Academic Misconduct Hearings - Faculty Information

According to the Academic Misconduct Code, students charged with academic misconduct may request a hearing to contest the charge or just tell their side of the story. At last count, roughly twenty percent of academic misconduct cases on the Norman Campus result in hearings. In about half of those hearings the students represent themselves. The remainder -- ten percent of all cases -- is evenly divided between UOSA counsel (OU law students interning with the University of Oklahoma Student Association) and private attorneys. About 90% of all hearings result in a finding of guilt.

It is currently Legal Counsel's policy to provide representation for faculty only in hearings where the student is represented by a private attorney. However, even in other cases questions can arise that are outside the experience of most faculty. This sheet is intended to be a quick guide to presenting your case and dealing with any unforeseen contingencies. All references below are to the Norman Campus Academic Misconduct Code.

The hearing process.

Hearings are arranged by the college that offered the course. The hearing panel, called the Academic Misconduct Board (AMB or Board), consists of three faculty and two students from that college. Hearings are closed to the public. Students who wish to bring family or friends in addition to their counsel must obtain consent from the Board and you -- you do have the right to say no. Sec. 5.4(f).

What should I do before the hearing?

  • Get your documents together. Presumably you have already sent a memorandum detailing the charge, along with supporting documents, to the College. Supporting documents normally include the assignment in question, if it was written, the original source of a plagiarized assignment, if available, and the syllabus from the course, especially if it contains any warnings about misconduct. The College normally takes care of providing this material to the panel. Students may obtain it from the College upon request. Make sure to bring a copy for yourself, and it is a good idea to have an extra copy as well.
  • Make sure you've received all possible information from the College. In its notice to you, the College should tell you the date, time, and location of the hearing. Make sure these are acceptable. It should also tell you whether the student has either UOSA or private counsel. You also have the right to request copies of any documents the student plans to produce, along with the names of any witnesses and what they plan to testify about. (The student has the right to request the same information from you.)
  • Understand the procedure. The Provost's web page contains a helpful introduction to the academic misconduct system: http://www.ou.edu/provost/pronew/content/integritymenu.html, with links to the Academic Misconduct Code and the Provost's Student Guide to Academic Integrity.

What should I do at the hearing?

  • Make sure the Board is acceptable. In rare instances there may be someone on the Board who is too close to you or the student to judge the case fairly. The chair of the hearing panel should normally make sure that's not the case, but if you see a problem you should mention it. AMC 5.4(i)
  • Present the facts. It is the faculty member's job to speak first, present the facts of the case, and present and explain any available evidence. The faculty member bears the "burden of proof" -- it is your job to show guilt, not the student's to prove innocence. However, guilt need only be established by a "preponderance of the evidence." AMC 5.4(l). Unlike a prosecutor at a criminal trial, you need only show that it is "more likely than not" that the student committed an act of academic misconduct. Remember that a "smoking gun" -- witnesses to an act of cheating, or the publication from which a paper was plagiarized -- is not always necessary to establish that likelihood. Your recollections of events, and your impressions as an experienced professional, are evidence too.
  • Don't accept unfair surprise. Occasionally a student may present a defense you didn't expect and aren't prepared for. If that happens, explain the situation and ask the Chair for a continuance so you can consider the situation, examine the new evidence, or consult with an advisor. It may be an inconvenience to delay or reschedule the hearing, but fairness should be more important than expediency.
  • Don't be daunted by legalistic arguments. The Board's job is to decide the facts, not adjudicate legal technicalities. If the Board appears to be unduly concerned with what seems like a technical problem -- whether the student's act constitutes academic misconduct, for instance, or whether a certain piece of evidence is admissible -- gently suggest that the question could be resolved with a call to the Provost or Legal Counsel. AMC sec. 5.4(n).

What should I do after the hearing?

Once the hearing is over, the panel's findings and recommendations are normally issued within a few days. Immediately upon a finding of guilt you are free to impose whatever grade penalty is appropriate. If you have definite ideas about other penalties--community service, suspension, etc.--feel free to communicate them to the dean and the provost. If the student is found innocent, that is usually the end of the matter, and no grade penalty for misconduct should be imposed. Appealing the decision is possible in some limited circumstances.