Honor System Policies & Procedures

I. Introduction

As a Jesuit, Catholic university committed to the education of the whole person, Georgetown expects all members of the academic community, students and faculty, to strive for excellence in scholarship and in character.

To uphold this tradition, the University community has established an honor system for its undergraduate schools, including Georgetown College, the School of Foreign Service, the School of Business, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the School of Continuing Studies. Students are required to sign a pledge certifying that they understand the provisions of the Honor System and will abide by it. The Honor Council is the principal administrative body of this system. The Honor Council has two primary responsibilities: to administer the procedures of the Honor System and to educate the faculty and undergraduate student body about the standards of conduct and procedures of the System.

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III. Standards of Conduct

Without regard to motive, student conduct that is academically dishonest, evidences lack of academic integrity or trustworthiness, or unfairly impinges upon the intellectual rights and privileges of others is prohibited. A non-exhaustive list of prohibited conduct includes:

A. Cheating on Exams and Other Assignments

Cheating is the use or attempted use of unauthorized materials, information, study aids, or unauthorized collaboration on in-class examinations, take-home examinations, or other academic exercises. It is the responsibility of the student to consult with the professor concerning what constitutes permissible collaboration. Cheating or assisting another student to cheat in connection with an examination or assignment is academic fraud.

B. Committing Plagiarism

Plagiarism, in any of its forms, and whether intentional or unintentional, violates standards of academic integrity. Plagiarism is the act of passing off as one’s own the ideas or writings of another (see Examples of Plagiarism starting on p.21). While different academic disciplines have different modes for attributing credit, all recognize and value the contributions of individuals to the general corpus of knowledge and expertise. Students are responsible for educating themselves as to the proper mode of attributing credit in any course or field. Faculty may use various methods to assess the originality of students’ work. For example, faculty may submit a student’s work to electronic search engines, including Turnitin.com, a service to which Georgetown University subscribes for undergraduate and graduate students. Note that plagiarism can be said to have occurred without any affirmative showing that a student’s use of another’s work was intentional.

C. Using False Citations

False citation is academic fraud. False citation is the attribution of intellectual property to an incorrect or fabricated source with the intention to deceive. False attribution seriously undermines the integrity of the academic enterprise by severing a chain of ideas which should be traceable link by link.

D. Submitting Work for Multiple Purposes

Students are not permitted to submit their own work (in identical or similar form) for multiple purposes without the prior and explicit approval of all faculty members to whom the work will be submitted. This includes work first produced in connection with classes at either Georgetown or other institutions attended by the student.

E. Submitting False Data

The submission of false data is academic fraud. False data are data that have been fabricated, altered, or contrived in such a way as to be deliberately misleading.

F. Falsifying Academic Documentation

Any attempt to forge or alter academic documentation (including transcripts, letters of recommendation, certificates of enrollment or good standing, registration forms, and medical certification of absence) concerning oneself or others is academic fraud.

G. Abuse of Library Privileges

All attempts to deprive others of equal access to library materials constitute a violation of academic integrity. This includes the sequestering of library materials for the use by an individual or group; a willful or repeated failure to respond to recall notices; and the removal or attempt to remove library materials from any University library without authorization. Defacing, theft, or destruction of books and articles or other library materials that serves to deprive others of equal access to these materials also constitutes a violation of academic integrity.

H. Abuses of Shared Electronic Media

Malicious actions that deprive others of equal access to shared electronic media used for academic purposes constitute a violation of the Honor System. This includes efforts that result in the damage or sabotage of campus computer systems

IV. Student Status with Respect to the Honor System

  • A. All Georgetown University undergraduate students, and students in the School of Continuing Studies, including both undergraduates and students in non-degree programs, such as certificate programs, are subject to the policies and procedures of the Honor System.
  • B. The Honor Council shall investigate and adjudicate, if appropriate, an alleged Honor System offense even if the accused student drops or is withdrawn from a course within the allowed deadlines.
  • C. If a possible violation is reported after the grade for a course has been submitted, a case will be adjudicated only if the Executive Board determines that the alleged offense is of sufficient gravity to warrant consideration. Only matters that could reasonably result in sanctions reflected in a student’s permanent record will ordinarily meet the “sufficient gravity” test in this context.
  • D. If a student with a possible violation withdraws, transfers, or is, for any reason, not currently enrolled at Georgetown, the University may maintain a continuing interest in, and complete the adjudication of the matter, if, in the judgment of the Executive Board, the matter is of sufficient gravity to warrant resolution. Only matters that could reasonably result in sanctions reflected in a student’s permanent record will ordinarily meet the “sufficient gravity” test in this context. The Executive Board shall have the discretion to determine whether the adjudication will occur before or after the student’s re-enrollment.
  • E. A student may not graduate with an unresolved Honor Council charge which, in the judgment of the Executive Board of the Honor Council, is of sufficient gravity to warrant resolution. Only matters that could reasonably result in sanctions reflected in a student’s permanent record will ordinarily meet the “sufficient gravity” test in this context. Certification for the degree will be withheld pending a final resolution of the Honor Council matter.
  • F. If a possible violation is reported after a student has graduated, transferred, or otherwise terminated his or her enrollment at the University, a case will be adjudicated only if the Executive Board determines that the case is of sufficient gravity to warrant consideration. Only matters that could reasonably result in dismissal from the University will ordinarily be deemed to meet the “sufficient gravity” test in this context. Following adjudication in a case involving a student who has already received a degree, the Honor Council shall have the authority to recommend sanctions up to and including the revocation of the student’s degree.

