Academic Honesty

York University Senate Policy on Academic Honesty

Conduct that violates the ethical or legal standards of the University community or of one's program or specialization may result in serious consequences. The Policy on Academic Honesty is a reaffirmation and clarification for members of the University of the general obligation to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty. It outlines the general responsibility of faculty to foster acceptable standards of academic conduct and of the student to be mindful of and abide by such standards.

The Role of Faculty Members and Students

A clear sense of academic honesty and responsibility is fundamental to good scholarship. Faculty members should include consideration of academic honesty in both courses and research settings. Such guidance is particularly important for students who assume independent roles as course assistants or begin to conduct their own original work. Every student has a responsibility to abide by these standards and, when in doubt, to consult with faculty members in order to determine a proper course of action.

Pressures That May Lead to Academic Misconduct

University education includes demands that might tempt some to violate standards of academic honesty. There are pressures on students to achieve high grades, obtain financial support, meet research or publication deadlines, gain recognition from the scholarly community, and secure employment. Although faculty members can help students to maintain academic honesty despite these pressures, each student has final responsibility for her or his academic honesty.

Procedures Governing Breach of Academic Honesty

Each Faculty must ensure that its procedures are consistent with the following standards. Faculty procedures must be approved by the Senate Appeals Committee, published in the Calendar and available at the appropriate Faculty offices.

These procedures are available when a York student, a York graduate, a former York student, or a student who is applying to take, is taking or has taken a York course is accused of violating the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty. (Hereafter, "student" includes all of the above-noted categories.) Students and faculty are encouraged to discuss and, where possible, resolve their differences informally.

However, a breach of academic honesty is one of the most serious offences within the University. It would be impossible to think of any greater insult to the integrity of an academic institution or to an academic community than that of dishonesty whether it is called intellectual dishonesty or fraud. One can therefore sympathize with the desire to uncover it and treat it with the condemnation it deserves when it is thought to exist.

This gives rise to an obligation to refrain from concluding that it exists lightly. It creates a concomitant duty to give a person accused of dishonesty the benefit of reasonable safeguards to enable him or her to meet the serious accusations that it entails. (Krever, J., (1985) 11 OAC 72). The following procedures are provided by the Senate Appeals Committee for investigating and resolving cases of alleged violations of the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty.

Allegations of Breach of Academic Honesty in respect of courses are dealt with by the Faculty offering the course. The student's home Faculty has observer status at a hearing and may make submissions as to penalty. Any other breaches of academic honesty which occur with respect to University affairs will be reported by the administrator or committee to the appropriate Faculty. Should a matter arise for which there appears to be no clear Faculty jurisdiction, the Senate Appeals Committee may exercise its jurisdiction and make appropriate arrangements.

Making a Complaint
A complaint alleging violation of the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty shall be submitted in writing to the appropriate office as soon as is reasonably possible. The complaint shall contain a full, but concise, statement of the facts as perceived by the complainant.

The responsibility for detecting potential academic dishonesty on assignments, term papers, essays, etc. lies with the person evaluating the material. The evaluator, if other than the course director, shall retain possession of the suspect material and shall provide a written report, together with the confiscated material, to the course director.

The responsibility for detecting potential academic dishonesty in an examination lies with the invigilator who is normally the course director or delegate. In cases of suspected impersonation, the invigilator shall ask the student concerned to remain after the examination and shall request appropriate University identification or shall otherwise attempt to identify the student. In other cases of suspected breach of academic honesty the invigilator shall confiscate any suspect material. In all cases, the student will be allowed to complete the examination, and the invigilator, if other than the course director, shall give a full report, together with any confiscated material, to the course director.

Faculty Member Handling of an Alleged Violation
It is the responsibility of faculty members to instruct students as to appropriate academic behaviour and to maintain the academic integrity of their relationship with students. However, faculty members should not be called upon to prosecute students, determine guilt or innocence of students or to impose punishment on students, whether that punishment is mild or severe.

