto could strip him of his doctorate.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the university brushed aside suggestions from Peiters that too much time has elapsed to prosecute, saying the hearing was scheduled for July to accommodate Spence.

“To accommodate Dr. Spence, the parties agreed to schedule a hearing into these charges in October 2013. Additional evidence was located by Dr. Spence and the parties agreed that the hearing should be postponed in order to permit all relevant evidence to be placed before the University Tribunal,” the statement read. “A Notice of Hearing on July 15, 2014 before the Trial Division of the University of Toronto into these charges was sent to Dr. Spence, care of his lawyer, and to the University’s counsel on June 10, 2014.”

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