Home » The Honor System
The Honor System
- Statement of the Honor Code
- Undergraduate Honor Pledge
- General Information
- Honor Code Violations
- The Honor Code Applied to Preparation of Papers
- Tests, Examinations, and Other Exercises
- The Honor Code Application to Group Work
- Tips for Success:
- Responsibility of the Individual Student
- Undergraduate Honor Council
- Student Advisers
- Faculty Advisers
- Procedures of the Undergraduate Honor Council
- After the Hearing
- Withdrawal from the University Before Hearing
The Vanderbilt Honor System was instituted in 1875 with the first final examinations administered by the University. Dean Madison Sarratt summarized the system as follows, “Let every individual who contemplates entering Vanderbilt University ask himself[/herself] first this important question: ‘Am I strong enough to give my word of honor and then live up to it in spite of every temptation that may arise?’”
The purpose of the Honor Code is to preserve and promote academic integrity. Ideally, a student’s personal integrity is presumed to be sufficient assurance that in academic matters one does one’s own work without unauthorized help from any other source. The Undergraduate Honor Council (“Honor Council”), is an organization of students which seeks to preserve the integrity of the Honor Code at Vanderbilt University. It aims to secure justice for any student under suspicion of dishonesty, to vindicate his or her name if innocent and, if guilty, to protect the honor and standing of the remaining students.
The Honor System is only one of the elements provided to Vanderbilt students with which each may develop creative thinking, intellectual maturity, personal accountability, and respect for honesty, integrity, and truth. The goal of the Honor System is to have all students leave Vanderbilt not only as graduates, but also as citizens of integrity.
Statement of the Honor Code
I pledge to pursue all academic endeavors with honor and integrity. I understand the principles of the Honor System, and I promise to uphold these standards by adhering to the Honor Code in order to preserve the integrity of Vanderbilt University and its individual members.
Undergraduate Honor Pledge
The Undergraduate Honor Pledge, a short-form version of the Honor Code, to be signed on all tests, quizzes, and similar work is: “I pledge on my honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this examination.”
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All students are required to acquaint themselves with the provisions of the Honor System through the information in this Handbook. Undergraduate students may obtain further information from the dean of each school, from the Honor Council at Vanderbilt University, PMB 351598, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, Nashville, TN 37235-1598, telephone 615 32(2-7868), from the Honor Council Web site, from the Honor Council adviser or from the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity. Graduate and professional students may obtain information from the office of the dean of their respective school or college.
Undergraduate students are subject to the jurisdiction of the Undergraduate Honor Council. The policies and procedures of the undergraduate Honor System stated in this Student Handbook apply to all students enrolled in undergraduate courses of all the schools and the Division of Unclassified Studies, whether full-time or part-time, or whether regularly enrolled, transient, or cross-registered from a neighboring institution.
Graduate and professional students are subject to the jurisdiction of the student body that implements the Honor System in the graduate and professional schools: School of Graduate Studies Honor Council, Student Honor Council of the School of Medicine, Honor Council of the Law School, Divinity School Honor Council, Honor Council of the School of Nursing, Owen Graduate School of Management Honor Council, and Peabody Honor Council (for students in professional programs at Peabody College). Graduate and professional students must check with their individual schools or advisers for further regulations beyond procedures cited in this Handbook, which may affect their studies and observances of Honor Codes.
Students are responsible for obtaining from their professors an explanation of the freedom they may exercise in collaboration with other students or in use of outside sources, including:
- the student’s own work prepared and submitted for another course;
- assignments that permit students to discuss the assignment or to collaborate, including during group study sessions;
- all limitations placed on take-home examinations, including use of class or outside materials or discussion with classmates;
- use of examinations or other materials from previous sections of the class; and
- use of Internet or other electronic resources, including proper attribution.
In the event that a student does not obtain a clear explanation of the application of the Honor Code from an instructor in any class, the student must assume that the Honor Council will follow the strictest interpretation of the Honor Code with respect to that class.
