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Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct - Interim

  • Responsible Office: Student Conduct and Academic Integrity , Office of the Provost
  • Current Approved Version: 07/29/2020
  • Policy Type: Administrative

Policy Statement and Purpose

Academic honesty, truth and integrity are vitally important to advancing knowledge and promoting student success. All students and employees (including faculty) of the university must conduct themselves according to the highest standards of academic integrity. This is first achieved through education and awareness. Faculty, university and academic professionals, classified staff and students are expected to learn and understand the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct, promote awareness of its provisions, and proactively explain how the policy applies to their courses and activities. Students are expected to inquire about how to complete their work in order to conform with this policy.

This policy enumerates the types of academic misconduct that contradict the university’s values and detract from its shared objective of a high quality education. It defines the rights, obligations and processes that support a fair and effective Honor System. It also details what happens when allegations of misconduct arise, how allegations are investigated and resolved, and the range of possible sanctions for misconduct. The Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct aims to ensure the fair resolution of allegations and the appropriate sanction of violations so as to hold students justly accountable, remedy the effects of misconduct, and encourage future behavior that meets the university’s standards of academic honesty, ethics and integrity.

This policy sets forth the university’s process for adjudicating allegations of academic misconduct, as established by the provost through the Division of Student Affairs. In addition to any sanction imposed under this policy, certain academic programs may determine that academic misconduct violates applicable technical or professional standards and take action accordingly. Students charged with academic misconduct under this policy are responsible for seeking guidance from their academic program about the potential application of any program standards to a particular violation in the event they are found responsible through this process.

Noncompliance with the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct may result in disciplinary action for students, university and academic professionals, classified staff or faculty. VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation against anyone who brings forth a good faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation is prohibited by VCU policy in accordance with federal and state law.

This policy applies to all academic misconduct reported on or after the current approval date of this policy.  Where the date of the academic misconduct precedes the current approval date of this policy, the definitions of academic misconduct in existence at the time of the alleged incident(s) will be used, and the procedures in this policy will govern the adjudication of any open matter involving academic misconduct. The university will provide specific written notice directly to each respondent of the procedures applicable to an open matter.

Who Should Know This Policy

All students and employees (including faculty) are responsible for knowing this policy and familiarizing themselves with its contents and provisions.

Definitions

This policy defines additional terms, including “academic misconduct,” in the applicable policy sections in order to aid in comprehension and avoid repetition.

Academic Integrity Administrator (“Administrator”)

The university official or designee who administers the Honor System for a particular case as authorized by the director of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (SCAI).

Adviser

A person who has been asked by the respondent to attend any part of the adjudication process to provide support and assistance directly to the respondent but not to participate in the process on the respondent’s behalf.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

“Clear and convincing evidence is not as stringent a standard as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as required in the criminal context, but is a degree of proof higher than a mere preponderance of the evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of proof that will produce a firm conviction or a firm belief as to the facts sought to be established.” [State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, “Domicile Guidelines” (October 25, 2016), 5.] Under this policy, the facts sought to be established correspond to a charge of academic misconduct.

Director of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (“Director”)

The university official responsible for the administration of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct, including the selection of members of the Honor Council, as authorized by the Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs, or designee.

Expulsion

As used in this policy, termination of student status at the university.

Faculty

Designated VCU employee with principal and regularly assigned responsibilities that include a significant commitment to teaching that includes the development and delivery of the university curriculum for students enrolled at VCU and/or a significant commitment to original research and scholarship that includes the creation, dissemination and application of new knowledge and/or artistic expression.

Honor Council

The pool of students, faculty, university and academic professionals, and classified staff, who are selected, trained and authorized by the director or designee to serve on a Decision or Sanction Review Board and to determine whether a student has violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct and recommend sanctions, where appropriate.

Honor Council Decision Board (“Decision Board”)

The panel of four Honor Council members selected by the director of SCAI or designee to determine whether a student has violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct and impose other sanctions, where appropriate. A Decision Board is comprised of: one undergraduate student; one graduate or professional student; one university and academic professional, classified staff or faculty member; and one non-voting chairperson (selected from any of these groups).

Honor Council Sanction Review Board (“Sanction Review Board”) 

The panel of three Honor Council members selected by the director of SCAI or designee to review the sanctions recommended by an administrator or a Decision Board for an individual respondent and modify, where appropriate. A Sanction Review Board is comprised of: one undergraduate student, one graduate or professional student, and one university and academic professional, classified staff or faculty member.

Honor Probation

A status in which a student is placed once there has been a finding that the student violated the Honor System and which increases the likelihood of a more severe sanction, including suspension or expulsion, for any subsequent violation.

