Common Concerns

We often get questions that are asked frequently by various members of the campus community.  There are also times we receive questions that may not seem common, but that other individuals can learn from.  You can find some of those concerns and questions addressed on this page.

Common Student Questions

You will receive a letter via email to your Mason email account (Mason's official form of communication) that a referral has been received.  You will need to schedule and keep a meeting with a staff member in the Office of Academic Integrity within seven days of the letter to review the case materials and decide the next course of action.  The meeting is NOT A HEARING.  It is a chance to review all the materials received by the referring party and determine how you (the student) would like to resolve the case.

You can bring anyone with you.  Some students come alone, some students bring a trusted advisor, and some students bring their parents. Anyone in the room during the pre-hearing meeting can ask questions.  The student will need to complete a FERPA waiver prior to the meeting taking place giving our office permission to discuss the case in the presence of the student's advisor/parents.

Yes.  You have the option of asking for the Honor Committee to review your case.  The form that review takes depends on the recommended sanction sent over by the referring party.  If the referring party recommends suspension  or permanent dismissal from Mason, you are eligible for a full in person hearing.  If not, your case will be turned over to the committee for an expedited review which requires you to submit a written statement with any additional supporting documentation.  More details around this process can be found in the full reading of the honor code.

No.  Once a referral is in progress, the student may not drop or withdraw unless they are found to be not in violation of the Honor Code.  If the student drops the course, they will be re-enrolled.

Absolutely!  Some sanction outcomes if you are found responsible will not impact your ability to complete the class with a passing grade.  Even if a sanction outcome would, it is not a forgone conclusion that you will be found responsible.  If you are contesting the allegation, continue to go to class so you don't miss critical work.

No.  We provide ample time for students to complete educational sanctions.  Failure to complete sanctions will result in a registration hold being placed on the student's account.  The hold is only lifted upon confirmation that the student completed the sanction.

The Honor Committee does not take into account intent with regard to Honor Code cases.  They look at whether or not a violation took place.

Contact our office and the department chair.   Professors should not adjudicate cases on their own and you have a right to contest an allegation.

The Honor Committee will proceed to hear the case with the information they have available to them.  A registration hold may be placed on your account, which will prevent registration, the processing of graduation and degree conferral, and transcript processing.

Common Referring Party Questions

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.  Additionally, refrain from submitting a grade for the assignment in question or the course until after the conclusion of the case.

If a student is referred and the outcome is grade related, the professor should not grade the assignment in question until a determination is made with regard to the alleged integrity violation.  If a decision has not been rendered prior to the point in the semester where grades are due, the professor should submit a grade notation of HC in Patriot web. This will generate an NR designation on the student's transcript until the case has concluded. The NR designation does not impact the student's G.P.A. It is merely an indicator that the professor has not yet recorded a grade for the course.  Unlike an incomplete, an NR is not time sensitive and does not expire and automatically convert to a grade of F on the transcript.  The NR designation can remain indefinitely.

Faculty members should submit an Academic Integrity Referral Form, a Professor Sanction Recommendation form, the syllabus for the course, and all materials relevant to the case that they deem necessary to show that an alleged violation took place.  These materials can include Safe Assign reports, copies of documents the student is alleged to have used in their materials, photos, witness statements, or other information they deem relevant. If it appears a document referenced in your referral form is missing, our staff will contact you to ask if you plan to include it, but will not ask with regard to information you fail to reference or provide.  Keep in mind the student is allowed access to all the material you submit in a referral in order to prepare a response to your referral.   Please note a failure to do so may result in your case being dismissed against the student.

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 or permanent dismissal from Mason 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 permanent dismissal from Mason.

No. All matters involving academic integrity and violations of the University Honor Code must be submitted to the 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.

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 Code. 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.

No.  Upon resolution of the case, faculty are responsible for updating grades with the registrar.  To do so, access a grade change form and obtain the required signatures and submit it to the Registrar.  The Office of Academic Integrity processes educational sanction materials as well as suspension and permanent dismissal paper work with the Registrar.

A Word About FERPA

A Word About The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

 As Mason employees, it is important that faculty members abide by the regulations required by FERPA.  All employees should complete the FERPA training provided by the Registrar’s office.  Individuals can register for this training by visiting  This includes not sharing information with individuals who do not have an educational need to know unless the student has signed a release authorizing the sharing of said information.  Academic Integrity records require a separate FERPA waiver that is different than the general waiver students may sign upon admission with the Registrar’s office.  For information to be shared outside of this qualification, the student must sign a waiver indicating who the information should be released to.  Only a student has the authorization to release their information.

Sometimes there are questions about who is defined as an individual who has “an educational need to know.”  At Mason with regard to Academic Integrity records, individuals who fall into this category include:

  • The referring parties
  • If applicable, the course coordinator for the course in question
  • Department Chairs/Deans who have to sign off on decisions/grade changes
  • Individuals in the academic department who are responsible for grade updates and record keeping

Individuals who do not fall into this category include but are not limited to:

  • Academic Advisors
  • Other professors in the department not linked directly to the course
  • Potential employers (any questions about a student’s conduct background from an employer should be directed to the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Academic Integrity at 703-993-6209)
  • External parties who may be the source of information for a referral (for example, off site internship coordinators)-you can request information to supplement your referral but cannot provide case updates to these individuals.

If you have questions about a case and who can have access to the information, please contact our office at 703-993-6209 or before taking any action.