Student Academic Misconduct FAQ

The University of Manitoba treats cases of inappropriate collaboration, cheating, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty very seriously. Honesty and fairness are fundamental aspects of the University's mission. As a result, any member of the University community who violates these principles is dealt with as if he/she is damaging the integrity of the University itself.


Where can I find University policy information about student misconduct and appeal procedures?
Here are governing documents for student discipline, including the Student Discipline Bylaw and Student Misconduct Procedures: http://umanitoba.ca/admin/governance/governing_documents/students/student_discipline.html

What are the University regulations on academic integrity?
You can find this information in the Academic Calendar under "General Academic Regulations and Requirements":
http://crscalprod1.cc.umanitoba.ca/Catalog/ViewCatalog.aspx?pageid=viewcatalog&catalogid=300&chapterid=3755&topicgroupid=20145&loaduseredits=False

What other policies should I be familiar with?
Visit the University Governance website for policy information on research ethics and intellectual property: http://umanitoba.ca/admin/governance/governing_documents

What do I do if I need help writing an academic paper for one of my classes?
Visit the Academic Learning Centre (201 Tier) for one-on-one help and workshops: http://umanitoba.ca/student/academiclearning/

I've been accused of cheating or plagiarism! What do I do?
There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You may have an emotional response (anger, anxiety, fear) when you are informed of the allegation. Do what you can to master your feelings so you won't say anything you may later regret. Student Counselling and Career Centre (474 University Centre) can help in this regard. Make an appointment with the Student Advocacy Office (520 University Centre) to discuss your case and receive advice and information on policies and procedures.
  • Answer questions honestly. The disciplinary authority has an obligation to investigate and to try to determine the truth.
  • Remember, there is an appeal process available to you. If the disciplinary authority investigating the allegations against you seems unwilling to hear your side, you can appeal. Remember, too, that the burden of proof is on the University.
  • Consider the evidence against you. Evidence does not have to be conclusive. The burden of proof is based on the 'balance of probabilities' that is, if a reasonable person can say: "Based on this evidence, cheating probably took place."
  • An instructor who believes a student is responsible for an academic violation cannot impose a disciplinary action but must refer the matter to the Department Head/Dean.
  • You have a right to appeal the finding of facts (whether found responsible), the disposition determined by the disciplinary authority (disciplinary action) or both.
  • Lying or fabricating evidence may lead to more severe disciplinary actions.
  • If you run into a disciplinary authority who, in your opinion, is handling an academic dishonesty accusation poorly, seek advice from the Student Advocacy office. Here are examples of some improper reactions to academic dishonesty:

The disciplinary authority:

  • appears to take the matter very personally, looks at the alleged offender with loathing, and says some hurtful things.
  • warns the student not to appeal because much worse could happen than the sanction being imposed. The calendar may be cited in support of this claim, the instructor may say something like: "You could be expelled if you appeal!"
  • offers no reason for believing the student cheated, but demands proof that the student did not.
  • offers superficial evidence for an accusation based on a generalization or a judgment of the person, (e.g., "I can't believe anyone your age would say that." or "The writing is too good for a student.")

What disciplinary actions will I face if I'm accused of plagiarism, cheating, inappropriate collaboraiton, or another form of academic dishonesty?
Various factors are considered by disciplinary authorities when determining outcomes for academic dishonesty:

  • Was the offense planned or the result of an impulse?
  • Has the student been honest and cooperative during the investigative process?
  • Is this a first offense?
  • Does the student appear to be genuinely sorry for the offense?
  • Were other students compromised through the actions of this student?
  • Was this student irresponsible in not knowing that the offense was an offense?

There is no rule about which disciplinary actions are applied for which violations, but there are patterns in the ways that disciplinary actions have been applied in the past. Patterns are not rules and disciplinary authorities are free to depart from them.

  1. Failure (FDisc). This is the normal disciplinary action when the violation is considered intentional and is a first violation. Often a failing grade is given along with a grade classification DISC (disciplinary action).
  2. A notation of academic dishonesty may also be added to the student's transcript. This may be removed by the student after the time period indicated in the decision letter has elapsed.
  3. Severe disciplinary actions apply if there is evidence of planning or involvement of others in the violation. Suspension for one year or more is typical for a student who was previously found responsible, even if the violation resulting in suspension is less serious.
  4. Suspension due to a disciplinary matter results in a transcript notation. After serving the suspension, a student may make a request in writing to the Registrar that this notice be removed.
  5. Expulsion, unlike suspension, is deemed to be permanent. Expulsion is typically reserved for very serious cases which may also involve criminal prosecution.
    Criminal prosecution is reserved for criminal acts, such as fraud, forgery, theft and impersonation.

