On your honor
Our community is committed to high standards of academic honesty. The students, faculty and staff of Oglethorpe University expect each other to act with integrity in the academic endeavor they share. The honor code contains the responsibilities we accept by becoming members of the community and the procedures we will follow should our commitment to honesty be questioned.
All students entering the Oglethorpe community sign their name to the honor code, pledging to behave honestly in their academic endeavors. We believe that this code will enrich our years at the University and allow us to practice living in earnest the honorable, self-governed lives required of society’s respected leaders.
The purpose of the Oglethorpe Honor Code is to promote and support academic integrity by building a culture of trust between faculty and students. This is a community-wide commitment, as everyone (faculty, staff, and students) is part of the network that supports and affirms the goal of academic honesty. It is also aspirational, as it calls us all to aim higher but also acknowledges that individuals will occasionally fall short of the lofty goals in our Code. The Honor Code procedures are there to ensure that incidences of academic misconduct are addressed fairly, consistently, and empathetically, with a focus on making amends and reintegrating the student into the academic community. After all, we are an institution of higher learning, so our policies and procedures should be focused on learning outcomes and not just punitive measures.
There is no fool-proof way to prevent all academic dishonesty. However, research shows that universities with a robust Honor Code have a lower rate of academic dishonesty than those that don’t have a robust Honor Code. The key word above is “robust”. Simply signing an Honor Pledge at orientation won’t by itself do much to support ethical decision making in moments of stress. A robust Honor Code promotes and emphasizes a culture of trust (which supports the development of academic integrity) rather than focusing the students’ attention on punishment (which can paradoxically lead to more cheating, not less). In short, the Honor Code functions best when students are reminded of positive behaviors (honesty, fairness, responsibility, and the like) rather than negative outcomes (the penalties for cheating). The Honor Code also functions best when the community incorporates regular reminders of the expectations of ethical academic behavior that are part of Code.
Students are asked to include a simple pledge with every graded assignment:
I pledge that I have acted honorably. (followed by the student’s signature)
By signing this pledge with every assignment, students are regularly reminded of the standards of academic integrity that we have all agreed to uphold. It is not a legal contract, but rather an affirmation in support of the kind of authentic learning environment we want to create at Oglethorpe. It also asks the signee to regularly consider whether a particular action is or is not honorable.
The preamble to the Oglethorpe Honor Code states that “[m]embers of the faculty expect that students complete work honestly and act toward them in ways consistent with that expectation.” In short, we’re not assuming that everyone is trying to cheat. Nevertheless, academic dishonesty does occur. How do students that we assume to be honorable (and who pledge to that honor) end up making unethical decisions? Additionally, how do you as a student who has pledged their honor avoid scenarios that are likely to test that honor?
Get organized. Panic can cloud one’s judgment, and panic is more likely to occur in situations where a student feels like the workload has gotten out of control. You will have periods of time where little graded work is due, and then you’ll have two papers and a test all in one week. You should know about these major assignments well in advance, which means that you can spread out the work over a longer period of time rather than leaving it all to the last minute. Keep an assignment calendar, and include short-term goals (“I will write the outline for my paper due in two weeks”) along with due dates and electronic reminders for major assignments.
Ask for help. If you are confused about a topic, it can be easy to assume that everyone else gets it and you don’t. This kind of thinking, however, also makes it easier to rationalize bad decisions. Instead, you should ask questions in class. You should go to office hours. You should send your professor a draft for feedback. Every one of these actions communicates to the professor that you are interested in learning, and authentic learning is the essence of academic integrity.
Ask for more time. Let’s say that you’ve done your best to keep an organized assignment calendar, but you underestimated how much time an assignment would take. The clock is ticking on the submission deadline, and panic is starting to set in. Rather than letting that panic cloud your judgment, ask the professor for an extension. Check the syllabus first, as it may include this information about how to ask for extra time and if there is any kind of grade “cost” for taking that extra time. If you don’t see that information on the syllabus, reach out to the professor anyway. You’ll be surprised how often they will say “yes”, especially if you’ve been actively involved in the course up to that point.
Read the assignment guidelines carefully and ask clarifying questions. The syllabus for your course says that you shouldn’t plagiarize, but do you really understand what plagiarism is? Is including a reference list enough? Do you still need to cite the source if you are paraphrasing? Can you use paraphrasing software? What about large language AI models like ChatGPT? Are those allowed, and how do you properly cite them if they are? Is using the same paper in two different courses considered plagiarism? Some of these questions may not have clear-cut answers, so it’s important that you ask rather than just assume. Asking questions about what falls in the bounds of the Honor Code doesn’t make you appear suspect–it makes you appear as if you care deeply about maintaining the bond of trust.
