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Norms
 
   

 

 
 
Academic Honor Code Norms

[Revised and approved by the Academic Honor Council on 24 January 2012]

In order to ensure consistency and fairness across cases, the Academic Honor Council has developed norms for Hearing Panel members to use as guidelines when deliberating and determining sanctions. Norms have also been developed for granting appeals for rehearing a case. The norms below constitute basic guidelines and are not intended to cover all possible situations. Norms may be modified if, following debate, proposed changes meet the approval of a majority of Council members.

I. NORMS FOR DELIBERATION

A. The Academic Honor Council will consider intent of accused student during deliberation.

Explanation: All students are responsible for knowing and following the Honor Code and clearly communicated course policies. However, the Honor Council recognizes that perceived Honor Code violations in some cases may represent inadvertent mistakes rather than inexcusable ignorance or actions intended to gain unfair advantage. For example, the Council would not consider the behavior in question to be an honor code violation if it seemed to result from an isolated editing mistake or misinterpretation of unclear instructions. The Council acknowledges that intention may be impossible to prove with absolute certainty, but it may find students “not responsible” if it concludes that the problematic behavior was likely inadvertent.

B. The Academic Honor Council during deliberation will distinguish between violations of academic integrity and failure to follow general class or assignment instructions that do not substantively relate to matters of academic integrity.

Explanation: Many class or assignment instructions relate directly to matters of academic integrity, such as an instruction not to use outside sources on a paper or take-home exam. In some cases, however, an instruction may be primarily concerned with issues like length of paper or number of questions to answer on an exam. For instance, a student may be given a 2,000 word limit for an essay and turn in 3,500 words. Rather than a violation of academic integrity, this would more appropriately be dealt with as a matter of poor, ineffective, or sloppy scholarship (with grade penalty as an instructor saw fit).


II. NORMS FOR SANCTIONING

A. General guidelines

1. The Academic Honor Council will limit sanctions to those outlined in the Honor Code.

Explanation: This maintains consistency in sanctioning. For example, students will not be sanctioned to rewrite plagiarized papers.

 2. The Academic Honor Council mandates that all assignments on which a student is found “responsible” for violating the Honor Code will not be graded or counted.

Explanation: A zero on the assignment is a mandatory sanction for all instances where a student is found “responsible.”  

B. Summary of specific factors affecting sanctioning  

Mitigating factors

1. Amount and degree of plagiarism; extent of use of unauthorized materials, assistance, or collaboration; and extent of data falsification or fabrication of sources.

2. Cooperation of student during all phases of the adjudication process

3. Extraordinary extenuating circumstances

 Aggravating factors

4. Purposeful and demonstrated misleading of Hearing Panel 

Factors not taken into account

5. Weight of assignment (percent of course grade)

6. Long-term consequences of sanction

7. Emotional Duress

C. Explanation of factors affecting sanctioning

1. The Academic Honor Council will consider the amount of the assignment affected by behavior found to violate the Honor Code.

Explanation: This differentiates cheating on, for example, one math problem versus many math problems. In the instance of plagiarism, sanction mitigation would be warranted if the plagiarized text represented a very small proportion of the complete paper or did not contribute significantly to the overall argument of the paper.

2.  The Academic Honor Council will consider the accused student's cooperation during all phases of the adjudication process.

Explanation: Whether or not an accused student pleads "responsible" or "not responsible," a student who in a spirit of cooperation attempts to assist both the Honor Council's Student Case Presenter and the Honor Council's Hearing Panel in understanding exactly what happened. Lying to the Student Case Presenter or to the Hearing Panel is evidence of non-cooperation.

3. The Academic Honor Council will take into account the possibility of extraordinary extenuating circumstances.

Explanation: This norm is intended to take into account truly extraordinary extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to the student's violation of the Honor Code. Such circumstances need to be distinguished from "emotional duress" (see 7 below), in that the extraordinary extenuating circumstances will be found to be largely beyond the student's control and which can reasonably be interpreted as seriously undermining the student's ability to make sound ethical decisions. In such situations, the student must provide compelling evidence of the extraordinary circumstances.

This evidence may include documented mental health cases that led the student to seek counseling and advice prior to the violation of the Honor Code or extraordinary physical health conditions. The evidence is not limited to documented mental and physical health issues; it could also include documented personal trauma issues. 

4. The Academic Honor Council will regard the purposeful and demonstrated misleading of the Hearing Panel as an aggravating factor.

Explanation: This norm applies to situations where an accused student attempts to mislead either the Honor Council's Student Case Presenter or the Honor Council's Hearing Panel by misrepresenting or concealing relevant factors, or lies about his or her actions in relation to the accusation. The norm also applies to an accused student who attempts to mislead the Hearing panel through rude and aggressive behavior towards members of the Honor Council or to the person filing the charge.

5. The Academic Honor Council will not consider the weight an assignment has in a course (percent of course grade) when determining sanctions.

Explanation: This norm reduces inconsistency in sanctioning.

 6. The Academic Honor Council will not consider the long-term consequences of its assigned sanctions.

Explanation: This is for the sake of consistency only. If the Honor Council considers long term consequences, a senior and a first-year student in the same course could get two different sanctions for the same offense.

7. The Academic Honor Council will not consider emotional duress on the part of the student.

Explanation: Many violations of the Honor Code are due to the emotional duress of falling behind in work, often the result of being overwhelmed with the demands of multiple responsibilities such as social, athletic, and other extracurricular activities, as well as other course assignments. These are part of normal college life and students need to learn how to deal with these in more constructive ways than taking short-cuts that violate the Honor Code.


III. NORMS FOR GRANTING AN APPEAL FOR A REHEARING

A. Appeals, in accord with the by-laws, can only be based on claims that procedure was improperly followed, or that new evidence relevant to the case is now available.

Explanation: Regarding a claim that procedure was improperly followed, the appellant must present evidence that a specific procedure or procedures as provided in the Honor Council by-laws were violated. New evidence is substantive evidence not available to the original Hearing Panel. An argument that the original evidence was not properly interpreted does not constitute new evidence.

B. A faculty member’s claim that a sanction is too harsh/too light must be accompanied by substantive reasons for the Honor Council to grant a petition to amend sanction.

Explanation: Unsubstantiated claims by a professor can easily lead to inconsistencies.


IV. ADDITIONAL GUIDELINE

A. The Academic Honor Council welcomes the testimony of witnesses regardless of whether the accused student pleads “responsible” to the Honor Code violation.

Explanation: This is to make sure the Council always gets the complete picture. Witnesses can offer testimony attesting to the accuracy of information or evidence offered to the Hearing Panel for deliberation, as well as for determining mitigating or aggravating factors.