Notification E-mail

The official university communication sent to the respondent via their VCU e-mail address informing them of the specific violation that has been charged and instructing them to contact the administrator to schedule a meeting.

Reporting Party

Any person who submits a report alleging that a student has violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct.

Respondent

Any student reported to have violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct.

Student

As used in this policy, any person enrolled in or applying to enroll in undergraduate, graduate, or professional courses at VCU, on a full-time or part-time basis, including any person who withdraws while adjudication of charges is pending or has been awarded a degree by VCU.

Suspension

As used in this policy, temporary loss of student status, including exclusion from classes and all university student privileges or activities, for a definite period of time. This may also involve a full ban from campus.

University and Academic Professionals 

Employees who support the mission of the university in nonfaculty roles. This group includes salaried employees hired after July 1, 2016; those classified staff who have elected to participate in this employee group; and those who were formerly administrative and professional faculty.

University Official

Any person employed by the university, including faculty, university and academic professionals, and classified staff, who performs assigned administrative or professional responsibilities.

Contacts

SCAI officially interprets this policy and is responsible for obtaining approval through the appropriate governance structures for any revisions as required by the policy Creating and Maintaining Policies and Procedures. Please direct policy questions to the director of SCAI.

Policy Specifics and Procedures

I. Honor System Authority

The director of SCAI or designee will develop procedures for the administration of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct, including procedural rules for conducting hearings. They will select the membership of the Honor Council and individual Decision Boards and Sanction Review Boards. They will appoint an administrator or board from among eligible Honor Council members to adjudicate matters as appropriate. If an appropriate board cannot be convened within a reasonable period of time, the director will establish an ad hoc committee of appropriately trained students and employees (including faculty) of the university to adjudicate the matter. The director or designee is the final authority for questions involving interpretation or application of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct.

II. Academic Misconduct

The academic misconduct prohibited by this policy includes the following conduct defined below: cheating, deception, exploitation, facilitation, plagiarism, sabotage, and stealing.

1. Cheating

Cheating is gaining or attempting to gain an unfair advantage in an academic exercise usually to avoid doing original work or to make up for lack of preparation.  Examples of cheating include, but are not limited to:

a. Copying or attempting to copy homework, evaluations, tests, exams or other academic materials without instructor approval and without acknowledging the help one has received

b. Unauthorized collaboration on homework or other assignments

c. Unauthorized possession of, or access to academic materials with the intent to gain an unfair advantage

d. Submission of the same work for credit in two or more courses, or resubmission of work from previous semesters, without instructor approval

2. Deception

Deception is causing or attempting to cause someone to believe something that is not true. In an academic context, this includes, but is not limited to:

a. Falsification: Inventing or altering without instructor permission any information, citations, data, quotations, statistics, attendance records, assignments or other academic endeavors. Other examples of falsification include, but are not limited to: signing attendance on behalf of oneself when one is not present; signing attendance on behalf of other students when they are not present; altering excuses for class attendance or assignments, including examinations; altering letters of permission; presenting invented or inappropriately changed data (for example, deleting outliers); inventing or altering clinical records; fabricating citations or quotations; or changing academic records or other documents without expressed permission.

b. Forgery: Imitating or counterfeiting of images, documents, signatures or similar documents and representing them as true. Forgery also includes the misrepresentation of credentials, including but not limited to official academic documents, records, identifying documents, certifications or licenses.

c. Grade Alteration: Attempting to or successfully changing a grade to benefit an individual or individuals.  Grade alteration also includes presenting without authorization an alternate or newly completed assignment in place of an already graded assignment in order to receive a different grade.

d. Lying: Making false statements, verbal or written, about academic matters, such as making false statements to justify missing class(es) or assignment(s), or knowingly providing false information in an academic integrity investigation.

e. Omission: Deliberately leaving relevant facts out of a full account of the truth in response to a direct question.

3. Exploitation

Exploitation is coercing another person to commit an act of academic misconduct, whether for their own benefit or the benefit of another person, through threats, intimidation, blackmail, extortion, bribery, offers of favors, or some other means.

4. Facilitation

Facilitation is providing assistance in committing or attempting to commit an act of academic misconduct, or providing resources that could be reasonably expected to lead to an act of academic misconduct. Facilitation can occur regardless of whether the facilitator gains an academic advantage. Examples of facilitation include, but are not limited to:

a. Unauthorized distribution or sharing of academic material in the form of hard copies, physical objects, digital files, or electronic materials. Other examples of facilitation include: contributing materials to online file-sharing services and question-and-answer websites; selling copies of exams or answer keys; selling papers or offering to write papers with the intent to sell them.

b. Allowing someone to copy ones work on an exam or other assignment.

c. Completing work for another VCU student(s), or student(s) in attendance at another educational institution. This includes, but is not limited to, taking an exam in someone else’s place.

5. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is falsely claiming ownership or misrepresenting the origins of work submitted for publication or an assignment. In other words, plagiarism occurs when an individual takes credit for work that is not their own without giving proper acknowledgement to the creator. Plagiarism can include the uncited use of someone else’s words, ideas, facts, opinions, theories, illustrations, tables, figures, text, images, source code, and/or other intellectual work, even if the material is located in the public domain and can be freely shared.

6. Sabotage

Sabotage is deliberately interfering or attempting to interfere with one or more students’ academic work through, but not limited to: tampering with, altering, damaging or destroying personal or institutional academic materials. Sabotage may also involve interfering with a learning experience including, but not limited to, obstructing or willfully disrupting class, laboratory, formal testing or examination times, proceedings or experiences, or other classroom or academic environments.

7. Stealing

Stealing is deliberately taking or attempting to take, without permission, any form of academic property or material so as to permanently or temporarily deprive others of access or use.

III. Rights and Responsibilities

1. Shared Rights and Responsibilities of Students and Employees (including faculty) of the University

All students and employees (including faculty) of the university are required to:

a. Adhere to the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct and its procedures.

b. Report any suspicion or knowledge of possible violations of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct.

c. Answer truthfully during any part of the adjudication under the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct.

d. Maintain appropriate confidentiality related to matters involving the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct.

e. Refrain from harassing, pressuring, or intimidating any reporting party, respondent, or other party involved in a pending matter.

2. Faculty, University and Academic Professionals, Classified Staff and Student Instructors

Faculty, university and academic professionals, classified staff and student instructors who oversee academic activities must discuss the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct and describe its requirements in course syllabi and/or other relevant materials. Faculty, university and academic professionals, classified staff and student instructors must report suspected violations to SCAI as provided in this policy. Pending resolution of the matter under this policy, the specific assignment and remaining assignments must be administered, assessed or graded as if no violation of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct has occurred and in accordance with relevant academic policies.

3. Students

All students must know and understand the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct, particularly the types of misconduct prohibited by this policy. Students are expected to ask for clarification from their instructors if they are uncertain about how the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct impacts their work or the completion of an assignment. Students may also bring questions involving the interpretation and application of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct to SCAI.

4. Parties Involved in Resolution

a. Any respondent has a right to the following:

i. Notice of any charges concerning the respondent, including the specific alleged violation and the source of any such allegation

ii. Notice of possible sanctions for the alleged violation

iii. The option to refrain from admitting responsibility for alleged violations of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct

b. Both reporting parties and respondents will have the opportunity to do the following:

i. Present information germane to the allegation.

ii. Provide witnesses.

iii. Be accompanied by an adviser of their choice at their own time and expense during the adjudication process. Advisers are not permitted to speak or participate directly in the adjudication process unless authorized by the administrator or chairperson. It is the respondent’s responsibility to ensure that their advisor can attend any scheduled meetings or hearings. An adviser’s scheduling conflict is not a valid excuse to delay the resolution process.

c. When alleged violations qualify for Faculty Administrative Resolution (FAR), the reporting party may also assume the responsibility of resolving allegations of misconduct, as detailed below. When this occurs, the rights of the reporting party and the respondent(s) are unaffected.

IV. Referral, Review, Investigation, and Resolution

1. Referral

All students and employees (including faculty) are expected to actively monitor academic conduct and notify SCAI of potential misconduct. Apathy or acquiescence in the presence of academic misconduct is not permitted because it detracts from a community of trust and the quality of the educational experience. Furthermore, it is imperative to report observations of potential academic misconduct to ensure consistent response across courses and departments, fair resolution, appropriate consideration for repeated academic misconduct, and protection from unfounded allegations of misconduct.

a. Self-Referral

Students who believe they have committed an act or acts of academic misconduct may refer themselves in writing to SCAI. Though sanctions still apply to the act, or acts, of academic misconduct, a decision to self-refer will be taken into consideration when determining the severity of the sanction. 

Students may not self-refer if a third party has already brought an allegation of academic misconduct for the act or acts in question to the attention of the student or SCAI. 

A student reporting their own violation will be considered both the reporting party and the respondent.

b. Standard Referral

Anyone, including persons outside of the university community, may refer alleged violations of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct to SCAI. The referral must clearly and precisely describe the alleged violation. SCAI encourages the reporting party to submit the referral within 30 calendar days of having substantial evidence of the alleged violation. Referrals submitted beyond 90 days from the date of discovery will generally be recorded by SCAI without further action unless the Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs determines that the university must pursue the matter in order to protect the academic integrity of the university community.

