The Mind & Hand Book, the Academic Integrity Handbook, and MIT Policy 10 all describe MIT’s policies related to academic integrity. If you have any questions about these policies, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards for an individual case consultation. We are also available to present to academic departments, classes, student organizations, and other groups on issues related to academic integrity.
Faculty Options for Responding to Academic Misconduct
The Institute encourages faculty to take responses to academic dishonesty seriously, while also evaluating each case individually for the most appropriate response. In all cases, documenting the outcome with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards ensures that records of student misconduct are maintained centrally at the Institute, preventing an individual student from committing several instances of academic dishonesty without accountability. We encourage you to check out our tips for faculty (forthcoming) which contains ideas on how to prevent academic dishonesty and additional information on how to respond. For more information on the Institute's academic integrity policies, please consult the Handbook for Academic Integrity and Institute Policy 10.2: Procedures for Dealing with Student Academic Dishonesty.
Below is an outline of the three response options to academic misconduct. If you have questions about these options, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
1. Academic action within the subject or project
Instructors may determine an academic consequence that is appropriate. Examples include redoing the assignment for a reduced grade, failing the project or assignment, a failing grade in the course, and termination of participation in the research project. More serious violations should result in more serious consequences. Faculty members are encouraged to consult their Department Chair and the OSCCS for information on precedent.
When an instructor chooses this option, they should submit documentation to the OSCCS in the form of either a letter to file or a formal complaint (outlined below as option 2 or 3). Doing so ensures that a student is held responsible if they have engaged in this pattern of behavior across subjects.
2. Letter to file
Letters to file can be done in conjunction with academic actions within the subject or project.
Letters to file are generally maintained as internal records only. If a student has subsequent alleged violations, informal letters to file would be reviewed as part of the determination about how the new case would be resolved.
Faculty members are encouraged to use this template (Word document) for letters to file. Submission of supporting documentation is also encouraged. Please send letters and supporting documentation to our office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Committee on Discipline (COD) complaint
A COD complaint can be submitted in conjunction with academic action within the course or action regarding student participation in research.
A COD complaint will be reviewed by the COD Chair and resolved according to COD rules.
You can file a COD complaint using this form.
Please note an instructor may choose more than one option (for example, an instructor may take academic action within the class and submit a faculty letter to file).
Additional Resources for Faculty
How can faculty members work with students to prevent academic integrity concerns?
- Consider academic integrity when structuring your course.
- How can you structure course assignments so that they ensure students will submit original work?
- What quiz or exam security measures make sense in your department? For example, you might choose not to reuse the same questions from past years on large common exams.
- Consider a “drop the lowest grade” policy to lower the stakes of each individual assignment.
- Is there value in using turnitin.com or other similar software to detect plagiarism on assignments?
- Communicate specific expectations to students early and often.
- Include a description of your Academic Integrity policies in your syllabus and address them on the first day of class– a sample can be found below.
- Be explicit about expectations – particularly around collaboration and completing original work.
- When quizzes, exams, or large projects are looming, or it is a known busy time of the semester, reinforce that you are available to answer questions students may have about collaboration, citing sources, producing original work, etc.
- Document instances of potential policy violations with the OSCCS & reflect on past violations as a means for adjusting courses.
- The OSCCS can work with faculty members to ensure appropriate sanctions for students who commit policy violations and deter further violations.
- The OSCCS can also consult with faculty members who want to discuss issues they are facing or who want to learn about a student’s prior history (if one is present).
If a faculty member suspects a violation, how can they best discuss this with the student?
Contact OSCCS for a consultation: OSCCS staff are available to consult with faculty on potential violations of academic integrity policy. We recommend contacting us if you are unsure how to proceed, need a refresher on the process and options, want to discuss how to meet with the student, or need a thought partner about the situation.
Arrange a meeting with the student ASAP: Students suspected of a possible violation should be contacted individually and asked to meet in person. Students should be informed of the potential violation and that they have a right to be accompanied by any other member of the MIT community in the meeting if they wish. Instructors may wish to use our template for informing students of potential violations as a guide - feel free to adjust the language to meet individual styles and voices.
Notify the student in a timely manner: In general, meetings are more productive when they occur shortly after the incident. Further, notifying a student early on can act as an intervention for future behaviors. We do not recommend waiting until the end of the semester as this can cause difficulties for the students, delay grading, impact finals, etc.
Send notifications during business hours if possible: In general, information students may interpret as bad news (like notification of a potential policy violation) should be sent during business hours. In the event that students become emotionally distraught after receiving bad news, it is much easier to connect them with support services on campus during weekdays and during business hours. Sending notices on weekends or after hours should be avoided if possible. If you find you must send a notice after business hours, include information on how the student can access the Dean on Call for support.
Aim for consistency in communication to all involved students: If more than one student is involved in a situation, each individual student should receive separate communications, letters to file, etc. to avoid potential breaches of student privacy. Additionally, communications should be consistent and equitable for each student involved in a situation.
- Provide students an opportunity to respond: After explaining the reasons for suspicion of policy violation, students should be able to respond fully to all allegations. Take care to ensure that students do not feel like they are not being heard – the conversation should be framed as a time to explain the potential violations and to gather facts.
- Avoid presuming guilt until hearing from the student: Allow the student to explain their side of the situation before you determine whether or not there has been a policy violation. Consider whether course expectations were made clear and if there has been an error of miscommunication rather than a policy violation. Ask open-ended questions that allow for discussion rather than accusatory or leading questions that may make students resistant to talking.
- Inform the student of next steps and a timeline for action: At the end of a conversation, if the faculty member has determined that a policy violation has occurred and decides to take direct action, the student should be informed of that decision and said action, as well as what they can do if they disagree with the decision. If the faculty member decides to consult with OSCCS for further advice and support, students should be given a sense of when they can expect to hear what the next steps look like.
What does an example statement on academic misconduct for a syllabus look like?
See our example below - this can be a helpful starting point for faculty members seeking to add a statement to their syllabi:
MIT’s Academic Integrity policy reads, in part: “MIT anticipates that you will pursue your studies with purpose and integrity. The cornerstone of scholarship in all academic disciplines is honesty. MIT expects that you will approach everything you do here honestly – whether solving a math problem, writing a research or critical paper, or writing an exam” (see complete policy at integrity.mit.edu). In this course, I will hold you to the high standard of academic integrity expected of all students at the Institute. I do this for two reasons. First, it is essential to the learning process that you are the one doing the work. I have structured the assignments in this course to enable you to gain a mastery of the course material. Failing to do the work yourself will result in a lesser understanding of the content, and therefore a less meaningful education for you. Second, it is important that there be a level playing field for all students in this course and at the Institute so that the rigor and integrity of the Institute’s educational program is maintained. If society is to view a degree from MIT as meaningful, we must ensure that the work done toward the degrees awarded is honest.
Violating the Academic Integrity policy in any way (e.g., plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, cheating, etc.) will result in official Institute sanction. Possible sanctions include receiving a failing grade on the assignment or exam, being assigned a failing grade in the course, having a formal notation of disciplinary action placed on your MIT record, suspension from the Institute, and expulsion from the Institute for very serious cases. Please review the Academic Integrity policy and related resources (e.g., working under pressure; how to paraphrase, summarize, and quote; etc.) and contact me if you have any questions about appropriate citation methods, the degree of collaboration that is permitted, or anything else related to the Academic Integrity of this course.