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Academic Integrity

  1. Introduction

    Academic Dishonesty Settlement Form

    Academic integrity refers to the ethical standards and policies that govern how people work and interact in the academic enterprise at a college or university. These standards and policies attempt to do more than define and condemn what is wrong or unethical; they also attempt to provide a foundation for the mutual trust and individual responsibility necessary in a healthy academic community.

    Both faculty members and students have the responsibility of upholding the principles of academic integrity. Faculty and staff members should create an environment in which honesty is encouraged, dishonesty discouraged and integrity is openly discussed. Faculty members should follow the principles of academic integrity in their own work and conduct. Students are obligated not only to follow these principles, but also to take an active role in encouraging other students to respect them. If students suspect a violation of academic integrity, they should make their suspicions known to a faculty member or staff member in academic affairs. Students reporting dishonesty must be prepared to give evidence in a hearing before the University Review Committee (URC).

    Many faculty members ask students to work collaboratively with others on written projects, oral presentations, revisions, labs, or other course work. The guidelines for collaborative work differ substantially from course to course, but in most cases part or all of a collaborative project must be completed independently. Faculty members should make clear, in writing, their expectations for collaborative work. Students should make sure they understand what is expected of them; they are responsible for knowing when collaboration is permitted, and when not. Handing in a paper, lab report, or take home exam written entirely by a member of one’s collaborative group, except when given explicit permission to do so by the instructor of the course, is an act of academic dishonesty.

    Almost all the types of academic dishonesty described below have to do with working with others or using the work of others. This is not to suggest that working with others or using their work is wrong. Indeed, the heart of the academic enterprise, learning itself, is based on using the ideas of others to stimulate and develop your own. In this sense, all academic work is collaboration, and therefore academic integrity focuses on those acts that demean or invalidate fruitful collaboration.

  2. Types of Academic Dishonesty

    Cheating.Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials in any academic exercise or having someone else do work for you. Examples of cheating include looking at another student’s paper during a test, bringing an answer sheet to a test, obtaining a copy of a test prior to the test date or submitting homework borrowed from another student.

    Fabrication.Inventing or falsifying information. Examples of fabrication include inventing data for an experiment you did not do or did not do correctly or making reference to sources you did not use in a research paper.

    Facilitating academic dishonesty.Helping someone else to commit an act of academic dishonesty. This includes giving someone a paper or homework to copy from or allowing someone to cheat from your test paper.

    Plagiarism. Using the words or ideas of another writer without attribution, so that they seem as if they are your own. Plagiarism ranges from copying someone else’s work word for word, to rewriting someone else’s work with only minor word changes (mosaic plagiarism), to summarizing work without acknowledging the source. (See the Writing Center Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism for further information on plagiarism.)

    Multiple submission.Submitting work you have done in previous classes as if it were new and original work. Although professors may occasionally be willing to let you use previous work as the basis of new work, they expect you to do new work for each class. Students seeking to submit a piece of work to more than one class must have the written permission of both instructors.

    Abuse of academic materials.Harming, appropriating or disabling academic resources so that others cannot use them. This includes cutting tables and illustrations out of books to use in a paper, stealing books or articles and deleting or damaging computer files intended for others’ use.

    Deception and misrepresentation.Lying about or misrepresenting your work, academic records or credentials. Examples of deception and misrepresentation include forging signatures, forging letters of recommendation and falsifying credentials in an application. Of particular concern, given the current popularity of collaborative projects, is taking credit for group work to which you did not contribute significantly or meet your obligations. In a collaborative project, all members of the group are expected to do their share. Group members may work together on each phase of the project or they may divide the tasks--one person might do background research; another might take charge of the lab experiments; another might be responsible for drafting the report. Even in a modular project, however, each member of the group is responsible for being familiar and involved with the entire project. Be sure to get clear instructions on your individual and collective responsibilities from each faculty member for each course.

    Electronic dishonesty.Using network access inappropriately, in a way that affects a class or other students’ academic work. Examples of electronic dishonesty include using someone else’s authorized computer account to send and receive messages, breaking into someone else’s files, gaining access to restricted files, disabling others’ access to network systems or files, knowingly spreading a computer virus or obtaining a computer account under false pretenses.

    Carelessness. When does carelessness become dishonesty? Students sometimes make minor mistakes in completing academic assignments. Mistyping one of many endnotes in a long paper, for example, may in most cases be considered a careless mistake, rather than an act of deliberate dishonesty.

    When students make multiple mistakes in acknowledging sources, however, these mistakes cannot be considered simply careless. Students who copy long passages from a book or a Web source, for example, make a deliberate choice to do so. Such students have taken a short cut; instead of explaining the source of their ideas, they have simply stolen ideas from others. In such cases, carelessness is a form of dishonesty.

    Students are responsible for knowing the academic integrity policy and may not use ignorance of the policy as an excuse for dishonesty.

    Other types of academic dishonesty. The list above is a partial one. Instructors may explain in their syllabi other types of academic dishonesty relevant to the work in particular disciplines or particular courses.

