Faculty Information and Frequently asked Questions

HOW THE PROCESS WORKS:

Step 1: A faculty member discovers a potential integrity violation that falls under the category of cheating, plagiarism, stealing, or lying.

Step 2: The faculty member visits the Academic Integrity website and downloads an Academic Integrity Referral form as well as a Professor Sanction Recommendation Form.

Step 3: The faculty member completes the faculty and testimony form, as well as the sanction recommendation form.  For the sanction recommendation form, the professor may not know if this is the student’s first offense.  To that end, the professor should submit a recommendation based on each circumstance (first, second and third violations).

Step 4: The faculty member forwards the Academic Integrity Referral form, the sanction recommendation form, a copy of the syllabus for the indicated course, and any relevant information related to the incident of academic dishonesty to the Office of Academic Integrity either via email (oai@gmu.edu) or via upload on the Honor Code Referral Organization on Blackboard.  Please note that you will need to search for and add yourself to the Honor Code Referral organization.

Step 5: The faculty member is then notified of next steps in the process.  In the meantime, if the case arises at the end of the semester, the faculty member should report an HC grade, which will generate a NR notation on the student’s transcript. The faculty member should work with the department to make sure this notation does not block the student from classes until the case is resolved.  Since a finding of responsibility has not been rendered, the faculty member should not issue a grade for the assignment or the class until the process is complete.

SUGGESTED SYLLABUS LANGUAGE:

At the start of each semester the Office of the Provost sends out a message detailing baseline information that must be included on each course syllabus.  Included in this message is a statement around academic integrity.  If your program, department, or college has standards around integrity related to specific courses, it is important to include this info in the syllabus as well. A sample statement is as follows.  Please feel free to use and/or adapt as needed:

Academic Integrity: It is expected that students adhere to the George Mason University Honor Code as it relates to integrity regarding coursework and grades.  The Honor Code reads as follows:”To promote a stronger sense of mutual responsibility, respect, trust, and fairness among all members of the George Mason University community and with the desire for greater academic and personal achievement, we, the student members of the University Community have set forth this: Student members of the George Mason University community pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal and/or lie in matters related to academic work.”  More information about the Honor Code, including definitions of cheating, lying, and plagiarism, can be found at the Office of Academic Integrity website at http://oai.gmu.edu

CULTURAL VARIATIONS

Students from other countries may interpret the Honor Code and some of its components such as “cheating” or “plagiarism” differently than students who were exposed to the definitions in context of education in the United States. It is important for professors to explain their policies and expectations clearly since the concept of integrity may not be clear to those from other cultures. For more information, link to the Faculty Guide from Carnegie Mellon university that covers the topic of “Cultural Variations,” specifically pages 12-19 of the document.

Also, please consider Pennsylvania State’s University website that contains an excellent article on cultural issues in regard to academic integrity.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What should I do if I suspect a student has violated the Honor Code?

It is expected that faculty refer students suspected of violating the Honor Code to the Office of Academic Integrity.  The process is designed to protect the faculty member from false accusations of bias and to protect the student’s due process rights.  Keep in mind that this requirement should not be confused with the professor’s autonomy to determine what situations are simple grading issues, and which are actual attempts at academic dishonesty.  If you are not sure, please feel free to contact our office to consult with a staff member.

What are typical sanction recommendations?

Sanctions vary due to the manner in which the violations occur. Some recommendations are department specific. You will need to consult your department to determine if there is a departmental matrix around academic integrity cases.  Typical sanctions for a first time offense include a zero on the assignment, a reduced grade on the assignment and/or in the class, an option to rewrite/redo the assignment, an F in the course, referral to the online Academic Integrity Seminar (values and ethics driven), and/or a referral to the writing center.  Suspension may be warranted in first violations depending on the circumstances and nature of the violation.

Typical sanctions for a second offense usually include an F in the course and suspension from the institution.  A third offense usually results in expulsion.

Can I just give a failing grade without going through this process?

No.  All matters involving academic integrity and violations of the University Honor Code must be submitted tot he Office of Academic Integrity.  Handling such matters without allowing the student’s right to due process is against university policy.  If legal action were to be taken, you would not be protected by the Office of University Counsel.

What does the resolution process look like?

Every student has the right to have the their case heard through the Academic Integrity process.  If the student disputes the charge(s), their case will be heard in accordance with the Office of Academic Integrity policies as spelled out in the Honor System.  If the case requires an in-person panel, it is scheduled around the student’s class schedule.  In order to observe a timely process, referring parties are asked to make arrangements to be present at the hearing.  If you are unable to appear in person, we can arrange for you to phone in or participate via Skype.  If you are unable to appear at all, please note that we may have to proceed with the supporting information you have provided, especially in cases where the process is preventing a student from graduating or proceeding forward in their course of study.   The hearing panel will consider all written documentation and all oral presentations from both parties.  They will then deliberate in private and make a decision based on the facts of the case.

What should I expect after I submit a referral packet to the Office of Academic Integrity?

As soon as your completed referral packet is received by the Office for Academic Integrity, an email is sent to the student’s Mason account which outlines the charge.  Once a case has been submitted for review by the Office for Academic Integrity, it is your decision as to whether or not you will discuss the case with the student.  Some faculty members choose not to discuss the case to maintain fairness and equity among students referred.  All undergraduate students who are charged with an Honor Code violation are required to meet with a member of the Academic Integrity staff to review the details of the referral.  At this meeting, the student has the opportunity to review all materials in the referral packet.  Resolution options are explained in terms of taking the case to the Honor Committee for review or opting to accept responsibility (and the professor’s recommended sanctions) if the violation is acknowledged. Typically, cases can be resolved within 10 days if the student accepts responsibility at the pre-hearing meeting.