Academic dishonesty largely falls under four categories:
- Cheating (using unauthorized materials or assistance)
- Examples of cheating can include
- Copying another student’s work
- Copying the work of a tutor or a homework “helper” website
- Using notes on a closed-note assessment
- Using your phone or other device on a closed-note assessment
- Collaborating on an individual take-home assessment
- Examples of cheating can include
- Fabrication (falsifying information)
- Examples of falsification can include
- Making up false lab data
- Making up false results
- Providing fake citations
- Submitting an essay that was generated (all or in part) by through artificial intelligence (such as ChatGPT)
- Making up a fake reason that you need get an extension on an assignment
- Lying about participating in a group project
- Examples of falsification can include
- Plagiarism (using the work and ideas of others without giving credit)
- Examples of plagiarism can include
- Failing to provide a citation for a direct quote from another source
- Failing to provide a citation for a paraphrased idea from another source
- Submitting a paper for a course that you already submitted for another course (aka, self-plagiarism)
- Examples of plagiarism can include
- Facilitation (assisting others’ academically dishonest behaviors)
- Examples of facilitation can include
- Allowing another student in a course to copy your work
- Providing another student with your work from a prior semester’s version of that same course
- Examples of facilitation can include
Did any of those examples surprise you? It seems likely. Research shows that students are often confused about what constitutes academic dishonesty. Remember that the goal of the Honor Code is to promote academic integrity, and the goal of academic integrity is to support authentic learning. If the action in question is circumventing the learning goals of the course or violating the assumption of trust inherent in the Oglethorpe Honor Code, then the action would likely be out of bounds in terms of academic honesty.
The list of examples above is also not a complete list. Every course is different, and every professor will have specific expectations of what academic honesty looks like in their course. If you are at all confused about what is allowed in the course or on a specific assignment, ask your professor.
There is no assumption that you have violated the Honor Code just because you receive a letter. However, the professor who initially filed the case did see something concerning in one of your assignments and would like to have it reviewed by an objective, external group. The letter includes reference to both the course and the assignment in question.
Another important piece of information in your letter is the email address of a peer member of the Honor Council who is there to answer your questions and concerns. This person won’t be at your hearing (either as an advisor or a Honor Council member), but they can help put your mind at ease about some of the procedures and potential consequences of an Honor Council appearance. They are here to help you, and I highly recommend that you contact them.
The letter also includes the date and time of your hearing. You’ll also get an Outlook calendar invitation. You should RSVP to that invitation as soon as possible, and set a reminder on your calendar so you don’t accidentally miss your hearing.
As mentioned above, the Honor Council serves as an external, objective body. We are there to ensure that students who are suspected of an Honor Code violation are treated in a fair and consistent manner. This is not to say that your individual professor wouldn’t be fair or consistent, but there is a personal relationship between you and the professor. When there has been a suspected breach of trust in that relationship, feelings and conversations can get complicated. Your professor may be comfortable talking with you prior to your hearing, but they might instead decide to wait on that conversation until the case has been resolved. In either situation, you can always reach out to your peer advisor (communicated in your letter) or the Secretary of the Honor Council.
Accepting responsibility takes courage, and courage is one of the fundamental values of academic integrity. We’re glad to know that you are taking that first important step in rebuilding the bond of trust between you and your professor. That said, academic integrity is an issue for the entire community, not just for that one course. Meeting with the Honor Council serves multiple purposes in that regard:
- It is a reminder of the community standards that we all share.
- It is an opportunity to receive feedback and support from faculty and peers not in the specific course.
- It guarantees that all students who accept responsibility receive fair and consistent academic consequences.
The initial hearing is deliberately small in scale. There are very few attendees. Only you and the members of the Honor Council panel (3-6 people, including Faculty and student members) are there. Not even the suspecting professor is present at the initial hearing. The professor provides the assignment materials and a description of what brought this to our attention, but the hearing is non-confrontational in nature. You are there so that we can hear your side of the story. We have found over the years that students are more likely to approach the hearing openly and honestly if the group present is relatively small. The small number of attendees also helps us to maintain confidentiality.
NOTE: Parents aren’t allowed to attend the hearing. How much you share with them about the hearing is up to you, but they are not part of the small group of attendees.
