Academic integrity is the cornerstone of intellectual environments. Higher education institutions like Williams College in Massachusetts inaugurate a campus-wide Honor Code to maintain academic integrity. What's unique about Williams College is that its own students voted in favor of establishing an Honor code in 1896, and remains, to this day, a critical component of the school's academic community. Today, only student members of the Honor and Discipline Committee handles and resolves cases of academic misconduct.
As you know, much is to be expected of Williams College students, so it's easy for you to feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, stress is the ultimate culprit of academic misconduct. In this article, we'll address how Williams College handles allegations of academic misconduct and why you need a student defense attorney to assist you throughout the disciplinary process.
Williams College's Procedures for Handling Academic Misconduct
Reported suspected violations
Reporting potential violations of the honor code is essential to our academic integrity. If you have any reason to believe that the honor code has been violated, even if the suspected violation would be minor, the best thing to do is to inform the Student or Faculty Chair of the Honor Committee as soon as possible. It is the committee's responsibility alone to determine whether or not an honor code violation has occurred.
Before a hearing
A case begins when a member of the community comes forward with evidence that a violation of the Honor Code might have occurred. This personal normally brings the suspected violation to the attention of the Student Chair (SC) or the Faculty Chair (FC). If the Chairs decide that there is sufficient evidence to proceed, the SC meets with the concerned student(s) as soon as possible, informs them of the allegation, and presents them with copies of the supporting evidence.
The conversation between the SC and the accused may become part of the evidence at a hearing at the discretion of the SC. The SC should make clear during the conversation with the accused student whether the discussion is confidential or not. The FC will meet with the members of the faculty or staff who will be appearing at the hearing to acquaint them with hearing procedures and guidelines.
During a hearing
The Honor Committee must have at least three-quarters of its student (voting) members on campus at the time of the hearing. If fewer than five student members can be present at a hearing, both the accused student and the Dean must agree to proceed with the hearing.
The individual who has brought the case forward presents his or her evidence and explains why she/he suspects an Honor Code violation. Members of the committee, as well as the accused student, may ask questions for clarification at any time. After the presentation, committee members and the accused student may ask any additional questions. If there are additional witnesses to the alleged violation of the Honor Code, they are brought in one at a time and questioned first by the committee and then by the accused student.
The committee then deliberates over three questions:
- Is the alleged behavior an infraction of the Honor Code?
- If it is, did the accused student commit the infraction?
- If s/he did, what penalty is recommended to the Dean?
The panel may assign any of the following sanctions (individually or in combination) in response to a violation of the Honor Code. Students who are found responsible for violating the Honor Code are expected to learn from the hearing, finding, and sanction. Subsequence infractions of the honor code (after an initial incident) will almost certainly result in more severe sanctions.
- Warning: a warning is intended to educate the student about the Honor Code and community standards, and to serve as notice that continuation or repetition of prohibited conduct may be cause for additional disciplinary action. A warning does not become part of the student's permanent record. Students who receive a warning can answer negatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. A warning remains in a student's file until graduation when it is removed.
- Mandatory educational tutorial: This instructional material is designed to educate students about the importance of academic integrity, and to serve as a guide for proper practices around collaboration, citation, quotation, and more. This educational sanction does not become part of the student's permanent record. Students who receive this sanction can answer negatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. Notation of an educational requirement remains in a student's file until graduation when it is removed.
- Failure in the course: The student will automatically receive an F for the course in which the infraction was committed. This sanction does not automatically become part of the student's permanent record unless it is accompanied by disciplinary probation or suspension. Students who receive this sanction can answer negatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. The failing grade will appear as an E on the academic transcript. Notation of the hearing outcome remains in a student's file until graduation when it is removed.
- Disciplinary probation: to be assigned for a specified period of time. This sanction becomes part of the student's permanent record and remains on file for seven years. Students who receive this sanction must answer affirmatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. Subsequent violations of the Honor Code will normally result in suspension or expulsion from the College. The student meets regularly with a dean during the probationary period. As a general matter, parents/guardians are notified about disciplinary probation.
- Suspension: Separation from the College, and exclusion from College premises, and from other privileges and activities. Readmission to the College after the term of suspension is not automatic but requires an application to the Dean of College. This sanction becomes part of the student's permanent record and remains on file for seven years.
- Expulsion: permanent termination of student status, and exclusion from College premises, privileges, and activities. This sanction becomes part of the student's permanent record and remains on file permanently. Students who receive this sanction must answer affirmatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. As a general matter, parents/guardians are notified about expulsion.
- Other actions: In addition to or in place of the above actions, the hearing panel may assign such other penalties, as it deems appropriate.
Academic Integrity Attorney for Williams College Students
An academic misconduct violation can jeopardize the academic and professional goals you or your college student have set. If you value the investment you've made into your education and your professional future, contacting a skilled student defense attorney is a must. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped students who've acquired serious academic misconduct charges recover from these allegations, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today at 888-535-3686 for more information.