Students in a First-Year Writing Seminar

Academic Integrity Code and Procedures

You are here


Indispensable Reference

Academic Integrity Code and Procedures


Summary for Instructors

Sources of information and assistance

Cornell’s Code of Academic Integrity is legislation adopted by the university faculty (in its form previous to the University Faculty Senate) and is under the purview of the Dean of the Faculty. A website with complete information on how to handle academic integrity charges is available at The Code is available, and students can take a quiz and a tutorial in academic integrity, at: All freshmen receive a detailed booklet called The Essential Guide to Academic Integrity at Cornell. You can download a pdf of it at:


The university faculty website contains instructions for notifying a student you suspect of a violation, conducting a primary hearing, and reporting findings. It also contains form letters you can simply copy and use. Further, you can always consult the faculty leader of your course, the chair of your college’s Academic Integrity Hearing Board (AIHB), an advising dean (in A&S Assistant Dean Patricia Wasyliw, 255-5792), or Deb Morey, Secretary to the A&S AIHB (dsm2/255- 7061) for advice about how to proceed. The colleges try to make the unpleasant but necessary business of dealing with such situations as painless as possible. The best way to keep situations from “back-firing” is to follow procedures.

Procedures—a summary

In essence, the code places responsibility and authority for handling suspected cases of cheating in individual courses into the hands of instructors. If you suspect a student has cheated, you conduct a “primary hearing” and make a decision about guilt or innocence. If you find a student guilty, you assign an appropriate grade penalty and report the finding and penalty to the secretary of your college’s AIHB—no matter what the student’s college. A list of college contacts can be found here: you think the grade penalty you have assigned is sufficient and if the student accepts culpability, both of which are usual, the case is closed.

If you think an offense in your course is so severe that a penalty beyond a grade penalty might be appropriate, you ask the chair of your college’s Academic Integrity Hearing Board to convene a hearing and consider the case. Only college deans may impose penalties beyond grade penalties (for example, notations on the transcript, suspensions, or dismissals). Deans almost always implement the recommendations of the AIHBs; if they do not, they are obligated to explain why.

Reporting findings; repercussions

Reporting the findings is crucial to the system. The secretary to your college’s AIHB forwards guilty findings to his/her counterpart in the st dent’s college. These finding are kept in a file separate from the student’s college record and never see the light of day unless the student asks to have them released (for example for a security clearance or for an application to law school). However, if a student is found guilty of cheating more than once, the AIHB of the student’s college will consider recommending to its dean a penalty in addition to the individual grade penalties. When this happens, the convictions that led to this review are not reconsidered, only the appropriateness of an additional penalty. In fact, the instructors who convicted the students may never even know this further review occurs.


After a primary hearing, a student can appeal your finding of guilty or your penalty to your college’s AIHB. If s/he does, the whole case (evidence and finding) will be reviewed de novo. The AIHB can uphold or reverse an instructor’s finding. Assuming it upholds your finding, it can recommend (but not require) that an instructor adjust the grade penalty—make it either more or less severe.

A footnote, about collecting evidence

Usually the most burdensome part of dealing with suspected cases of cheating is finding the document that has been plagiarized. If, after looking in the obvious places (introductions to standard works, web sites, students’ papers on the same topic who are in other sections of the course), you can’t locate the source, you can talk with a student about how s/he wrote the paper, ask for drafts or notes, discuss where ideas came from and how they evolved. If a student has in fact stolen a paper or large parts of one, these questions will often reveal that. If they do not, no matter your lingering suspicions, you should probably drop the case and simply reiterate the importance of doing one’s own work.

Written by L. S. Abel, February, 2000.

Back to Indispensable Reference for Teachers of First-Year Writing Seminars Table of Contents