If a reporting party determines that their referral was improper at any time before the respondent is found responsible under this policy, they may inform SCAI of their belief and request withdrawal of the referral. SCAI will determine if the university will pursue the matter based on all available evidence and information provided by the reporting party, including their determination that the referral was improper.

2. Initial Review

Upon receipt, the director of SCAI, or designee, will review the referral to determine whether there are grounds to proceed with an investigation and administrative resolution. If affirmative, SCAI will send a notification e-mail to the respondent to make the respondent aware of the specific prohibited academic misconduct charged, describes the alleged acts constituting misconduct, specifies their rights and obligations and explains the next steps in the process. SCAI will thereafter provide all official correspondence to the respondent, even when involving FAR.

In the event the reporting party is a faculty member, SCAI will also confer with the reporting party to determine whether the allegation qualifies for FAR or a SAR, described below.

The respondent must contact the appointed administrator or faculty member within five (5) business days of receiving the Notification Email to schedule a meeting with the administrator or faculty member.

a. If the respondent fails to respond to the notice, does not schedule a meeting or does not attend the scheduled meeting, the resolution of the allegation will proceed without the benefit of their participation. Failure to respond to the notice may be deemed acceptance of any finding of responsibility as well as the corresponding sanction(s), with no right to invoke a Decision Board or a Sanction Review Board, as detailed by this policy.

b. The Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct resolution process will proceed regardless of a respondent’s decision to discontinue attending a course or withdrawal from the course. A student should meet with an academic adviser to discuss the potential academic or enrollment consequences of a decision to discontinue attendance or withdrawing from a course in which the alleged violation has occurred.

3. Investigation and Administrative Resolution

The university will presume that a respondent is not responsible for an alleged violation of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct unless and until the university makes a determination through the adjudication process outlined in this policy, including a completed investigation, resolution, and any review by a Decision Board and/or Sanction Review Board. The university will find a respondent responsible for academic misconduct only if clear and convincing evidence shows that the student is responsible for the particular violation charged. 

VCU will not issue a degree to any student charged with violating the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct until an allegation has been completely investigated and resolved. SCAI will place a temporary administrative hold on the respondent’s record pending resolution and notify the graduation coordinator and the respondent’s school or college.

The investigation and resolution of alleged academic misconduct violations will proceed according to one of the following processes:

a. Faculty Administrative Resolution (FAR)

FAR enables greater faculty input and promotes outcomes that serve the pedagogical objectives of the course and the university. Through FAR, faculty may engage directly with respondents and determine an appropriate sanction for violations of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct. FAR is designed for allegations that qualify for Class-A sanctions based upon the severity of the infraction and whether the respondent has a prior history of academic misconduct. 

FAR is limited to cases when the faculty member and the respondent agree to participate in FAR, the respondent does not have a prior history of academic misconduct, and SCAI determines during the initial review that a Class-A sanction would be appropriate for the alleged infraction. If these conditions are met, then the faculty member will complete the investigation and administrative resolution process as follows. 

The faculty member:

i. Meets with the respondent to provide the respondent with the information that warranted the notice of allegations, and offer the opportunity for the respondent to address the allegations and provide additional information.

ii. Determines whether the available information and statements provide clear and convincing evidence that the respondent violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct, or whether the matter can be closed without a finding of responsibility. In the event the faculty member finds the respondent responsible, the faculty member will also recommend an appropriate Class-A sanction(s), at which point they will notify SCAI.

SCAI will support the faculty member during this process by sending any and all written and electronic communications regarding the referral, investigation and resolution to the respondent. This includes contacting the respondent to arrange the meeting described in IV.3.a.i, as well as notification of findings and sanctions, where appropriate. In the event the sanction requires a change of grade on an assignment or a new opportunity to complete the assignment (or comparable alternative), then the faculty member must also provide documentation of the change of grade or assignment completion to SCAI.

b. Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Administrative Resolution (SAR)

If the reported violation qualifies for a Class-B sanction based upon its severity, if the respondent has a prior history of academic misconduct, or if the faculty member or respondent declines to participate in FAR, then SCAI completes the investigation and administrative resolution process as follows.

SCAI:

i. Investigates the allegations detailed in the notice and examines all available information provided by the reporting party and witnesses, where applicable. SCAI will also offer to meet with the respondent to provide them with the information that warranted the notice of charges, and an opportunity to address the allegations and provide additional information.

ii. Determines whether the available information and statements provide clear and convincing evidence that the respondent violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct, or whether the matter can be closed without a finding of responsibility. In the event the respondent is found responsible, SCAI will also recommend an appropriate sanction or sanctions.

