Faculty Instructions for Handling Cases of Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty encompasses a wide range of activities, including, but not only: all forms of fraud, plagiarism, any failure to cite explicitly all materials and sources used in one’s work, cheating, lying, deception, and directly harming the work of others.

You must give students due process in suspected cases of academic dishonesty. In other words, you must clearly inform students of the problem and allow them the opportunity to either accept or deny responsibility for the charges no matter how strong the case is against them.

What To Do at All Times

  • State your expectations for academic honesty as part of your grading policy for every course. Faculty Senate policy requires instructors to include a statement on academic integrity on each syllabus. While there is no official recommended University statement, the College of Health and Human Development provides a recommended statement on the Academic Integrity Web page. The purpose of the Academic Integrity Statement is both to educate your students and to protect yourself should incidents arise later in the semester. A written statement is one way to ensure that students are made aware of Penn State policy, so they cannot claim ignorance later. In addition, some students are naive about plagiarism, associating it merely with copying and not with the use of ideas that they have paraphrased without proper citation.
  • Clearly state to students your expectations for such issues as group work and take-home assignments and exams.
  • Provide sufficient proctoring for exams.
  • Make use of the College of Health and Human Development Academic Integrity Web site. It includes links to the official college and University academic integrity policies; to information regarding academic integrity and your syllabus; to resources on preventing and detecting plagiarism, and on educating your students about plagiarism; to tips on how students can protect their academic integrity, and more. Consider including a link to this site on your syllabi as it is as useful for students as it is for faculty.

What To Do If You Suspect Academic Dishonesty

  • Before you take any action at all, inform yourself fully about the relevant academic integrity policies and procedures. Links to the official college and University policies can be found on the College of Health and Human Development Academic Integrity Web site.
  • Determine the sanction you deem appropriate. The document, Sanctioning Guidelines for Academic Integrity Violations (.pdf file), may assist you in this decision. Do consider the level of infraction as you determine your sanction. In general, minor infractions involve errors in judgment without a clear intent by the student to violate academic integrity. Moderate infractions are unpremeditated dishonest acts that directly affect only one student. Major infractions are premeditated dishonest acts, or dishonest acts that directly affect the grade of another student. If you have any questions about what sanction to recommend, contact Doug Ford (dof1@psu.edu or 814-863-6790), Academic Integrity Coordinator.
  • Arrange a meeting with the student as soon as possible. E-mail is acceptable only when distance precludes a face-to-face meeting. Simply informing the student by mail is not acceptable. Present the student with the information you have that suggests dishonest conduct, and ask for an explanation. Outline the basis for your allegation, and allow the student an opportunity to respond.
  • If you determine at this point that academic dishonesty has not occurred (perhaps this was a misunderstanding or simply a case of poor academic performance), the academic integrity process is concluded and nothing else needs to happen.

If You Determine That You Believe Academic Dishonesty Has Occured

  • If, in the course of your discussion with the student, you determine that you believe academic dishonesty has occurred, inform the student that you intend to file a charge, advise the student to read the college’s academic integrity policy, and inform the student of the academic and/or disciplinary sanction(s) that you intend to recommend.
  • Give the student a copy of your evidence and the Academic Integrity Form with the instructor portion completed. Keep a copy of the completed form in the event that the student does not sign and return it. In both cases—contesting and noncontesting—students have five days to sign and return the form. A student’s refusal to sign the form will be interpreted as acceptance of the charge(s) and sanction(s). If the student does not sign the form within five days, inform the academic integrity coordinator immediately and forward your signed copy, your statement, and your documentation to Doug Ford, Academic Integrity Coordinator, 201 Henderson Building.

If the student does not deny the allegation of academic dishonesty or contest the recommended sanction(s), ask him/her to sign the “I DO NOT CONTEST” portion of the Academic Integrity Form. Forward the signed form, a thorough statement of your case, and your completed documentation (see guidelines) to Doug Ford, Academic Integrity Coordinator, 201 Henderson Building.