What are the consequences for engaging in fraud?
The regulations on scholastic offenses in the Calendar describe a number of fraudulent acts. While innocent acts can sometimes be mistaken for cheating or plagiarism, this rarely happens with fraud. Fraud is usually a deliberate lie. For example, submitting a forged doctor's letter, failing to disclose information on an application or any other form of misrepresentation is fraudulent. Consequently, it is often dealt with more severely.

Can I appeal a disciplinary decision?
You may appeal a discipline decision. You can appeal the facts of the allegation itself or the disciplinary action. You have at least two levels of appeal open to you. Each faculty/school has its own Local Discipline Committee (LDC) that hears student's appeals. The University Discipline Committee hears appeals arising from LDC decisions.

What if I feel that the disciplinary action against me isn't fair?
If you are responsible for the violation but you feel the disciplinary action is too severe, you can also appeal. You may obtain assistance/information from the Student Advocacy office, Room 520 University Centre.

Does an academic offense show up on my transcript/record?
A copy of the decision letter and related material will be kept in your student file. There will be a notation on the student record and the official transcript if a student is suspended or expelled.
The Student Discipline Bylaw outlines reporting responsibilities for the academic staff and disciplinary authorities. It is your right to know how information about you is retained, and for how long.

How do I avoid getting accused of exam cheating?
Before your exam, check out the section on exam cheating in our quick reference guide, From A to I: Understanding Academic Integrity (link). We outline some great resources and tips for dealing with exam stress.

During the exam:

  • Do not sit near friends.
  • Do not use study notes written on small pieces of paper.
  • Shield your answer sheet so that others cannot see it.
  • Do not take notes, books or other items into a test or exam except those expressly authorized. If unsure about what is permitted, always ask.
  • If calculators are permitted, remove the cover.
  • Do not gaze around the room when writing a test or exam.
  • Do not communicate with any other student during a test or exam: communicate only with the instructor or proctor.
  • Arrive on time. Hand in all papers as required.
  • If you hear of anyone obtaining information about a test or exam in advance, report it to the instructor without delay.
  • If procedures for administering or supervising tests or exams seem inadequate to you, let the instructor or other authority know what your concerns are.
  • Report to the invigilator or instructor any unusual or suspicious behaviour of other students writing the test or exam.

How do I avoid accidentally plagiarizing or engaging in academic dishonesty in my essays, reports, and other assignments?
Check out our quick reference guide, From A to I: Understanding Academic Integrity (link). Here are some other quick tips:

  • Know the rules, including the specific rules for the specific assignment.
  • Do not work with a fellow student on any assignment unless authorized to do so. It is called 'inappropriate collaboration' if you exceed the amount of group work expected by the professor. Make sure you clearly understand the professor's expectations for individual and group work on each assignment/project.
  • Acknowledge all assistance received, including help from friends or others in terms of proofreading, suggestions or information.
  • Do not submit work that is not entirely yours, i.e., use of another student's essay, use of a downloaded essay from the Internet, use of an assignment purchased from a service/agency.
  • Do not cite in your bibliography any books, articles or other sources, including the Internet, which you have not used for the assignment in question.
  • Do not lend your work to other students unless you feel certain they will not use it dishonestly.
  • Do not hand in the same work more than once; whether for different classes or if you are repeating a course.
  • Keep a photocopy of all assignments, essays, and reports you hand in to be graded. Keep rough copies and notes until your final grade is received. Notes and rough copies can constitute valuable evidence that your work is your own.
  • When saving electronic files, save the drafts of assignments/papers under different versions. This maintains a record of your work as it develops to the final version.
  • If you submit an assignment by sliding it under an instructor's office door (not recommended), confirm the next day, or as soon as you can, that the assignment was received. Make a note of the actual time and date of submission. Better yet, deliver it to the general office and have it signed for by the staff.
  • The assignment you prepare for one course must not be resubmitted in whole or in part at any time. This is called 'duplicate submission'.
  • When in doubt about any practice, ask your instructor. Do not rely on friends, relatives or fellow students for information about what is acceptable academic practice in a particular course or discipline.
  • When material you read impresses you, be particularly careful to use your own words. Use quotation marks and cite sources whenever you use the words of another, even phrases only one or two words in length. Acknowledge all sources of information and inspiration.

