Hamilton College’s Honor Code covers academic integrity; all incoming first-year and transfer students must sign the Honor Code Pledge before they begin classes.  Students who suspect or witness violations of the Honor Code are expected to take appropriate action, which can include confronting the student who is violating the code, asking an instructor to proctor an exam, or reporting the suspected dishonesty to the instructor in the course, to the Chair of the Honor Court, or to the Dean of Students.

Academic Dishonesty and Types of Violations

Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: plagiarism (including self-plagiarism), misrepresentation or falsification of data, cooperative or collaborative effort in coursework without acknowledgement or without the explicit permission of the instructor, submission of someone else’s work as one’s own, cheating on assessments, stealing or tampering with digital media created or presented by someone else, and forgery or falsification of academic documentation.

Scope of the Honor Code

The Honor Code covers academic dishonesty in coursework or any activity where a student is a representative of Hamilton (e.g., extra- or co-curricular activity) or that involves any use of Hamilton community resources (e.g., summer research).

When a Faculty Member Suspects a Violation

The easiest way to initiate a case is to use the “Possible Honor Code Violation” reporting form, which can be found here. The faculty member will be asked to submit a letter of complaint that should provide details and evidence of the possible violation including copies of relevant materials with passages appropriately highlighted. If you have any questions, you can also contact the Associate Dean of Students for Academics (315-859-4600).

The Process in Brief

Once a letter of complaint is received, the Associate Dean of Students and the Chair of the Honor Court shall investigate the charges and will determine if the case warrants a hearing.  This investigation typically involves an initial meeting with the faculty member(s) bringing the complaint and the student(s) suspected of violating the code.  In most cases, this meeting will be the faculty member’s only required involvement in the process. 

If it is determined that the case does not warrant a hearing, the case shall be dismissed.  If a case warrants a hearing, most can be resolved via an Administrative Hearing, in which the faculty member need not be involved.  If the student admits responsibility for violating the code and accepts an Administrative Hearing, a formal hearing before the Honor Court is not necessary.  If an Administrative Hearing is not possible (when the student does not admit responsibility, it is a second violation, there is disagreement about the facts of the case, or the violation is severe enough that suspension is a possible sanction), the Honor Court will convene to hear the case. The faculty member will need to take part in the formal hearing, presenting the evidence of the violation and answering any questions the Court members may have.

Possible Sanctions

First violations.  In the case of a first violation, the Honor Court will assign a sanction commensurate with the nature of the violation and consistent with relevant precedent. In all cases of a first violation, the student will be required to complete a tutorial on academic integrity and a letter will be placed in the student’s confidential file until one year after graduation. In all cases, the grade on the assignment for which the violation occurred is determined by the faculty.  In addition, the Honor Court may assign any of the following sanctions: removal from a course with an XW* (“withdrawn due to academic dishonesty”) on the transcript, removal from a course with a grade of XF* (“failure due to academic dishonesty”), or suspension for a semester or more

Sanctions vary depending on the circumstances of each case, but typical sanctions for first violations are:

  • Minor (e.g., copied two homework problems from a peer, failed to cite two sentences in a 5-page paper): educational tutorial only
  • Moderately serious (e.g., cheating on part of an exam, plagiarism of a paragraph): educational tutorial and XW* in the course
  • Highly serious (e.g., cheating on a substantial part of an exam or on a final exam, plagiarism of a large portion of a paper): educational tutorial and XF* in the course
  • Egregious, extensive, and/or pre-meditated, cheating or plagiarism:  educational tutorial, XF* in the course, and 1 or 2-semester suspension

Second violations. Normally, if a student is found responsible for a second violation the Honor Court will assign a 1-3 semester suspension (with an XW* or XF*) commensurate with the nature of the violation and consistent with relevant precedent, taking into account the nature of the first violation. Second violations could also result in a permanent XF* and expulsion.

Third violations. In the case of a third violation, an XF is recorded on the student’s permanent transcript and the student will be dismissed from the College.  The notation “Expulsion for academic dishonesty” will appear on the transcript.

How Faculty can Help Enforce the Honor Code

  • Faculty should clarify in their syllabi classroom policies and expectations vis-à-vis the Honor Code.  This is particularly important for expectations re: citations on papers and presentations, and expectations re: collaboration on homework, lab reports, or take-home exams.
  • Faculty are obligated to report possible violations of the Code to the Dean of Students, rather than dealing with possible violations themselves via a grade.  This process has several advantages: 1) it removes the faculty member from the role of deciding whether the student has violated the code or not; 2) it insures all students are treated equally under the code, rather than differently by different faculty; and 3) it ensures that the College discovers students who violate the code in multiple classes. 
  • Faculty, of course, must use their best judgment on whether a possible plagiarism case is simply a matter of sloppy citation, rather than plagiarism

Advice for students on how to avoid

  • Ask professors questions when in doubt about how to cite a source or if collaboration/help is allowed.
  • Watch paraphrasing and extensive use of verbatim notes from a source. Keep close track of sources.
  • Avoid panic situations through good time management and planning.
  • Don’t use any materials outside of those allowed in the exam room. Use of electronics and trips to the restroom during an exam can rouse suspicion.
  • Discuss your papers, labs, and assignments with others to learn, but write everything in your own words.
  • Acknowledge fully the help you received from print, electronic, media, and through interviews.

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search