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Faculty Academic Integrity FAQ

How does MSU define "academic misconduct"?

How does MSU define "academic dishonesty"?

Should instructors include a statement on academic honesty and integrity in their course syllabi?

What should I include on my syllabus if I choose to use Turnitin in my class?

How should I confront a student I believe has committed an act of academic dishonesty?

What do I say to the student when we meet?

What should I do if the student convinces me I was wrong?

What should I do if I can't decide on a course of action?

How much evidence is needed to accuse a student of academic dishonesty?

How do I report an act of academic misconduct?

How do I call for an academic disciplinary hearing?

What happens then?

What if the dean calls for a disciplinary hearing and the student decides to contest the allegation of cheating?

Can I remove a student from my class if I assign him or her a failing grade in the course for academic dishonesty?

What should I know about cheating in online courses?

Can students contest a charge of academic misconduct?

Where can I go for help?

How does MSU define "academic misconduct"?

The Integrity of Scholarship and Grades policy at MSU defines academic misconduct as any one of the following: academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records.

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How does MSU define "academic dishonesty"?

Academic dishonesty at Michigan State University is defined by the General Student Regulations as conduct that violates the fundamental principles of truth, honesty, and integrity. In addition to plagiarism, the following conduct is specifically cited:

  • Providing or accepting assistance with completing assignments or examinations.
  • Interfering through any means with another's academic work.
  • Faking data or results.

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Should instructors include a statement on academic honesty and integrity in their course syllabi?

No university policy requires such a statement, but instructors may consider the following:

Academic Honesty: Article 2.III.B.2 of the Academic Freedom Report states: “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty specified in General Student Regulation 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. 

Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work you completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course.  Also, you are not authorized to use the www.allmsu.com Web site to complete any course work in this course. Students who violate MSU regulations on Protection of Scholarship and Grades will receive a failing grade in the course or on the assignment.

Faculty are required to report all instances in which a penalty grade is given for academic dishonesty.  Students reported for academic dishonesty are required to take an online course about the integrity of scholarship and grades.  A hold will be placed on the student's account until such time as the student completes the course.  This course is overseen by the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education.

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What should I include on my syllabus if I choose to use Turnitin in my class?

If you choose to use Turnitin in your course, the following statements are strongly recommended to include in your syllabus:

Consistent with MSU's efforts to enhance student learning, foster honesty, and maintain integrity in our academic processes, I have chosen to use a tool called Turnitin to compare your papers with multiple sources.  The tool will compare each paper you submit to an extensive database of prior publications and papers, providing links to possible matches and a 'similarity score.'  The tool does not determine whether plagiarism has occurred or not.  Instead, I will make a complete assessment and judge the originality of your work.  All submissions to this course may be checked using this tool.

You should submit papers to Turnitin Dropboxes without identifying information included in the paper (e.g., name or student number), the [ANGEL or Desire 2 Learn] system will automatically show this information to me when I view the submission, but the information will not be retained by Turnitin.  If you forget and submit your paper with your identifying information on it, it will be retained in the Turnitin repository.

(To inform students about the retention option you have chosen, include one of the following:)

  1. "Your submissions will be retained in the Global Turnitin repository."
  2. "Your submissions will be retained only in the MSU repository hosted by Turnitin."
  3. "Your submissions will not be retained beyond the initial comparison."

In choosing to use Turnitin in our class, I have agreed to follow five guidelines.  They are:

  1. I will use Turnitin as part of a balanced approach to encourage academic integrity and foster student success.
  2. I will openly disclose use of Turnitin in this course on the syllabus and at the time assignments are announced.
  3. For a given assignment, I will use Turnitin for all papers.
  4. I will make the final determination of originality and integrity.
  5. To ensure privacy, I will ask students to remove identification (e.g., names and student numbers) from submissions.

If you have any questions about the use of Turnitin in this course, please bring them to my attention.

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How should I confront a student I believe has committed an act of academic dishonesty?