Upon conclusion of either FAR or SAR, the director of SCAI, or designee, will review the finding and recommended sanction(s), where applicable, for compliance with VCU policies and notify the respondent in writing within five (5) business days of the decision. 

The respondent may either agree with the administrative resolution (3.a.ii or 3.b.ii) or request a Decision Board or Sanction Review Board, where appropriate (described below). By agreeing with the administrative resolution, the respondent acknowledges responsibility for the violation and accepts the sanctions. This outcome cannot be appealed, and the adjudication process is complete. If the respondent challenges the finding of responsibility, a Decision Board will review the matter. If the respondent challenges the assigned sanction(s), a Sanction Review Board will review the sanction(s) only. 

If no violation is found, the administrator will notify the respondent that the university will take no action concerning the allegations. SCAI will then remove the temporary administrative hold, where applicable, and notify the graduation coordinator and the respondent’s school or college, if necessary.

4. Honor Council: Decision Boards and Sanction Review Boards

The respondent may challenge an administrative resolution before the Honor Council in one of two respects: the respondent may dispute the finding of responsible for violating the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct; or, the respondent may dispute the sanctions. Any challenge of an administrative resolution must be submitted to SCAI in writing within five (5) business days of the date of notification of the outcome of the administrative resolution.

a. A challenge to the finding of responsible will be heard by a Decision Board. Decision Boards review the information that warranted the allegation of academic misconduct and arrive at a decision regarding responsibility. Decision Boards may uphold the initial administrative findings, reject the initial findings or uphold some and reject some initial findings, where a respondent was charged with multiple violations. Further, if a Decision Board determines that the reported allegations do not constitute the particular violation charged but may constitute another violation of the policy, the Decision Board may refer the matter to SCAI to initiate new charges.

If a Decision Board upholds the initial finding of responsible, the sanctions assigned by administrative resolution remain in effect. 

Decision Board Procedures

i. Decision Boards proceed as follows:

1. Introductions and explanation of procedural rules by the chairperson

2. Introductory statements and presentation of any evidence, information, and witnesses by participants in the following order: the administrator, the reporting party, and the respondent

3. Questions from the Decision Board to the administrator, the reporting party, the respondent and witnesses, where applicable

4. Closing statements by participants in the following order: the administrator, the reporting party, and the respondent

ii. The following rules of decorum govern Decision Boards:

1. All participants will treat each other with respect and common courtesy. It is vital that Decision Boards preserve a collegial and educational tone that encourages sharing information, honest responses to questions and careful consideration of the case at hand. In the event of personal attacks and/or aggressive, adversarial questioning, the chairperson will intervene and may impose restrictions on further participation to preserve effective communication, including requiring parties to submit additional questions and/or responses in writing.

2. Direct questions from anyone other than a member of the Decision Board to the reporting party, the administrator, witnesses or a member of the Decision Board are at the discretion of the chairperson.

3. If a member of the Decision Board becomes aware of new information about the alleged offense(s), they must provide it to the director of SCAI or designee prior to the hearing. If the director or designee determines the new information is relevant to the Decision Board’s deliberations, they will then ensure the respondent has the opportunity to review and respond to it.

4. The chairperson of the Decision Board is the final arbiter of all procedural questions.

5. There will be a single verbatim record of the Decision Board hearing, excluding deliberations. The record shall be the property of the university.

iii. After the hearing, the Decision Board will hold a closed-session, confidential deliberation to determine if clear and convincing evidence shows the respondent violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct. In the case of multiple alleged violations, the Decision Board shall determine if clear and convincing evidence shows the respondent is responsible for each individual violation. Establishing the respondent violated the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct requires the majority vote of at least two of the three voting members of the Decision Board. If the Decision Board finds the respondent responsible for the violation(s), the Decision Board will either confirm or amend sanctions in accordance with IV.4.a.

b. Sanction Review Boards review challenges to sanctions assigned through administrative resolution and, where appropriate, as a result of a Decision Board. Sanction Review Boards do not have the authority to review findings of responsibility; furthermore, requesting review by a Sanction Review Board constitutes an acknowledgement of responsibility by the respondent. Challenges to sanctions must be made in writing and articulate a compelling reason why the assigned sanctions are disproportionate to the offense.

Upon the receipt of a notification to challenge any sanction, SCAI will schedule a Sanction Review Board. 

Sanction Review Board Procedures

i. The Sanction Review Board will review any written statements concerning the sanctions submitted by the respondent, administrator, and the reporting party.

ii. Based upon review of the written documentation, statements and case file, the Sanction Review Board will decide, by a majority vote, whether to uphold or amend the sanction(s) proposed by the administrator. The Sanction Review Board will determine the most appropriate sanction(s), which may be more or less severe than that assigned by administrative resolution.

c. After its review, either board will notify the director of SCAI of the board’s recommendation. The director will review the board’s recommendation and notify the respondent and school officials, as needed, of the university’s decision within five (5) business days of the board’s review.

