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Mission

It is the mission of the University of Oklahoma to create an academic culture that fosters student integrity both in and out of the classroom. Resources found throughout this website can help you to understand this mission, as well as guide you through the academic integrity system. If you have any further questions about our system, you may contact Will Spain (wcs@ou.edu) in the Office of the Academic Integrity Programs via e-mail.

Faculty's Guide to Academic Integrity at The University of Oklahoma (Norman Campus, excluding Law)

OU's Academic Integrity Code gives students, via the student Integrity Council, responsibility for the integrity of their own academic community. But you set the tone and establish the ground rules for your students. Most students want to do the right thing. Please help them by leaving no doubt that integrity really matters in your class.

WHAT SHOULD FACULTY DO?

It is a professional obligation of faculty to expect integrity in their students and to report integrity violations when they occur. Suggestions for fostering an atmosphere of integrity:

  • Articulate a clear and personal syllabus statement about integrity. Provide guidance on special topics relevant to your class such as the limits of collaboration, expectations for group projects, plagiarism, etc. It is also helpful to include a link to our website, as well as the Student's Guide to Academic Integrity.

  • Invite the Integrity Council to speak to your students. Presentations range from 20-50 minutes, can be arranged for anytime during the semester, and can focus on any specific issues that you find important, i.e. how to get involved, plagiarism, etc. (contact Will Spain at wcs@ou.edu)

  • Test your students’ knowledge of the “Student’s Guide to Academic Integrity at OU”. Prepared quiz questions are available upon request (contact Will Spain at wcs@ou.edu).

  • Use an integrity pledge -- either the official one or your own -- as cover sheets for papers and homework. Occasionally reminding students about why you use an integrity pledge before each assignment will keep this practice from becoming too routine.

  • Craft tests and assignments that discourage cheating. For example, provide different versions of the same exam in larger classes (varying the order of questions or multiple-choice answers). Do not give identical assignments or examinations from year to year.

  • Clarify expectations -- for yourself and your students -- regarding assignments that might especially invite copying or collaboration. If you assign an exercise such as an online quiz that has a high potential for cheating, do you genuinely intend to permit completion strategies (like copying or collaboration) that would ordinarily count as misconduct? If so, say so. Simply remaining silent while setting a low point value to minimize the advantage of cheating can send the message that a little cheating is OK.

  • Know how to use the Turnitin.com reports available in Canvas. Writing assignments submitted on Canvas can automatically generate a Turnitin report that highlights text taken from the Internet or other sources. Further information is available here (PDF).

  • Be vigilant during tests and while grading assignments. Additional test proctoring may be available from our office upon request. Conversely, if you want to experiment with a proctor-free, honor-system approach, please let us know your impressions. The Code does permit students to report integrity violations on their own.

  • Report all integrity violations using the form available here (PDF).

  • Be familiar with the resources available on the integrity homepage and the information below!

WHAT COUNTS AS AN INTEGRITY VIOLATION AT OU?

According to the Code, an integrity violation is "any act that improperly affects the evaluation of a student's academic performance or achievement." The Student's Guide to Academic Integrity lists specifics: cheating on examinations with cellphones, notes, or neighbors; plagiarism, improper collaboration on assignments intended for individual completion, etc.

"Unintentional" acts -- for example, inadvertent plagiarism -- are still violations if the student should have understood the act to be misconduct. (Such cases can result in a mandatory educational consequence as outlined below.)

You may set your own consequences for violating classroom or assignment rules, but a violation will count as misconduct only if it improperly affects the evaluation of the student's academic performance or achievement. See Student's Guide.

I NEED HELP INVESTIGATING POSSIBLE ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT IN MY CLASS. WHOM DO I CONTACT?

As an instructor you may certainly inquire into suspicious circumstances on your own. If you witness misconduct in an in-class exercise such as a test, your own recollection will certainly count as evidence in a hearing. If you receive a paper that sounds suspiciously familiar or is uncharacteristic for the student, you may investigate by asking the student, for example, to explain the ideas in the paper.

If the scope of the appropriate inquiry is larger or less well-defined – for example where misconduct may involve numerous students, computer hacking, or other issues beyond the typical case -- assistance from our office is available. Instructors may request assistance by contacting the Office of Academic Integrity programs. The investigation will ordinarily be conducted by Integrity Council students assisted by an OAIP staff member. OAIP and the investigators will remain in contact with the instructor throughout the investigation.