Cheating, plagiarizing, or otherwise falsifying results of study is prohibited. The System applies not only to examinations, but also to all work handed in (including drafts), such as papers, reports, solutions to problems, tapes, films, and computer programs, unless excepted by the instructor. The system also applies to any act that is fraudulent or intended to mislead the instructor, including falsifying records of attendance for class, for events for which attendance is required or for which class credit is given, or for internships or other work service.
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Honor Code Violations
Violations of the Honor Code are cause for disciplinary actions imposed by the appropriate honor council.
Possible violations include but are not limited to the following:
- Falsifying or cheating on a report, paper, exercise, problem, test or examination, tape, film, or computer program submitted by a student to meet course requirements. Cheating includes the use of unauthorized aids (such as crib sheets, answer keys, discarded computer programs, the aid of another person on a take-home exam, etc.); copying from another student’s work; unauthorized use of books, notes, or other outside materials during “closed book” exams; soliciting, giving, and/or receiving unauthorized aid orally or in writing; or similar action contrary to the principles of academic honesty.
- Plagiarism on an assigned paper, theme, report, or other material submitted to meet course requirements. Plagiarism is defined as incorporating into one’s own work the work or ideas of another without properly indicating that source. A full discussion of plagiarism and proper citation is provided in the section below.
- Failure to report a known or suspected violation of the Code in the manner prescribed.
- Any action designed to deceive a member of the faculty, a staff member, or a fellow student regarding principles contained in the Honor Code, such as securing an answer to a problem for one course from a faculty member in another course when such assistance has not been authorized.
- Any falsification of class records or other materials submitted to demonstrate compliance with course requirements or to obtain class credit, including falsifying records of class attendance, attendance at required events or events for which credit is given, or attendance or hours spent at internships or other work service.
- Submission of work prepared for another course without specific prior authorization of the instructors in both courses.
- Use of texts, papers, computer programs, or other class work prepared by commercial or noncommercial agents and submitted as a student’s own work.
- Falsification of results of study and research.
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The Honor Code Applied to Preparation of Papers
- Papers are to express the original thoughts of the student. If a topic for a paper has been discussed fully among students prior to an assignment, then the students should consult the instructor about writing on that particular topic.
- Failure to indicate any outside source of ideas, expressions, phrases, or sentences constitutes plagiarism.
- A student may not submit papers substantially the same in content for credit in more than one course, without specific and prior permission of all instructors concerned.
Students often have trouble distinguishing between privileged information and common knowledge. An idea is often considered common knowledge if it is encountered at least three times in separate sources during one’s research into a particular subject. (Reprints of one source do not constitute separate sources.)
Students should understand that sources of common knowledge can be plagiarized. Copying or close paraphrasing of the wording or presentation of a source of common knowledge constitutes plagiarism.
Students should realize that an act of plagiarism may include some degree of premeditation or may be the result of carelessness or ignorance of acceptable forms for citation. Regardless of intent or premeditation, the act is plagiarism and is a violation of the Honor Code. Students, therefore, must be conscious of their responsibilities as scholars under the Honor System, to learn to discern what is included in plagiarism as well as in other breaches of the Honor Code, and must know and practice the specifications for citations in scholarly work. The following examples illustrate the kinds of problems that can arise.
A student turned in a paper with the following paragraph:
“The characters in Othello are both allegorical and realistic at once. Characters like Iago and Desdemona are recognizable both as persons and at the same time devils, demigods and forces in nature. It is Shakespeare’s achievement as an artist that he is capable of creating visions of life as people live it at the same time that he is able to understand life in terms of social and cosmic symbols. In this paper I will discuss the allegorical elements in the play, the skeleton of ideas and actions with which the characters give meaning to the play.”
The instructor gave the paper to the Honor Council, citing this paragraph as evidence of plagiarism. The instructor presented the following paragraph from Introduction to “The Tragedy of Othello” by William Shakespeare, edited by Alvin Kernan. Copyright © 1963 by Alvin Kernan.