V. The Honor Council

A. Membership

The Honor Council shall consist of three assemblies: students, faculty, and deans’ representatives. Each assembly will select from its members individuals to serve on the Executive Committee of the Honor Council. Members of each assembly are expected to serve periodically on Honor Council committees. The full membership of the Honor Council shall convene at least once per semester and periodically as deemed necessary by the co-chairs.

  1. The Honor Council Chairs and the Executive Director: The Executive Committee shall be led by a Faculty Chair appointed by the Provost, and Student Chairs elected by the Student Assembly. At least one year of service on the Honor Council is required before one is eligible to serve in a chair position. The Executive Director of the Honor Council reports to the Office of the Provost, and serves as the administrative officer for the Honor Council. The Executive Director is a non-voting member of the Honor Council.
  2. The Executive Board: The Executive Board of the Honor Council shall consist of the Faculty Chair, one Student Chair, and the Executive Director, who collectively shall manage and advise the Assemblies and Executive Committee.
  3. The Executive Committee: The Executive Committee shall, on the advice and consent of the general membership, determine and implement the policies and procedures of the Honor Council. The Executive Committee shall consist of the twenty members: ten students; five members of the ordinary faculty; and five members of the deans’ offices. The Faculty and Student Chairs may be designated members of the Executive Committee or may serve in an ex officio (non-voting) role. Chairs of Honor Council committees may serve in an ex officio capacity on the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee shall convene at least four times per semester.
  4. The Decanal Assembly: Members of the dean’s office of each of the four undergraduate schools and the School of Continuing Studies shall be nominated by the school’s Dean and appointed to the Honor Council by the Provost in staggered two-year terms. The decanal officers shall select five members, on per undergraduate school and the School of Continuing Studies, to serve on the Executive Committee. All decanal officers are eligible to serve as hearing board members.
  5. The Faculty Assembly: As few as four and as many as six members of the ordinary faculty of each of the four undergraduate schools and School of Continuing Studies shall be nominated by their Dean and appointed to the Honor Council by the Provost in staggered two-year terms for a total of between twenty and thirty faculty members, inclusive. The Faculty Assembly shall select five members, one per undergraduate school, to serve on the Executive Committee. All faculty members may serve on hearing boards.
  6. The Student Assembly: At least six students from each undergraduate school shall be appointed to the Honor Council for a total of no fewer than forty student members. Early in the spring semester a group of student leaders on the Honor Council will accept and review applications and make appointments to the Student Assembly, for the following academic year, after consultation with the deans’ offices. Spaces for new first year and transfer students will be reserved until an application process occurs early in the fall semester. Normally, students enrolled in their first semester at Georgetown are not eligible to serve on hearing boards. The members from each school’s Student Assembly shall select two students from their school, for a total of ten students, who shall serve on the Executive Committee. One to three students shall be designated to the Student Chair position as part of this application process. The Outreach Committee will make assignments to committees based on students’ declared interests and the needs of the Honor Council.
  7. Committees: Student Honor Council members are required, and other faculty and decanal members strongly encouraged, to participate in the wider mission of educating the community about issues of academic integrity through membership on standing committees to be established at the discretion of the Executive Committee.

