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Faculty Guide to the Honor System

Faculty members who wish to report a potential Honor Code incident involving an undergraduate student(s) should do so by submitting an Undergraduate Honor Code Incident Reporting Form. If you are seeking guidance on whether or not to report an incident, please consult the Faculty Guide below or submit a Request a Consult Form to speak with the Director of Student Accountability.


The Vanderbilt Honor System was instituted in 1875 with the first final examinations administered by the University. Dean Madison Sarratt summarized the system as follows, “Let every individual who contemplates entering Vanderbilt University ask himself[/herself/themselves] first this important question: ‘Am I strong enough to give my word of honor and then live up to it in spite of every temptation that may arise?’”

The purpose of the Honor Code is to preserve and promote academic integrity. Ideally, a student’s personal integrity is presumed to be sufficient assurance that in academic matters one does one’s own work without unauthorized help from any other source. The Undergraduate Honor Council and the graduate and professional school Honor Councils are organizations that seek to preserve the integrity of the Honor Code at Vanderbilt University. Each council aims to secure justice for any student under suspicion of dishonesty, to vindicate his/her/their name if innocent and, if guilty, to protect the honor and standing of the remaining students.

The Honor System is only one of the elements provided to Vanderbilt students to aid in the development of creative thinking, intellectual maturity, personal accountability, and respect for honesty, integrity, and truth. The goal of the Honor System is to have all students leave Vanderbilt not only as graduates, but also as citizens of integrity.

Statement of the Honor Code
“Vanderbilt University students pursue all academic endeavors with integrity. They conduct themselves honorably, professionally and respectfully in all realms of their studies in order to promote and secure an atmosphere of dignity and trust. The keystone of our honor system is self-regulation, which requires cooperation and support from each member of the University community.”

Undergraduate Honor Code Pledge
“I pledge to pursue all academic endeavors with honor and integrity. I understand the principles of the Honor System, and I promise to uphold these standards by adhering to the Honor Code in order to preserve the integrity of Vanderbilt University and its individual members.”

A short-form version of the Undergraduate Honor Code Pledge, to be signed on all tests, quizzes, and similar work is: “I pledge on my honor that have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this examination.”

For information regarding additional Honor Code Statements and Pledges that may apply to graduate and professional students, please consult the individual school or college and its Honor Council.

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Undergraduate students are subject to the jurisdiction of the Undergraduate Honor Council. The policies and procedures of the undergraduate Honor System stated in this Student Handbook apply to all students enrolled in undergraduate courses—including those that involve, in whole or in part, online learning—of all the schools and the Division of Unclassified Studies, whether full-time or part-time, or whether regularly enrolled, transient, cross-registered from a neighboring institution, or studying abroad.

Graduate and professional students are subject to the jurisdiction of the student body that implements the Honor System in the graduate and professional schools: Divinity School Honor Council, Graduate School Honor Council, Law School Honor Council, Owen Graduate School of Management Honor Council, Peabody Honor Council (for students in professional programs at Peabody College), School of Medicine Honor Council, and School of Nursing Honor Council. Graduate and professional students must check with their individual schools or advisers for further regulations beyond procedures cited in this Handbook, which may affect their studies and observances of the Honor Code.

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Violations of the Honor Code are cause for disciplinary actions imposed by the appropriate Honor Council.

Possible violations include but are not limited to the following:

Giving and/or receiving unauthorized aid or attempting to give and/or receive unauthorized aid on an assignment, report, paper, exercise, problem, test or examination, tape, film, or computer program submitted by a student to meet course requirements. Such aid includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • the use or production of unauthorized aids, which may include crib sheets, answer keys, or computer programs;
  • the use of texts, papers, computer programs, or other class work prepared by commercial or noncommercial agents and submitted as a student’s own work;
  • copying from another student’s work;
  • unauthorized collaboration;
  • unauthorized posting, sharing, taking, or distribution of past or present examinations or other course materials;
  • unauthorized advanced access to examinations or other assignments;
  • compromising a testing environment or violating specified testing conditions;
  • unauthorized use of books, notes, websites, phones, watches, calculators, or other outside materials or devices during an examination;
  • soliciting, giving, and/or receiving unauthorized aid orally or in writing; or
  • any other similar action that is contrary to the principles of academic honesty.

Plagiarism on an assigned paper, theme, report, or other material submitted to meet course requirements. Plagiarism is defined as incorporating into one’s own work the work or ideas of another without properly indicating that source. A full discussion of plagiarism and proper citation is provided in the section below.

Failure to report a known or suspected violation of the Code in the manner prescribed.

Any action designed to deceive a member of the faculty, a staff member, or a fellow student regarding principles contained in the Honor Code, such as securing an answer to a problem for one course from a faculty member in another course when such assistance has not been authorized or providing false information in order to receive an extension on an assignment or to excuse an absence.

