Policy: Academic Honesty


Trinity is devoted to the highest standards of academic honesty and intellectual integrity. As an institution of higher education founded in the Catholic intellectual tradition and rooted in liberal learning, Trinity challenges students to develop sound moral and ethical practices in their study, research, writing and presentations; in their examinations and portfolios; and in all of their relationships and actions as members of the academic community.

The values that are central to the Trinity experience animate the Honor System that has been a part of the Trinity College community since 1913. All members of the Trinity community, students, faculty, and staff, are expected to uphold a way of life that embraces personal integrity and responsibility, the foundation of the Honor System. The Honor System reflects a personal commitment on the part of all members of the community to individual integrity and shared trust, hence it also reflects a community commitment to abide by University policies, rules, and regulations. Upon joining the Trinity community, each student and each member of the faculty and staff agrees to adhere to the following honor pledge:

“I realize the responsibility involved in membership in the Trinity College community. I agree to abide by the rules and regulations of this community. I also affirm my intention to live according to the standards of honor, to which lying, stealing, and cheating are opposed. I will help others to maintain this responsibility in all matters essential to the common good of the community.”

The Honor System is a way of life. It is grounded in the conviction that each member of the community aspires to nurture and maintain mutual trust, honor, and respect. The Honor System is present in all aspects of Trinity life, from academic integrity; to respect for others’ opinions and ways of being; to fairness in play and sports; to adhering to codes of conduct, policies, and procedures; and to identifying and bringing to the forefront incidents or circumstances that may threaten the continuity of the community.

The Honor System applies to all students in all schools at all levels of education at Trinity. All members of the faculty are expected to take the time in each class to discuss the Honor System with their students, and to talk about particular ways in which the expectations of this policy apply to research, writing and assessment in each course and discipline.

The Honor System recognizes the fundamental role of academic honesty in the life of the Trinity community. Cheating is an action that destroys the trust of the community and violates the most essential values of the liberal arts. For that reason, any action that violates norms of academic honesty and intellectual integrity cannot be tolerated at Trinity. This policy statement, grounded in the Honor System, is intended to provide guidance for students, faculty, and staff on matters related to academic honesty and actions that may constitute cheating, plagiarism, or other kinds of academic integrity problems. This policy also sets forth procedures and consequences for cases of academic dishonesty.

All members of the Trinity community – students, faculty, and staff – are responsible for the enforcement of this policy. The provost is responsible for the administration of this policy according to the disciplinary procedures outlined below.  The provost supervises the chair of the Academic Honesty Review Board (hereinafter “chair”) as well as the deans of the respective academic units, all of whom have important roles to play in ensuring the effective oversight of academic honesty and integrity at Trinity.

Trinity may take executive action under this policy as circumstances warrant, meaning that the provost or president of Trinity may direct an alternative adjudication process or alternative decision in a case where time or other circumstances make a different course of action necessary, e.g., because of unavoidable absence or illness of parties to the case, or the timetable in relation to commencement, or business interruptions due to weather or other circumstances. From time to time, Trinity may publicize additional procedural guidelines to ensure due process for students, including clarity in definitions and procedures, as well as to ensure the effective oversight and administration of this policy. On an annual basis, the provost will make a formal report to the president concerning the number, type, and disposition of cases arising under this policy.

I. Definitions

This policy governs all actions by students of Trinity that violate norms of academic honesty and intellectual integrity. This policy applies to all students in all schools at Trinity. Such actions include, but are not limited to those listed below. Trinity reserves the right to take disciplinary action under this policy in any instance in which Trinity believes that student’s action has violated norms of academic honesty and intellectual integrity.

A. Cheating

Cheating is an action that circumvents the learning process to gain grades and academic advantages without actually doing the intellectual work that merits the grades and rewards. Cheating is fraud, a form of lying that misrepresents the academic work presented as if it were the student’s own work legitimately prepared.

