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FAQs

Undergraduates, you may find information that pertains to your obligation to the Honor Code in this section.

Report a suspected violation online

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What happens if I’m accused of a violation of the Honor Code? / What is the difference between a small panel and a full panel hearing? / What if I witness a violation or suspect a violation has occurred?Who can I ask to ensure I am not committing a violation?How can you charge me for something I didn’t know about? / What are the possible penalties for a violation of the Honor Code?If accused, can I talk to my professor or accuser about the case? / If I am found guilty, will it be reported to graduate/professional schools or future employers? / How long are records maintained? / If I am found guilty, what will appear on my transcript? / Can I appeal the decision? / Who can report me to the Honor Council? / Who forms the Honor Council? / How do I join the Undergraduate Honor Council?

What happens if I’m accused of a violation of the Honor Code?

The Honor Council process can be broken down into two parts: an investigation and a hearing. What is outlined below is representative of a typical process an accused student may experience in the investigation and hearing.

First, the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity will assign an investigator to conduct a full investigation into the matter. The investigator will take no part in any decision that will eventually be made. Their task is to simply collect any available information or documentation related to the alleged violation.

Once all necessary information has been gathered, the investigator will meet with the accused student and present them with a written statement of the charge(s), a brief description of the alleged violation, and an explanation of the possible consequences if the accused student is found guilty of a breach of the Vanderbilt Honor Code. During the first meeting, the accused will also be informed of the procedures that will be followed. The accused may choose not to make any statement at the time of the first meeting, but may defer making a statement to an agreed upon time prior to the hearing.

After reviewing all information, the investigator will assemble the evidence and testimony in a concise, logical report. The investigator will provide the investigative report to the president of the Honor Council, who will determine whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant a hearing by the Council. If the president determines that a hearing is necessary, they will also determine whether a full panel or a small panel will hear the charges.

During an Honor Council investigation, the accused student will be assigned a member of the honor council, who will serve as an adviser. The Honor Council trains a group of student advisers for the purpose of assisting the student during all stages of the Honor Council proceedings, however, if the student prefers, they may seek the help and advice of anyone in the university community: faculty, staff, or student. Persons related to the accused or who have formal legal training are not eligible to serve as advisers. The Honor Council adviser will be present with the accused student during investigative meeting(s) and throughout the hearing.

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What is the difference between a full panel and a small panel hearing?

During the course of an investigation, an accused student who wishes to plead guilty may request a small panel hearing. A case may proceed to a small panel hearing only if no facts surrounding the violation are in dispute and if the president determines that the likely penalty involves no more than one semester suspension. However, a guilty plea does not guarantee that the case will proceed to a small panel. A small panel hearing consists of a faculty adviser, a Presiding Officer of the Honor Council, and one additional Undergraduate Honor Council member. At the hearing, the three panel members will be present, along with the investigator, the accused student, their adviser, and a character witness for the accused if the accused so desires. In all other cases, a full panel hearing will be held. Additionally, if the student has a previous Honor Council conviction, a full panel hearing is required. At a full panel hearing, a six-member hearing panel (consisting of a presiding officer and five members appointed by the president) will hear the evidence in the case. A faculty adviser will also be present.

The procedures employed during a full panel hearing are the same as those for a small panel hearing. An Honor Council hearing begins when the investigator reads the full report to the members of the hearing panel. Professors and all material witnesses will provide the Council with their accounts of what has occurred. The accused student may also bring a character witness to speak on the accused student’s behalf. After the testimony of the material and character witnesses, the accused student is asked to enter a plea to the allegation (guilty or not guilty), and then to give their testimony. The Council then deliberates and makes a decision. The proof that a person is guilty of a charge must satisfy a “preponderance-of-the-evidence” (or, more-likely-than-not) standard. A majority of the six members of a full panel must vote “guilty” to find the accused guilty.

For more information regarding Honor Council proceedings, please review the student handbook.

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What if I witness a violation or suspect a violation has occurred?