  3. Overview of the Process

    All cases of academic dishonesty must be reported by faculty members and settled through the process outlined below. Faculty members may not impose a grade penalty for academic dishonesty except through the process outlined below.

    The process is designed 1) to provide prompt resolution of cases, 2) to help the student understand both the charge and penalty, and 3) to allow the student to discuss what happened and/or contest the charge or penalty being made. At all stages of the process, the focus should be on education, and open, frank discussion should be encouraged. Students frequently commit acts of dishonesty when they are under pressure of one sort or another; or they may persuade themselves that borrowing someone else’s words and ideas is not a serious offense. This settlement process gives faculty members and students a chance to discuss why academic integrity is so important to the university community.

    In the process of investigating the charge, the instructor may discuss his or her suspicions with the student. In cases of cheating on exams, it may be appropriate to confront the student during the exam or immediately after; however, even in cases when the student admits to the violation verbally, a formal conference to review and sign the written settlement form should be arranged. In confronting students with charges of academic dishonesty, instructors may choose to have a colleague present to act as an observer. That colleague need not be a member of the same department, but should be someone knowledgeable about the academic integrity policy.

  4. The Settlement Process

    Academic Dishonesty Settlement Form

    When an instructor becomes aware of a possible case of academic dishonesty, he or she should move quickly (usually within three days) to investigate the violation and to contact the student. If suspected violations occur at the end of the semester, the instructor should assign a grade of Incomplete and begin the settlement process as quickly as possible but no later than the start of the following semester. Even when suspected violations occur after grades have been submitted, the settlement process must be started before the end of the semester following the suspected violation.

    The formal process of initiating a charge and settlement involves the following steps, with occasional minor variations depending on the nature and timing of the case:

    1. The instructor arranges to confer with the student to discuss the integrity violation and the evidence supporting it. During or shortly after the instructor’s conversation with the student, the instructor presents the student with a written statement of the charge and the proposed penalty (see the Academic Dishonesty Settlement Form).  The student has the opportunity to respond to the charge. After listening to the student, the instructor may decide to revise the charge or penalty, or drop the charge all together. If, for any reason, the faculty member believes that the violation deserves a penalty more severe than failure in the course, he or she may immediately refer the case to the University Review Committee (URC).
    2. The student has three business days to respond to the charge, either by assenting to the charge and penalty by signing the settlement form, or by requesting a hearing before the URC. At that hearing, the student may either dispute the charge or the severity of the penalty. While considering how to respond to a charge, students are encouraged to seek advice from someone knowledgeable in matters of academic integrity, such as a faculty advisor, an academic dean, or another trusted advisor. If a student charged with a violation does not respond in the specified time, the matter is immediately turned over to the URC for a hearing.
    3. Once the settlement form has been signed, it is forwarded to the academic affairs office to be kept for five years. If this proves to be a second violation of the academic integrity policy, an academic dean will convene a disciplinary hearing of the URC.

    Note: Once an academic integrity charge has been initiated against a student, he or she may not withdraw from the course in question unless the charge is dropped by the faculty member or the student is found to be not responsible through a hearing or an appeal. A hold is placed on the student’s transcript until the charge has been settled.

  5. Penalties for Academic Dishonesty

    Students who have violated the academic integrity policy are penalized more severely than students who have simply not turned in an assignment. While the degree of penalty varies according to the judgment of the instructor, a first offense is usually penalized in three ways:

    1. the settlement form itself, which when signed is filed in the academic affairs office;

    2. a grade of zero on the relevant assignment; and

    3. a lowered final course grade.

    Occasionally, even for a first offense, the penalty is failure in the course. If a more severe penalty is called for, the instructor may request a hearing of the University Review Committee (URC).

    Academic dishonesty outside of a particular class (forged signatures and fabricated résumés, for example) also leads to penalties. Students will be asked to sign the academic dishonesty settlement form. Either the accused student or the faculty/staff member making the charge may request a hearing before the URC.

    A second violation of the academic integrity policy leads automatically to a disciplinary hearing before the URC, and may result in suspension or dismissal.

  6. Student Records

    First Offenses. Signed settlement forms for first offenses are filed in the Academic Affairs office for five years. The name of the student is kept confidential. The settlement form does not become part of the student’s permanent record, except if the student is found responsible for a second violation of the academic integrity policy.

    Second Offenses. In cases where a student is found to be responsible for a second violation of the academic integrity policy, a copy of the URC decision will be placed in the student’s permanent record (kept in the Office of Student Life) and will be reported if the student releases the record to employers or other schools. A second offense is defined to be one that takes place in whole or in part after a student has been presented with a settlement form for a prior case, unless the student is found not responsible for the prior case.

  7. The Academic Integrity Hearing

    If a hearing before the University Review Committee is necessary, either because the charge or penalty is disputed or because this is a second offense, it will be convened by an Academic Dean as quickly as possible, but usually no later than three weeks after the Dean has received the signed or unsigned settlement form. Committee members will be provided with a detailed outline of the hearing process.