“Here is the essence of Shakespeare’s art, an ability to create immediate, full and total life as men actually live and experience it; and yet at the same time to arrange this reality so that it gives substance to and derives shape from a formal vision of all life that comprehends and reaches back from man and nature through society and history to cosmic powers that operate through all time and space. His plays are both allegorical and realistic at once; his characters both recognizable men and at the same time devils, demigods and forces in nature. I have discussed only the more allegorical elements in Othello, the skeleton of ideas and formal patterns within which the characters must necessarily be understood. But it is equally true that the exact qualities of the abstract moral value and ideas, their full reality, exist only in the characters.”
The instructor delineated four examples of plagiarism:
(1) A change in wording:
STUDENT: The characters in Othello are both allegorical and realistic at once. Characters like Iago and Desdemona are recognizable both as persons and at the same time, demigods, devils and forces in nature.
KERNAN: His plays are both allegorical and realistic at once; his characters both recognizable as men and at the same time devils, demigods and forces in nature.
The instructor explained that this is plagiarism because the ideas presented in both cases are the same, with the student adding only a few of his own words to alter Kernan’s original phrasing.
(2) Use of a catchy word or phrase:
STUDENT: In this paper I will discuss the allegorical elements in the play, the skeleton of ideas and actions with which the characters give meaning to the play.
KERNAN: I have discussed only the more allegorical elements in the play, the skeleton of ideas and formal patterns within which the characters must necessarily be understood.
The instructor stated that this sentence constitutes plagiarism because the student used the catchy phrase “the skeleton of ideas.” Again, the student retains Kernan’s phrase and his ideas, changing only some of the wording.
(3) Undocumented paraphrasing:
STUDENT: It is Shakespeare’s achievement as an artist that he is capable of creating visions of life as people live it at the same time that he is able to understand life in terms of social and cosmic symbols.
KERNAN: Here is the essence of Shakespeare’s art, an ability to create immediate, full and total life as men actually live and experience it; and yet at the same time to arrange this reality so that it gives substance to and derives shape from a formal vision of all life that comprehends and reaches back from man and nature through society and history to cosmic powers that operate through all time and space.
This, the instructor said, was paraphrasing, and unless acknowledged, it is also an act of plagiarism. Students must clearly indicate each use of paraphrasing with a footnote or a reference technique suitable to the instructor.
(4) Word-for-word copying:
STUDENT: . . . are both allegorical and realistic at once . . . recognizable . . . devils, demigods and forces in nature . . . the allegorical elements in the play, the skeleton of ideas . . .
KERNAN: . . . are both allegorical and realistic at once . . . recognizable . . . devils, demigods and forces in nature . . . the allegorical elements . . . the skeleton of ideas . . .
The instructor noted that had the student put Kernan’s words in quotation marks and properly footnoted them, there would have been no offense.
Plagiarism extends to preparation materials as well. For example, should the student forget to note on research cards the source of material and then fail to footnote the source when the paper or report is prepared, the student is still committing a plagiaristic act. Not knowing how or when to footnote is not considered a sufficient excuse.
Students are expected to follow the general rules of footnoting for each discipline. One footnote is not sufficient if additional material from the same source is included in a student’s work. Footnotes should express the extent of ideas or expressions of others that are used. All direct quotes must be in quotation marks or in block quote format. Simply providing a footnote without using quotation marks or block quote format is a violation.
Material found on Web sites or other Internet sources can–and should be–cited. Students should consult a citation manual or the course instructor for the appropriate format.
For further information about footnoting, refer to A Manual for Writers by Kate L. Turabian or the MLA Style Sheet.
A general rule is: when in doubt, always footnote. The following rules outline a proper footnote form:
- Number footnotes consecutively throughout the paper in Arabic numerals.
- First references should include the following information in order given:
- author’s name (first name or initials listed first)
- title of work (in italics or underlined, or in quotation marks if part of a book)
- name of editor or translator, if any
- place and date of publication
- volume number, if any
- page number(s)
- Subsequent references to works already cited should be abbreviated but clear.
- When it is not necessary to cite author and edition (e.g., in a discussion of an assigned text), page or line references may be incorporated within parentheses in the body of the paper. Proverbs, familiar quotations, line references for short poems or page references for standard works, such as the Bible, need not be acknowledged, unless the material cited appears only in the particular edition used.