B. Duties

  1. Hearing boards made up of current members of the Council will hear all reported cases of alleged academic dishonesty in any of the undergraduate schools and will investigate and adjudicate them fairly, consistently, and expeditiously.
  2. Appeal boards made up of current members of the Council will hear all appeals.
  3. The Sanction Reduction Board, made up of designated and trained members of the Council, will consider all proposals from students eligible to have a sanction reduced.
  4. The Council will initiate and coordinate campus-wide educational efforts concerning academic integrity and the Honor System, ensuring that students, faculty, and administrators are fully informed about the Standards of Conduct (see p.3) and the Honor System. These efforts will include:
  • a. Ensuring that the Standards of Conduct and procedures of the System are accurately described in the Undergraduate Bulletin.
  • b. Working with the Office of Admissions to include the Honor System in the office’s promotion of Georgetown, and to include a statement in the application for admission to be signed by the student upon matriculation declaring that he or she will adhere to the Standards of Conduct set forth in the Honor System.
  • c. Working with the Office of Student Affairs to provide information and documents during New Student Orientation concerning the Honor System, and to have students pledge during orientation to adhere the Standards of Conduct set forth in the Honor System.
  • d. Formulating recommendations regarding how faculty can promote academic integrity through class discussions, syllabi, and assignments.
  1. The Council will publish the names of its members and methods for contacting them.
  2. The Council will periodically review all cases reported to the Council, to ensure consistency.
  3. The Council will issue an annual report to the Executive Faculty, Provost and the Deans. This report will list in aggregate all the cases brought to the attention of the Honor Council and their outcomes. To insure confidentiality, the names of the students involved will not be noted.
  4. The Council will periodically review the Honor System and recommend improvements in the Standards of Conduct or procedures if needed. Changes to the Honor System will be approved by the Executive Faculty, Provost, and the Deans.

VI. The Honor System Procedure

The general procedure can be divided into four stages: report, investigation, adjudication, and sanction.

A. Report

  1. Any member of the University community with information concerning a possible act of academic dishonesty should report it to the Honor Council. Faculty members are obligated to report apparent violations. As responsible members of the academic community, students are strongly encouraged to support the Honor System as well by reporting acts of suspected academic dishonesty.
  2. The report shall be received by an investigating officer.
  3. Although the person making the report may first do so orally, the formal report must be made in writing and must describe in specific detail the information upon which it is based insofar as the facts are known. Any faculty member involved in a case brought to the Council is responsible for furnishing relevant evidence.

B. Investigation

  1. The investigation officer will conduct an inquiry into the allegations. The investigating officer will inform the student(s) of the nature of the allegation, and evaluate the evidence. The officer shall make all reasonable efforts to interview the student, the professor in whose class the incident may have occurred, the complainant (if other than the professor), and any potential witnesses. Both the faculty reporting a suspected violation and the student(s) subject to an investigation are obliged to respond quickly to the investigating officer’s communications. Generally, the process of investigation an allegation and filing an Incident Report is expected to take approximately two weeks from the date of the investigating officer’s initial receipt of the case from the Honor Council’s Executive Director. At certain times during the academic year, most notably between semesters and especially over the summer, this two-week time frame may be modified depending on the availability of the students and faculty. Should the investigating officer, due to unusual circumstances, need more than one month to file an Incident Report, he or she must seek an extension of time in writing from the Faculty Chair of the Honor Council and the Provost.
  2. If the investigating officer determines that there is insufficient evidence of a violation to warrant formal adjudication, the report shall be dismissed. Under these circumstances, no record of the report or its outcome shall be retained in the student’s academic file. Under no circumstance shall a dismissed report be considered a violation or have any bearing on consequent cases involving the student. A notation of the matter itself will be sent to the Council and kept by the Council as part of its records and reports, with the student’s name expunged.
  3. If the investigating officer determines that sufficient evidence of a violation exists to warrant formal adjudication, the investigating officer will notify the Executive Director, in writing, of the decision to refer the matter for adjudication and make all materials available to the Executive Board.

