George Mason University (Mason) has a forthright and comprehensive academic misconduct policy and code of ethics. Mason's easy-to-understand process receives continuous updates that reflect current events and technological changes in academia.
Moreover, the administration is proactive in its attempts to prevent and resolve academic misconduct cases on and off-campus, even before they arise.
Using a mix of humor, videos, flowcharts, and detailed descriptions of infractions, Mason is transparent about its resolutions approach and what happens during each step of the investigation process. Students accused of academic misconduct have a chance to attend a hearing, bring an advisor, and appeal the panel's decision.
Students who are guilty of academic misconduct face sanctions that affect their graduation prospects. Depending on case severity, they risk course failure or even permanent dismissal, which stays on their academic record.
Fortunately, Mason encourages student engagement throughout this process and allows them to fight charges. With Advisor Joseph D. Lento, your chances of a favorable case resolution increase, helping you avoid penalties that negatively impact your future.
Mason Honor Code Pledge
Mason enforces a high standard of academic integrity that it highlights with the Mason Honor Code. The code emphasizes honesty and mutual responsibility and asks students to refrain from conduct that places them at an unfair disadvantage.
When students apply to Mason, they must read and sign a pledge acknowledging that they will adhere to the code. Students are also responsible for staying up-to-date with the most recent statement published by the administration.
The university also provides a public link to its honor code. The document provides definitions of code violations and outlines the hearing, resolution, sanctions, and appeals process.
Defining Academic Misconduct at Mason
The university considers “cheating, stealing, plagiarizing, or lying in matters related to academic work” as going against the honor code. All actions that fall under the general terms are prohibited.
Mason defines cheating as any action or attempt that misrepresents the student's effort. Examples of cheating include:
- Accessing or allowing others to access unauthorized material
- Having someone submit academic work in a student's name
- Duplicating another person's work
- Violating syllabus rules and college guidelines
A student engages in lying when they knowingly provide false information to shirk their responsibilities or gain an advantage over their peers. Some ways that students do this is by:
- Fabricating documents
- Providing false documents or statements
- Giving excuses about why they could not complete an assignment or exam
Plagiarism is failing to give credit when using another person's work or ideas. Actions that count as plagiarism include:
- Not citing research materials or ideas of other people
- Falsely citing work or not using the material cited
- Using one's old work or material for another course and passing it off as new work (self-plagiarism)
Mason considers stealing as any unauthorized access to material like test answers and other restricted information. Stealing includes:
- Taking exam answers and publishing them onto websites
- Using their phone or computer to take screenshots/pictures of privileged information
- Cheating off another person's work without their consent and knowledge
Office of Academic Integrity
The Office of Academic Integrity at Mason reviews any violations submitted by professors against students. Although the office doesn't conduct the investigation, it goes over each case to determine if the professor supports their claims with evidence and material.
The Office of Academic Integrity can dismiss a case if:
- It believes the charge does not constitute a violation of its terms.
- There is a lack of proof of the violation's occurrence.
- The professor did not submit a claim in time.
If the office proceeds with the referral, the administrators notify the student through their Mason email. Students have seven days to schedule a meeting with an administrator from the office to discuss the charges.
Students have multiple resolution options during the meeting depending on who is attending and whether they are appealing or refusing the charges.
- Prehearing resolution: Students review the evidence, accept responsibility, and agree to the sanctions.
- Full Case In-Hearing: Members of the Honor Committee make the final judgment, after the student and accuser provide witness statements and evidence. One advisor can accompany the student, but they can bring multiple witnesses. Mason documents the hearing through video and keeps it in the student's academic record.
- Full Case Expedited review: Happens without the presence of the professor and student. The Honor Committee receives the evidence and witness statements digitally and informs the parties of their decision.
- Sanctions Review: This is when the student admits fault but asks for leniency or an amendment to the sanctions. Students receive approval if their professor agrees and if the student can justify their need for a modification.
- Sanctions Only In-Hearing: A hearing when a student faces suspension or expulsion from the university. Students can bring witnesses and an advisor and present their case and evidence to the Committee.
- Sanctions Only Expedited Review: Happens when the student and professor cannot attend an in-person hearing. The Honor Committee makes its decision after reviewing the digital evidence.
After reviewing the evidence and questioning witnesses and the parties, the Honor Committee recommends sanctions. The penalties include:
- Re-submitting the work
- Deducting a grade
- Receiving a zero
- Failing the course
- Attending an educational seminar
Students who face expulsion or suspension have either committed a severe infarction or is a repeat offender. Mason's administration does not want to resort to these extreme measures without giving students a chance to defend against misconduct allegations.
Students can appeal once after they receive notice of the recommended sanctions. If approved, the Honor Committee will re-examine the new evidence and decide the outcome of the case.
Accused students have to be mindful, however, that even lesser sanctions such as receiving a failing grade for the assignment in question can have unexpected consequences. A finding of responsibility for academic misconduct can affect not only a student's present academics, but also future opportunities including internships, graduate and professional school candidacy, employment, service in the military as an officer, obtaining government security clearances, and so forth.
Although the concern may seem limited to what takes at the school, this could not be further from reality. Everything is at stake, and that is why allegations of academic misconduct must be addressed as best as possible, preferably from as early as possible in the meantime.
Call the Lento Law Firm
Although the academic misconduct process at George Mason University is clear and accessible, anything can happen during the hearing. Attorney Joseph D. Lento helps you confidently present your case in front of the Mason Honor Committee to defeat false allegations, and in cases involved a student's poor decision or lapse of judgment, to remove or reduce recommended sanctions.