Examples of Footnotes
1Rene Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature (New York: Scribner’s, 1949), p. 191.
1Raymond Gram Swing, “Father Coughlin: The Wonder of Self Discovery,” The Nation, January 2, 1935, pp. 9-11.
2Swing, p. 12.
Any student uncertain about the application of the plagiarism and citation rules should consult the instructor. A student who plagiarizes out of ignorance is still guilty of an Honor Code violation
Tests, Examinations, and Other Exercises
Students are on their honor not to ask for or give information pertaining to any portion of an examination before or after they have taken it, in such a way as to gain or give an advantage over other students.
The written pledge (see also “Undergraduate Honor Pledge”.) signifies that the work submitted is the student’s own and that it has been completed in accordance with the requirements of the course as specified by the instructor. In addition, each student and faculty member is expected to establish a clear understanding of the requirements in each course.
Any student uncertain about the application of the pledge to a particular course requirement should always consult the instructor. The Undergraduate Honor Pledge, or an abbreviation thereof, should be included in all written work completed by the student and submitted for a grade. Any work handed in for credit, however, will be considered “pledged” unless otherwise stated by the instructor.
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The Honor Code Application to Group Work
- Students are responsible for any work submitted in their name for the fulfillment of a course, program, or assignment.
- Students should ask their instructors before collaborating on any assignment with a classmate.
- Students should ask their instructors if a tutor or other individual may help you with any assignment.
- All group members are responsible for the data and the content of labs, reports, assignments and projects.
- The guidelines for appropriate collaboration and task division pertaining to group work vary among classes and instructors. It is therefore the student’s responsibility to obtain a clear understanding of appropriate collaboration from the instructor.
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Tips for Success:
- Students should read the course syllabus, and follow all policies, guidelines, or instructions outlined therein.
- Students should make sure that they are aware of any guidelines or restrictions on specific class assignments or examinations. Students should get any instructions from the instructor if they miss a class.
- Students should ask their instructors before collaborating on any assignment with a classmate.
- Students should ask their instructors if a tutor or other individual may help with any assignment.
- When unsure whether or not to cite a phrase or fact, students should cite.
- Students should ask their instructors or consult a citation manual to learn how to cite online sources.
- If an instructor tells students not to use outside sources, students should not (nor should they take the instruction as an excuse not to cite sources if they are used).
- Students should ask their instructors before sharing lab reports, results, or other data with classmates or a lab partner.
- Students should ask their instructors before reviewing tests administered for the same course in a previous semester.
- Students should not turn in an assignment from a previous course without the permission of both instructors involved.
- Students should not assume that whatever they are doing is okay. If they cannot say with complete certainty that any particular conduct is permissible, they need to consult the course instructor.
- If permitted by the instructor, students should check over group members’ work before it is submitted; this includes labs, data, and other reports.
- Students should keep copies of original data used for group projects and assignments.
- When in doubt, ask the instructor.
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Responsibility of the Individual Student
Without the support and cooperation of the entire student body, the Honor System will not work. Students must insist on the absolute integrity of themselves and their fellow students. It is the obligation of every student who suspects an honor violation to take action in one of the following ways, determining the choice of action by the flagrancy and/or certainty of the violation.
If a student has reason to suspect that a breach of the Honor Code has been committed, he or she must:
- Issue a personal warning to the suspected student, or
- Report the incident to the Honor Council at https://publicdocs.maxient.com/reportingform.php?VanderbiltUniv&layout_id=2 for action by the president, or
- Inform the instructor in the course of the suspicions and identify, if possible, the person(s) suspected.
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Undergraduate Honor Council
The Undergraduate Honor Council is an organization of students that seeks to preserve the integrity of the Honor Code at Vanderbilt University. It aims to secure justice for any student under suspicion of dishonesty, to vindicate his or her name if innocent, and, if guilty, to protect the honor and standing of the remaining students by his or her punishment as set forth in the bylaws.
The members of the Honor Council are selected from all classes and all undergraduate schools. Members are chosen by a system that includes a student committee and elections. All Honor Council representatives must maintain at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA.