Examples of cheating include but are not limited to:

  1. Copying another person’s test answers during an examination;
  2. Exchanging information about an examination during a test or test break;
  3. Copying answers from illicit notes such as those scribbled on the body, clothing, small bits of papers, or recorded on listening devices, or on pocket computers, cell phones or other electronic devices;
  4. Illicitly obtaining a copy of or information about an examination ahead of time;
  5. Looking up an answer in a book or online or through any social media or other means when the exam is specifically a closed-book exam;
  6. Submitting the same paper in two different courses (or more than two courses) without disclosure of the dual submission and approval from the affected faculty members;
  7. Cooperation on class assignments when prohibited by the instructor;
  8. Sharing test bank questions and answers, using screen shots or flash drives or other media to capture and share academic material in ways that are dishonest and circumvent the learning process.

Cheating and plagiarism may occur not only on final term papers and formal examinations, but also in drafts, quizzes, online testing environments, classroom presentations, powerpoint slide decks, audio and video materials, and any other circumstance in which the student presents someone else’s work as if it were her or his own academic work.

Cheating does not require absolute proof of intent to cheat; an accusation and investigation of cheating is justified whenever a student presents someone else’s intellectual work without proper citation, and the penalties defined in this policy may ensue.

In order to prevent cheating, Trinity may require students to leave all books, bags, electronic devices including cell phones and PDAs, and other materials at the front of the room or in other areas not accessible to students during examinations or other testing environments, and Trinity may choose to take such other steps as may be necessary to ensure the integrity of test-taking and assessment environments.

B. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a special form of cheating. Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else’s words and ideas as if they were the student’s own words and ideas. Plagiarism is a very grave offense against intellectual integrity because it is an attempt to profit by stealing someone else’s work and using that work to gain an unfair advantage, e.g. a good grade.

Some forms of plagiarism include but are not limited to:

  1. Copying quotations, paragraphs, and/or whole pages from any source and presenting them in a paper as if the student wrote them herself;
  2. Copying the structure and style of someone else’s work or failing to restate the meaning of such material in the student’s own words;
  3. Using someone else’s paper or portions of a paper and presenting it as the student’s own work product;
  4. Downloading a paper from the internet or buying a paper from a company and presenting all or part of that paper as the student’s own work;
  5. Failing to cite or inappropriately citing words, information, or ideas from any source as though the material represents the students’ own work.

Plagiarism can occur through improper and sloppy citation practices and inattention to source material. A charge of plagiarism may be proven by the existence in a student paper (draft or final) or presentation or test of material copied or paraphrased from another source that is not properly cited regardless of the student’s intention. Plagiarism does not require proof of intent, only proof that the copied material was presented in a way that leads the reader to believe it is the student’s own work.

Plagiarism may also be found in cases in which the substantial majority of an assignment is taken from another source, regardless of citation, either directly copied or paraphrased, when presented in a way that suggests that the student is presenting the material in substantial fulfillment of an assignment that should have been a product of the student’s own intellectual analysis and writing. Students should note that endnotes, footnotes or citations in parentheses in the text do not necessarily mitigate the existence of plagiarism in cases where the material taken from other sources is presented as substantial fulfillment of an assignment.

C. Falsifying Research Results

Falsifying research results is also academic dishonesty. Examples include:

  1. Deliberately misreporting the results of laboratory or field research;
  2. Inventing data and sources for written, oral, or other presentations;
  3. Inventing case studies and relevant facts in reports, papers, or presentations that purport to be about real people and real cases.

D. Presenting False Credentials

Presenting false or misleading credentials on applications, resumes, and any other documents presented as part of the student’s life at Trinity College constitutes academic dishonesty. Examples of such actions include:

  1. Claiming prior degrees where none was earned;
  2. Failing to report prior college and universities attended;
  3. Presenting falsified transcripts;
  4. Presenting falsified information;
  5. Misrepresenting immigration status;
  6. Using fake ID cards.

