Frequently Asked Questions

HONOR SYSTEM & Standards of Academic Conduct

FAQs

FAQ

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

A. 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.

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

A. If a student is aware of a violation, then they should report the violation to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity 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 Student Conduct and Academic Integrity 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 Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, 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.

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

A. 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 Student Conduct and Academic Integrity when the allegation is investigated.

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

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

A. Student Conduct and Academic Integrity 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. Student Conduct and Academic Integrity will take account of the nature of the alleged violation as compared to other violations where other, more severe sanctions applied. Student Conduct and Academic Integrity 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 Student Conduct and Academic Integrity will conduct the investigation and resolution of the alleged violation.

Q. Can a student opt out of FAR and choose Administrative Resolution conducted by Student Conduct and Academic Integrity?

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

Q. Does Student Conduct and Academic Integrity influence the outcome of FAR?

A. The director of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, 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.

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

Q. Are respondents able to attend Sanction Review Boards?

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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, Student Conduct and Academic Integrity will require the respondent to participate directly in all stages of the process. Student Conduct and Academic Integrity may also arrange for a translator if the respondent is unable to provide one or if a translator is deemed beneficial.

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

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

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

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

A. 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.

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

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

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

A. 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.

Q: What does a hold on my registration mean?

A: The University will not issue a degree to any student accused of a possible violation of the Honor System & Standards of Academic Conduct until a case has been investigated and adjudicated completely, including appeals.  A hold will be placed for all students classified as seniors, graduate or professional students. 

Q: What is FERPA & will the student’s parents or guardians be notified of a violation?

A: The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 1974) affords students the right to consent to disclose their educational records. A student can authorize, in writing, to have a designated person access confidential academic information. Find additional information at https://rar.vcu.edu/records/family-educational-rights-and-privacy-act/index.html

A student’s parent or guardian will not be notified of an alleged Honor System & Standards of Academic Conduct violation; a student can authorize their parent or guardian to have access to view confidential information.

Q: How can students learn more about properly representing words, ideas, facts, opinions theories, illustrations, tables or any part of another’s work within their own and properly acknowledging sources?

A: Consider taking advantage of some or all of the following options:

  • Consult with your professor or instructor regarding your specific concern or question.
  • Enroll in UNIV 101: Intro to the University-The Honor System & Standards of Academic Conduct will be discussed and reviewed.
  • Enroll in UNIV 200 and or UNIV 111/112: Focused Inquiry-Proper research, drafting and citing techniques are taught throughout the semester.
  • Utilize the University Writing Center.
  • Review items with your thesis or dissertation advisor.
  • Attend VCU Libraries, Cabell Library Workshop on Writing with Integrity.
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