C. Adjudication

  1. Hearing
  • a. Within one week of receipt of a case from the investigating officer, or as soon as reasonably possible, the Executive Director of the Honor Council shall organize a hearing board or convene the Executive Board to discuss the suitability of a case for the Expedited Sanction process (see Section VI.C.2., below), and shall, in writing, notify the student of this fact and of the alleged violation. The letter to the student shall include a list of the hearing board members and a copy of the hearing procedures. The investigating officer may not be a member of the hearing board. The hearing board shall generally consist of five members of the Honor Council, including at least one member of a dean’s office, at least one student, and at least one ordinary staff member. Usually, the decanal member, one faculty and one student will be from the school to which the accused student belongs. The other member(s) of the board would be from other school(s). If necessary, at the discretion of the Executive Director or the Hearing Board Chair, the hearing may proceed with four members.
  • b. Generally, a decanal member on the hearing board shall serve as its chair.
  • c. In matters involving multiple students, if all students consent in writing, their cases may be heard in a single hearing. Should all students not consent to a joint hearing, their cases will be heard separately by the same hearing board.
  • d. The Executive Director shall prepare all written materials to be considered by the hearing board and make them available to the accused student at least seven days before the hearing. Any statement or corroborating evidence the accused student wishes to present to the hearing board should be submitted to the Executive Director at least 48 hours before the hearing. After that, statements and evidence may be accepted by the hearing board at its discretion. With the mutual agreement of the Honor Council and the accused student, a hearing may be held with fewer than seven days’ notice provided a hearing board reasonably can be assembled and the student will sign a statement waiving the seven days’ notice, in which case the student also may present a statement or corroborating evidence fewer than 48 hours in advance of the hearing.
  • e. If a student fails without good cause to appear at a scheduled hearing, a hearing may be held and the matter resolved with the student in absentia.
  • f. The hearing will be closed to the public in all cases. The accused student may be accompanied by another person who may serve as a source of support. For example, students have chosen to bring a parent, a friend, a priest, or an attorney to a hearing to serve in this capacity. This person may not participate directly or indirectly in the proceedings.
  • g. The hearing board shall decide whether the student is “in violation,” i.e., whether the student has violated the University’s Honor System. Three of the board members must vote “in violation” based upon the preponderance of the evidence in order for sanctions to be recommended.
  • h. If the student is found in violation, only then will the hearing board refer to the student’s record to determine whether the student committed previous Honor System offenses.
  • i. If the student is found in violation, the hearing board will recommend one of the following five sanctions: a letter of reprimand in the student’s Honor Council file, a letter of censure in the student’s academic file, an academic dishonesty notation on the transcript, suspension for academic dishonesty, or dismissal for academic dishonesty. More information on these sanctions can be found below in the Section VI.D., “Sanctions”.
  • j. Once the hearing board reaches a decision, the Faculty Chair of the Honor Council will communicate in writing within 24 hours directly to the student the outcome of the hearing and any board recommendation.
  • k. Within seven days of the date of the letter from the Faculty Chair informing the student of the outcome of the hearing, the student may petition the Honor Council for a new hearing. A new hearing shall be granted only on the basis of new evidence or a significant and material violation of procedure. The request for a new hearing must be explicit regarding the new evidence or procedural violation. The Executive Committee of the Honor Council shall determine, by its sole discretion through a majority vote of the Committee members (excluding any members who served on the original hearing board, and student members who may have graduated by the time of the appeal), whether a new hearing may be granted. A new hearing board will be constituted in the same manner as the original hearing board. No member of the original hearing board, or of the Executive Committee who voted on the appeal, may be a member of the new board without the student’s written approval.
  • l. After the period for an appeal for a new hearing has passed, the student’s Honor System file shall be sent to the student’s Dean. The Dean of the student’s school makes the final decision as to what sanction shall be imposed. It is expected, however, that absent unusual circumstances, the Dean will accept the recommendations of the hearing board. Before overturning a recommended sanction, the Dean will meet with representatives of the Executive Board and the chair of the hearing board to discuss the case. Having had this meeting, the Dean choosing to overrule the recommended sanction will give a detailed written explanation of how the sanction was changed and why that action was taken. This explanation will be kept in the student’s Honor Council file.
  1. Expedited Sanction

Under certain circumstances, a student who has been accused of an Honor System Violation may be given the option, in lieu of having a hearing, of accepting a finding of “In Violation” with a specified recommended sanction.

  • a. After completing the investigation of a possible Honor System violation, the investigating officer has the option of submitting to the Executive Director of the Honor Council, along with the standard Incident Report, a recommendation that the accused student be given the option of accepting a specified sanction in lieu of having a hearing. The investigating officer will do this only if the student takes full responsibility for the violation in his or her initial interview with the investigating officer, and the student understands the nature and gravity of the offense.
  • b. Upon the recommendation of the investigating officer, the Executive Board, after consideration of the case materials and investigating officer’s report, will determine by a majority if, in their judgment, it is appropriate to offer the student this expedited process and, if so, what an appropriate sanction may be. Such sanction will take into consideration the circumstances of the case as provided for by the Honor System’s Sanctioning Guidelines.
  • c. The recommendation of the Executive Board will be conveyed to the investigating officer who, in turn, will communicate the proposed sanction to the student in a face-to-face meeting, or by telephone conversation, or by email with replies. The investigating officer must inform the student that this sanction, if accepted, will be the Honor Council’s recommendation, but that the Dean will make the final decision as to sanction. The investigating officer also will inform the student that if the student accepts the sanction, the professor of the course retains sole discretion over the student’s grade in the course. The date and time of the investigating officer’s offer and the student’s decision will be recorded.
  • d. The student will have 24 hours to accept the offer and sign the Agreement Form for an Expedited Sanction, which will serve as a written statement. If the student does not accept the offer within 24 hours, the offer is withdrawn, and presumed to have been declined. The student may rescind his or her acceptance up to 48 hours after the offer was made by the investigating officer. If the student rescinds his or her acceptance, the offer of an expedited process is withdrawn. Under special circumstances, such as when the student is not presently on campus, the investigating officer may allow the student limited, additional time to make a decision. The granting of additional time shall be in writing. The date(s) and time(s) of the student’s communications with the investigating officer regarding the expedited sanctioning offer will be recorded.
  • e. If a student declines an offer (or rescinds an acceptance of an offer) and opts instead to have an Honor Council hearing, the Hearing Board will not be informed that the student was offered the expedited process.f. If the student accepts an offer and the 48-hour rescission period passes, the Honor Council will forward the investigating officer’s Incident Report and the recommendation of the Executive Board, with its justification, to the student’s Dean. The Dean makes a final decision as to sanction, and may raise or lower the recommended sanction. Before changing a sanction, the Dean will meet with the Executive Board to discuss the case. If the Dean decides to change the sanction, he or she will submit to the Honor Council, in writing, the reasons for the change. This explanation will be kept in the student’s Honor Council file.

