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Academic Integrity Policies

The pursuit of scholarly activity
Openly, honestly, and responsibly

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle.

Academic Integrity Policies

Academic Integrity (Faculty Senate Policy 49-20)

Definition and expectations: Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, the University's Code of Conduct states that all students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.

Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.

To protect the rights and maintain the trust of honest students and support appropriate behavior, faculty and administrators should regularly communicate high standards of integrity and reinforce them by taking reasonable steps to anticipate and deter acts of dishonesty in all assignments (Senate Policy 44-40: Proctoring of Examinations). At the beginning of each course, it is the responsibility of the instructor to provide students with a statement clarifying the application of University and College academic integrity policies to that course (see sample statements).

Academic and Disciplinary Sanctions (Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education Policy G-9)

The University procedures provide for two types of sanctions: academic sanctions and disciplinary sanctions. Academic sanctions range from a warning to removal from the academic program, and include deductions of points or alterations in grades. Academic sanctions are determined and assigned by the instructor or by the instructor together with the College Academic Integrity Committee. Disciplinary sanctions may be recommended by the instructor, the College Committee, or the Associate Dean, and are assigned by the Office of Judicial Affairs. The XF grade is a disciplinary sanction that is only assigned with the concurrence of the instructor, the College of Academic Integrity Committee, and Judicial Affairs.

Grades (Faculty Senate Policy 47-20)

Grades shall be assigned to individual students on the basis of the instructor's judgment of the student's scholastic achievement as set forth in Section 47-60. This specifically includes the instructor's judgment regarding an appropriate academic sanction for academic dishonesty defined in Section 49-20.

To implement University policy on academic dishonesty in the most clear and unambiguous manner, the Eberly College of Science and its member departments will encourage the following procedures to minimize dishonest behavior by students. These procedures include educating the faculty as to "best practices" for maintaining a classroom atmosphere that fosters honest scholarship. In addition, this policy seeks to clearly define dishonest actions and to provide a standard protocol to be used by all instructors in handling cases of suspected academic dishonesty. Academic integrity cases arising in Penn State courses offered by the Eberly College of Science through World Campus or other distance-learning venues will be handled according to applicable guidelines for academic integrity provided in the course materials, by the responsible administrative unit, and by the Eberly College of Science and Penn State University.

Faculty Conduct

Although students should be aware of the fact that they are expected to be honest, faculty are responsible for stating their expectations for academic honesty as part of the grading policy in every course. Therefore, consistent with University policy, all course syllabi will be required to contain a statement on this topic (see sample statements). In addition, the instructor will be responsible for insuring all exams are adequately proctored. Each instructor shall be present at all exams; when this not possible, the instructor shall arrange for another faculty member to substitute. It is recommended that each exam shall have a minimum of one qualified (i.e., trained) proctor for each 125 students (including the instructor). It will be assumed that all teaching assistants assigned to the course will receive guidelines on how to proctor exams. If insufficient teaching assistants are assigned to the course, faculty are encouraged to request departmental support to pay for additional qualified proctors. For make-up or conflict exams, instructors should provide adequate supervision for the exam setting. It is the responsibility of the instructor to arrange for adequate proctoring of all exams.

Student Conduct

All course work by students will be done on an individual basis unless an instructor clearly states that an alternative is acceptable. Any reference materials used in the preparation of an assignment, whether quoted or paraphrased, must be explicitly cited. In an examination setting, unless the instructor gives explicit prior instructions to the contrary, regardless of whether the examination is in-class or take-home, violations of academic integrity shall consist of any attempt to receive assistance from any person or papers or electronic devices, or of any attempt to give assistance, whether the student doing so has completed his or her own work or not. Other violations include, but are not limited to, any attempt to gain an unfair advantage in regard to an examination, such as tampering with a graded exam or claiming another's work to be one's own.

