Approved by the Academic Faculty Assembly on February 21, 2003; revised by the Academic Faculty Assembly on May 2, 2008; revised by the Academic Faculty Assembly on December 6, 2012; revised by the Academic Faculty Assembly on October 25, 2013.
The values of honesty, scholarship and the pursuit of excellence are central to the mission of Trinity University. The Academic Honor Code is the system through which Trinity students uphold these values by assuming individual responsibility for integrity. An environment that encourages personal responsibility facilitates one of the highest aims of education, the free pursuit of knowledge.
At its core the Academic Honor Code is based on trust. Because trust is the bond that forms among all members of the Trinity community, it cannot exist independently or in a vacuum. Thus, it is essential that all members of the Trinity community conduct themselves in a way that exemplifies integrity. Trinity students are trusted and expected to be honest in their academic work. Any violation of the Academic Honor Code destroys the value of the work, erodes the spirit of trust, and negatively impacts the mission of the University.
Upon matriculation, students will sign an agreement that they will abide by the Academic Honor Code policy. The Academic Honor Code covers all academic work. Instructors will designate what, if any, type of collaboration or assistance is authorized for each assignment. Students are required to add the statement “On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized assistance on this work” and their signature to each assignment to reinforce and reaffirm their adherence to the Academic Honor Code. (Instructors may allow students to shorten this statement by simply writing “pledged” followed by a signature.)
It is a basic assumption that credit is awarded for the work of the individual student and judged according to its quality. Violations of the Academic Honor Code thus involve an infraction of that basic assumption. Such violations include but are not limited to:
It is also a basic assumption that violations of academic integrity are not confined to courses taken for credit. Violations of the Academic Honor Code thus include but are not limited to:
It shall be the responsibility of the Academic Honor Council to hear all cases involving infractions against the Academic Honor Code and to determine sanctions in those cases where a violation has occurred. It shall be the responsibility of the Academic Honor Council as well to orient all incoming students to the Academic Honor Code every fall. The responsibility for annual orientation of the faculty shall reside with the Council’s faculty advisers with the support of the Office of Academic Affairs. The Academic Honor Council shall provide an annual report to the University community, detailing the number of cases and sanctions levied. Finally, it shall be within the purview of the Academic Honor Council to review and improve procedures as needed. Procedural changes may be amended by a majority vote of the membership of the Academic Honor Council providing the proposed amendment is distributed in writing to all members at least five (5) class days prior to the meeting at which the amendment is to be considered.
The present document includes both the Honor Code proper and the procedures approved by the Honor Council. (These procedures have previously been known also as Bylaws.) The Honor Code is in roman text, and the procedures are in italics. Amendments to the Honor Code, in roman text, must follow the amendment procedure specified in section VI below, while amendments to the procedures, in italics, require only a majority vote of the Honor Council, as specified in the preceding paragraph.
Class days are defined as any day on which classes are held, any day on which exams are being administered, and any day that the university designates to be a reading day.
In conjunction with Academic Affairs, the Honor Council shall adopt a budget consistent with its function and needs in the spring semester.
Recommendations for permanent removal of council members will be routed through the faculty advisers. The AVPAA will consult with all appropriate parties and make all final decisions.
The external chair shall coordinate all educational functions of the Council, including the orientation of new students at the beginning of each academic year. All new students and transfer students will be oriented to the Honor Code, and will pass an examination testifying to their familiarity with it. The external chair is also charged with coordinating relations with the student body, faculty, and staff. This includes receiving and processing complaints from students, faculty members, and staff, researching and answering any questions students, faculty, or staff might have pertaining to the Code or the Council, addressing any concerns students, faculty, or staff might have pertaining to the Code or the Council, and coordinating the selection of new council members with the ASR. The external chair will coordinate and preside over general meetings of the council, unless the external chair delegates these responsibilities to the internal chair.
The internal chair shall coordinate all internal functions of the Council, including judicial processes and concerns involving the performance of individual council members. It is the responsibility of the internal chair to ensure that the Honor Code and the Bylaws of the Council are being followed, and that the Council is working effectively together. The internal chair is also charged with the creation and maintenance of all records pertaining to the Council’s judicial proceedings, including the opening of files, the coordination of all paperwork and filing involved in an open case, and the preservation of closed files. Before assigning an Honor Council member to a case, the internal chair shall check with the member to verify that a conflict of interest does not exist. If a conflict does exist, the member will decline to participate in the case and send a brief written explanation of the conflict to the internal chair to be kept on file. Without such a conflict of interest, members shall only be allowed to decline participation in a case twice per academic year. The internal chair will be given a schedule of foreseeable scheduling conflicts by each council member at the beginning of each semester so that assignments may be made more easily.