While a faculty member in a course, or having or sharing responsibility for a student's research, examination, or dissertation preparation, becomes aware of a possible violation of academic honesty, the faculty member should investigate the matter and, if there are reasonable and probable grounds for the laying of a charge, do so by contacting the appropriate Faculty office. If the faculty member is not the Course Director, the Course Director shall be informed as soon as possible and shall take charge of the matter. Faculties may empower a Faculty official to take charge of the investigation of an allegation received from a faculty member.

It is the responsibility of the faculty member to collect or assist in the collection of the necessary information and to be prepared to act as a witness in the matter. It is the responsibility of the Faculty official to present the case to the committee hearing the charge. It is the responsibility of the committee hearing the matter to determine guilt or innocence and, if necessary, settle on a penalty after hearing submissions from both parties. In determining whether or not there are reasonable and probable grounds to proceed with a charge of breach of academic honesty the faculty member may arrange an informal meeting with the student to discuss the matter. At this meeting the student may be accompanied by a representative and the faculty member may have another person present. During any such investigation, the faculty member should proceed quickly but, if interviewing a student, should give the student at least seven calendar days notice of such a meeting.

If the action was clearly unintentional, the faculty member may take informal remedial steps so that the student may correct the mistake and avoid its recurrence. In such instances, no official response is required and no record should be kept.

If the student wishes to admit to a breach of academic honesty, a document signed by the student and the faculty member which includes the admission, a summary of the matter and a joint submission as to penalty may be forwarded to the committee which deals with allegations of breach of academic honesty. In such cases, the agreed-upon penalty may not exceed failure in the course. The committee receiving such a joint submission will normally impose the penalty suggested but if it is of the opinion that some other penalty would be more appropriate it must arrange for a hearing of the matter.

If the charge relates to work already presented for evaluation the faculty member may elect to defer the evaluation of the work until after the matter has been dealt with. Normally, any evaluation of a work which relates to a charge will not be entered into the student's record until after the matter is concluded.

Faculty Initiation of a Hearing
In dealing with allegations of breach of academic honesty, Faculties shall follow the guidelines indicated below.