Uncontested Cases (Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education Policy G-9, revision 11-2-00)

The instructor should arrange a meeting with the student(s) involved, confront them with the information suggesting inappropriate conduct, and ask for an explanation. In cases where more than one student participated in the infraction, it is usually best to confront them together. If the student does not deny the allegation(s) of academic dishonesty, the instructor shall assign an academic sanction using the Eberly College of Science guidelines (see below) and have the student(s) sign the Penn State Science Academic Integrity Form in the required places. In appropriate cases, the instructor may recommend that the Office of Judicial Affairs assign a disciplinary sanction. The instructor should forward the Penn State Science Academic Integrity Form to the Associate Dean of the Eberly College of Science. This completes the instructor's tasks. Any follow-up issues should be directed to the Associate Dean's office. The instructor may then impose the indicated sanction.

Contested Cases (Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education Policy G-9, revision 11-2-00)

If the student denies the allegation(s) of academic dishonesty, the student is to be provided with an explanation of the information in support of the allegation(s). If the student continues to deny the allegation(s), the instructor should have the student(s) sign the Penn State Science Academic Integrity Form indicating that they contest the accusation(s). The instructor should forward the Academic Integrity Form and copies of all supporting documentation to the College Committee on Academic Integrity, which may be asked to review the information and positions, and to recommend possible resolutions. This completes the instructor's tasks.

Failure to Sign the Academic Integrity Form

If after notification of a violation of academic integrity, a student fails to sign the Science Academic Integrity Form, the instructor should forward the form to the College Committee on Academic Integrity, with a brief explanation of the circumstances. The Committee will attempt to meet with the student. Refusal of the student to sign the Penn State Science Academic Integrity Form will result in an entry of "uncontested" on the student's behalf.

Guidelines for Supporting Documentation

The instructor has the responsibility to gather information and documentation which indicates in a clear and convincing way that the student's conduct did violate the academic integrity policies of the University. Since criminal law principles do not apply to the academic living-learning environment, the burden is not on the instructor to 'prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt', as in the courts. Clear and convincing documentation ("supporting information") typically requires the following conditions to be met:

  1. If the supporting information is circumstantial, or subjective in nature, then two corroboratory pieces of information will be required. For example, if a student was observed looking at another student's test during an exam, then a statement by a proctor attesting to this shall constitute a single piece of supporting information. The second piece of information could be the Scantrons from the exams showing a significant number of the same incorrect answers.
  2. Single pieces of supporting information are acceptable if they constitute a "smoking gun", e.g., a cheat sheet, possession of two exam copies, formulae programmed into calculators, another student's name appearing on the exam or the same student observed attending two exams at different times.
  3. In cases of blatant plagiarism, only copies of the plagiarized material (annotated as needed) will be required as supporting documentation. In cases where the plagiarism is not word for word, the supporting information should provide a clear, and significant, link between the two students' work. For example, copies of two similar term papers, lab reports, or projects might show consistent sentence or paragraph structures throughout.

In cases where these conditions are met, the instructor is encouraged and authorized to maximally sanction the student, using the guidelines described below. The instructor should meet with the student to describe the infraction and the information supporting the allegation, and have the student sign the Penn State Science Academic Integrity Form, indicating whether they contest the allegation(s) or not. The Academic Integrity Form shall then be forwarded according to the instructions under "Contested Cases" or "Uncontested Cases" above. Unless specifically authorized by the Committee on Academic Integrity following an investigation and hearing, the student will not be allowed to late-drop the course or retroactively withdraw from the course.

If sufficient supporting documentation (as outlined above) is NOT available to warrant academic sanction, but the instructor nonetheless feels a dishonest act has occurred, then the instructor may ask the Eberly College of Science Committee on Academic Integrity to send the student a letter of warning in which the College policy on Academic Integrity is outlined. Copies of all information, documents, and records pertaining to the case should be forwarded to the College Committee on Academic Integrity for placement of the letter in the student's file. This letter will remain confidential and may ONLY be used if a second case against this student is later brought to the attention of the Department, College, or Judicial Affairs. This warning letter cannot be used to establish responsibility retroactively, but can be used to assign a sanction.

Listed below are guidelines that instructors should use to determine the severity of the dishonest action. These are guidelines only. If an instructor feels it is appropriate to upgrade a violation they may due so upon consultation with the College Committee on Academic Integrity.