WHAT IF I ENCOUNTER A WIDESPREAD BREACH OF INTEGRITY?

In rare cases, an instructor may conclude on the basis of substantial evidence that the security of a test or other class assignment has been seriously compromised without being able to identify any or all of the specific violations that may have resulted. In those cases, the professor, working with his or her department and our office, retains the authority and obligation to cancel the assignment and recalculate the point values of other work, assign substitute work, or both, provided that such action applies to the entire class. When such action is appropriate, any reduction in a student’s grade from such cancellation, substitution, or recalculation does not constitute a grade penalty.

WHY SHOULD I REPORT AN INTEGRITY VIOLATION? HOW DOES REPORTING HELP ANYONE?

Questions instructors sometimes ask:

  • "Why should an instructor even worry about students who cheat? Isn't the failure to learn a penalty in itself?"

  • "If I do choose to address integrity violations, don't I have the authority and discretion to handle such incidents on my own?"

  • "If I do report an integrity violation, how do I know that the university will back me up?"

  • "If I report, how do I know that a report over a small incident will not spin out of control and ruin a student's career forever?"

Reporting helps your colleagues, the other students in the class, and even the student who is reported. Academic integrity is not just a detail of classroom management: it's a fundamental concern for the entire OU community, students and faculty alike. Both faculty and students can report integrity violations, but reporting is part of the faculty member's professional obligation. Failure to report ignores this obligation and is unfair to students who earn their grades honestly. A student who made a bad choice can also benefit from the integrity awareness or plagiarism awareness courses we can require – but only if the incident is reported. Reporting ensures that the student will receive due process and that your response will not be questioned as unjust or unfounded. Reporting does not result in a one-size-fits-all approach: OU's system seeks to be responsive to faculty and student needs. A minor incident that needs no institutional response can be reported as an admonition, or warning only. Reporting all incidents ensures that later violations in your class, or your colleagues', will not be mischaracterized as a first offense. Conversely, "handling" an incident oneself without reporting it amounts to sweeping that incident under the rug.

HOW DO I REPORT?

The form for reporting academic misconduct is available here (PDF). All reports are submitted to the Office of Academic Integrity Programs (OAIP). This form cannot be submitted directly online -- please print and sent via campus mail to our office.

To complete the report, it will be very helpful to include whatever documents are relevant to support or explain it, e.g. plagiarized paper, Turnitin.com report, confiscated or photographed cheat notes, exam, Scantron sheet, altered document, etc. Please also include a course syllabus which specifies how much of the final course grade the assignment in question is worth. It is also helpful to include any communications the instructor has had with the student. If the academic misconduct was witnessed by another party, i.e. a teacher’s assistant, another student, etc., those names should be included in the report as well.

What is the difference between an "admonition" and a violation report?

Most acts of academic misconduct should simply be reported as violations. Procedurally, a report results in formal notice to the student from our office, followed by procedures to ensure due process as explained below. Administratively, a violation report permits the full range of appropriate consequences. An admission or finding of responsibility permits you to assign any grade penalty you deem appropriate, up to an F in the course, and the student will receive an appropriate institutional consequence as well. The institutional consequence can include remedial options -- for example a plagiarism awareness class or the "DYUI -- Do You Understand Integrity" class -- or disciplinary options such as suspension, or both.

Unlike a violation report, an "admonition" is simply a warning. Procedurally, an admonition is merely your report of the incident and the fact that the student has been warned. There will be nothing to investigate or adjudicate unless the student elects to contest the matter. Administratively, the admonition does permit a limited grade penalty (up to zero on the assignment) and creates a record of the incident in case a future incident occurs, but it forecloses any other institutional consequence. It leads to no institutional penalty or remedy. It is not reportable outside the university as an incident of misconduct. Admonitions are not disclosed or considered in determining eligibility for scholarships, membership in honorary societies, or graduation with honors. Thus, admonitions are appropriate only for minor offenses involving either a limited moment of panic or genuine confusion regarding the rules. Admonitions are certainly not automatically appropriate for every first time offense, and are not appropriate for most semester-long activities (e.g. term papers) or graduate work such as theses or comprehensive examinations. A student should ordinarily not receive more than one admonition. You may inquire about a student's prior admonitions by contacting the Office of Academic Integrity Programs at wcs@ou.edu.