In the event that an accused student appears in front of the Honor Council more than once, it is the responsibility of the internal chair to ensure that Council members do not participate in more than one of the cases.
Case-presenters generally serve no investigative function beyond gathering evidence provided by those they represent. Case-presenters serve to inform the parties of Honor Council procedure, assist them with the presentation of evidence, and present that evidence in a coherent report to be made before the hearing panel. Case-presenters will contact their assigned parties—the complainant or the accused—by the end of the second class day following the opening of the case, that is, after the accused student is first notified. Upon conferring with their assigned parties as soon as it is possible to do so, case-presenters are to answer any questions that their assigned parties may have as to Honor Council procedures, while also gaining a familiarity with the circumstances of the case.
Case-presenters should exchange evidence and statements to be presented at the hearing. All evidences and statements must be approved by the case presenter for relevance and objectivity to be admissible in the hearing. The evidence and statements should then be shared with the accused student and the University at least 48 hours before the scheduled hearing. Both the University and the student can continue editing their statements and adding evidence up until and during the hearing. Case presenters reserve the right to refuse evidences or revisions of statements if not submitted in a timely manner.
Case-presenters are also responsible for composing a witness list if either the accused student or the University wishes the hearing panel to call witnesses. Case-presenters will submit witness lists to the presiding member at least three class days before the hearing. Lists will include a written statement of justification for each potential witness.
The presiding member will approve any lists of witnesses based on a witness’ knowledge relevant to the facts of the case. Witnesses testifying to the character of the accused do not satisfy this criterion and will therefore not be accepted. The presiding member shall notify all witnesses of their requested appearance before the hearing panel at least two class days before the hearing.
Within reason, witnesses are to make themselves available throughout the duration of all Honor Council proceedings.
The presiding member is charged with the primary responsibility of managing the case. He or she is responsible for notifying the complainant and accused student of the date and time of hearing. The notification should indicate to the complainant and student that their presence at the hearing is crucial in serving their own interests. The presiding member, as indicated above, handles the witness lists provided by case-presenters. The presiding member is also responsible for writing the opinion of the hearing panel following the hearing unless he or she is a dissenting member. All procedure involving the hearing is led by the presiding member as well.
The two other members of the hearing panel are to participate fully in the hearing and deliberation that follows. Non-presiding members may be charged with the writing of opinions should the presiding member be in the minority of a decision and choose to author a dissenting opinion.
All council members are expected to attend every meeting unless they receive the internal chair’s approval to be absent, as well as to fulfill the obligations of any post to which they are assigned. They are expected to adjudicate fairly without bias and to abide at all times by the letter and spirit of the Academic Honor Code and the Council’s Bylaws. This obligation applies to all judicial and non-judicial functions, including programs, speaking events, or discussion that might take place at any time between a council member and any other individual, be they on the Council or not. At all times the council member is to behave in accordance with the Code and in a manner that does not undermine it in any way. This obligation also includes maintaining confidentiality regarding all judicial matters before the Council and any sort of discussion that may take place among the council members involving both its judicial and non-judicial functions.
Hearings will be held on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., except under unusual circumstances such as when a heavy backlog of cases occurs, or at the end of a semester. Hearing dates should be scheduled in a timely manner, but should allow at least four days after the accused student is notified, for the student and complainant to prepare for the hearing.
The Academic Honor Council shall have full authority to establish and define the rules of conduct and procedure that shall govern its hearings and deliberations, so long as they accord with the general principles prescribed in the Honor Code. Such rules shall become a matter of public record. They may be altered by a majority vote of the full body of 23-25 members.
Fifteen minutes prior to the commencement of a hearing, all panel members will be present and provided with the statements of the accuser and accused, and all submitted evidence. It is expected that panel members will avail themselves of these fifteen minutes to review the statements and evidence.
A hearing shall progress first with the presiding member stating the case name, number, and complaint. The accused student will then be asked by the presiding member to submit a plea of “responsible” or “not responsible” for the conduct reported in the complaint. Following an answer to this question, the case-presenter for the University will present evidence, followed by a presentation of evidence by the case-presenter for the accused student. Any witnesses will then be called first by the case-presenter for the University, and then by the case-presenter for the accused. Following the questioning of any witnesses and of the accused and complainant, the originating complainant will be afforded the opportunity to make a final statement. The accused student will then be given the opportunity to do the same. Upon conclusion of final statements, both the accused and the complainant will be asked to recess while the hearing panel deliberates. They will be asked to be prepared to reconvene following deliberation.