Any falsification of class records or other materials submitted to demonstrate compliance with course requirements or to obtain class credit, including falsifying records of class attendance, attendance at required events or events for which credit is given, or attendance or hours spent at internships or other work service.

Falsification of results of study and research.

Altering a previously graded examination or test for a re-grade.

Note: Schools, departments, programs, and individual faculty members, speakers, and artists may have policies governing the creation, use, and/or distribution of recordings—video or audio—of lectures, virtual course sessions, speeches, performances, and other activities. Individuals must obtain authorization prior to recording such activities, and to abide by the various policies governing their being recorded, including, but not limited to, policies related to use and distribution of recordings. Failure to abide by recording policies may be an Honor Code violation or may result in corrective action through the University’s accountability process depending on the circumstances. In addition, examinations and the questions therein, as well as lectures, teaching notes, scholarly writings, course handouts, assignments, and other course materials are the property of the individual faculty member. Copying or distributing any such materials without the permission of the copyright owner may constitute an infringement violation, and may result in a referral to Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity for corrective action.

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Faculty At-Large

The Honor System requires the honor councils to educate students in the meaning of the Honor System, and frees the instructor from the responsibility of policing students. Yet, faculty have responsibility for fostering in students a respect for the Honor System and observance of its principles in all academic endeavors.

Strong faculty engagement with the Honor System includes the following best practices:

1. At the beginning of each semester, faculty members should provide a statement in every course taught demonstrating his/her/their support of the Honor System. This statement should explain what constitutes a violation of the Honor Code in the course, including limitations on collaboration with other students and the use of outside sources. If such matters are stated explicitly, misunderstanding may be reduced. Sample syllabus statements are included at the end of this document.

2. Faculty members can help to keep the Honor System relevant and applicable by requiring students to sign the pledge on every assignment. The pledge states, “I pledge on my honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment.”

3. Although the primary responsibility for academic honesty is in the hands of each student, the faculty member should make every effort to provide a classroom atmosphere that is conducive to an effective Honor System. For example, during a test, the faculty member can require seating arrangements that minimize the possibility of a student’s accidentally seeing another’s paper. Likewise, faculty members should avoid giving identical examinations to different sections of a course, thus decreasing the opportunities for passing information either intentionally or unintentionally.

4. Faculty members should clearly designate which assignments or projects involve group work and which are to be done independently. This should be done both in the course syllabus and in the assignment or project instructions.

5. The faculty member should remind students of the Honor System throughout the semester, especially before assignments and tests.

6. Faculty members are encouraged to invite the Undergraduate Honor Council (or respective honor council in graduate/professional schools) to briefly present information and resources to their students at the beginning of each semester or as students prepare for mid-term and/or final examinations.

Faculty Advisers to the Undergraduate Honor Council

The Undergraduate Honor Council is comprised of students and is advised and supported by Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity. A board of faculty members, appointed by the Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee, serve as Faculty Advisers to the Honor Council during hearings.

The Board of Faculty Advisers is vital to the Honor Council’s procedures. A member of the Board of Faculty Advisers sits on all small and full panel hearings. Faculty advisers may ask questions and participate in the discussion. In a full panel hearing, the faculty adviser does not have a vote in the outcome, but the faculty adviser does have a vote in the outcome of a small panel hearing.

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A faculty member should neither punish nor excuse Honor Code violations. If a faculty member has reason to believe that the Honor Code has been breached, he/she/they must take action in one of the following ways:

1. Issue a personal warning to the student(s) suspected of academic dishonesty that, unless the action which led to to the suspicion ceases, the incident will be reported to the Honor Council,


2. Report the incident to the appropriate honor council.

The flagrancy of the violation determines which course of action the faculty member is expected to take. The option of warning the student personally is open to the faculty member only in the event of a minor suspicion or if evidence is not available. A template is available to issue or document a warning. If suspicion is strong or if evidence is available, the faculty member is obligated to report the incident to the appropriate honor council. It should be understood, however, that the faculty member need not have evidence in hand before notifying the appropriate council–just well-founded suspicion. The appropriate council or office will investigate all cases.

Steps for where to submit reports to honor councils are listed below. The faculty member need not consult or discuss the matter with the accused either before or after the appropriate honor council has been notified. The honor councils handle all matters pertaining to a case, including, if the instructor wishes, the notification of the accused student.

It is most helpful for the faculty member to submit a detailed description and provide as much supporting documentation as possible at the time of reporting. When submitting a report, it is helpful to include how the incident came to the faculty member’s attention and contextual information regarding the assignment or exam in question. Faculty members should include only observations and details most relevant to the incident itself. Supporting documentation that is most helpful at the time of reporting includes: the course syllabus, student work submission(s), and assignment guidelines. If relevant, seating charts, email correspondence with the student, MOSS or TurnItIn analyses, and other documentation may be very helpful as well.