E. Cyber Fraud

The growing presence of online communication in academic life also presents opportunities for academic dishonesty. All of the same kinds of instances of academic dishonesty that can occur with paper and pencil can also appear via the internet and online communications, with some additional dimensions because of the nature of the technology (refer also to the Trinity College Technology and Telecommunications Policy Guide for additional guidelines about the use of technology). Examples include:

  1. Pretending to be another individual in an online environment;
  2. Failure to give appropriate attribution to online sources;
  3. Downloading papers or portions of papers from online sources and presenting the paper as the student’s own work;
  4. Taking screenshots or using links to test banks and other assessment materials impermissibly.

II. Penalties for Academic Dishonesty

Students who engage in academic dishonesty are liable for severe penalties. Few circumstances can mitigate the effects of cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of dishonesty, so students who engage in such activities should expect to have to bear the consequences.

The following sections set forth penalties for academic dishonesty, and these penalties will be imposed upon a finding of academic dishonesty. Trinity may also impose these penalties directly through administrative action. In individual cases for good cause, or upon recommendation of the chair of the AHRB, the provost may approve an alternative course of action after consultation with the academic deans. The provost is responsible to provide the president with a written explanation of any cases in which penalties assessed for academic dishonesty deviate from the policies set forth below. In cases that normally incur expulsion, the president must give final approval to any alternative penalty.

All penalties apply immediately upon the finding of plagiarism or cheating and notification to the student of the finding at the first adjudication level.  Suspensions or expulsions take effect immediately and are not delayed during appeals.

A. Undergraduate Students Prior to Senior Status

For undergraduate students in all academic units prior to the achievement of senior status, the penalties for engaging in any form of academic dishonesty are as follows:

  1. In the first instance, the student will get an “F” grade in the course and the student will receive counseling concerning her or his conduct. No refunds are available for courses in which a student receives an “F” grade for cheating.
  • NOTE:  A first year student, i.e., a student with 24 or fewer credits, may incur an “F” grade on the assignment but may continue in the course if the faculty member and director agree that the student would benefit from additional instruction.  This exception to the prescribed penalties is only available for first year students, and is discretionary on Trinity’s part.  The faculty member and director consulting on the case may also determine that an “F” grade in the course is an appropriate penalty depending upon the severity of the act of dishonesty.

2. In the second instance, the student will get an “F” grade for the course and will be suspended from school for the balance of the semester in which she or he is enrolled and the subsequent semester. No refunds are available under these circumstances.  If the decision occurs in the middle of a semester in which the student is also enrolled in other courses, the student will receive “W” grades for all other courses.

3. In the third instance, the student will get an “F” grade for the course and will be expelled from Trinity with no opportunity to return.  No refunds are available under these circumstances, and if the student is enrolled in other courses at the time of the decision, the student will receive a “W” grade in all other courses.

B. Senior Status Students and Graduate Students

Students who have achieved senior status in all academic units, and all graduate students in all academic units, are expected to be at a stage of their academic careers in which they understand the moral issues at stake in academic honesty and integrity, both for their lives at Trinity as well as for their future careers. For this reason, Trinity believes that students at this level of education must know that the consequences are serious and permanent for any instance of academic dishonesty. Accordingly, senior students and graduate students who are found guilty of academic dishonesty are expelled from Trinity.  In this instance, the student will get an “F” grade for the course and will be expelled from Trinity with no opportunity to return.  No refunds are available under these circumstances, and if the student is enrolled in other courses at the time of the decision, the student will receive a “W” grade in all other courses.

III. Procedures for Reports and Adjudicating Cases of Academic Dishonesty

The principle of honor and the shared values central to the mission of Trinity obligate all members of the Trinity community to report violations of academic honesty. Trinity is committed to adjudicating matters of academic dishonesty with equity, fairness, and justice. The following sections set forth the processes and procedures for reporting and resolving occurrences of academic dishonesty.