In certain cases, such as those involving collaboration, more than one accused student may be heard in a single hearing, following the basic procedures outlined in the preceding paragraph.
All hearings should be tape-recorded for the sake of record keeping and so that proceedings may be available for review should an appeal warrant it.
The presentation of evidence will come in the form of an oral report to be given by each case-presenter and will present all evidence that the hearing panel should consider and give insight into the role of any witnesses that might be called. These presentations will give the University and the accused student equal opportunity to present both sides.
Witnesses will be called by the panel in an order predetermined by the case-presenters, first calling witnesses for the University, and then for the accused student. Witnesses will be asked to respond to questions by the hearing panel, and will not be questioned by either case-presenter. The presiding member of the hearing panel reserves the right to recall witnesses at any time during the proceeding.
The hearing panel under the supervision of the faculty advisers will deliberate on whether the accused student is responsible for violations specified in the complaint. The standard used to determine responsibility is to be “based on clear and convincing evidence presented by witnesses and case presenters,” as specified in the Honor Code (see III.E.2.a below). A simple majority vote of the three hearing panel members is required in any determination of responsibility.
In exceptional cases when the panel feels that there is not sufficient evidence to come to a determination, and also has good reason to believe that additional relevant evidence can be obtained in a timely manner with further investigation, a hearing may be continued when a majority of panel members feels a continuance best serves the interest of justice and fairness. If a case is continued, the presiding member will ask the case-presenters to obtain the additional evidence, and will send a request to the internal chair to set a new date and time for the case to resume, with a brief explanation of the reasons for the continuance and of the further evidence to be obtained.
After deliberation, the decision of responsibility and the sanction, if applicable, will be announced to the complainant and accused student by the presiding member. Whether the decision was split is not to be disclosed at this time.
Accused students will not contact professors or other complainants about the case once the hearing panel has rendered a decision. If accused students contact the professor once a decision has been rendered by the hearing panel, further disciplinary action may result.
If for some urgent reason, a member of the hearing panel cannot be present at the time of the hearing, the internal chair may hear the case in the stead of that hearing panel member.
If the internal chair is also not available, then the external chair may hear the case.
If at any point a faculty adviser finds procedure to be improperly followed or particular questions asked by the hearing panel to be improper, he or she may instantly call a point of order. This includes calling a point of order in response to any perception a faculty adviser might have of case-presenters failing to follow the appropriate guidelines for their role in the proceeding. If deemed advisable by the faculty adviser, and upon being granted the authority to approach the panel members by the presiding member, the faculty adviser may consult with hearing panel members.
Because violations of the Academic Honor Code constitute an affront against the entire University community, there should be significant consequences for individuals found in violation of the Academic Honor Code. The sanctions are designed to penalize the offender in relevant and proportional ways.
Violations vary in severity, so a range of sanctions is available. Guidelines are offered to facilitate consistency across cases while allowing members the flexibility to consider circumstances unique to a particular incident.
An ethical development seminar or other educational tools shall be designed to educate offenders about the importance of integrity, specifically in an academic setting.
The most severe sanction, expulsion, is reserved for repeat offenders or very serious offenses.
All three hearing members assigned to the case shall vote on whether or not the accused student violated the Academic Honor Code based on clear and convincing evidence presented by witnesses and case presenters. A majority of two shall decide a case.
The presiding member is responsible for issuing the majority opinion to the internal chair. A dissenting hearing member may also issue an opinion. The presiding member provides all opinions to the accused student, both case-presenters, and the professor(s) involved within five (5) class days of the hearing.
The presiding member will also deliver the written majority opinion and any dissenting opinion to the complainant, who may not be the instructor of the course involved, to the external chair, the AVPAA, and the faculty advisers via email. If the originating complainant is not the faculty member in whose course the violation occurred, that faculty member will be delivered the opinion via email.
The majority opinion will contain the finding and an outline of the reasoning the hearing panel followed in making its decision.
Authorship of majority and dissenting opinions is not to be disclosed. The identification of dissenters will be reported by the presiding member only to the internal chair and only in the case that a letter of appeal is filed and an appeals board must be assembled.