At the beginning of the hearing, you and the members of the Honor Council panel receive the materials provided by the professor. After everyone has had time to review the materials, you get to open the hearing with a statement of your own if you choose. If you want to provide the Honor Council panel with additional materials related to the assignment, now would be the time.
At this point, the floor is open for questions. The panel members will likely have some questions for you, and you are free to ask questions of the panel.
Once questions are done, you can give a closing statement if you choose. You’ll then be asked to sign a document indicating whether you accept responsibility or do not accept responsibility for the suspected violation. You are then free to leave the meeting.
While there is no set time limit to a hearing, most hearings last 30-45 minutes. This may be longer if more than one person is involved in the case.
After you leave the hearing, the panelists have to decide if they are going to accept your statement of responsibility or non-responsibility.
If you said that you are responsible and we agree with you, then there are two options:
- If this is your first appearance before the Honor Council, then you get the opportunity to communicate directly with the professor about the fact that you accepted responsibility. Part of this communication is that you and the professor need to agree on an appropriate sanction, but it’ll be less severe than anything the Honor Council might have assigned. You’ll also be asked to complete some short modules on academic integrity. Assuming that you complete the modules and all of the tasks included in your agreed-upon sanction, then your record is effectively wiped clean. In short, this is your first appearance, and we’re assuming/hoping that it will be your last.
- If this is not your first appearance before the Honor Council, then the Honor Council determines the sanction. We will, however, take into account the fact that you accepted responsibility.
It is possible that you accepted responsibility, but the Honor Council doesn’t think that you actually violated the Honor Code. If this happens, then the case is closed and there is no sanction or record.
If you said that you aren’t responsible and we agree with you, then the case is closed. If, however, you said that you aren’t responsible and we do not agree with you, then we have two options:
- We can go ahead and assign a sanction.
- If we feel that additional evidence could affect our decision, then we would hold another hearing so that we could see that additional evidence.
In all of the above cases, you’ll receive a follow-up letter within three business days of your initial hearing to let you know our conclusions and any next steps that might be required of you.
We’ll still hold the hearing, but you won’t be able to share your side of the story.
Also, if you don’t show up to your hearing, you can’t accept responsibility. The secretary will sign the form as “not responsible” on your behalf. See above for a description of what can follow a “not responsible” claim.
NOTE: Students will sometimes claim that they didn’t come to the hearing because they didn’t know about it. This isn’t an acceptable argument. The initial letter comes through Oglethorpe email, as does the Outlook calendar invitation. You’ll get at least three business days’ notice between the letter/invitation and your hearing. Therefore, as long as you check your Oglethorpe email on a regular basis (at least once a day is recommended), then you’ll receive the notification in ample time.
The Honor Council can’t assign any sanctions directly related to your financial aid. We cannot and would not, therefore, ever say that you must lose your scholarship. Indeed, the Financial Aid office isn’t part of the small group of people who even know about your case.
That said, the sanctions in a case sometimes involve a grade reduction in the course. If that grade reduction causes your GPA to fall below the line required for your scholarship, then your scholarship might be affected. However, there would be no indication that this was due to an Honor Code case.
The only records of Honor Code cases are maintained through the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The registrar isn’t involved.
We are an institution of higher learning. Therefore, everything that we do (including applying sanctions for Honor Code violations) should be focused on learning. Removing a student from the community is antithetical to that core goal of learning and growth. Asking a student not to return is an exceptionally rare occurrence, and it would only be applied as a last resort after a student has repeated non-responsive appearances before the Honor Council.
In short, our goal isn’t to punish you. Our goal is to promote academic integrity by helping you learn and grow from the experience. The best way to do that is to maintain your connection with the academic community.
The purpose of the Oglethorpe Honor Code is to promote and support academic integrity by building a culture of trust between faculty and students. This is a community-wide commitment, as everyone (faculty, staff, and students) is part of the network that supports and affirms the goal of academic honesty. It is also aspirational, as it calls us all to aim higher but also acknowledges that individuals will occasionally fall short of the lofty goals in our Code. The Honor Code procedures are there to ensure that incidences of academic misconduct are addressed fairly, consistently, and empathetically, with a focus on making amends and reintegrating the student into the academic community. After all, we are an institution of higher learning, so our policies and procedures should be focused on learning outcomes rather than punitive measures.