First, it’s important to meet with the student as soon as possible to explain what led you to suspect the student may have cheated. If the situation involves cheating during a test, exam or a lab session, avoid in-class confrontations, which are apt to disrupt classroom decorum and potentially disrupt other students taking the test. For the same reason, do not ask a student who you suspect is cheating to move to another seat or desk in the classroom.  Instead, if you have a proctor, ask him or her to observe the student you suspect is cheating. If you don’t have an assistant, document the student’s actions that led you to believe s/he is cheating. As an alternative, stand for a short time near the suspect student to stop the perceived cheating.  Immediately after the test, exam or lab session, ask the student to remain in the classroom to speak to you privately or to visit you during office hours or at a mutually convenient time—the sooner the better.

If the cheating involves plagiarism or some other act of academic dishonesty, invite the student to meet with you in your office at a mutually convenient time. It’s best to extend this invitation in person (e.g., before or after class).

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What do I say to the student when we meet?

In a non-adversarial tone, explain to the student what you observed and why you suspect the student had cheated. Remember, at this stage of the process, you are seeking information and should not have formed an iron-clad conclusion about the academic misconduct.  Leave the door open for the possibility that you might be wrong. Then give the student an opportunity to explain his or her actions.  Some students will quickly confess; others will deny the allegation—some more vociferously than others. Still others will be flabbergasted and unable to respond coherently.  Allow them time to compose themselves, even if that means meeting again ASAP.

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What should I do if the student convinces me I was wrong?

Advise the student that although you no longer believe an act of academic dishonesty has occurred, he or she may want to avoid the specific behavior that led to your allegation, lest she or he revisit this experience. Then assure the student that you consider the matter closed.

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What should I do if I can't decide on a course of action?

If you are undecided about what to do following the conversation with the student, tell the student you will consider his or her comments and will get back to him or her after you consult with anyone of the following:  the test proctor; your department chair/school director; your supervisor, if you are a TA; and the University Ombudsperson.  With the exception of the proctor, you should not identify the student. Following your conversations, notify the student of your decision.  If you decide to issue a penalty grade in the course, follow the steps outlined below. 

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How much evidence is needed to accuse a student of academic dishonesty?

The standard of evidence at Michigan State University is "the preponderance of evidence" (that which is more convincing, more credible, and of greater weight).

If a student formally appeals a penalty grade through an academic grievance hearing, the faculty member must be prepared to make his or her case on the basis of the preponderance of evidence. The burden of proof is on the faculty member. Suspicions of cheating are not enough evidence.

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How do I report an act of academic misconduct?

If your discussion with the student confirms your position that the student has cheated, you can assign the student a penalty grade, which is defined as a grade based on a charge of academic misconduct.  A penalty grade may be, but is not limited to, a failing grade on an assignment or in the course.  It's your call.  Then notify the student of your decision and complete the online Academic Dishonesty Report Form.  To get to this report, following these directions:

    1. Go to www.reg.msu.edu
    2. Click on "Faculty/staff Forms" (on left).
  • Click on "Instructor Systems" and log in.
  • Scroll down to "Academic Dishonesty" and click on "Academic Dishonesty Report."

NOTE:  The Integrity of Scholarship and Grades policy  requires instructors to report all instances of academic misconduct resulting in a penalty grade, by completing the Academic Dishonesty Report form.  This policy requires first time offenders to complete Academic Integrity Education program administered by the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education or the dean of the Graduate School.

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How do I call for an academic disciplinary hearing?

The Academic Dishonesty Report Form allows an instructor to recommend an academic disciplinary hearing when the instructor has issued the most severe penalty grade -- a failing grade in the course.  The student's dean, upon reviewing the Academic Dishonesty Report form, may then check the student's academic folder to determine if the student has a history of cheating.  If so, the student's dean most likely will call for a disciplinary hearing to impose sanctions in addition to the penalty grade.  A student who commits an egregious act of academic misconduct also is likely to face a disciplinary hearing.

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What happens then?