The Honor Council elects its own officers during the last general body meeting of the fall semester. The officers include a president, who must be either a junior or senior and who must have previously served a minimum of one year as a member of the Honor Council; three vice-presidents; and up to three recording secretaries .
Summer Honor Council: Each spring the regularly selected Honor Council has the authority to transfer jurisdiction over all infractions of the Honor System during the summer session to the Summer Honor Council, which has the same authority as the regular Honor Council, as that authority pertains to hearings. The Summer Honor Council’s procedures are described in Article V of the Honor Council bylaws.
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Student advisers are members of the Undergraduate Honor Council. An adviser is assigned to each accused student to explain the procedures of the Honor Council regarding investigations and hearings and the penalties that may be assigned.
Every accused student will be assigned a student adviser from the body of Honor Council Members. However, a list of all possible student advisers will also be given to the accused student, who may select an adviser from it during the investigation, the hearing, and the appeal. The accused may also select an adviser from the University community: faculty, staff, or student. However, persons related to the accused or who have formal legal training are not eligible to serve as advisers.
An adviser may answer questions about the Honor Code or help students understand responsibilities under the Honor Code. If a student is not sure what constitutes a violation or does not understand what actions to take after witnessing a violation, an adviser may assist.
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The Provost or the Provost’s designee appoints faculty advisers to the Honor Council. The president of the Honor Council, or the Honor Council adviser assigns one faculty adviser to attend every hearing. Faculty advisers may ask questions and participate in the discussion. In a large panel hearing, the faculty adviser does not have a vote in the outcome, but the faculty adviser does have a vote in the outcome of a small panel hearing.
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Procedures of the Undergraduate Honor Council
Proceedings of the Honor Council—investigations, interviews with potential witnesses, hearings, etc.—may be recorded by the University. Recordings not authorized by the Honor Council adviser or the Honor Council officers hearing a case, or by the Dean of Students or the Dean’s designee, are prohibited.
- When an alleged violation of the Honor Code is reported, a member of the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic integrity—which may include graduate students and one or two Honor Council members—will immediately be assigned to the case as investigators.
- The investigators shall interview, without undue delay, the accuser, and later, persons other than the accused who might have been a part of, or witness to, the alleged violation. They will collect all available physical evidence. Having assembled their findings, they will prepare a statement of the charge against the accused.
- The statement includes, in addition to the specific charge, an explanation of the possible consequences if the accused student is found guilty of a breach of the Vanderbilt Honor Code. This statement must be prepared in duplicate, one for the accused and one for the Honor Council’s files.
- The investigators shall meet with the accused, explain that they are there as representatives of the Honor Council, present the accused with the written statement of charges, and inform the accused how to access relevant sections of the Student Handbook. The accused is required to respond to the investigators’ inquiries within a reasonable period of time, and the Honor Council may send a notice to the Registrar’s office to enter an Incomplete on the accused’s transcript, along with the notation “Honor Council investigation pending,” if the accused is not compliant or if the investigation or hearing will continue past the end of the semester. The accused will be informed at the meeting with the investigator of all the available evidence in the case and of the procedures that will be followed.
- The investigators will ask the accused to sign the Statement of Charges indicating that he or she understands the charge, possible penalties if found guilty, and the procedures to be followed. Signing the Statement of Charges does not imply or acknowledge guilt.
- The investigators will ask the accused to explain his or her own account of the events surrounding the alleged violation. The accused may choose not to make any statement at the time of the first meeting, but rather to defer making any statement until an agreed upon time prior to the hearing.