What do I do if I suspect someone of cheating, plagiarizing, or committing some other form of academic misconduct?
Anyone who suspects someone else of committing a scholastic violation has several choices:

  • Talk about your suspicions with the other person

Many University of Manitoba students hope to enter professions where peer monitoring is an important means of maintaining professional ethical standards. If you decide to talk to someone you suspect of academic dishonesty, make sure you are familiar with the policy on scholastic violations. Then consider the evidence you have that a dishonest act has or will take place. Be clear about your own motives and goals. You may want to consult someone you trust before undertaking the difficult task of talking to someone you suspect of wrongdoing.

  • Report the suspicion to the Instructor/Department Head/Dean

    There are two ways to make such a report: (1) by giving the instructor, head or dean a tip; (2) by giving evidence. When you give a tip, you need not disclose your identity. You are merely advising the instructor, head or dean that you suspect academic dishonesty took place (or will probably take place). It is up to that person to investigate and gather evidence needed to charge the offenders. You do not become a witness. A tip can be written, phoned or given in person.

    • Sometimes a tip will not be useful because the instructor is unable to find any evidence in support of the claims made. From the University's point of view it is always preferable to have a witness willing to state what they have seen or heard.

  • Remain uninvolved

Before deciding to remain uninvolved, consider the big picture. Who benefits most from your lack of action? The wrong-doer. If you feel a moral obligation to try to make your university a more fair and honest place, try to find a way to get involved. Please contact the Student Advocacy office (520 University Centre) for advice.

What is collaboration?
Collaboration can include, but is not limited to:

  • jointly calculating homework problems;
  • having another person help you rewrite a paper;
  • sharing sources for a take-home exam;
  • working in a group on a lab or computer assignment;
  • "debugging" another student's computer program;
  • checking homework answers with others.

What's wrong with collaborating?
Nothing, so long as it is done in a cooperative way (with all group members contributing equally), and with the permission of the course instructor. Inappropriate collaboration is unethical because it:

  • misrepresents joint work as an individual's work
  • gives people who break the rules an unjust advantage and results in unfair competition
  • prevents learning (those who work with others on an assignment are not gaining all the knowledge and skills that they would be from doing the entire assignment on their own).

When is collaboration inappropriate?
When students work together or share information without specific instructions by the professor, this constitutes inappropriate collaboration. This applies to in-class or take-home tests, papers, labs, or homework assignments; basically, any assignment that will be submitted for a grade. Students should not collaborate unless the professor has given specific instructions about group work and when this is permissible.

What are the "ground rules" when it comes to inappropriate collaboration?

  • You should follow the directions of your professor with regard to working independently or in a group.
  • You should only work with other students to the extent that is specified by your professor.
  • If you are not sure about what your professor's expectations are, ask before choosing to work with someone else.
  • Even if your professor permits students to collaborate on an assignment it is never ethical to copy someone's work or to let them copy yours.

What is my responsibility with regards to inappropriate collaboration?
It is the responsibility of the student to:

  • Know the rules; ignorance of the rules does not excuse inappropriate collaboration or any other form of cheating.
  • Ensure that your work is original and 100% a result of your effort and yours alone.
  • Understand what constitutes inappropriate collaboration. Always ask your professor if you are unsure.
  • The syllabus or the course web site should outline your professor's expectations. The specific assignment instructions should also be helpful.
  • Never guess or assume. Always ask and be sure.

How serious is inappropriate collaboration?
If you have been accused of inappropriate collaboration or a similar scholastic offence, you may be surprised at how formally and seriously the accusation is dealt with and how severe the consequences can be. Students may be sanctioned or disciplinary action may be taken under the Student Discipline bylaw.

What are the steps that will take place if I've been accused of inappropriate collaboration?

  1. Meet with a Student Advocate.
  2. A meeting with the disciplinary authority (normally the Department Head) will take place. This will be an opportunity for both sides to present their issues and for a determination of academic dishonesty (inappropriate collaboration) to be made.
  3. The disciplinary authority will then make several decisions regarding the allegations.
  4. The situation may result in a warning or a penalty.
  5. If this is judged to be a serious breach of academic integrity, the case may be referred to the dean's office or beyond.