    The URC consists of a teaching faculty member who is a current or former member of SLAAC, who will chair the hearing, two additional teaching faculty members, and two students. Faculty and student members are chosen by the convenor from a pool of volunteers identified by SLAAC. SLAAC will identify this pool in February of each year with the pool to begin service on March 1st. SLAAC may add members to the pool as needed. In the event an insufficient number of members of the pool are available when a URC needs to be convened, the convenor may ask other faculty members or students to serve on the URC. In such cases the convenor will share the names of the URC with the Chair of SLAAC. Each URC board member will receive training prior to serving on his or her first URC. The convenor observes and records the hearing, but does not participate in committee deliberations.

    The membership of this committee is made known to parties involved prior to a hearing. Student, faculty members and administrative alternates are also designated for the committee. Either party can ask the committee’s chair that a committee member not serve on the hearing panel because of bias or conflict of interest. The chair shall decide if there are sufficient grounds to honor this request. If a committee member is unable to attend the hearing, or if a member is excluded because of potential bias or conflict of interest, an alternate will be asked to serve. Committee members are required to attend the hearing in person.

    Nature of the hearing. There are two types of academic hearings: one to decide a disputed charge or penalty, the other to consider disciplinary matters following a second offense. A hearing of the University Review Committee is intended to be an orderly, fair inquiry into the facts bearing on the case and only material related to the written charges may be considered during the hearing. The hearing is not intended to be a trial concerned with technical formalities. 

    The party bringing the charge and the accused student will usually attend the hearing in person. If there is no reasonable alternative that permits a timely hearing, either or both parties may participate remotely or may provide only a written statement with the permission of the convenor. If one or both parties fails to participate in a previously scheduled hearing, the hearing will go forward and the committee will reach its conclusion on responsibility and the appropriate penalty on the basis of evidence presented at the hearing.

    Related Cases. At the discretion of the convenor, related cases may be heard sequentially by the same hearing board. When structured in this way, the parties involved in the first case will be heard, followed by the parties involved in the second case and so on. The hearing board will then deliberate before deciding if it wishes to call the parties for one or more cases back in sequence for additional questions. This process may be repeated as necessary before the hearing board starts its final deliberations. At the discretion of the convenor, a hearing for related cases may span multiple days.

    Confidentiality. Hearing proceedings are confidential. Committee members, students, faculty members, recorders, advisors, and witnesses are enjoined from mentioning names of those involved or details that might reveal the identity of the student or faculty member, and from discussing presentations or committee deliberations.

    Presentation; burden of proof; rights.When a hearing is convened to hear a disputed charge or penalty, the faculty member referring the case presents the evidence of the offense to the panel. The student may present counter-evidence if he or she wishes. Either party may have a faculty member, staff member, or student advisor and each has the right to call and question witnesses. The burden of proof is on the faculty member, who must establish the responsibility of the student by a preponderance of the evidence. (In matters of academic integrity, the evidence does not have to constitute overwhelming, irrefutable proof of responsibility, but only has to convince the panel that the violation took place.) Faculty members may refer cases based on the testimony of other students; in doing so, however, the faculty member should make sure either that the students who provided the testimony are willing to appear as witnesses at the hearing or that there is corroborating evidence that substantiates the charge. Other procedures for due process shall be followed, and records (including a tape recording of the hearing) shall be kept. Tapes will be erased after the appeal period has elapsed. Written records will be destroyed after five years.

    URC penalties.The URC imposes penalties for dishonesty according to the nature of the violation. URC penalties may include a letter of warning, grade penalties, failure in the class, suspension, or dismissal. If the URC finds that there has been no violation, or if the URC does not find a preponderance of evidence that a violation has taken place, the student will be exonerated.

    Second Offense. When a hearing is convened to consider disciplinary penalties related to a second offense, the chair reviews the offenses, as put forth in the settlement forms or in previous hearing reports, and asks the student if there are any comments he or she would like to make in regard to these offenses. Since these cases have already been decided, either through settlement or previous hearing, there is no need to reconsider them. In most cases, it is unnecessary to call witnesses, unless the committee or the student feels the reports are unclear in some respect that a witness can clarify. The sole consideration of the committee at a second offense hearing is whether further disciplinary sanctions (usually suspension or dismissal) should be applied.

  8. Appeals

    Either the instructor or the student may appeal the decision of the URC to the vice president for academic affairs. Appeals must be made in writing to the vice president for academic affairs within three business days of receiving the written notification of the decision. Appeals will be considered only if they are based on one or more of the following criteria:

    1. new evidence not reasonably available at the time of the original hearing and which is provided as part of the written appeal; or

    2. procedural error that can be shown to have affected the outcome of the hearing; or

    3. appropriateness of sanction only in cases of suspension or dismissal.

    The vice president for academic affairs will decide whether or not there is a basis for appeal, and, if so, upon consideration of the appeal, may revise the URC decision or the penalty. The decision of the vice president for academic affairs is final and will be communicated to both parties involved in the hearing, to the convenor of the URC and to the chair of the URC.

    (Approved by the DePauw University Faculty, November 4, 2002; updated April 7, 2014. University Review Committee (URC) Hearing Procedures are available in the Office of Academic Life. Hearing Procedures are updated and revised periodically by the Academic Affairs administration in consultation with the Student Life and Academic Atmosphere Committee.)