If a student has reason to suspect that a breach of the Honor Code has been committed, they must:

1. Issue a personal warning to the suspected student, or

2.Report the incident online to the Honor Council for action by the president, or

3. Inform the instructor in the course of the suspicions and identify, if possible, the person(s) suspected.

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Who can I ask to ensure I am not committing a violation?

Any student uncertain about the application of the pledge to a particular course requirement should always consult the instructor.

For more general questions about insight into the code, you may ask any Honor Council member, or the Honor Council president. Again, however, questions pertaining to a particular assignment should be directed to the professor.

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How can you charge me for something I didn’t know about?

By accepting admission to Vanderbilt University, you agree to abide by Vanderbilt’s community standards. The Student Handbook is designed to acquaint you with the specifics of our community standards. It is your responsibility as a student to become aware of its contents. Ignorance of a policy is not a valid excuse for violating it.

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What are the possible penalties for a violation of the Honor Code?

If the student is found guilty, the Council determines the penalty by considering three questions.

First, how truthful and honest was the student in the matter? Second, how flagrant was the violation? And third, to what degree was the violation premeditated? 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.

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If accused, can I talk to my professor or accuser about the case?

Faculty members are told to refer all communication about a pending case to the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity (Office of Student Accountability).  It is best for an accused student not to have further communication with the professor about the allegation once it is being investigated so as not to interfere with the investigative process.

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If I am found guilty, will it be reported to graduate/professional schools or future employers?

An Honor Council reprimand is considered educational in nature and is not considered part of a student’s disciplinary record so will not be reported unless it is to confirm a student’s self-disclosure.  Failure in the course, suspension, and expulsion are considered disciplinary in nature and are included in a student’s disciplinary record so will be reported in response to an authorized inquiry.  See below for more information on the University’s document retention policy.

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How long are records maintained?

Upon graduation or withdrawal from the University, student records in the Office of Housing and Residential Education and the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity are confidentially maintained for a period of seven years, after which time they are destroyed. Records of students who are suspended or expelled from the University may be maintained indefinitely.

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If I am found guilty, what appears on my transcript?

If you receive a penalty of failure in the course, your academic record will show an F for the specific course. There is not any notation on your academic record to indicate why you received the F.  If you are suspended or expelled, there will be a temporary (suspension) or permanent (expulsion) notation on your academic record.

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Can I appeal the decision?

Yes. Students may appeal the outcome of an Honor Council hearing on any of the following grounds:

·         Procedural irregularities sufficient to affect the finding of the original authority.

·         Insufficient information to support the finding of the original authority.

·         New information that was not reasonably available for presentation to the original authority, the introduction of which could reasonably be expected to affect the finding of the original authority.

·         Harshness of the penalty/sanction imposed by the original authority sufficient to show an abuse of discretion by that authority.

A petition for appeal, signed by the petitioning student, must be submitted in writing, to the Appellate Review Board either by hand delivery to 310 Sarratt, or by email attachment to appeals@vanderbilt.edu, by no later than 5pm on the tenth (10th) calendar day following the date that the student is formally notified of the determination by the hearing body.

Detailed procedures for appealing a decision may be found in the Student Handbook here

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Who can report me to the Honor Council?

Anyone can report you the Honor Council, including another student, a professor, or a teaching assistant.

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Who forms the Honor Council?

The Honor Council is run by students, but is supported by members of the Office of Student Accountability and faculty advisers. The Executive Board and the general body, consisting of approximately 60-90 members, is entirely composed of students. The members of the Honor Council are selected from all classes and all undergraduate schools. Members are chosen through a system that includes a written application, interview, and election. All Honor Council representatives must maintain at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA.

The Honor Council elects its own officers during the last general body meeting of the fall semester. The officers include a president, who must be either a junior or senior and who must have previously served a minimum of one year as a member of the Honor Council; three vice-presidents; up to three recording secretaries; and two department chairs appointed by the President.

For more information, please visit the Honor Council Website

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How do I join the Undergraduate Honor Council?

Applications to join the Honor Council are released towards the end of the first semester every year. There are three rounds in the application process: an application, interview, and finally, a student body election. Applications can be found online in Anchor Link.

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