If the student denies the allegation of academic dishonesty and contests the recommended sanction(s), ask him/her to sign the “I CONTEST” portion of the Academic Integrity Form and have him/her prepare a statement of the case from his/her perspective. Forward the signed form, a thorough statement of your case, and your completed documentation (see guidelines) to Doug Ford, Academic Integrity Coordinator, 201 Henderson Building. If preferred, the student can submit his/her statement directly to 201 Henderson Building.

Guidelines for Supporting Documentation

Assemble the following materials and return them to Doug Ford, Academic Integrity Coordinator, 201 Henderson Building:

  • A statement of the case from your perspective
  • A copy of your syllabus
  • A copy of the assignment in question
  • The student's assignment/paper (with the alleged violation clearly highlighted)
  • Supporting documentation
  1. If the supporting information is circumstantial or subjective in nature, then two corroborative pieces of information are suggested. For example, if a student was observed looking at another student’s test during an exam then a statement by a proctor attesting to this is considered a single piece of supporting information.
  2. Single pieces of supporting information are acceptable if they are such things as a cheat sheet, possession of two exam copies, formulae programmed into calculators, another student’s name appearing on the exam or the same student observed attending two exams at different times. Also an instructor’s direct observation of cheating is acceptable evidence.
  3. In cases of plagiarism, your documentation should include the student’s paper with the alleged plagiarized sections clearly highlighted and the Web sites or other documents from which they were drawn noted precisely. The corresponding Web sites/documents should be printed out with the alleged plagiarized sections highlighted as well. In cases where plagiarism is not word for word, the supporting information should provide a clear, and significant, link between the two documents. For example, copies of two similar papers might show consistent sentence or paragraph structures throughout.

If you have any questions as to how to compile your documentation, please contact Doug Ford (dof1@psu.edu or 814-863-6790).

  • Note that when a student contests the charge, you will receive a copy of the student’s statement/documentation and the student will receive a copy of your statement/documentation.
  • In the event that a case is not resolved by the end of the semester in which the charges were filed, record an “NG” (no grade) grade. Do not record an “F” grade or a “DF” (deferred). The eLion system will enter “NG” if you simply leave the student’s grade blank. Similarly, do not record a grade for the particular assignment in which an academic integrity case is pending.

What Not To Do in Suspected Cases of Academic Dishonesty

  • Do not handle the situation on your own by assigning a lower grade or simply failing the student. The college and University value academic integrity. Faculty, students, and administrators should “contribute actively to fostering a climate of academic integrity” (Statement by the Council of Academic Deans, 8/29/00). When we work in isolation with students who have committed acts of academic dishonesty, we foster unaccountability and disrespect for the intellectual rights and property of others. We also teach students that it is acceptable to commit these acts again. Engaging the formal academic integrity policy conveys the seriousness of the situation and reduces the incidence of repeat infractions.
  • Do not take any action or treat the student in any way that can be considered prejudicial or punitive at any point in the process. Do not threaten the student (e.g., “if you don’t sign the form the sanctions will be worse”).
  • Do not contact the Office of Student Conduct before discussing the situation with your department head or staff in the dean’s office. The HHD academic integrity coordinator will arrange for the necessary Office of Student Conduct contacts to check for prior violations.
  • Do not advise the student to drop the course; doing so violates University policy. The student should continue in the course until resolution. The following is an excerpt from the G-9 Procedures for Academic Integrity:
    “Once a student has been informed that academic dishonesty is suspected, the student may not drop the course during the adjudication process. Any drop or withdrawal from the course during this time will be reversed. A student who has received an academic sanction as a result of a violation of academic integrity may not drop or withdraw from the course at any time. These actions include regular drop, late drop, withdrawal, retroactive late drop and retroactive withdrawal. Any such drop action of the course will be reversed.”
  • In a contested case, do not impose an academic sanction or proceed with the case in any way until you are instructed to take action.
  • Do not contact, or discuss the case with, members of the college committee prior to a review. If you have questions at any point in the process, contact the HHD academic integrity coordinator. Indeed, accusations of violation of academic integrity should be kept strictly confidential and not shared with others unless the others have a legitimate need to know about the situation.

If at any time during a case you are not sure what to do, contact the college academic integrity coordinator.

Dennis Shea
Academic Integrity Coordinator
College of Health and Human Development
345 Health and Human Development Building
Heather Zimmerman
Academic Integrity Staff Assistant