How to maintain academic integrity: why it matters
As a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, you are a member of a community of scholars, one for which the principles of truthfulness and accuracy—the simple acts of giving credit where it is due, and respecting the work of others—are of paramount importance in creating a foundation for personal values and professional ethics. In order for credentials like grades and degrees to have meaning, they have to be earned within the context of these values.
What constitutes a violation of academic integrity?
Most commonly, the Student Code defines violations of academic integrity as cheating, plagiarism, and assisting others in a manner not prescribed or allowed for in the original assignment or directions. However, other practices may constitute infractions, as well, such as: the fabrication or falsification of data and documents; bribes, favors, and threats; academic interference; computer-related infractions; unauthorized use of university resources; unauthorized sale of class materials or notes; and failure to comply with research regulations.
In its simplest form, plagiarism is the submission of work not wholly your own: term papers, lab and project reports, homework, computer programs. It doesn’t matter if the unoriginal portion is the entire assignment or part of the assignment, nor does it matter if the assignment is a draft or if the person who did the original work gave you permission to use it.
What constitutes “work” can be harder to determine, especially when a paper or report assignment requires you to gather ideas and information from other sources. Cutting and pasting even small amounts of text from other authors, or even a single figure, without citing the source properly, can constitute plagiarism.
There are several correct ways to use material from other authors in your own academic work: you can quote directly and cite the original source; you can paraphrase and cite the original source; or you can weave facts and information into your work and cite the original source. Example resource: University Library Guide on Citing Sources.
Avoiding cheating and accusations of cheating
First and foremost, you should take all tests and quizzes without assistance of any kind unless such collaboration is required or otherwise allowed by the instructional faculty of the course. Additionally, you should make sure you understand what materials are allowed in exams and make sure you don’t bring things that aren’t allowed. You should also be prepared to show your student ID whenever you take an exam, and you should never pass anything to another student or touch your cell phone during an exam. In short, you should avoid any behavior that can be interpreted as cheating.
Avoiding plagiarism and accusations of plagiarism
In any course where you are required to submit an essay, report, term paper, etc., be sure you know how the instructor expects you to cite material from other authors.
When you are doing research for the assignment, keep a record of the source for each piece of information you gather. In doing so, you will have the data you need for the citation if you use that information in your paper. Also, make sure you indicate which notes are direct quotations. (A simple way is to put quotation marks around the text if you have copied it directly from the source into your notes). Then, if you use the quotation in your paper, you can mark it accordingly.
Always save your research notes, outlines, drafts, etc. until after the semester is over. Should you be accused of plagiarism, these materials can help demonstrate how you arrived at the final result.
Avoiding the improper assistance of others
Do not take an exam for someone else; do not pass information to another student during an exam, or purposely hold your exam paper so that another student can see your answers; do not take someone else’s iClicker to class and click for him or her as that’s a violation of academic integrity for both of you.
Giving another student a copy of your lab report, computer program, or homework solution can also be construed as an academic integrity violation.
Team projects, study groups, collaborative work
Some classes require you to work as part of a team or group. Other students may invite you to form a study group for a particular course. Collaborative study is a good thing, but the work you submit must be your own unless the instructor has explicitly asked you or has given you permission to submit group work.
The academic integrity infraction process
How to handle violations: The role of the Student Code
The Student Code provides an orderly process for dealing with academic integrity violations, one that includes certain protections for students. This document outlines the process and suggests some approaches for navigating that process. However, the Student Code itself is the authoritative source for academic integrity procedures. In cases where there appears to be conflict between this document and the Student Code, the Student Code governs.
The process should involve the following stages: instructor allegation; student response; instructor investigation; instructor decision and sanction, where appropriate. In cases where the student is found to have committed an academic integrity infraction, he or she has the right to appeal the instructor’s decision, sanction, or both.
If an instructor appears to change your grade because of an academic integrity infraction but is not following these steps, you should check with the main office of the department offering the course, or with the AHS Undergraduate Affairs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The instructor’s initial determination and your response
To initiate the formal Student Code process, the instructor informs you via email he or she has reason to believe you have committed an academic integrity infraction. The allegation notice should state what the instructor is accusing you of, and provide enough information that you can respond substantively to the allegation. You have up to 10 business days (Monday-Friday) to respond to the allegation.
If you are accused of an academic integrity infraction, you should continue attending class and submit all assignments. An allegation is an initial question, not a final answer. With more information, the instructor may decide you did not commit a violation, or, he or she could decide you indeed committed an infraction and the sanction is relatively light. As dropping the course is only possible in certain circumstances, it is always in your best interest to keep doing all course work.
