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Frequently Asked Questions
The reporting, investigating, and adjudicating procedures are spelled out in detail in the Honor Code. The following is intended to answer the most commonly-asked questions. Please keep in mind that the information here is very abridged. For detailed procedures you should consult the Honor Code.
How does the Honor Board decide to investigate someone?
There is a misperception that Honor Board members monitor the behavior of other students and initiate investigations based on what they find. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most typical scenario is that a professor suspects that a student has plagiarized or collaborated on an assignment, and notifies the Honor Board. Sometimes a fellow student witnesses dishonest behavior and reports it to the Honor Board. A student could also turn themselves in.
I saw [or know of] another student doing something dishonest. What should I do?
If you are reasonably certain of what you saw, then you must report it to the Honor Board. If you know about an Honor Code violation and you do not report it, that in itself is an Honor Code violation.
How do I report something to the Honor Board?
You should write out a detailed description of what you witnessed, sign and date it, and give it to the Registrar, the Honor Board President, or the Academic Standing Committee Chair. Once you have reported something, you should keep it confidential while the Honor Board takes the appropriate action.
How does the investigation process work?
When the Honor Board gets a case, a committee of two Honor Board members (students) and one faculty member is convened. They first decide whether the case warrants investigation, and if it does they notify the student that they are under investigation. This is done by serving the student via the Registrar’s Office.
What happens next?
The committee will investigate the alleged offense, which includes giving the accused student the opportunity to speak with them. Once the investigation is complete, the investigating committee determines either that there is not probable cause that an Honor Code violation occurred, and dismisses the case, or determines that there is probable cause that an Honor Code violation occurred, and usually offers the student an informal resolution (similar to a plea bargain).
What if the student doesn’t want to accept the informal resolution?
You should know that if you accept an informal resolution, it is an admission of guilt. Your other option is to request a formal adjudication. The investigating committee can also go directly to a formal adjudication without offering an informal resolution first. Keep in mind that if you turn down an informal resolution, and then at the formal adjudication you are found guilty, it is very possible that you will receive a more severe sanction than what was offered as an informal resolution.
What happens at a formal adjudication?
The investigating committee acts as the prosecution for the case. A judicial panel of three Honor Board members (students) and two faculty members is convened to hear the evidence. The student-defendant can (but does not have to) present a defense. They can be represented if they wish, and can request that the hearing be open to the public. The hearing usually lasts a few hours, and the judicial panel hands down a decision, including sanctions if appropriate, soon thereafter.
Can a student appeal the decision?
Yes, you can appeal an adjudication panel’s decision to the Dean of the Law School. However, if you accept an informal resolution you cannot then appeal.
How long does the whole process take?
The process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on different factors and procedural outcomes. The Honor Board’s policy is to expedite every case. Especially in the case of an accused student who is close to graduation, the case will be resolved as quickly as possible.
I just found out that I am under investigation. What should I do?
Only you can decide what your best course of action is, but some common advice is to confide in your friends and family, and to consider retaining outside counsel if feasible. You should learn and understand the adjudication procedure very well, and keep track of the status of your case. You should stay calm and continue to work on your studies as best you can.
A professor told me he gave my exam paper to the Honor Board for investigation, but I have not heard anything more about it. How can I find out what’s going on?
You have a right to know whether there is an investigation pending against you, and the status of it. If it has been a couple of weeks and no one has officially notified you, it is possible that your case was determined not to be an honor issue and subsequently dismissed, because the Honor Board didn’t realize you were even aware of the matter. You have nothing to lose by contacting the Honor Board. We get a small number of cases each year so there is no danger that by contacting the board you will accelerate an investigation that might otherwise have been dropped.
I’m terrified that I might inadvertently violate the Honor Code and be brought up on charges. Is this possible?
Although many behaviors would violate the Honor Code, the most common alleged violation is plagiarism. You do not have to intend to plagiarize in order to commit the offense. So yes, it is possible for you to plagiarize without intending to, maybe because you rushed to get a paper written, or weren’t sure what sources were allowed while doing an assignment. The best way to avoid committing a violation, even an unintentional one, is to be careful and attentive when doing assignments; to ask the professor for clarification if an assignment is confusing; and to always err on the side of caution. The last thing you ever want to do is rush through an assignment and cut corners.
Is there anything I should be particularly careful of?
One of the biggest problems for students is the accessibility of information on the internet and in reference materials. You might find something on a website or in a formbook that exactly matches the assignment you are working on. You should assume that the professor did not intend for you to search the web to find something to submit, or for you to copy reference material word for word. Again, if you are unsure, speak to the professor before submitting the assignment. And if anything you submit contains someone else’s work or ideas, make sure that you properly acknowledge it.
I’ve read cases where students received letters in their files, marks on their transcripts, and other punishments. What is the significance of these sanctions, and how do they affect someone after they’ve graduated?
Obviously, something on your transcript or in your file will be red flag to whoever sees it, including the Committee on Character and Fitness, the Bar Association, and future employers. Your transcript and file are permanent records that will follow you for the rest of your legal career.