What are the disciplinary actions if I have been found guilty of inappropriate collaboration?
If you are found guilty of the offence, the disciplinary action assigned to you may vary according to the following factors:

  • Was he or she honest and cooperative during the investigation?
  • Is he or she genuinely sorry for committing the offence?
  • Was it planned or was it an impulse?
  • Were there extenuating circumstances to consider?
  • Was this behaviour a detriment to the University?
  • Were other students unduly compromised?
  • Has the student done this before?
  • Was the student aware that his or her actions were dishonest?

The professor who brought the allegation against the student cannot impose a disciplinary action (Student Discipline bylaw). He or she must refer the matter to the department head or dean.
There is no rule about which disciplinary actions are applied for which violations, but there are patterns in the ways that disciplinary actions have been applied in the past. Patterns are not rules and disciplinary authorities are free to depart from them.

Disciplinary actions can include:

  • a reprimand.
  • student being required to repeat and re-submit the assignment.
  • a failing grade on the assignment.
  • "F" in course (usually for a first offence).
  • sometimes a course specific notation, (DISC) may be added to the transcript.
  • suspension for one year or more.
  • notation on student transcript (this may be removed at the request of the student after the time period has elapsed).
  • Expulsion - permanent withdrawal from the university.

Can I appeal a disciplinary action for inappropriate collaboration?
Yes, students do have the right to appeal the disciplinary matter, the disciplinary action, or both. The Student Advocacy office can assist you in your appeal process. The process normally involves writing a letter to the appropriate authority explaining your situation, followed by attendance at a hearing where a committee will hear your case. The first level of the appeal is the Local Discipline Committee (L.D.C.), which is assembled to hear appeals at the faculty level. If you are not satisfied with the outcome at this level, you may appeal further to the University Discipline Committee (U.D.C.), which hears appeals of L.D.C. decisions or decisions made from other disciplinary authorities such as residence appeal committees.

How do I avoid inappropriate collaboration?
You can protect yourself from being charged with inappropriate collaboration by taking the initiative to prevent it:

  • Check out the section on inappropriate collaboration in our quick reference guide, From A to I: Understanding Academic Integrity.
  • Know the rules. You should know exactly what your professor expects from you on each assignment.
  • Do not work with another student on any assignment unless specifically authorized by your professor to do so.
  • Acknowledge all assistance received. This includes help from friends or others in terms of proofreading, suggestions, or information.
  • Do not submit work that is not entirely yours. If you have copied or borrowed ideas from another student then the work is not entirely yours.
  • Do not lend your work to other students unless you are absolutely certain that they will not use it dishonestly–even then, think again.
  • Ask your professor. When in doubt about any practice, ask! Do not rely on information from friends, relatives, or fellow students about what is acceptable. If they are mistaken, it is you who will have to deal with the consequences.

Can I withdraw from a course while my case is in progress?
Students are not normally allowed to withdraw from the course in which they are suspected of committing an offence until a final decision on the case has been made. As well, you may not withdraw from the course once disciplinary action (penalty) is assigned in order to avoid same. You may, however, still be able to withdraw from other courses if they are not related to the offence. If it is a serious case, you may not be permitted to change any courses until the investigation is completed.

Can I get my degree while the case is being investigated?
The University will not award you any degree, diploma, or certificate until the final decision on your case has been made. You will be able to use university facilities, unless there is a valid reason to bar you and you can usually continue to be registered to take courses. You may be put on a "hold" status to prevent you from being able to request your transcript and subsequently transfer to another institution. Your student status stands while your situation is under investigation or appeal.

Will this be recorded on my transcript?
That depends on whether part of the disciplinary action includes a transcript notation of academic dishonesty. If so, it will be up to the discretion of the decision-maker to determine the length of the notation up to 5 years. A student can make a request, after a certain length of time, to have this notation removed. The Student Advocacy office can assist with this request.


Resources

The Student Advocacy office offers presentations and workshops on academic integrity and related topics.

We maintain the Academic Integrity website that provides helpful information for faculty and staff handling a discipline case. Visit us at: umanitoba.ca/academicintegrity for more information and to view our educational materials including online tutorials.

Student Advocacy gratefully acknowledges the following resources:

  • Working the System Series, University of Toronto "Accused of Cheating? Student Judicial Affairs, September 1999
  • Permission to adapt "Cheating, Plagiarism and other Scholastic Offences" guide produced by the Office of the Ombudsman, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.