V. Sanctions

In support of its educational mission, the university imposes sanctions for academic misconduct designed to educate a respondent about avoiding future academic misconduct, hold them individually accountable for their prior misconduct, remedy the effects of prior misconduct and deter other students from committing academic misconduct. Sanctions may include educational, restorative, rehabilitative, and punitive components. 

In keeping with the university’s commitment to foster an environment of academic integrity, this policy authorizes the administrator, Decision Boards and Sanction Review Boards to tailor sanctions to the facts and circumstances of each case, including the nature of the misconduct and the context in which it occurred, consistent with training and guidance provided by SCAI. The recommendation of appropriate sanction(s) may depend on the following factors, which are not relevant to the underlying finding that the respondent is responsible for the alleged misconduct:

● The severity, persistence, or pervasiveness of the academic misconduct

● The impact of the academic misconduct on the community

● Prior academic misconduct and compliance with previous sanctions

● Any other reasonable mitigating or aggravating factors

The minimum sanction for a violation of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct is Honor Probation lasting one year. An administrator, Decision Board or Sanction Review Board may lengthen the period of Honor Probation and/or assign additional sanctions, where appropriate, from the following menu.

Class-A Sanctions:

● Grade of ‘0’ on an assignment if academic misconduct influenced originally-assigned grade

● A grade reduction on the assignment if the academic misconduct influenced only a portion of the assignment grade

● A new opportunity to complete the assignment or a comparable alternative 

Class-A Sanctions automatically include Honor Probation lasting for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years (or until graduation, whichever comes first). Class-A  Sanctions do not result in a notation on the respondent’s transcript. 

Any grade of ‘0’ assigned for a test, paper, or other assignment shall be factored into the course grade, and not be dropped or replaced even if the applicable course syllabus generally permits dropping or replacing such a grade.

Class-B Sanctions:

● A grade of ‘F’ in the course

● Suspension

● Expulsion

Class-B Sanctions result in a notation on the respondent’s transcript. For suspension and expulsion, the transcript notation is permanent. For a grade of ‘F’ in the course, the transcript notation shall appear as ‘FH’ for a period of three (3) years, after which the notation ‘FH’ converts to ‘F’ if the student takes no action. A grade of ‘F’ in the course that results from a sanction may not be voided in any way, including by withdrawal from a course or from VCU, use of the Historical Repeat Course Option, or through the Grade Appeal Procedure.

Respondents may apply to the Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs, or designee, to have any transcript notation period reduced due to compelling mitigating circumstances. With the exception of expulsion, Class-B Sanctions automatically include Honor Probation, which will remain in effect until the respondent has completed their current degree program. If a respondent’s degree program is interrupted, including by suspension, then Honor Probation will continue upon re-enrollment until completion of their degree program.

Additional Education Requirements:

An administrator, Decision Board or Sanction Review Board may also assign additional education requirements supplemental to Class-A and Class-B sanctions. Additional education requirements are intended to prevent recurrence of misconduct by helping respondents with personal and ethical decision-making in accordance with the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct. Examples of additional education requirements include RAMS L.E.A.D and Writing with Integrity. 

Sanctions for Violations while on Honor Probation:

Honor Probation is a mandatory sanction for any violation of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct. SCAI maintains a record of students on Honor Probation. If a student on Honor Probation is found responsible for a subsequent violation, the sanction shall generally be Suspension in the first instance, or Expulsion in the second instance.

Other Possible Consequences and Outcomes:

Sanctions affecting a respondent’s academic record (such as a grade change for an assignment or course) may have additional consequences for the respondent’s academic status, such as lowering of a cumulative grade point average, loss of a graduate assistantship, and dismissal from an academic program.

Violations of the Honor Code and Standards of Academic Conduct may also lead to outcomes beyond the sanctions assigned by SCAI and in accordance with other university policies and procedures. These outcomes may include:

Termination or suspension of university employment or assistantships

Academic consequences, including suspension or dismissal, under applicable technical or professional standards of an academic program

Recommendation of revocation of a degree or certificate, such as when a violation invalidates a degree requirement [http://bulletin.vcu.edu/academic-regs/university/right-to-revoke/

VI. Records

Records of sanctions and other information related to academic integrity adjudication processes are part of the education record of the respondent and are generally protected from release to third parties under applicable state and federal law, including the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and VCU’s policy Release of the Educational Record of a Dependent Student. SCAI will provide notice as needed to university officials with a legitimate educational interest in knowing that particular information. This notice will include those officials responsible for implementing sanctions that change a respondent’s grade or academic record.

