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 suspected 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 and associated materials 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 investigating 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 obligated to respond in a timely manner to the investigating officer’s communications. Generally, the investigation and filing of an Incident Report is expected to take two weeks from the date of the investigating officer’s initial receipt of the case from the Honor Council’s Executive Director. Should the investigating officer need additional time due to unusual circumstances, he or she must seek an extension of time in writing from the Faculty Chair of the Honor Council. Extensions to a total period longer than a calendar month require approval in advance by the Provost. NOTE: The two-week timeline refers to the period of time for the investigation only. Adjudication of the case will take additional time.
  2. If the investigating officer believes that there is insufficient evidence of a violation to warrant formal adjudication they may recommend to the Executive Board that the case not be advanced. Under these circumstances and if the Executive Board concurs, 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 subsequent cases involving the student. A notation of the matter itself will be kept by the Council as part of its record of reports, with the student’s name expunged.
  3. If the investigating officer believes that sufficient evidence of a violation exists to warrant formal adjudication, the investigating officer will so indicate 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, 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 faculty member. Only graduate (master’s level) students and faculty who teach in programs with graduate students may serve on hearing boards for master’s degree students. 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 Sanctions section.
    • 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. The student may petition the Honor Council for a new hearing within seven days of the date of the letter from the Faculty Chair informing the student of the outcome of the 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 evidence that is new and not to have been available at the time of hearing, or a procedural violation by the Honor Council or any participant in advance of or at the hearing. 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. Dean cannot change the Honor Council’s finding of In Violation, nor can the Dean alter the recommended sanction by more than one level up or down. 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. This policy was approved by the Main Campus Executive Faculty on 12/18/2020, and supersedes any previously published policy, effective Spring Semester 2021.
  2. 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 recommended by the Executive Board, and 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 its 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.   For the expedited case of a master’s degree student, the Executive Board will include the graduate student Executive Board member. 
    • 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. The Dean of the student’s school will validate the final sanction.
    • d. The student will have 24 hours to accept the offer and will provide in writing a brief statement both admitting responsibility for the offense and accepting the sanction proposed. 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, 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, the student-signed expedited agreement form, along with the complete case file to the student’s Dean. In the case of expedited sanctions, in almost all cases, no change can be made to the sanction agreed to by the student. In very rare circumstances the Dean may not agree and wish to change the student’s sanction. If, after consulting with the Executive Board, Deans do not agree with the sanction, the student will be offered the option of rescinding the agreement and scheduling a hearing instead. This policy was approved by the Main Campus Executive Faculty on 12/14/2019, and supersedes any previously published policy, effective Spring Semester 2019.  

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 Letter of Censure.  The Letter of Censure becomes part of the student’s academic record and, with the student’s consent, may be shared with persons outside the Georgetown community. There are two Letters of Censure: a permanent Letter of Censure (Level II) to remain in the student’s academic file in perpetuity; and a reducible Letter of Censure (Level I) to remain in the student’s academic file unless and until reduced or removed through the student’s successful completion of a sanction reduction (see below).  (This policy was approved by the Main Campus Executive Faculty on 12/14/2019, and supersedes any previously published policy, effective Spring Semester 2019.)
  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:
    • Transcript Notation (Level I ): 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).
    • Transcript Notation: Permanent (Level II) is a permanent entry on the student’s transcript which reads as follows: “Censure: Violation of Honor System.” 
  4. Sanction Reduction: Students wishing to have either a level one letter of censure or level one transcript notation reduced 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(s) 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.
  5. 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 (or Dismissal): Violation of Honor System.” 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.
  6. 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 does 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 “Sanctioning Guidelines” section of the Honor Council web site. The guidelines will be updated from time to time as needed.