Addressing Alleged Misconduct

What to do when you first suspect that misconduct is occurring:

  • If you can immediately address your concerns (i.e. you suspect someone is looking at another student’s test), you can decide to address it immediately
    • In this example, you could make an announcement to the class about keeping their eyes on their own exams
    • Depending on the behavior, you could ask the student to move seats and note where the student is on the exam
  • Start to document your concerns in detail
    • If you suspect plagiarism, make a copy of the student’s work and highlight any sections that are not original work. Print off the original sources and highlight those passages
  • Ask colleagues to review the questionable work as well to see if they draw the same conclusion
  • Determine if there is other information that would help you determine if misconduct occurred
    • This can include checking things like course log-in records or comparing the answers of all students for a specific question
  • If you have questions, consult with the Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards or your department chair

How to ask the student to meet with you about the alleged misconduct:

  • If you prefer to or can only address the misconduct after the event, be prompt in asking the student to meet with you
  • Explain that you need to talk about some concerns that you have regarding the student’s test/paper/etc.
  • Do not feel that you need to give details about your concerns when you ask the student to meet with you. Talking about specific concerns can lead a student to respond to your allegations immediately rather than in the meeting. If a student asks for details, just respond that you want to wait to discuss this until the meeting
  • If multiple students are involved, meet with them individually

How to prepare for your meeting with the student:

  • Ask another colleague to sit in on the meeting as an observer. This is especially helpful for teaching assistants or faculty who haven’t dealt with academic misconduct before
  • Remind yourself that if misconduct occurred, it is not about you as an instructor. It can be difficult not to take academic misconduct personally, so it is important to remember that misconduct is not a personal attack against you
  • “Hear the case before you decide it.” – Judge Alfred P. Murrah. Even if the student’s work clearly shows signs of academic misconduct, it is imperative that you go into the meeting with the student with an open mind and willingness to listen
  • Prepare all of the documents that you want to show the student

When you meet with the student:

  • Be cordial and professional with the student
  • Remember to focus on the behavior and choices rather than trying to “catch” the student. Even a discussion of academic misconduct should be used as an educational opportunity
  • If you have someone else sitting in on the meeting, explain why that person is there (i.e. He is here to observe. OR She is here as the lead instructor for the course)
  • Start by laying out your concerns and presenting any relevant evidence
  • Ask the student to respond. Here are suggestions for how to broach this:
    • Looking at all of this, do you understand why this would look like academic misconduct to me?
    • What conclusion do you come to looking at all of this?
    • Tell me how you went about preparing for and then writing this paper. (plagiarism)
    • Tell me how you prepared for the exam. Tell me about taking the exam. (cheating on a test)
  • After you have asked all the questions you have, ask the student if there is anything more that s/he would like to say
  • If you feel comfortable making a decision in the meeting, you can. But it is ok to tell the student that you will need to take some time to think about the matter and consult with others
  • Give the student a general amount of time in which s/he can expect to receive a finding letter from you. It is good to do this even if you decide the student was not responsible for any misconduct

After the meeting:

  • Determine if the student was responsible for misconduct or not
  • Ask another instructor to review the material if you are unsure if there was misconduct
  • Consult with the Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards as needed
  • Email the student a Finding Letter, which outlines what misconduct you had suspected, your decision if the student was responsible or not-responsible, and why. If you find the students responsible, also include the sanctions you are giving. To assist you, here is a letter template.
  • Refer to the sanction guidelines for when you must contact the Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards about a student’s academic misconduct