Talk about academic integrity early and often. Every faculty member is asked to include a statement regarding academic integrity in their syllabus, but this statement alone is rarely sufficient. Schedule time throughout the semester to revisit the academic integrity issues that are relevant to your course. This emphasizes to the students that academic integrity is a foundational part of campus culture. Returning to the conversation also presents academic integrity as something that can be learned, improved and developed (a growth mindset) rather than something that one has or doesn’t have (a deficit mindset).
Clarify expectations. Each course (and even each assignment) has specific challenges when it comes to academic integrity. Students benefit from knowing what kind of specific behaviors are out of bounds (a list of “Don’t”s), but it is critical that students also know about specific behaviors that will help them to approach an assignment from an academic integrity perspective (a list of “Do”s).
Emphasize the utility and relevance of assignments. Students are going to be more tempted to engage in academic dishonesty if they don’t see the assignments as relevant to their educational goals. This does not mean that every one of your assignments must be personally meaningful to every single student, but providing clear utility and relevance in your assignment descriptions can increase student engagement and therefore decrease the likelihood that a student will convince themselves that academic misconduct is acceptable “just this once”.
Provide low-stakes (or even no-stakes) opportunities for feedback and revision. One rationale that students often give for academic misconduct is poor time management of large assignments. Breaking large assignments into smaller chunks addresses this issue in a few important ways. First, it gives the instructor opportunities to catch mistakes and to provide non-punitive formative feedback. Second, it gives an opportunity for students to reflect on their own learning, increasing their self efficacy when it comes to the task. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, low-stakes assignments reduce stress for the student, decreasing the likelihood that a student will convince themselves that cheating is less costly than failure.
Approach academic integrity from an equity perspective. We must strive to meet students where they are. Our students bring with them a variety of experiences, backgrounds, and understandings that impact their beliefs and knowledge about academic integrity. It is problematic to assume that students inherently understand what constitutes academic dishonesty in higher education, particularly if they have little or no experience in U.S. higher education culture.
The most important responsibility is also one of the most challenging ones. We as Faculty are called to assume that our students are honest and to “act towards them in a way that is consistent with that expectation.” (Preamble to the Oglethorpe Honor Code) After all, we know that academic dishonesty occurs in higher education, so it can be difficult to assume the contrary. However, assuming that students will be dishonest can create an adversarial relationship between faculty and students. Alternatively, assuming student honesty gives us the opportunity to focus on the learning we want our students to experience while they are at Oglethorpe. According to Donald McCabe, “Academic integrity is not the absence of cheating. It is something much bigger than that. It pervades the culture of an institution. What it is at the end of the day is authentic learning.”
Because this is a community-wide aspiration, Faculty are also asked to approach possible instances of academic dishonesty from a community perspective. You shouldn’t have to deal with this on your own, and the procedures in the Honor Code are there to support you in your goal of promoting and supporting academic integrity in your courses. Additionally, students benefit if they hear that academic integrity is critical to the entire community and isn’t limited to a single course. To that end, we ask that you report incidences of academic misconduct to the Honor Council rather than informally adjudicating these cases on your own.
Gather all relevant evidence. Keep in mind that the Honor Council really only has access to the evidence that you provide. The Honor Council Secretary may contact you to request additional evidence, but the Honor Council can’t gather that evidence independently.
Speak with the Honor Council Secretary. This step may not be necessary, as you may have clear and irrefutable evidence that a violation has occurred. However, if you have any questions about whether or how to submit a suspected Honor Code violation, you are welcome and encouraged to ask questions.
Submit a suspected Honor Code violation. Be sure to include as much specific detail as you can in your description of the incident. This report is your “voice” in the preliminary hearing–the more we can hear your perspective, the better. Be aware, however, that the student will also have access to this narrative as part of the full report.
No. Turnitin is a useful technological tool, but it is just a tool. In order for Turnitin (or any other plagiarism-detecting software or website) to be used effectively, you still need to apply your disciplinary expertise. Is that four-word phrase highlighted by Turnitin a standard phrase in your field, or is it idiosyncratic enough to require a citation? Turnitin can’t make that decision for you. Turnitin can also be very sensitive, flagging direct quotations or paraphrased passages in the text that are properly cited. In short, if you see something flagged in Turnitin, you’ll still need to spend some time determining for yourself whether that flagged section is evidence of plagiarism. As always, feel free to contact the Honor Council Secretary if you have any questions.