The presiding member will also notify the complainant and the accused of the possibility to appeal based on criteria outlined in the Honor Code, and of the appeal process. Following the hearing, questions regarding appeal process should be directed to the external chair.
If a student is found in violation of the Academic Honor Code, the hearing members shall assign sanctions. Sanctioning decisions shall be made by a majority of two out of three hearing members.
Past academic integrity violations are relevant to these deliberations. The faculty advisers are responsible for obtaining this information from the office of the AVPAA. The faculty advisers will not disclose this information to any hearing panel member unless a determination of responsibility has been made. Such knowledge will be used in determining the specific sanctions.
Note that, according to the Honor Code, “If a student is suspended or expelled by the Academic Honor Council, an automatic appeal will be registered with the President of Trinity University for a final decision. The dispositive authority of the Council shall not prejudice the executive powers of the President of the University including executive privilege of granting pardon or clemency” (Section III.F.5).
Class system based largely on seriousness of violation
Violations on work assigned in a course in which the student is currently enrolled are divided into four classes of increasing seriousness. The person reporting a violation, if an instructor, is encouraged to include a statement, with brief rationale, about which class of violation he or she believes should be considered. Such statements would not bind the Honor Council but would often provide context that is sometimes difficult for the Honor council to determine on its own.
Second and third violations carry more severe sanctions than first violations. In addition to sanctions for violations on work for a course, sanctions are specified for violations occurring outside the classroom. Provision is also made for a warning letter to accompany some findings of not responsible.
The primary factor in determining the class of violation is the significance of the violation. Significance will be determined in large part by the amount of material in an assignment that is involved in the violation, as well as the degree to which the offending material is critical to accomplishing the goals of the assignment. Determination of the class to which a given violation is assigned will be made on a case-by-case basis, once a finding of responsible is reached during deliberation. To assist in assessing the significance of a violation, the hearing panel, in cases where the amount and critical nature of the offending material is not clear and the instructor has not provided any indication of the class of violation, may solicit the instructor’s views on the matter during deliberations. The hearing panel will take such solicited views into consideration, but will ultimately arrive at its own independent conclusion regarding classification of the offense.
Consistency in findings, classifications, and sanctions will be established by the continual review of precedents as provided in written summaries of debriefings of cases that present problematic issues. These cases will be presented in regular meetings of the Honor Council. To protect the confidentiality of the accused student and the accusing person, the debriefings and summaries will exclude names of all involved in the case, except for the panel hearing members. The written summaries of these problematic cases will be kept on the HC confidential T-Learn website. Such summaries will include the basic findings of the case, the rationale for the finding including where relevant the rationale for the assignment of the case to a particular class, and finally an account or explanation of the problematic issues raised in the case. Honor Council members will be required to review all written summaries of these problematic cases of the current and preceding semester before being allowed to serve on a hearing panel.
Guidelines: This classification is merited when one of three conditions applies:
1) the evidence in the final analysis was not clear and convincing but was indicative of a likely violation of the Honor Code.
2) the student's failure to satisfy requirements was due to a reasonable misunderstanding of the instructor's guidelines. However, students have a responsibility to clarify any instructions that they are not certain they have fully heard or correctly understood.
3) The panel finds the alleged violation to be a result of negligent or careless scholarship (e.g., a student properly cites the majority of her sources in her paper but fails to properly use in-text citations in an instance in which she pulls material from a soure in her bibliography). It is important to note that this sanction does not apply to cases in which a student is ignorant of the rules the Academic Honor Code or proper citation practices. For example, this class would not apply to a case in which a student claimed to be unaware that she needed to cite encyclopedia sources in her paper.
Sanction: In the case of lack of clear and convincing evidence, a letter will be issued warning the accused student that the behavior or actions described in the allegation are not tolerated, and that all future academically related behavior and actions should avoid even the appearance of violating the Academic Honor Code. In the case of unclear or verbal only instructor guidelines, a letter will be issued directing the student to be more aware of the need to be clear about what is and is not allowed, and to seek clarification from the instructor if there is any doubt. In the case of negligent or careless scholarship, a letter will be issued warning the student that extra caution should be taken when completing coursework in the future. In addition, the student will complete a CD-ROM focusing on ethical principles as they apply to academic integrity, or similar assignment at the discretion of the Hearing Panel.
Class 1: Minor Violation
Guidelines: The assignment contains offending material. However, if the offending material were removed, the objectives of the assignment would still be met.
Class 2: Substantial Violation
Guidelines: The assignment contains a substantial amount of offending material. However, the student has completed a significant portion of the assignment appropriately.
