Academic Integrity - Graduate Students

What is Academic Integrity?

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity in the college. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights, and property and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.

Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the EMS community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.

Please see University Senate Policy 49-20.

To protect the rights and maintain the trust of honest students and support appropriate behavior, EMS faculty will regularly communicate high standards of integrity and reinforce them by taking reasonable steps to anticipate and prevent acts of dishonesty in all assignments. At the beginning of each course, the instructor will provide students with a statement clarifying the application of EMS academic integrity policies to that course.

Forms of academic dishonesty include, but are not limited to:

  • Cheating and copying on examinations;
  • Inappropriate collaboration on assignments; and
  • Tampering with another person's work.

In addition, we are particularly concerned about violations of the research integrity of the college, such as all manners of plagiarism, the submission of previous work, the alteration or omission of relevant data, and electronic theft.

Students are required to maintain academic integrity standards on all works regardless of whether they are part of course requirements. For example, graduate students will not plagiarize others' work or claim others' intellectual products to be their own for their qualifying exam; comprehensive exam; research proposal; independent studies; thesis, dissertation, or culminating experience product; conference presentations; or publications such as proceedings papers or journal submissions. 

Graduate students are expected to meet Penn State Professional Ethics standards:

Learn more using the resources below:

Notice of Charges

In the event that an academic integrity violation is suspected, the course instructor should speak to the student. If, after this conversation, instructors believe an academic integrity violation has taken place, they fill out an academic integrity violation form with a recommended academic sanction (e.g., change to grade on the assignment or test) and, if desired, a recommended conduct sanction (e.g., a conduct warning whose administration will be determined by the Office of Student Conduct).

The instructor presents the form to the student with a copy to the EMS Academic Integrity Coordinator, who creates a file and begins the five-business-day countdown for a student to contest the charge and/or the sanction. The student signs the accept or contest line and then submits the signed form to the academic integrity coordinator in the college's Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education. Failure to submit the form within five business days is considered acceptance of the charges and sanctions.

Criteria for Academic Sanctions

The highest standards of academic integrity are an absolute necessity for the successful pursuit of scholarly activities and research. Any violation of the strictest adherence to honesty in college will not be tolerated and will be evaluated, with an appropriate sanction determined in a timely manner. Typical academic sanctions include a zero on the assignment or examination in question or failure in the course. A more complete list of dishonest acts and suggested academic sanctions may be found at Sanctioning Guidelines for Violations of Academic Integrity, which details the types of academic integrity offences/academic sanction ranges.

Process for Case Review

Students may accept or contest either the charge itself or the recommended sanction(s).

For charges and sanctions that are accepted by the student, only the Instructor and college's academic integrity coordinator are involved in the case, and the Instructor-recommended academic sanction is applied. If there are no prior academic integrity violations, the Instructor-recommended conduct sanctions, if any, are forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct who decides on their implementation.

For charges or sanctions that are contested, the college's Academic Integrity Committee will deliberate with a hearing, either by the student’s request or by committee decision. In its deliberations, the committee may ask for clarifying input from the student and Instructor involved in the case; any materials so obtained, as well as the final decision of the committee, will be made part of the record and shared with both parties to the extent allowed by Penn State policy and federal or state laws. If the student contested the charge and is found responsible, the instructor will be advised to apply the original requested academic sanction. If the student contested the academic sanction itself, the committee will notify the instructor of any change in sanction recommendation resulting from their deliberation. If there are no prior academic integrity violations, the process ends here.

Evidence not directly related to the matter at hand will not be considered for review. It is the responsibility of the chairperson of a hearing body to rule on the admissibility of evidence and on relevant and irrelevant matters. The focus of inquiry in disciplinary proceedings shall be whether or not the accused person was in violation of the Code of Conduct.

Those permitted to be present at hearings include only the following:

  • Accused student (and adviser, if desired)
  • Course instructor
  • Witnesses (when called)
  • College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' Academic Integrity Committee

A hearing or review may proceed with a quorum of five committee members present, providing at least one of those present is a student member. The official record of the hearing is the written report prepared by the chair of the college's Academic Integrity Committee.