Reporting an Undergraduate Student

To report a violation involving undergraduate students, go to the online reporting form found on the Undergraduate Honor Council website or access the Undergraduate Honor Code Incident Reporting Form directly. Following the submission of the reporting form, faculty will have seven business days to meet with an investigator for an investigation to move forward.

Reporting a Graduate Student

For alleged violations of the Honor Code involving a graduate or professional students, please contact the chair of the appropriate Honor Council.

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This section will focus on the processes of the Undergraduate Honor Council. Faculty teaching graduate and professional students may obtain more information about their respective Honor Council’s procedures from the office of the dean of their school or college. For information regarding additional Honor Code statements and pledges that may apply to graduate and professional students, please consult the individual school or college and its honor council.

Once a report is filed, a staff member in Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity will serve as an Investigator. The Investigator will review the report and contact the faculty member to schedule an investigative meeting in which the incident will be discussed further and the faculty will be informed of all necessary documentation required to move forward. No matter how detailed the report submitted, the investigative meeting is necessary and integral to the Honor Council’s investigation. An investigative meeting report will be written by the Investigator and the faculty member will have an opportunity to review it for accuracy.

The Investigator will then meet with the accused student(s) and inform them of all the supporting documentation pertaining to the suspected violation. The accused student will provide an account of the incident, review the evidence with the support of an assigned Student Adviser, and then be asked to submit a plea. The Undergraduate Honor Council will then follow appropriate procedures for holding a small or full panel. A faculty member who submitted a report has the option to attend the hearing to provide testimony. Please refer to the Student Handbook for further details regarding the Honor Council investigation and hearing procedures.

The Director of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity will notify the accusing faculty member of the outcome of the hearing by email.

The presumptive penalty for a first offense is failure in the course. In certain circumstances, after reviewing the flagrancy of the violation, the degree of premeditation, and the truthfulness of the accused throughout the hearing and investigation, the Honor Council may, at its discretion, reduce the penalty on a first offense to include an Honor Council reprimand, with a recommendation for failure on the assignment, or increase the penalty to suspension for one or more semesters, or expulsion. The minimum penalty for a second offense is failure in the course and suspension for not less than a semester, and depending upon the severity of the violation, the penalty may be suspension for multiple semesters or expulsion. The penalty for a third offense is expulsion.

Additionally, all students found guilty of an Honor Code violation are required to complete an online Academic Integrity Seminar. Please note these penalties pertain to Undergraduate Honor Council processes. Please refer to the Student Handbook for further details on penalties for honor code violations.

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Resources for Processes and Procedures:
•  Jeremy Bourgoin, Director, Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity
• Neil Jamerson, Assistant Dean of Students
•  Department chair or director of undergraduate (or graduate) studies
• Associate Dean of your school

On-Campus Resources:
The Writing Studio
The Heard Library System
The Center for Teaching Guide to Academic Integrity

National Resources:
The Pocket Guide to Academic Integrity
The International Center for Academic Integrity
The Association for Practical and Professional Ethics

• Academic Integrity in the 21st Century: A Teaching and Learning Imperative (ASHE Higher Education Report) by Tricia Bertram Gallant
• Handbook of Academic Integrity by Tracey Bretag
• Researching with Integrity: The Ethics of Academic Enquiry by Bruce Macfarlane

Syllabus Resources:

The Center for Teaching Guide to Syllabus Design

Each course syllabus should contain a written statement pertaining the Honor System and course-specific expectations for what constitutes a violation of the principles of academic integrity. It is also helpful to explain why it is the expectation that the Honor Code be adhered to within the course. Such statements help eliminate misunderstandings and unintentional violations. Sample syllabus statements include:

• “The Vanderbilt Honor Code governs all work in this course (e.g., tests, papers, homework assignments).”

• “All academic work at Vanderbilt is done under the Honor System.”

• “For each assignment in this course, I will explain how the Honor Code applies. If you have any doubts, please ask me – not another student or the T. A. – for clarification. Uncertainty about the application of the Honor Code does not excuse a violation.”

• Detail permissible and impermissible behavior. “Students may collaborate on homework, but not on in-class lab reports. “Rough drafts must include proper citations.” Et cetera.

The Center for Teaching includes example syllabi from Vanderbilt faculty members in the Cheating and Plagiarism section of their webpage.

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Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity
Office Location: Rand 301
Office Number: 615-322-7868

Undergraduate Honor Council
Office Location: Rand 301
Office Number: 615-322-7868

Faculty teaching graduate and professional students may obtain more information about the Honor Council from the office of the dean of their school or college in which the class is taught.

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