This section refers to several important actors in the adjudication process:

Student = the individual charged with an academic honesty offense

Faculty member = the teacher who brings the academic honesty charge

Chair = the chair of the Academic Honesty Review Board (AHRB)

AHRB = Academic Honesty Review Board, a body composed of two faculty members and the chair, and this body is empowered to hear cases involving suspensions or dismissals; the sole purpose of this body is to determine if cheating or plagiarism occurred. The AHRB may recommend alternative dispositions depending upon the facts of the case.

Academic Dean = one of the five academic deans of the collegiate units at Trinity; depending upon the school in which the student is enrolled, this would be the dean of CAS, SPS, EDU, BGS or NHP

Provost = the Provost of Trinity, who is the chief academic officer

President = the President of Trinity

A. Reporting

Following the principle of honor, all members of the Trinity community – including students, faculty, and staff – are obligated to report any instance of academic dishonesty. Students are first expected to report their own violations of this policy to the faculty member in the course or the director of the Academic Honesty Review Board.

Students who observe or are aware of any breach of academic honesty on the part of another student are encouraged to confront the violator and ask her or him to report the infraction, and if the violator refuses, then the student witness should make the report directly to the faculty member in the course or their academic dean.

Faculty members who suspect a student of cheating, including plagiarism, should report the case immediately to their academic dean, who will consult with the faculty member while also sending notice to the AHRB chair and provost.

Faculty members should not take action prior to receiving further instructions on the management of the case.  Faculty should not return the paper nor issue a grade until receiving further instructions.

As a matter of institutional policy, Trinity does not use Turnitin.com or other commercial products to discover plagiarism, and faculty should follow this policy.

B. Investigation, Due Process and Case Adjudication

This section describes the roles of various Trinity personnel, processes and timelines for action in cases in which a student is accused of violations of the Academic Honesty Policy. Trinity reserves the right to make adaptations to this general process statement if the facts and circumstances of an individual case require a variance.  Variances from this process do not nullify the case, and the case may go forward even if a step in the process does not occur according to this guidance.

Note:  all timeframes indicated in this policy statement are recommended but not absolutely required; variances may occur in the timetable depending on the facts of individual cases.

Note:  email is an acceptable means of notice and communication for all required communications in this policy.  A message sent to a student’s Trinity email account is appropriate notice for all matters described below.

1) Initial Consultation About the Complaint

Upon receiving a complaint of academic dishonesty from a faculty member or student, the dean will consult with the faculty member to review the case, and will also notify the chair and the provost.  This consultation should normally occur within 24 hours of the complaint during a regular semester, but this is a guidance and not a rigid requirement. Complaints received during holiday periods or after the end of academic terms may take longer to process, but all complaints should be handled in an expeditious manner.

The dean and faculty member together review the underlying documents to ascertain the nature of the plagiarism or cheating.  Following this review, if there is significant evidence of cheating or plagiarism, the penalties described in this policy must apply to the case.

If the evidence is unclear, or if circumstances warrant an alternative disposition of the case, the dean and faculty member may agree to allow the student to “revise and resubmit” an assignment, and the dean should so notify the provost and chair.  Alternative disposition is appropriate where the student clearly made mistakes in citation or clearly does not understand principles of good writing.  However, when the evidence of plagiarism or cheating is clear, or when the student fails to follow appropriate citation practice after receiving the opportunity to revise and resubmit, or if the student has committed the same infraction in several classes (which is why the dean, chair and provost must keep records of every case reported) the process must ensue as described below.  Alternative disposition is not a student right, and even the first instance of cheating or plagiarism may proceed immediately to the adjudication process.

2) Cases Involving First Offenses for Undergraduate Students Prior to Senior Year

First offenses for undergraduates prior to senior year will incur the penalty of an “F” grade in the course (with an exception for first year students described above in Section II.A.1.).  Subsequent offenses, or any offense in the senior year will incur suspension (prior to senior year) or expulsion (senior status, or third offense at any grade level).