Class 3: Major Violation
Guidelines: The assignment contains offending material that is either extensive of critical to the assignment as a whole. The student made a minimal original contribution, if any to the assignment.
Guidelines: such violations usually involve activity that takes place beyond the classroom. Examples include but are not limited to: possessing a prohibited test bank, knowingly giving unauthorized help to another student on an assignment or examination, altering or falsifying academic forms or records, and misrepresenting one’s academic achievements at Trinity on the web or to future employers.
Guidelines: such violations involve students who do not receive official grades for their coursework (e.g., a student or faculty member auditing a course)
It is suggested that students complete the course on ethical principles and annotate bibliography assignment (where applicable) within two weeks of the sanction being assigned. The registration status of the student will be put on hold until all assignments are completed.
Guidelines: such violations include, but are not limited to, threatening, harassing or assaulting another student, professor or staff member involved in an Academic Honor Council proceeding, unruly behavior during a hearing, and violating the confidentiality of an Honor Council case.
Outcomes and sanctions:
The original panel member is not to serve as the presiding member on the Appeals Board. Case-presenters assigned to the case being appealed cannot serve on the Appeals Board.
The external chair shall notify the internal chair, the accused student, the originating complainant, the faculty advisers, and the AVPAA of the receipt of any petition for rehearing by the end of the first class day following the day of its receipt.
In order to gain insight into the rationale for the original decision, the Decision Committee will have access to the file for the original case, kept in Northrup Hall.
For petitions that request an appeal on the basis of improper procedure, the committee must determine whether the petition has made a “reasonable argument” that the Honor Council has not followed procedure. A “reasonable argument” is an argument that could be substantiated; it is not the job of this committee to determine if proper procedure has been followed.
For petitions that request an appeal on the basis of additional evidence, the committee must determine whether or not the new evidence is pertinent to the original case. That is, if the evidence were submitted in the original case, would it have been considered relevant by the original Hearing Panel? If so, then the evidence is pertinent. The new evidence submitted does not need to be sufficient to determine responsibility on its own, it must only be worth consideration.
Petitions that request to amend a sanction will be automatically accepted by the committee.
The internal chair, by the end of the second class day following confirmation by the committee that the petiton has been accepted, will assemble the Appeals Board, appointing one of the seven (7) members to preside over the appeals board. The internal chair will notify these members of their appointment and set a date for all seven (7) members and the faculty adviser(s) to meet. The internal chair will also notify the accused student and originating complainant of the date, and encourage both to attend.
In the case of an appeal of a sanction, the Appeals Board will hear from the petitioner should he or she be present and willing to address the Board. The Appeals Board will then hear from the student should he or she desire to respond to the petition. A faculty adviser must be present for deliberation to ensure due process.
In addition to the evidence and statements provided by the accused student and the originating complainant, the Appeals Board will receive the file for the original case by the internal chair before the rehearing. The file contains all of the evidence and statements used in the original case, as well as the corresponding opinion letter. The Appeals Board may consider the file during questioning and deliberations.
If the Appeals Board decides to amend a sanction, the Board must assign a sanction under the Honor Council’s class-based system.
“Follow[ing] the same procedures as the original hearing” will be interpreted as allowing both the original complainant and the accused student to make statements, to present evidence, to make comments to the Appeals Board as evidence is reviewed, and to make final statements to the Appeals Board. The role of the Appeals Board is to uphold or overturn the original decision. The accused student and the original complainant will not have case-presenters, although either party may elect to ask the internal chair to assign them one. If either the accused student or the original complainant asks for a case-presenter to be assigned to them, the same case-presenter who served on the original case will serve in the rehearing unless the basis for appeal involved one of the case-presenters. In such a case, the internal chair will assign a new case presenter. A faculty adviser, as usual, must be present to ensure due process.
The presiding member of the Appeals Board will notify the accused student, the originating complainant, and the AVPAA of the decision by the end of the same day the Appeals Board meets. The announcement of the opinion and the release of the written opinion will follow the same procedure as that pertaining to an original opinion.
If a student is suspended or expelled by the Academic Honor Council, an automatic appeal will be registered with the President of Trinity University for a final decision. The dispositive authority of the Council shall not prejudice the executive powers of the President of the University including executive privilege of granting pardon or clemency.
The following procedure will be followed if at any time the faculty, Association of Student Representatives, the Honor Council, or the Vice President for Student Life believes that an amendment to the Academic Honor Code is necessary.