If you do intend to report an incident as an admonition, please take the time to talk to the student yourself. We will send the student a followup email to ensure appropriate notice, but the "teachable moment" remains up to you. When required by fairness and consistency with past cases, a reported admonition that falls outside institutional norms may be converted to a full violation by our office in consultation with you.

I’VE ALREADY WARNED THE STUDENT. WHY FILE AN ADMONITION?

As with violation reports, reporting admonitions creates a paper trail to establish that you followed the institution's procedures, that any resulting penalty was administered appropriately, and that the student has now gotten one "second chance.”

BACK TO FULL VIOLATIONS — WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I REPORT?

OU's integrity system aims to minimize procedural complication and adversarial confrontation while maintaining standards of fairness and due process. Once you file the report, you will be copied on most correspondence, but please feel free to address questions or to check the status with our office

Notice to the student will come from our office by email, typically a few days after the report is received. The student will be given a deadline for contacting our office.

A required meeting then occurs with an Integrity Programs officer, usually Will Spain. At that meeting, the student chooses whether to take responsibility for the incident as reported or else request an investigation. If the student accepts responsibility, you will be notified to assign the grade penalty.

If the student requests an investigation, it will be conducted by student Integrity Council members with assistance from our office. In most cases you will be interviewed along with other persons who have relevant information. Once the investigation is complete, the matter will be scheduled for a hearing before a panel of students and faculty unless the investigation report finds the available evidence insufficient to minimally support the allegation or, conversely, convinces the student to accept responsibility. As the reporter of the incident, you will be responsible for supplying your recollections and impressions to the investigators and the hearing panel, but you are not the prosecutor. At the hearing stage, we rely on a lay "board of inquiry" model rather than the adversarial model common to civil and criminal courts. Within a few days of the hearing you will be notified of the outcome, as will the student. If the student is found responsible, it will be time for you to assign the grade penalty.

While the matter is pending... There is no prohibition on discussing the incident with the student either before or after you file a report. Faculty vary on whether they wish to have such discussions, and our office will always give the student the full relevant details of the report. (As noted above, please do discuss with the student any incident reported as an admonition.)

Students are entitled to a presumption of innocence. The student should be able to continue attending class while the matter is pending, although if the grade penalty upon a finding of responsibility will be an F, you may certainly tell the student. If the semester ends while the matter is still pending, you should report the final grade as N. N is a temporary, neutral grade that you will need to change to a final grade once the matter is concluded.

In all stages of investigation, hearing, and remedy, Integrity Council students have real responsibility. The Council's official duties include chairing academic misconduct hearings, conducting investigations for reported acts of academic misconduct, reviewing actual academic misconduct cases and recommending sanctions, and serving as peer educators in integrity training for students who have violated the Code. In all these capacities, the Integrity Council is trained and supervised by OAIP. For more detailed procedures on reporting and investigations, please see the Investigation Procedures (PDF).

WHAT FACTORS DETERMINE THE APPROPRIATE INSTITUTIONAL PENALTY?

Level of intent, weight of the assignment, student classification (freshman v. senior) and the student's response after the incident are among the factors taken into account. Your decision on the grade penalty is also important to this decision. There is a fuller discussion of institutional penalties, recordkeeping, and expungement here (PDF).

WHAT ABOUT THE GRADE PENALTY?

Instructors are responsible for determining the grade penalty. As noted above, this penalty cannot be imposed until the student is found responsible for violating the Academic Integrity Code -- either by admitting to the report, being found responsible by a hearing panel, or failing to respond by the deadline. For an admonition the penalty may not exceed a zero on the assignment. For a violation report the penalty may be up to an F in the course. (An F may be assigned even if the student has withdrawn from the course.) In addition, you may offer the student a reasonable amount of additional, remedial work to be completed in order to avoid a grade penalty.

HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED WITH ACADEMIC INTEGRITY ON CAMPUS?

  • Volunteer to serve on academic misconduct hearing panels. To be added to this volunteer list, please contact Associate Director Will Spain at wcs@ou.edu. All panel members receive a thirty-minute training session before serving on a panel.

  • Consider service on the academic integrity oversight committee that advises the Office of Academic Integrity Programs.

  • When Integrity Council announces events or its membership drive, encourage your students to attend or apply! Yearly events include “Integrity Bowl” presentations in freshman residence halls each fall and Integrity Week events each spring. Integrity Week usually focuses on profession- or discipline-specific ethics and illustrates the connection between integrity before graduation and after.