- The investigators will inform the accused of his or her right to obtain material witnesses. The accused is required to notify the investigators of the witness(es) before the hearing has been scheduled so that the investigators may contact the witness(es) and prepare a statement for inclusion in the investigative report. No witness will be allowed to testify at the hearing unless he or she has previously given a statement to the investigators. The investigators will also inform the accused student of his or her right to obtain one character witness to testify at the hearing. The investigators will not interview the character witness and it is the responsibility of the accused student to notify the character witness of the time and place of the hearing and to ensure his or her attendance. In addition, as explained above, the accused may have an Honor Council adviser or a University faculty, student, or staff adviser, who is not related to the accused, and who has not had formal legal training, present with him or her during the presentation of testimony, who may speak with the accused, but who may not speak directly with Honor Council members on the hearing panel. An accused may obtain professional legal representation, advice, and counsel. However, an attorney may not participate in or be present during an Honor Council interview or hearing. The Honor Council is a student tribunal untrained in the law. An attorney representing an accused may work directly with the Office of the General Counsel.
- The investigators should explain the procedures of the hearing in full detail to each witness and the accused. They should explain to the accused the importance of honesty in the proceedings and inform him or her that he or she will be called on to enter a plea of guilt or innocence. The investigators will also inform each as to the place and time of the hearing; however, the accused student is responsible for arranging the attendance of his or her character witness. The hearing should not be held earlier than seventy-two hours after the investigators initially have met with the accused unless an earlier time is agreed to by the accused.
- The investigators are to arrange any details necessary for conducting the hearing, such as reserving rooms where the witnesses and the accused may be placed during the hearing.
- The investigators will assemble the evidence and testimony in a concise, logical report. At least twenty-four hours before the hearing, the accused student will be presented with a copy of the investigators’ report so that he or she may comment at the hearing on any corrections or clarifications the accused student feels are necessary or appropriate.
- The investigators will provide the investigative report to the president of the Honor Council, who will determine whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant a hearing by the Council. If the president determines that a hearing is necessary, he or she will also determine whether the charges will be heard by a full panel or a small panel.* If the student pleads not guilty or if the student has a previous Honor Council conviction, a full panel hearing is required. Guilty pleas typically will be heard by small panels, unless substantial factual issues exist or the violation is sufficiently serious that a penalty greater than one semester suspension may be appropriate. Cases involving more than one student must be heard by a full panel if one of the students involved pleads not guilty.
- Given the nature of University judicial proceedings (including the proceedings of all University honor councils), the testimony of and information derived from experts, such as reports of handwriting experts, are not admissible and will not be considered, except in rare circumstances. In those rare cases, determinations as to the admissibility of testimony of or evidence derived from an expert will be made in the sole discretion of the Director of the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity. The Honor Council president may appoint a faculty member as an expert witness. Under no circumstances, however, will the use of polygraph examinations be permitted.
*Note: Although a student who admits guilt during an investigation has the right to request a small panel hearing, since a decision by a small panel must be unanimous, and since the president of the Honor Council (or another member of the Executive Board) is a member of the small panel, the president may determine that a case should be referred to a full panel, rather than being heard by a small panel.
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If after an investigation, the Honor Council president determines that there is enough evidence that a violation may have been committed, then a hearing will be scheduled.
Attendance of the Hearing by the Accused Student
All students, including the accused student, are required to cooperate with investigations and at hearings conducted by the Honor Council. In the event an accused student refuses to participate in, or cooperate with, an Honor Council investigation or hearing, the hearing may take place without the participation of the accused student. All reasonable efforts will be made to inform the accused student of the time and place of the hearing and the findings of the proceeding. In addition, the accused student may inform the Council that he or she will not attend the hearing and submit a written statement regarding the charges.
Full Panel Hearing
A six-member hearing panel (consisting of a chair and five members appointed by the president) will hear the evidence in the case. A faculty adviser will also be present. (For training purposes, observers may be allowed to be present, but may not speak or take part in the proceedings.)
- Presentation of investigator’s report.
- Investigators are sworn in by the recording secretary.
- Evidence is presented: the interviews with witnesses are reported briefly and impartially; the material evidence is presented and explained without opinion.
- The investigators read the statement of charges issued to the accused and any statement written by the accused.
- The Honor Council may question the investigators. At no time do the investigators express their opinion(s) concerning the guilt or innocence of the accused.
- Testimony. The accused student and the accuser are allowed to be present during the presentation of all testimony. If witnesses are to testify in person (as opposed to through written testimony), they will appear separately and await their appearances alone. When called, each (with the exception of the character witness) is sworn in by the recording secretary.