SCAI routinely receives requests for student disciplinary history from other institutions of higher education where a student seeks to enroll or from potential employers. However, SCAI generally provides student records in response to such requests only if authorized by the individual respondent whose records are requested or as required by law, such as in response to a lawfully issued subpoena or court order. SCAI will provide confirmation of a transcript notation that involves a respondent’s disciplinary history and disclose other information, as needed, consistent with FERPA’s requirements for protecting student privacy, to other institutions of higher education where a student seeks to enroll.

All records shall be maintained with sufficient safeguards to ensure confidentiality. An annual summary report of all cases, with identifying information removed, shall be made available upon request. De-identified cases and composite data will serve the purpose of honor education for the university community.

All records related to honor proceedings will be kept or destroyed in accordance with the Library of Virginia Records and Retention Disposition Schedule.

VII. Regular Review of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct

All Honor Council members participate in annual training on topics related to confidentiality and adjudication procedures.

The director of SCAI will oversee a regular review of the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct. The director will also administer and review regular surveys of reporting parties and respondents to determine the level of satisfaction with the content and procedures of this policy and to identify recommendations for possible changes.

Forms

1. Academic Integrity Reporting Form

Related Documents

1. VCU Policy: Procedures for Degree Revocation

2. VCU Policy: Release of the Educational Record of a Dependent Student

3. VCU Policy: Student Code of Conduct

Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

 

Approval/Revision Date Title
November 16, 2006 (effective fall 2007) VCU Honor System
December 12, 2013 Honor System
August 12, 2015 Honor System-Interim
August 27, 2016 Honor System

 

FAQ

 

1. Is this policy the only policy that governs academic conduct at VCU?

Certain academic programs have technical or professional standards that govern the conduct of students in those programs. These academic programs may take additional action if a student is found responsible for violating the university’s Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct and if that finding is evidence of a violation of applicable technical or professional standards. Academic programs that impose technical or professional standards on student conduct may include, but are not limited to, dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work, and others. Students are responsible for knowing the standards that govern their conduct and seeking guidance from their academic programs on the potential application of those standards if a student is found responsible for academic misconduct under this policy.

2. Are students able to report violations to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity? Is it anonymous? What happens after a student reports a violation?

If a student is aware of a violation, then they should report the violation to SCAI using the Academic Integrity Reporting Form. They should try to remember as much as they can about the nature of the violation so the information they provide is clear and precise. Students cannot submit a report anonymously because SCAI will need to contact them about the violation they witnessed. If a student has a question about whether they should report a violation or how to report a violation, they can find additional information on the website for SCAI, including ways to contact the office directly. 

After a student reports a violation, their involvement in the resolution of the allegation(s) is limited to serving as a witness. They will not receive additional information about the resolution of the allegation due to university policies regarding information privacy.

3. Are students able to ask members of the faculty to submit violations on their behalf?

A student who is aware of a violation or believes a violation may have taken place may ask a member of the faculty to submit a violation on their behalf. They should provide the faculty member with as much information as possible about the nature of the violation because the faculty member will have to complete a detailed report of the incident. Though the student will not be identified as the reporting party, they will be a witness and, as a result, may be contacted by SCAI when the allegation is investigated.

4. Is there a pledge I should include on submitted work?

The following pledge applies to EVERY examination, paper, or academic exercise:

“On my honor, I pledge that I am in compliance with the VCU Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct.”

Neither the presence nor the absence of a signed pledge statement shall exempt a student from the requirements of the Honor System.

5. Do I need to actually sign the pledge by hand on my work?

No. Pledges may be acknowledged digitally in addition to being signed by hand. For example, it is acceptable to type the pledge followed by your name or initials.

6. What kinds of Honor Code violations qualify for FAR? 

A primary consideration is whether a respondent would remain part of the class in question if the respondent is found responsible. FAR is therefore limited to allegations that qualify for Class-A sanctions based upon the severity of the infraction and if the respondent does not have a prior history of academic misconduct.

7. Who decides if an alleged violation is appropriate for FAR?

SCAI decides if an alleged violation is appropriate for FAR based upon their close familiarity and experience with the Honor System and Standards of Academic Conduct. SCAI will take account of the nature of the alleged violation as compared to other violations where other, more severe sanctions applied. SCAI will also take account of faculty assessment of the severity of the alleged violation in addition to whether the respondent has a history of prior academic misconduct. If a respondent has a history of prior academic misconduct, then SCAI will conduct the investigation and resolution of the alleged violation.