It can also be a good idea to seek the advice of a knowledgeable person with whom you have a good relationship, such as your academic advisor.
Next, you should respond to the allegation. Your response is your first and best chance to influence the process, and you should respond carefully and thoughtfully. If you actually did commit the violation, your best course of action is to admit it. If you did not commit the violation, this is your chance to convince the instructor of that. Gather whatever evidence you may have—rough drafts of your paper, research notes—and present it to the instructor.
If you did something wrong, but not everything of which you are accused, you should admit to the parts you did do, and make a case for your innocence on the other parts.
The instructor’s decision and sanction
The instructor should use all available information, including everything you provided, to determine the facts of the case. The instructor then determines if it is more true than not true that you have committed an infraction. This decision and sanction, if any, should be communicated to you in writing. This letter should also include a brief explanation of the facts, the sanction and basis for the decision, and a statement regarding your right to appeal the decision and/or sanction. At that time, you will have five business days from the date of the instructor’s decision notice to indicate your intent to appeal.
If the instructor concludes you did not commit an infraction, then the allegation will be removed from your records and the case is closed. You may continue in the course and be given the grade to which you are entitled without regard to the infraction charge, or you may drop the course or change sections, if possible. Please note: if you intend to drop the course after the applicable drop deadline, you must indicate your desire to drop the course within 10 business days of the instructor’s decision.
If the instructor finds you committed an infraction, he or she will impose a sanction. All guilty findings result in information being placed in your files in the department, college office, and in the campus office of the Senate Committee on Student Discipline. Sanctions can include a reduced or failing grade on the assignment, or a reduced or failing grade in the course. If your letter mentions suspension or dismissal from the university, find more information about what that means below.
Your choices at this point are either to accept the finding and sanction, or to appeal one or both of them. If you accept the finding and sanction, then the case is closed. You may be permitted to drop or declare the credit/no credit option if the sanction is less than a failing grade for the course and you were otherwise eligible to elect the option at the time of the infraction charge.
The appeal process
Again, you have five working days after the decision/sanction notice to indicate your wish to appeal. To initiate an appeal, you must tell the department that offers the course—not the instructor. Usually the person to notify is named in your decision/sanction letter. As defined by the Student Code, you may appeal on the basis of the determination, sanction, procedure, or new information which makes it substantially more likely you did not commit the infraction.
Appeals of sanctions of less than failure for the course are heard by a departmental committee. Appeals of sanctions of failure for the course are heard by the college in which the course is offered.
The results of the appeal hearing are final.
What happens next?
Whenever you are determined to have committed an infraction, a report of the infraction and sanction are sent to your college and the Senate Committee on Student Discipline. You will also be notified that the incident is being recorded in your college and campus files. Your disciplinary records are kept by the college and campus for six years. If you sign a waiver allowing someone to see your academic records, the university is obligated to report all academic integrity infractions on your record at the time of the request. Without a waiver, no one outside the university can see your disciplinary record.
You cannot apply for grade replacement for any course in which you have a reported academic integrity infraction. You can re-take the course, but the original grade will always be part of your GPA calculation, along with the new grade.
The grade for the course will appear on your transcript—whatever it is after the sanction is applied. However, the transcript will not contain information regarding academic integrity infractions.
Suspension and dismissal
Violations can be serious enough that a student can be suspended or dismissed from the university. No one is expelled from the University of Illinois.
An instructor cannot suspend or dismiss a student by themselves. A separate hearing may be held at the college level to determine whether or not the instructor’s recommendation of suspension or dismissal is appropriate. If the college supports the recommendation, the matter is turned over to the Senate Committee on Student Discipline for final review and decision. They, in turn, will hold an additional hearing, at which the student is entitled to be present. A representative of the college is also usually present. For the purposes of this hearing, the instructor’s finding, as modified by any appeal committee, is accepted as fact, and the student may not contest it. The remaining open question is whether the facts warrant suspension or dismissal.
The Senate Committee on Student Discipline is the body that has the authority to suspend or dismiss a student from the University of Illinois. The committee has the option to agree or disagree with the college’s recommendation in part or as a whole. If the committee does not agree with the recommendation of suspension or dismissal, it may impose a lesser formal sanction and/or educational sanctions, along with the course-based sanction imposed by the Instructor. Students who are dismissed must apply to the committee for reinstatement, and they can only do so after stopping out a specified amount of time (often one year), and after completing a number of steps toward rehabilitation.
The committee’s decisions regarding suspension or dismissal are final and cannot be appealed.