Turnitin’s AI detection software only analyzes long-form prose text (i.e., sentences that are part of paragraphs that are part of larger essays, and so on). This excludes poetry, code, bullet lists, annotated bibliographies and reference lists. Also, unlike the plagiarism detection software built into Turnitin, the AI detection software in Turnitin can’t reference back to an original source. It can only claim a likelihood that some or all of the eligible text was not written by a human. False positives can occur, and new research out of Stanford has indicated that the false positive rates are higher for non-native English writers. Given this lack of certainty, what can you do with this information in regards to a suspected violation of the Oglethorpe Honor Code?
First, just as with plagiarism detection, don’t underestimate the value of your disciplinary and pedagogical expertise. Are the sources verifiable? Are the claims consistent with the scope of the course? Are there abrupt changes in tone and/or style within the document? Is there an unexplainable jump in the level of skill demonstrated in previous writing from this student?
Second, if your disciplinary and pedagogical expertise (or the original Turnitin AI detection software) indicates a likelihood of AI use, then run the paper through another AI detector. Current recommended software includes GPTZero, Copyleaks, and WinstonAI, although new software will no doubt enter the market. If you are getting consistent reports from more than one piece of detection software, then the chance of a false positive is significantly reduced.
The Honor Council Secretary may reach out to you with additional questions or request additional evidence, but not always. Indeed, if you included lots of detail in your initial report, then the Honor Council should be able to proceed directly to the initial hearing phase without any further input from you.
If the student accepts responsibility at their initial hearing, then the next time you’ll hear from the Honor Council will be in the post-hearing letter. The letter will have specific instructions about any next steps you and the student need to complete.
If the student doesn’t accept responsibility, then the Honor Council may request that you appear in person at a subsequent hearing. Again, this does not always happen, as you may have provided sufficient detail in your initial submission report.
Regardless of whether you are called to a subsequent hearing, you will once again receive a post-hearing letter with instructions about any next steps.
Most cases are resolved in approximately 2 weeks. However, there are factors out of our control that could delay the process. Is there a case backlog? Did the student need to reschedule their preliminary hearing? Did the Honor Council have additional questions that required a second hearing? If it has been more than 3 weeks and you still haven’t heard anything, please feel free to reach out to the Honor Council Secretary.
Keep in mind, however, that the Honor Council doesn’t hold regularly scheduled panels during (a) exam weeks, (b) January term, or (c) Summer session. We are occasionally able to hold ad hoc meetings during these times, but that’s not guaranteed. That said, if you file a case during the last week of classes in the Fall or Spring semester, the case might roll over into the beginning of the next regular semester. In that situation, you’ll get information from the Registrar on how to submit a grade of “I” (Incomplete) for the student. You’ll also be asked to assign a final course grade once the case is resolved.
Absolutely! Recall that the Honor Code process and any subsequent consequences should be focused on student learning. As an instructor, you can play a critical role in shaping the student’s learning experience throughout an Honor Code case. Recall also, however, that the Honor Code is a community-wide aspiration. That said, any conversation that you have with a student (even one where the student accepts responsibility) is not a replacement for having a student meet with the Honor Council.
The degree to which you communicate with a student after you filed a case is up to you. At the very least, however, it is considerate to let a student know that you’ve filed a suspected Honor Code case and why. We have found over the years that students are more likely to engage openly with the Honor Council if they aren’t taken by surprise when they receive their hearing notification.
That depends. If this is a student’s first appearance before the Honor Council and the student accepts responsibility, then you and the student will decide on a sanction together. The Honor Council will give you some guidance and boundaries, but you have a fair amount of flexibility within those boundaries. Recall that the Honor Code process and any subsequent consequences should be focused on student learning, so we encourage you to direct the sanctions discussion on improving skills (rather than focusing solely on the punitive aspect of the sanctions). This does not mean that your agreed-upon sanctions should have no academic consequences, but it does mean that this is not the primary purpose of your conversation with the student. Indeed, if a student has accepted responsibility, then this conversation is an opportunity for them to learn (a) how their actions affected you and (b) how they can make amends and subsequently re-establish trust with you. Please feel free to reach out to the Honor Council Secretary if you would like help with this challenging but important conversation. Once you and the student have agreed on a sanction, you’ll report it back to the Honor Council Secretary.
If this is not the first time that a student has appeared before the Honor Council or if the student does not accept responsibility but is found responsible by the Honor Council, then the sanction is determined by the members of the Honor Council who hear the case. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak to the student about it afterwards. Indeed, it would be a good idea to make that time for that conversation, as the student still needs to know how to re-establish the bond of trust with you. The only difference is that the conversation won’t involve you and the student agreeing to academic consequences.
Contact the Honor Council Secretary, Dr. Lynn Gieger.