8. Can a student opt out of FAR and choose Administrative Resolution conducted by SCAI?

Yes, both faculty and students must agree to FAR, if it is offered. Should either the student or the faculty member opt out, then SCAI will conduct the investigation and resolution of the alleged violation.

9. Does SCAI influence the outcome of FAR?

The director of SCAI, or a designee, will review the outcomes of FAR for compliance with VCU policies, but the responsibility to conclude FAR falls upon the faculty member.

10. For Class-A Sanctions, who determines the length of Honor Probation?

The length of Honor Probation for Class-A Sanctions is determined by the administrator based upon the severity of the violation and in consideration of other similar violations that have been previously resolved. Decision Boards and Sanction Review Boards may also determine the length of Honor Probation when alleged violations are submitted for additional review.

11. What happens if someone is found responsible for academic misconduct while on Probation?

According to Section V - Sanctions under Policy Specifics and Procedures, respondents who are found responsible for academic misconduct while on Honor Probation may be suspended or expelled from the university.

12. Can members of a Decision Board also serve on a Sanction Review Board for the same alleged violation?

No. Sanction Review Boards are always chosen from members of the Honor Council who have not previously participated in the investigation, resolution, and/or Decision Boards for the alleged violation under consideration. No individual serves as a decision-maker at more than one stage of the adjudication process for a particular charge.

13. Are respondents able to attend Sanction Review Boards?

No. Sanction Review Boards do not meet with a respondent in person. Instead, the board considers only written evidence, including the reasons why a respondent has asked for sanctions to be reviewed.

14. Can a respondent request a Decision Board and a Sanction Review Board?

Not at the same time. Respondents may request a Decision Board when they do not agree with the finding of responsible. Sanction Review Boards, however, consider sanctions only when responsibility is no longer disputed. A respondent cannot, therefore, request both at the same time. A respondent can, however, request a Sanction Review Board after a Decision Board has delivered its findings because responsibility is no longer open to dispute.

15. Can a respondent ask a Decision Board to review sanctions and a finding of responsibility?

No. Respondents are able to request a Decision Board when they disagree with the finding of responsibility. Therefore, they must present a case to the Decision Board that explains why they are not actually responsible for an alleged violation. Respondents can only challenge a sanction when they accept responsibility for the violation.

16. What are my rights under a Decision Board hearing? Can I bring someone along?

Respondents may present relevant information to the alleged violation and explain why they disagree with the finding of responsible. Respondents may bring an adviser of their choice, such as for moral support, but the adviser is not allowed to participate in the hearing on the respondent’s behalf.

In the event English is not the respondent’s first language, the respondent may ask to bring a translator who may assist the respondent in communicating. However, SCAI will require the respondent to participate directly in all stages of the process. SCAI may also arrange for a translator if the respondent is unable to provide one or if a translator is deemed beneficial.

17. Are witnesses able to provide information about alleged offenses?

Yes, witnesses may provide information on behalf of the reporting party or the respondent about an alleged offense during administrative resolution and Decision Boards.

18. Who is eligible to serve on the Honor Council?

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students, university and academic professionals, classified staff and members of the faculty may serve on the Honor Council after completing the required training.

19. Is it a violation of the Honor System to take extra time on an exam or an assignment without permission from the instructor?

It depends. Taking extra time on an exam or an assignment without permission is a form of cheating because it leads to an unfair advantage. However, students with disabilities may register with SAEO in order to receive accommodations that include extra time.

20. Is it a violation of the Honor System to use a file-sharing or a question-and-answer website?

Yes, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes instructors may encourage the use of online resources like file-sharing or question-and-answer websites, but when an instructor has not given express permission to use these sites, students should be cautious about their use and check with faculty first. In general, websites that enable students to break the rules should be avoided, even if this is not what you intend.

21. The policy explains unauthorized possession of or access to academic materials is a form of cheating. What are examples of academic materials?

Examples of academic materials include, but are not limited to: answer keys, grading rubrics, old exams, old assignments, question banks and laboratory reports.

22. What are examples of “mitigating circumstances” that might justify having a transcript notation period reduced?

A respondent can apply to the Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs, or designee, to have any transcript notation period reduced for “mitigating circumstances”. Examples include academic achievement, no additional misconduct, demonstration of remorse and/or lessons learned, and letters of support from a program or faculty.

Acknowledgements

This Honor System has drawn material from Edward N. Stoner’s and John Wesley Lowery’s A Twenty-First Century Model Student Code of Conduct and a review of other universities’ policies, including Boston University; Carnegie Mellon University; Duke University; George Mason University; Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech); College of William & Mary; University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Maryland; University of Massachusetts, Boston; University of New Hampshire; University of Virginia; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).