The process described in this section applies to first offenses prior to senior year where the penalty is an “F” grade in the course.

After the faculty member and academic dean review the case, the dean writes to the student (this is the notification letter, and email is acceptable as the communication format) to inform her or him of the charge and penalty.

The student may reply in writing with an explanation of the cheating.  Within seven calendar days of the date of the notification letter, the student may also request a face-to-face meeting with the faculty member and dean to discuss the charge.

Upon the request of the student for a meeting, the dean will schedule the meeting at a time when the faculty member is able to attend.  The dean, student and faculty member will discuss the charge and the evidence.  The student may present her side of the story.  This meeting is not a legal proceeding and while the student may have one other person with her for support, that person is not part of the meeting discussion.  Trinity faculty and staff may not serve as the support person, and may not attend the meeting unless directly involved in the case.

Following the meeting, the dean and faculty member will have a further consultation and make a final decision.

The dean will convey the final decision to the student in writing.  The decision is final and not appealable.  The dean should copy the chair and provost on the final letter conveying the decision to the student.

3) Cases involving Suspension or Expulsion

An undergraduate student who commits a second honor offense will incur suspension;  a third honor offense by an undergraduate before senior year will incur expulsion.  A senior or graduate student will incur expulsion for any honor offense.

The charging faculty member, academic dean and chair of AHRB should confer on any cases that might involve suspension or expulsion.  If the group determines that the student is liable for suspension or expulsion, the dean will notify the student in writing explaining the charge and the penalty.  The letter should set forth the specific nature of the charge and the option to have a formal hearing before the AHRB.

The student may request a formal hearing with the Academic Honesty Review Board (AHRB); that request should be in writing to the dean as a reply to the notice of the offense, and the dean will transmit the request to the AHRB chair.

4) Convening the Academic Honesty Review Board

If the student requests a formal hearing with the AHRB, the chair will constitute a hearing panel from the faculty AHRB pool and will schedule the hearing.   The hearning panel consists of two faculty members and the chair.  The charging faculty member may not be part of the hearing panel.

The student who requests a hearing should submit a written statement to the chair according to a timetable that the chair will provide.  The chair will also provide an outline of what the statement should include.  The chair will send the statement to the AHRB.

The charging faculty member should provide a written statement with evidence of the cheating or plagiarism alleged.  The charging faculty member should be present at the hearing but should only speak upon request of the AHRB.

When the AHRB convenes, the chair runs the meeting.

The sole purpose of the AHRB is to review the academic honesty charge and to determine whether cheating or plagiarism actually occurred, and to determine whether the evidence supports the charge of cheating or plagiarism.

The AHRB may recommend to the provost an alternative disposition of the case, other than the prescribed penalties, if the facts and circumstances so warrant.  An alternative disposition recommendation is advisory, not mandatory, and if cheating has occurred the provost may choose to impose the penalty prescribed in this policy.

At the hearing, the student may have a person with him or her for support, but that person may not speak.  Trinity faculty and staff may not serve as the support person, and may not attend the meeting unless directly involved in the case.  The AHRB is not a trial and the student may not have legal counsel present.

The student will have an opportunity to make an opening statement to the AHRB.  AHRB members may ask questions of the student or charging faculty member as a means to further understand the case.   The proceedings are not adversarial, and in no case should the questions or tone of the meeting be hostile, judgmental or appear as an interrogation.  The chair is responsible to ensure that the tone of the meeting remains cordial and constructive.

When the AHRB is satisfied that the hearing has illuminated the evidence, the parties should exit and the AHRB should deliberate on the final decision.

The chair should communicate the final decision to the student in writing as soon as possible upon the conclusion of the proceedings.

IV. Appeals

In cases where the penalty for cheating or plagiarism is suspension or expulsion, students may make appeals from the final decision of the AHRB.  The entire appeals process is conducted in written form; no additional hearings are required. However, at their sole discretion in order to discover additional facts, the provost or president may request meetings with the parties to learn any additional information they may need to discharge their duties under this section.