- If the accuser testifies in person, the chair will invite a general account of the events in question. Then the Honor Council may direct its questions to the accuser. The investigators may question the accuser, waiting until the Honor Council has concluded its questioning, to clarify points that may have been obscured. In the case of the accuser’s absence, the Honor Council will proceed to the testimony of the witness(es) and/or the accused student.
- Material Witnesses. First, the chair invites a general account of the events in question. Then the Honor Council may direct its questions to the witness. The investigators may question material witnesses, waiting until the Honor Council has concluded its questioning, to clarify points that may have been obscured.
- Character Witness. One character witness may answer questions concerning the background of the accused. A character witness is not allowed to testify or express an opinion concerning the alleged offense. Discretion will be exercised to avoid questions that a character witness is not allowed to answer. Generally, a character witness will be asked the following three questions:
- “How long and in what capacity have you known the accused student?”
- “Can you please tell the panel about a time in which you placed trust in the accused student?”
- “In general, and without reference to this case, can you please describe the accused student’s character?”
- Accused Student. The chair presents to the accused the charges and asks if he or she is familiar with the charges, the evidence, and the possible penalties if found guilty. The accused student enters his or her plea of guilt or innocence. The chair asks the accused to state his or her account of the events in question. At this time, discrepancies in testimony, contradictions, and specific charges are brought forth. The chair should detail the facts and charges in light of the testimony that has been introduced in support of the charges. The investigators may question the accused, waiting until the Honor Council has concluded its questioning, to clarify points that may have been obscured.
Small Panel Hearing
During the course of an investigation, an accused student who wishes to plead guilty may request a small panel hearing of his or her case. A case may proceed to a small panel hearing only if no facts surrounding the violation are in dispute and if the president determines that the likely penalty involves no more than one semester suspension. A guilty plea does not guarantee that the case will proceed to a small panel. If there are two or more students involved in a single case, all must plead guilty and request a small panel hearing in order for one to be conducted. If one of the accused students requests a small panel hearing and others do not, a full hearing must be conducted for all the students involved. In addition, if the student has a previous Honor Council conviction, a full panel hearing is required.
If an accused student informs the investigators that he or she would prefer a small panel hearing, the investigators will inform the Honor Council president of the accused student’s request. The president will review the investigative report and determine whether a small panel hearing would be appropriate. If a small panel would be appropriate, a date, time, and location will be chosen for the hearing.
A small panel hearing shall consist of a faculty adviser, the president of the Honor Council, and one additional member chosen by the president. At the hearing, the three panel members will be present, along with the investigators, the accused student, his or her adviser, and a character witness for the accused if he or she so desires.
The procedures employed during a small panel hearing will be the same as those outlined above for large panel hearings.
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When the Honor Council is satisfied that all pertinent testimony has been received, the accused student, the student adviser, and the investigators leave the hearing room so that the panel may deliberate. The panel will proceed to discuss and decide the question of guilt or innocence. The proof that a person is guilty of a charge must satisfy a “preponderance-of-the-evidence” (or, more-likely-than-not) standard. A majority of the six members of a full panel must vote “guilty” to find the accused guilty.
- 1. If the accused is found guilty, the Honor Council determines a fitting penalty based upon
(a) the flagrancy of the violation
(b) premeditation involved in the offense, and
(c) the truthfulness of the accused throughout the investigation and the hearing
These three factors are ranked on a scale of low, medium low, medium, medium high, or high.
- Although the presumptive penalty for a first offense is failure in the course, potential penalties include an Honor Council reprimand, with a recommendation for failure on the assignment or exam at issue, failure in the course, suspension for one or more semesters, or expulsion. The minimum penalty for a second offense is failure in the course and suspension for not less than a semester, and depending upon the severity of the violation, the penalty may be suspension for multiple semesters or expulsion. The penalty for a third offense is expulsion.
- A small panel may assign a penalty no greater than failure in the course and suspension for one semester. Each penalty requires a unanimous vote of the small panel.