  1. A Faculty may wish to delegate authority to hear allegations of breach of academic honesty to a department, division or program committee or have such allegations heard by a Faculty-level committee. All committees must proceed according to the procedures contained in this document.
  2. If the committee which first hears allegations of breach of academic honesty is a department, division or program committee, Faculty procedures must specify that appeals against decisions of that committee are considered by a Faculty appeal committee which must proceed according to the Senate Appeals Committee Procedures for hearing appeals (Senate, October 1985). Any appeals of decisions of a Faculty-level appeal committee are considered by the Senate Appeals Committee.
  3. If the committee which first hears allegations of breach of academic honesty is a Faculty-level committee, Faculty procedures may specify either that appeals against decisions of that committee are considered by a Faculty appeal committee or by the Senate Appeals Committee.
  4. Once an investigation begins, a student may not drop or be deregistered from the course for any reason until a final decision is reached.
  5. Transcripts will not be released to a student until a decision is made. A request by a student for a transcript to be sent to another institution or to a potential employer will be processed, but, if the student is found guilty of a breach of academic honesty, the recipients of the transcript will be so informed.
  6. A student who is suspended and is eligible to graduate may not apply to graduate until a suspension expires or is lifted.
  7. The Faculty shall give each party a written copy of the charge, a copy of the materials submitted by the faculty member which includes a summary of the evidence, a copy of the procedures to be followed and not less than twenty-one calendar days' notification of the time and location of the hearing. If the student wishes to file a written response to the charge it must be received within fourteen calendar days of the date of the sending of the information, and response must be forwarded to the faculty member. Both parties must inform the committee of their intention to call witnesses and file names of these witnesses at least two business days prior to the hearing.
  8. A student who acknowledges the accuracy of the charges may waive the right to a hearing by submitting a written statement that both admits guilt and waives the right to a hearing. In this statement, the student may make submissions as to appropriate penalty and give reasons.
  9. All hearings are subject to the requirements of natural justice. Only the committee members, a recording secretary, the complainant, the accused, each party's advisor(s) (who may be lawyers), and the witnesses may be present. Witnesses (unless parties) shall be present at the hearing only while testifying. Exceptions to this policy may be made at the discretion of the committee. The committee shall arrange for a recording secretary to take notes of the hearing. A record prepared from these notes will constitute the official record of the proceedings. Parties may, if they wish, arrange for their own written record of the hearing to be taken. The Chair of the committee has full authority to assure an orderly and expeditious hearing. Any person who disrupts a hearing, or who fails to adhere to the rulings of the committee may be asked to leave.
  10. The committee shall consider the facts and circumstances of the case and determine guilt or innocence. A student who is accused of a breach of academic honesty shall be presumed innocent until guilt, based upon clear and compelling evidence, has been determined by the committee. If guilt is determined, the committee shall hear submissions as to the appropriate penalty and then decide the penalty.
  11. If a party fails to appear at a hearing after proper notice, the hearing may proceed, a decision may be made and sanctions may be imposed, unless the party can establish, in advance of the hearing and to the satisfaction of the committee, that there are circumstances beyond her or his control which make an appearance impossible or burdensome. Except as noted here, no evidence shall be presented unless the accused student is present.
  12. Parties must be allowed a full and fair opportunity to present their evidence and to contradict the evidence presented against them. Parties are allowed to cross-examine each other in matters related to the charge. The committee has the discretion to make rulings as to admissibility of evidence or the suitability of cross-examination. The committee is not bound by formal rules of evidence applicable in courts of law.
  13. When there is no further relevant testimony to be presented by either party or their witnesses, each party may present a final argument. Following this the parties shall be excused without further discussion. The committee shall then enter into closed session and each member shall vote on the question of guilt or innocence. A 'guilty" verdict requires a simple majority vote.
  14. Following a "guilty" verdict, the committee shall next allow both parties to make a presentation as to suitable penalty. Normally, it is only at this point that the committee may be made aware of other academic offenses in the student's file. The committee will again enter into closed session and decide upon the sanction. A motion to impose a particular penalty, as outlined in Section E of the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty, shall require a simple majority vote. The decision of the committee, as described in F.8, must be communicated to the parties in writing, delivered by hand or by mail.
  15. If the student is found to have committed a breach of academic honesty in work related to a funded research project, the Vice President (Academic Affairs) shall be notified and the Vice President or a designee shall determine whether to notify the granting agency.

The Order of the Hearing
The following indicates the order in which a committee should proceed when hearing a charge of breach of academic honesty. The committee may alter the order in the interests of fairness.

  1. The Chair shall:
    • introduce the parties and members of the committee;
    • identify the nature of the case and evidence before the committee.
  2. The Presenter shall:
    • briefly describe the case to be presented, in an opening statement;
    • present support for the charge through oral testimony of complainant and witnesses, and through documentary evidence;
    • Committee members normally ask questions at the end of each person's testimony but may interrupt if clarity is required;
    • The student or representative may ask questions of each witness at the close of that person's testimony.
  3. The Student or representative shall:
    • briefly reply and indicate main arguments in an opening statement;
    • present support for her/his case through oral testimony of student and witnesses as well as documentary evidence;
    • Committee members normally ask questions at the end of each person's testimony but may interrupt if clarity is required;
    • The Presenter may ask questions of each witness at the close of that person's testimony.
  4. The Presenter shall be allowed to present testimony or other evidence in reply to new issues raised in the student's case which were not raised in the original presentation.
  5. At any time the committee may require other witnesses or the production of other written or documentary evidence and may, if it sees fit, adjourn the hearing after allowing both parties the opportunity to speak to the adjournment.
  6. Following the presentation of evidence, the parties are entitled to make closing arguments and to summarize briefly the main points of their cases, but no new arguments or evidence may be introduced. This will proceed in the following order: the Student followed by the Presenter.
  7. The committee will move into closed sessions for deliberations and decision. If there is a finding of guilt, the committee will then consider submissions as to appropriate penalty, then return to closed sessions and decide on the appropriate penalty.
  8. The written decision of the committee shall include:
    • the names of committee members and all who appeared;
    • a summary of the cases of the parties;
    • the committee's findings of fact, decision and reasons;
    • the route of appeal.