A. Appeals Not Involving Expulsion

Within five days of the date of the letter from the chair notifying the student of the finding of the AHRB, the student may send a letter to the provost requesting a review of the finding. The letter should state the reasons why the student believes that the finding of the AHRB is incorrect. The letter must come from the student, not from an advocate.

Students should be aware that extraneous information will not be considered. The sole question for consideration is whether plagiarism or cheating or some other form of academic dishonesty occurred.

The provost reviews the materials previously submitted to the hearing panel and the rationale for the panel’s decision. The provost has discretion to interview the members of the panel or to request additional written explanations from the student.

The provost will notify the student in writing of her decision in the appeal.  The provost may uphold the finding of the hearing panel, may overturn the hearing panel’s finding, or may direct a new hearing. The decision of the provost is final in all appeals except appeals of decisions that result in expulsion.

B. Appeals Involving the Penalty of Expulsion

A student who is expelled under this policy should follow the same appeals process described above.

After receiving the provost’s decision, the student may make a final appeal to the president.  The president will only consider the appeal if there is new evidence to the effect that cheating or plagiarisim did not actually occur.The president sends the student a letter stating her final decision. The president may uphold the original decision and the penalty, may return the case for further review, or may impose an alternative penalty. The decision of the president is final and no further appeals are possible.

C) Requests for Readmission after Expulsion

In rare cases, at the sole discretion of the president, and where an expelled undergraduate senior student has no prior disciplinary infractions under this or any other Trinity policy, the president may invite the student to apply for readmission to Trinity after at least one year, and with preconditions that must be met before the application may be considered. This invitation is not a student right, and will be exercised only at the president’s option if the facts and circumstances of the case warrant granting the option of an application for readmission in the future.

Granting the option to reapply does not guarantee readmission, and Trinity reserves the right to deny the application after examination of the student’s performance according to the conditions established for readmission and all other intervening academic performance.  The provost and academic dean of the unit to which the student is applying for readmission must review the application for readmission, and at their sole discretion, they may request additional information, defer, deny or grant readmission.  The provost will convey the readmission decision to the applicant in writing.

The clause above applies only to expelled undergraduate senior students who had no prior infractions. Other undergraduates expelled as a result of third offenses will not have any opportunity to reapply under any circumstances.

Similarly, the clause above does not apply to graduate students. A student in any graduate program at Trinity who engages in any form of academic dishonesty will be expelled from Trinity with no opportunity to return.

V. Confidentiality, False Claims, & Record Keeping

The management of cases under this policy requires great discretion. Students, faculty, and staff all have obligations to respect confidentiality, to refrain from spreading rumors about persons under investigation, to respect individual reputations, and to come forward with correct information if false claims arise.

A. Confidentiality

All persons who have responsibility for cases under this policy have a strict duty to maintain confidentiality about cases under investigation and the names and circumstances of the parties to the case. Confidentiality does not prohibit the persons responsible for conducting investigations or taking actions to speak with each other, to confer with other responsible parties, or to consult other persons according to a reasonable assessment of the need to consult and investigate. All persons involved in cases under this policy are reminded of the strict obligation to respect the reputations of persons involved and to refrain from discussing cases or individual students outside of the scope of the investigation and deliberations, including beyond the closure of the case.

B. False Claims

Any person who, with knowledge and intent, falsely accuses a student of academic dishonesty under this policy is liable for severe penalties. The dean may take action in the case of any student who makes false claims against another student. The president and provost will determine appropriate disciplinary action in cases involving faculty or staff who make false claims under this policy.

C. Record Keeping

The provost will oversee the procedures for maintaining student disciplinary records for cases that arise under this policy in cooperation with the AHRB chair.  Records maintained under this policy are separate from the student’s academic file, which is maintained by the Office of the Registrar.