If the disciplinary hearing involves undergraduate students, the student's dean will notify the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies, who in turn will schedule a meeting with the student.  At this meeting, the Associate Provost will explain the disciplinary hearing process and ask the student to select a hearing before the student's college hearing board or an administrative hearing before the Associate Provost.

In disciplinary hearings involving graduate students, the student's dean will notify the Dean of The Graduate School, who will then schedule a meeting with the student to explain the disciplinary hearing process and ask the student to select either a hearing before the student's college hearing board or an administrative hearing before the Dean of The Graduate School.  If the academic misconduct concerns violations of professional standards, the Associate Dean or Dean of The Graduate School will refer the case to the student's college hearing board.

Additional sanctions include, but are not limited to, dismissal from a program or suspension from the University for a designated period.

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What if the dean calls for a disciplinary hearing and the student decides to contest the allegation of cheating?

In cases in which a disciplinary hearing has been requested and the student decides to contest the allegation, through an academic grievance hearing, the disciplinary hearing will be held in abeyance until the grievance hearing and all appeals, if any, are final.  If the student is cleared of the academic misconduct charges, the disciplinary hearing would be cancelled and the student's penalty grade removed.  A student facing an academic disciplinary hearing has 10 class days to request a grievance hearing to contest the allegation.

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Can I remove a student from my class if I assign him or her a failing grade in the course for academic dishonesty?

In a word, no.  Students have until the middle of the following semester they are enrolled to contest an allegation of academic misconduct.  Therefore, they may continue to attend class and complete all assignments.  If they decide to contest the allegation at any time before the deadline for filing a request for a formal hearing, and if they prevail in the hearing, you would have to recalculate their grade on the "failed" assignment and then for the course.  Remember that the first step in the grievance hearing process calls for the student to meet with the instructor to review the allegation.  Remember, too, that instructors bear the burden of proof in such hearings.

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What should I know about cheating in online courses?

Assuring academic integrity while conducting examinations in an online environment can be challenging.  The Code of Teaching Responsibility (CTR) and the Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (ISG) have both been amended to address proctoring of examinations.  The ISG requires you to "implement proctoring standards appropriate to the design of the course."  The CTR echoes this requirement:  "Instructors are expected to take reasonable steps to create an assessment environment that promotes academic integrity.  When proctoring or other security measures are necessary to ensure integrity of assessments, then such measures should be administered in a manner consistent with the design and delivery of the course."

Resources to address academic integrity in online courses can be found at the following website: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/summer72/rowe72.html

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Can students contest a charge of academic misconduct?

Yes.  If the student remains dissatisfied with the results of these conversations, the student may file a written request for an academic grievance hearing to contest the charge of academic misconduct.  Graduate students may request a hearing before the hearing board in the unit in which the alleged misconduct occurred; undergraduate students, before the University Academic Integrity Hearing Board. (See AFR 6.III.)  The appropriate hearing board may accept or reject the student's request for a hearing for cause or attempt to resolve the matter in an informal meeting with both parties, should the hearing board approve a formal hearing.  In such hearings, the instructor bears the burden of proof.   Either party may contact the University Ombudsperson at any time during this process.

If the hearing board supports the instructor's charge of cheating, the penalty grade will stand.  If the hearing board finds for the student, it will ask the appropriate administrator to implement a remedy, in consultation with the hearing board.

For graduate student cases that begin at the department/school level, either party may appeal the hearing board's decision to the college hearing board.  For graduate student cases that begin at the college level, either party may appeal the hearing board's decision to the University Graduate Judiciary.  For cases that involve undergraduate students, either party may appeal to the University Academic Appeal Board.  (See AFR 6.IV.)

For more information about academic grievance hearings, see http://www.msu.edu/unit/ombud/grievance-procedures/index.html.

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Where can I go for help?

Talk to your department chair/school director or call the Office of the Ombudsperson at any time during the grievance process -- the earlier the better (353-8830).

For university policies and regulations on academic dishonesty, see Policies.

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Questions? Contact the Ombudsperson.