Carnegie Mellon University

Responding to Violations

Promoting academic integrity is the responsibility of the entire Carnegie Mellon community. Because we seek to maintain the highest possible standards at Carnegie Mellon, the urge to get ahead can sometimes tempt students to use questionable or inappropriate methods - especially when the stakes seem to be high. Under stress or time pressure people may rationalize that no one is hurt if a student “takes a shortcut” or if an instructor does not report a suspected violation. But each person's attitudes and actions contribute to our individual and community standards. Bit by bit, what may seem like small ethical compromises sacrifice the integrity of our academic community.

To preserve the integrity of our community, it is essential that the proper action is taken if instructors or students suspect that a violation of academic integrity has occurred. Likewise, if a student is accused of an academic integrity violation, the willingness to learn and move forward from the situation signals a desire to return to good standing within the community

You should begin by speaking with your instructor in order to explain your perspective and try to understand theirs as well. You might also request to meet with the department head if your conversation with your instructor is not productive. If the faculty member and department head feel certain that a violation of the course policy has occurred, they will pursue course level action and submit a report. 

Consistent with the Undergraduate Academic Disciplinary Actions Overview, the incident will also be reported to your associate dean and department head, your instructor's associate dean and department head, and the dean of student affairs.

Once the report has been filed, you can expect to be contacted by the Office of Community Standards & Integrity for a follow-up meeting to discuss the implications of this and any future violations and protocols for record keeping as well as your options for appeal.

The Undergraduate Academic Disciplinary Actions Overview notes that second-level reviews can be initiated by the following sources:

  • By a student who disputes that a policy violation occurred and is a seeking an appeal
  • By an instructor who would like to have a more serious penalty beyond course failure imposed for the violation
  • By the Dean of Student Affairs who initiates a second level review for any student with more than one incident report

In each of these circumstances, the case would be reviewed by an Academic Review Board (ARB) who will make a recommendation to the Dean of Student Affairs as to whether or not the student is responsible for the violation and if so, what an appropriate outcome might be. The final decision will come from the Dean of Student Affairs and may be appealed to the president of the university.

The majority of undergraduate cases that are heard before an academic review are second level reviews for students with more than one incident report. Although outcomes can range from academic skill building to suspension or expulsion, the most common outcome is a one-year suspension.

Preventing Violations

Both instructors and students can consider steps to enhance academic integrity in the Carnegie Mellon community. These suggestions are drawn from ongoing conversations with students and faculty over the years and from the literature on academic integrity. The steps below include ways students can more effectively manage their own learning with the help of university resources.

Although these strategies will not eliminate all instances of cheating, they can significantly alter the circumstances that often leading to cheating, thereby mitigating a student's perceived need to resort to decision making that compromises his or her integrity.

The first step to developing a good relationship with your instructors is to know what they expect. After all, you need to know what the standards are before you are able to meet them. Read the syllabus and understand the course policies on citation and collaboration. Make sure that you know what is considered to be cheating, plagiarism, and inappropriate collaboration. If anything is unclear, ask before you act and don’t assume that because one form of collaboration is acceptable in one course, it is automatically acceptable in another. Course policies can vary and it is up to you to know each of your instructors’ expectations.
Keep track of upcoming assignments and exams and manage your study space to ensure efficient and effective learning. Think strategically about how you take notes and read for your classes so that you are processing information and learning as you go rather than waiting until right before an exam to start to think critically about the material. Make the most of your time spent preparing for exams as well as your time taking the exam. When writing research papers, keep track of your sources throughout the process rather than waiting until the end to go back and make a list of sources. The source management function in Microsoft Word as well as tools like Zotero can help you do this. And make an outline before you start to write a paper to stay on task and save time. Bookmark the appropriate citation style guide (APAMLAChicago) for easy access when finalizing your bibliography.
Although good organization saves times, it takes time as well and the most successful students make good use of their time during the day and early evening. Procrastination more often leads to ineffective cramming and loss of sleep than to good performance under pressure. If you begin to work well before due dates and examinations, you are much more likely to learn the material, to be able to get help if you need it, to feel less stressed, to perform better, and to avoid poor decisions on very late nights. If you feel like you need some extra help with managing your time, Academic Development offers workshops on time management as well as individual appointments with academic counselors.
It is important to remember that you are part of an academic community and help is available to assist you in mastering course material and working efficiently. Faculty and teaching assistants (TA’s) can talk with you in office hours or email. The University Libraries offer online research guides that are organized by discipline. Academic counselingpeer tutoring, and supplemental instruction (SI) are all options that will allow you to get the help you need. For international students, the Intercultural Communication Center provides specialized classesworkshops, and seminars for students who are new to the educational system in the U.S. as well students for whom English is a second language.
Although most students who are caught cheating or plagiarizing note that they did not intend to do so, the consequences are the same regardless of what the student intended. If you find yourself unprepared for an exam or with an incomplete assignment minutes before it is due, please remember that there are options other than cheating available to you. Ultimately, it’s better to receive partial credit or no credit on work that is your own rather than be caught cheating or plagiarizing and subsequently penalized on the exam or assignment followed by an academic disciplinary report. Be honest with your instructor about where you stand. You can always ask for an extension. It may not always be possible and it may carry a penalty but it is still a better option than compromising your integrity. If you’re nearing the end of the semester and an extension is not an option, talk with your professor about dropping or withdrawing from the course or taking an incomplete and completing the coursework at a later date.