D. Sanctions

  1. A letter of reprimand may be issued for very minor violations against the Honor System. The letter of reprimand is placed in the student’s Honor Council file. Information about the letter of reprimand is not shared with those outside the University without the student’s consent except as permitted by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Within the University, in accordance with FERPA this information is available only to authorized University personnel who, in their professional capacity, have access to a student’s file.
  2. For more serious acts of academic dishonesty, a student may receive a mid-level sanction such as a letter of censure.  The letter of censure becomes part of the student’s permanent record and, under appropriate circumstances, may be shared with persons outside the Georgetown community. A letter of censure is permanent when issued but may be reduced or removed through the successful completion of a sanction reduction plan (see below).
  3. For violations sufficiently serious to be noted on the student’s permanent academic record (transcript), a student may receive a transcript notation.  A transcript notation will be noted as follows: “Censure for Violation of Honor System.”  This mid-level sanction is permanent when issued and will be evident to any individual or institution that receives the student’s transcript.
    • It must be understood that there are two levels of transcript notation:
      • a. Level one: Transcript Notation: Eligible for Sanction Reduction is an entry on the student’s transcript which reads as follows: “Censure: Violation of Honor System. This notation can be removed on [date] through student action.” The “student action” noted would be the successful completion of a sanction reduction plan (see below).
      • b. Level two: Transcript Notation: Not Eligible for Sanction Reduction is an entry on the student’s transcript which reads as follows: “Censure: Violation of Honor System.”
    • The second level transcript notation sanction bridges the discontinuity between a level one transcript notation, which may be removed from the student’s record after two years with no trace, and a sanction of suspension.
    • Sanction Reduction: Students wishing to have either a letter of censure or level one transcript notation reduced, however, may do so by proposing and completing a sanction reduction plan.  The reduced sanction would take effect two years from the last day of the semester in which the violation occurred.  Details about this option are available from the chair of the Sanction Reduction Board, the director of the Honor Council, the faculty chair of the Honor Council, and on the Honor Council’s website.
  4. For the most serious offenses against the Honor System, a student may be suspended or dismissed from the University. These sanctions are permanently noted on the student’s transcript as follows: “Suspension/Dismissal: Violation of Honor System [mm-dd-yyyy, signed by Dean].” A student cannot receive credit toward a Georgetown degree for work completed elsewhere during a period of active suspension for a violation of the Honor System.
  5. A student’s disciplinary and academic record, including whether an Honor System sanction was imposed, may be considered as part of the application process for Georgetown approved study abroad programs. An Honor System violation should not necessarily preclude approval for study abroad. A student cannot receive Georgetown approval to study abroad during a period of active suspension for a violation of the Honor System.
  6. Regardless of the sanction recommended by the Honor Council and imposed by the Dean, if a student is found in violation, the faculty member involved may fail or reduce the grade for the student, for the assignment, or for the course, at his or her discretion. It should be noted that a student who has been graded within the discretion here afforded to the professor does not have recourse to the standard grade appeal process to appeal this grade. If, however, the student is found not in violation, the faculty member may not penalize the student on grounds of academic dishonesty.
  7. To the best of their ability, hearing boards and the deans who determine the final sanctions follow sanctioning guidelines established to provide for judicious, consistent, and proportionate outcomes. These guidelines are available on the Honor Council’s website. The guidelines will be updated from time to time as needed.