In general: minor infractions involve errors in judgment without a clear intent by the student to violate academic integrity; moderate infractions are unpremeditated dishonest acts that directly affect only one student; and major infractions are premeditated dishonest acts, or dishonest acts that directly affect the grade of other students.

Minor Infractions

  • A student paraphrases or copies a sentence (or two) without citing the source or provides an improper citation.
  • A student places, or allows his/her name to be placed, on a group project to which they contributed little or nothing.
  • A student copies part of the work of another student exactly on an assignment on which collaboration is allowed by copying is not.

Moderate Infractions

  • A student collaborates on an assignment when they clearly were asked to work alone.
  • A student hands in an identical written assignment (such as a term paper, lab report, or other project) to two classes without obtaining prior approval from the instructor, or stating explicitly that they did so.
  • A student cheats, or facilitates the cheating of another, on an examination (in cases where there is no evidence of premeditation).
  • A student places their name on a written assignment they did not write. This includes copying of "old" assignments such as term papers and lab reports that were written in previous years.
  • A student tries to gain an advantage for an exam by removing reserved materials from a lab or library to have additional study time at home.
  • A student fabricates a false reason to miss an exam, report deadline, or other academic obligation (the "dying grandmother" story, false sickness, family obligations, causing or fabricating a computer problem).

Major Infractions

  • A student poses, or facilitates the posing of, someone else during an exam.
  • A student cheats, or facilitates the cheating of another, on an examination, in a way that is premeditated (e.g. using a cheat sheet, a prearranged system of sharing answers, or some similar method that was planned in advance).
  • A student steals the work of another and uses it as his or her own.
  • A student steals an examination.
  • A student places, or allows his/her name to be placed, on an honors thesis to which they contributed little or nothing.
  • A student causes another student's score to be lower through their actions (e.g., rearranging locating pins on a lab practical, stealing public copies of sample examinations, tampering with data sets).
  • A student changes the answer on an examination after it is returned and attempts to gain additional points because of a "grading error."
  • A student attempts to take the same exam more than once: one time under a fictitious name, one time under their real name.
  • A student claims to have taken an exam (when, in fact, they did not) then claims the instructor "lost" the exam.
  • A student tampers in any manner with any course or University record.

Sanction assignment is at the discretion of the instructor, within the guidelines set out by the college and the University. In general, minor infractions involve the subtraction of points for an assignment. Moderate infractions generally involve the lowering of a course grade (downward maximally to an "F"). Major infractions generally involve failure in the course, sending the case to the College Committee on Academic Integrity for determination of sanction, or sending the case to Judicial Affairs for possible assignment of an "XF" grade in the case where a disciplinary sanction is warranted. The instructor may, at their own discretion, reduce the sanction from these recommendations. Likewise, the instructor may, upon consultation with the College Committee on Academic Integrity, upgrade the sanction. In addition, the instructor may ask the student to perform an additional assignment or take a make-up exam; this work can then be used to help assign a final course grade. The XF grade will be assigned according to University policy only in response to the most severe offenses. In these cases, the committee, in consultation with the faculty member involved, will determine appropriate conditions under which the student might petition to have an XF grade expunged from their record. These conditions might include time spent in community service, service on the Academic Integrity Committee, special academic projects, or other activities which the committee believes demonstrate a commitment to integrity.

Course Drops and Withdrawals (Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education Policy G-9, revision 1-6-04)

Once a student has been informed that academic dishonesty is suspected, the student may not drop the course during the adjudication process, and a drop or withdrawal from the course will be reversed. A student whose grade has been adjusted or assigned as a result of a violation of academic integrity may not drop or withdraw from the course at any time (includes regular drop, late drop, withdrawal, retroactive late drop, and retroactive withdrawal). Any such drop action of the course will be reversed.

Additional guidelines for application of this policy when handling academic dishonesty cases are available from the Eberly College of Science Academic Integrity Committee. Faculty are encouraged to consult these guidelines when assigning sanctions.

To contact the Academic Integrity Committee send an email to