Note: The final award of an XF grade, which is a disciplinary sanction, must include the concurrence of the individual course instructor, the Academic Integrity Committee, and the University's Office of Student Conduct. It is assigned by the later following a review of the case upon the request of the college committee.


The accused student has the right to be assisted by an adviser of his/her choice, who must be a regular administrative official, regular faculty member, or student of the University. As used in this paragraph, the words "regular" shall have the same meaning as defined in Human Resources Policies HR-103. The college does not have an obligation to provide an adviser to the accused student.

The adviser, upon request of the student, may:

  • Advise the student in the preparation and presentation of a defense
  • Accompany the student to all disciplinary hearings
  • Advise the student in the preparation of appeals (when applicable)

The adviser shall not assume responsibility for conducting the defense of the accused student, except that the adviser may assist the student in their opening and closing statements and questioning of witnesses.

Course Instructor

The faculty member in whose class or under whose supervision the violation occurred is invited to attend the hearing subsequent to the student’s testimony.


In all instances of graduate student cases, or any case in which the person who detects the violation is someone other than the course instructor (e.g., teaching assistant), this person may also serve as a witness, as well as the associate dean for graduate education and research for graduate student cases.

The scope of the testimony will be limited to matters relevant to the charges and the defense of the charges.

The committee, the course instructor, and/or accused student may request the presence or testimony at the hearing of any member of the University community, including the accused person(s). Records or other exhibits may also be requested. In the event any person, including the student charged and/or his/her adviser, will disrupt the hearing, that person will be excluded and the hearing will proceed in his/her absence.

Failure to Appear

No imposition of sanctions will be based solely upon the failure of the person charged to answer the charges. In the event of the refusal of the accused person to appear at the hearing, the evidence in support of the charges will be presented, considered and adjudicated.

Burden of Proof

The University has the burden of proof of guilt by preponderance of the evidence (not beyond a reasonable doubt, as in the courts). Burden of proof by preponderance of the evidence may be understood as more likely than not that a conclusion may be drawn based on the existing relevant and admissible evidence presented at the hearing.

Committee Report

A written report of the original hearing will be made consisting of:

  • Charges delivered, Conduct Disposition, and other hearing documents
  • Summary of the accepted testimony and evidence leading to the majority vote decision of the committee which supports certain findings
  • Committee decision including precedent (if appropriate), past behavioral record, and any other considerations used in the committee rationale for the decision and the sanction
  • Sanction(s) or interventions imposed (see the Sanctioning Guidelines for Violations of Academic Integrity)

The report will be submitted to the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education for forwarding to the University Office of Student Conduct. Official notice to the student is made by the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education.

If the committee finds the student not responsible, the matter is closed and no record goes to the Office of Student Conduct. The student is free to drop or withdraw from the course.


A new hearing may be granted by the original hearing body only if the sanction is dismissal from the academic program.

Once an academic sanction for the present case has been decided upon, additional sanctions may be added when there is a history of repeated academic integrity violations. These sanctions depend on the number of prior infractions.

  • For students with fewer than the equivalent of four infractions, including the current one at hand, conduct review recommendations will be determined by the committee’s Conduct Review Subcommittee and sent to the Office of Student Conduct. The Conduct Review Subcommittee is composed of the associate dean for undergraduate education, the academic integrity coordinator, and the chair of the Academic Integrity Committee. Students for whom prior violations are discovered, either after accepting allegations of academic dishonesty or after being found responsible for them, are treated in exactly the same manner.
  • If the equivalent of four or more academic infractions, including the current one at hand, have been accumulated by a student, the Academic Integrity Committee will determine the conduct review recommendations to be sent to the Office of Student Conduct. Because dismissal from college programs becomes a possibility for a student having four infractions, the academic integrity coordinator will meet in person with a student who accepted responsibility for the fourth violation to emphasize both this possible outcome and their right to contest the fourth infraction. This meeting will occur before the committee meets to decide upon conduct review recommendations. If the committee recommends dismissal from college programs, which is an academic sanction, for a student who accepts the current (fourth) sanction or who is found responsible for the fourth infraction in a contested case, the student will be notified of this outcome as will be the dean of the college and the Office of Student Conduct.