- If, at the discretion of the chair, mitigating circumstances exist with regard to the commission of the violation in question, then the chair may introduce those circumstances to be considered in the discussion of penalty. Such circumstances may not relate to the possible ramifications of the panel’s decision.
- Expulsion must be approved by a vote of at least five of the six panel members. (Note that for a third offense, a vote of guilty by five of the six panelists imposes a penalty of expulsion, automatically.) All other penalties require only a simple majority vote of the six members.
- Decision. The accused, student adviser, and investigators are brought back into the hearing room for presentation of the Honor Council’s decision. After stating the decision, the chair (and others) may talk with the accused. At this time it should also be explained to the accused that he or she has the right of appeal.
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After the Hearing
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the chair will gather all the material evidence, investigative reports, notes, and other records of the investigation and hearing and place them in a file in the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity
- If the accused student is found guilty or pleads guilty, written notice of the decision is sent to the following parties: (a) the accused student, (b) the accuser, (c) the dean of the school in which the student enrolled, (d) the registrar of the school in which the student is enrolled, (e) the University registrar and assistant registrar, (f) the instructor concerned (in cases in which the accuser is not the instructor), (g) other relevant University personnel, and in cases resulting in suspension or expulsion, (h) the parents of the accused student. A copy of the notice must also be kept in the permanent files of the Honor Council.
- A member of the Honor Council Executive Board will then prepare a summary of the proceedings.
- The accused student may file an appeal from a full or small panel decision with the Appellate Review Board, but must do so within ten days of the date the student is notified of the panel’s decision. Requests for extensions of time must be submitted to the Chair of the Appellate Review Board prior to the end of the ten-day period. The appeal petition and the entire record of the case will be sent to the Chair of the Appellate Review Board who will determine if there are sufficient grounds for an appeal based on the criteria delineated in the appeal procedures. If the Chair affirms that there is sufficient reason for an appeal, the student’s petition is sent to the Honor Council president, or the officer who chaired the hearing, who will draft a response to the student’s appeal upon receipt of the appeal. This response will be sent to the accused student for review and additional written comment or reply, if any. The appeal, the Honor Council response, the student’s reply or additional comments, and copies of all appropriate evidence are then reviewed and considered by the Appellate Review Board. (For more information on grounds for appeal and the procedures of the Appellate Review Board, see the discussion of “Appeals” in Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook.)
- The Honor Council adviser maintains records of Honor Council proceedings and investigations in the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity. Records of convictions and penalties will not be released outside the University absent a written release from the convicted student or unless otherwise required by law in accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, students should be aware that they may be required to sign such a waiver when applying to graduate or professional schools or in the course of any employment or governmental background check. If a student receives failure in the course as a sanction, the student may retake the course (in accordance with the rules of the student’s school or college) and replace the failure in his or her GPA. However, the original failure will continue to appear on the student’s transcript (although nothing will appear on the transcript indicating that the failure was attributable to an Honor Council conviction).
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Withdrawal from the University Before Hearing
If a student who has been reported for a suspected violation of the Honor Code withdraws from the University before a hearing has been conducted, the fact will be recorded by the Honor Council. A letter will be sent to the accused stating that he or she is suspected of an Honor Code violation, that an investigation has been or will be conducted, and that a hearing may be held.
The accused may respond in one of three ways: return to the campus for a hearing, waive the right to give testimony personally, thereby acknowledging that the hearing may proceed in his or her absence, or waive the right to appear and send a written, signed statement to be presented on his or her behalf at the hearing. Failure by the accused to respond will be considered a waiver of the right to appear.
During the time prior to the hearing, a notation will be placed on the transcript of the accused stating that an Honor Council case is pending. A letter will also be sent to the University registrar and to the registrar of the school in which the accused was enrolled indicating that an Honor Council case is pending. If the accused attempts to re-enroll before the case is heard, the registrar will notify the president of the Honor Council. The case must be resolved before the accused may re-enroll.
If a case cannot be heard before the end of the grading period, the instructor will submit a grade of “I” until the Honor Council can act on the matter. A notation will be placed on the transcript of the accused stating that an Honor Council case is pending.
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