Note: The committee can implement the academic sanction of dismissal from college programs if a student is majoring or minoring in a college program, but only the University can enforce expelling a student from the University. For a committee sanction of dismissal from college programs, the student has the right (and should be informed of this right) of appeal within two weeks to the dean of the college to seek revocation of dismissal from college programs. If no appeal occurs, dismissal from college programs is the final outcome. If appealed within two weeks, the dean or their designee’s ruling within a reasonable period after the appeal is placed is the final outcome. If the committee does not recommend dismissal from college programs but rather a conduct sanction for four infractions, the student will be notified of this outcome as will be the Office of Student Conduct, which will decide upon the final sanction.

Conduct Sanctioning Rationale

We offer examples in support of the Sanctioning Guidelines, which focus on conduct sanctions, rather than increased academic sanctions, in the case of fewer than three prior violations. Strikingly different scenarios could exist, and the Sanctioning Guidelines need to handle them all.

For example, consider a student found to have one prior for not citing a source appropriately. This could have been due to a lack of knowledge regarding how to cite a source properly. How should this student be sanctioned if they receive a second infraction in a different course for unauthorized collaboration that was the result of not knowing where to draw the line with a lab partner and individual work? To have this second infraction result in an F for the course (i.e., an increased academic sanction), when the proposed sanction for the course at hand was a 0 on the assignment, would not teach the appropriate lesson; it would be neither representative of the student’s performance in the course at hand, nor might it be in line with the Instructor’s desired consequence. The college believes it is better to have this second offense met with a conduct conversation that may or may not result in a conduct warning.

On the other hand, if a student’s academic integrity violation is particularly egregious, the participants in the conduct review may want to recommend that the student be removed from programs in the college even if the student has no or only one or two priors. For severe infractions, such as in this case, or repeated infractions more minor in nature that total four or more in number, the college's Academic Integrity Committee will determine the conduct review recommendation.

Conduct Sanctioning Guidelines

No Priors

  • Instructor notified of final academic sanction outcome and academic sanction imposed;
  • Coordinator sends the student a warning letter;
  • File sent to Office of Student Conduct with no recommendation for a conduct sanction unless requested by the Instructor.

One or Two Priors

  • Instructor notified of final academic sanction outcome and academic sanction is imposed;
  • Conduct Review Subcommittee recommends any additional conduct sanctions in addition to imposed academic sanction;
  • Decision is made to request either a conduct conversation, conduct warning, a conduct probation, or a conduct probation with transcript notation;
  • Coordinator sends a letter to the student to let them know of additional recommended conduct sanctions;
  • Coordinator contacts the Office of Student Conduct with a request to implement the recommended conduct sanctions.

At the current time, a conduct warning is not reported by the Office of Student Conduct to entities outside the University unless the student requests a full disclosure (e.g., for a law school application). Conduct probation (and any sanction above this level) is reported.

Three or More Priors1

Instructor notified of final academic sanction outcome and academic sanction is imposed; Coordinator shares information with college's Academic Integrity Committee; a majority vote will determine which of the below is/are requested:

  • The academic sanction of removal from college programs (which does not need approval by the Office of Student Conduct, but can be appealed by the student).
  • The conduct sanction of XF, if the grade is an F.
  • The conduct sanction of Conduct Probation or Conduct Probation with transcript notation.
  • The conduct sanction of Conduct Suspension.
  • In extreme cases, Indefinite Expulsion or Expulsion2 may be requested.

Coordinator sends a letter to the student to let them know of additional recommended conduct sanctions; Coordinator contacts the Office of Student Conduct with a request to implement the recommended conduct sanctions.


1The Conduct Review Subcommittee reserves the right—in consultation with the course Instructor if appropriate—to pursue any particularly egregious case, irrespective of the existence of priors, at the “Three or more” level for review by the college's Academic Integrity Committee. Note that University practice is not to suspend or expel a student with no priors.

2Note that only Expulsion is permanent; all other conduct sanctions are in place for a specified amount of time.