312  Academic Misconduct

Approved by President
Effective Date: June 5, 2017
Responsible Division: Academic Affairs
Responsible Office:  University Provost
Responsible Officer: Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

I. Purpose

This policy sets out the procedure to be followed when a Middle Tennessee State Tennessee (MTSU or University) faculty member believes a student has engaged in academic misconduct. If the accused student does not admit responsibility, an Academic Misconduct Committee (Committee) shall convene a hearing and determine whether academic misconduct occurred or not, and, if so, whether additional disciplinary sanctions should be imposed. If no academic misconduct is found, the Committee will determine whether any grade assigned by the faculty member as a consequence should stand or be changed.

II. Scope

This policy applies only to situations where a faculty member charges a student with academic misconduct. Any allegations of misconduct related to research or other scholarly activity should first be evaluated under Policy 211 Misconduct in Scholarly Activities and Research. Students wishing to appeal final course grades must do so through the process set out in Policy 313 Student Grade Appeals.

IIIDefinitions

A.  Academic exercise. All forms of work submitted by a student for credit or hours.

B.  Academic Misconduct. Academic misconduct may consist of acts of plagiarism, cheating, or fabrication.

1.  Plagiarism. The adoption or reproduction of ideas, words, statements, images, or works of another person as one's own without proper attribution. This includes self-plagiarism, which occurs when an author submits material or research from a previous academic exercise to satisfy the requirements of another exercise and uses it without proper citation of its reuse.

2.  Cheating. Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, or aids in any academic exercise or test/examination. Cheating includes unapproved collaboration, which occurs when a student works with others on an individual academic exercise without the express permission of the faculty member. 

3.  Fabrication. Unauthorized falsification or invention of any information or citation in an academic exercise.

C.  Academic Misconduct Committee (Committee) refers to the committee established under Policy 32 University Committees.

IV. Process

A.  Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited. Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly, through participation or assistance, are immediately responsible to the instructor of the class. In these instances, the faculty member has the authority to assign an appropriate grade for the exercise or examination, or to assign an "F" in the course, as is proportional to the nature and extent of academic misconduct. When assigning a grade based on academic misconduct, the faculty member shall ensure that the student is made aware of his/her appeal rights. Additional disciplinary sanctions may be appropriate; this issue will be determined by the Committee.

B.  Courses may not be dropped pending the final resolution of an allegation of academic misconduct. Students may continue attending class, absent a disciplinary sanction to the contrary, while this procedure is ongoing. If found responsible of committing academic misconduct for which a grade penalty was the result, a student may not drop the course. Failure to abide with this directive will result in referral to the Office of Student Conduct for violation of general rules and regulations and violation of imposed disciplinary sanctions.

C.  Whenever a faculty member identifies an instance of academic misconduct, an Academic Misconduct Faculty Referral Form must be completed. The form will provide the name of the student, the course in which the academic misconduct occurred, a description of the misconduct, and whether the faculty member assigned a grade for the exercise or examination, or assigned an "F" in the course. Either a copy of the referral form or a detailed memorandum describing the allegation will be provided to the student, the faculty member's Department Chair, and the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs (Vice Provost hereinafter to include his/her designee, the Coordinator of Academic Misconduct) within three (3) business days of the faculty member determining that academic misconduct has occurred.

D.  The Coordinator of Academic Misconduct (Coordinator) will review the form and, within three (3) business days of receipt of the form, contact the student and schedule a meeting to ask the student if he/she admits to engaging in academic misconduct. If the student admits responsibility and will accept any additional discipline the Coordinator deems appropriate, the matter will be resolved at that point. The Coordinator will note the resolution on the Academic Misconduct form and provide copies to the faculty member and the department chair.

E.  If the student does not admit responsibility or does not accept additional disciplinary sanctions, the Coordinator will:

1.  Determine whether the matter warrants consideration of suspension or expulsion of the student should the Committee find academic misconduct. If so, the student must be given the option of a hearing held pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) as set forth in Section IV.H. A waiver of this option must also be in writing.

2.  Form the Committee from the pool of members to hear the matter.

F.  Institutional Hearing

1.  If the sanction of suspension or expulsion will not be considered or if the student has waived a hearing under the UAPA, the Committee will set an institutional hearing for the matter within fifteen (15) business days of the Vice Provost's/Coordinator’s receipt of the form, allowing reasonable time for preparation. Both the faculty member and the student will be notified of the hearing. If the hearing cannot be scheduled within fifteen (15) business days, it will be scheduled as soon as possible. 

2.  During Summer semesters, hearings will be scheduled under only two (2) circumstances:

a.  If it affects the student's ability to graduate in the Spring or Summer; or

b.  If the Vice Provost determines that there are extenuating circumstances to warrant a special hearing.

3.  The Coordinator will advise the student, in writing, of the following:

a.  The conduct violation and the circumstances alleged by the faculty member to constitute academic misconduct;

b.  The date, time, and place of the hearing;

c.  That the student may appeal a grade given by the faculty member in response to academic misconduct;

d.  The rights applicable to the student at the hearing:

(1)  The right to present his/her case;

(2)  The right to be accompanied by an advisor. An advisor may not actively or directly participate in the hearing, but may only consult with the student;

(3)  The right to call witnesses on his/her behalf; and

(4)  The right to confront witnesses against him/her.

e.  The rights applicable to the faculty member at the hearing:

(1)  The right to present his/her case;

(2)  The right to be accompanied by an advisor. An advisor may not actively or directly participate in the hearing, but may only consult with the faculty member;

(3)  The right to call witnesses on his/her behalf; and,

(4) The right to confront witnesses against him/her.

4.  The hearing will be closed to the public.

5.  Formal rules of evidence will not be applicable, and the Committee may exclude evidence which it deems immaterial, irrelevant, or unduly repetitious.

6.  Decisions shall be by majority vote of the members present and voting.

7.  The standard of proof required for a finding of academic misconduct shall be by a preponderance of the evidence.

8.  The Coordinator will, on behalf of the Committee, issue a written decision indicating its finding concerning the charge of academic misconduct. The decision must specify the factual basis for the determination, and, if academic misconduct is found, state whether additional disciplinary sanctions will be imposed. Additionally, if the faculty member assigned a grade as a consequence of academic misconduct and the Committee determines no academic misconduct occurred, it will address whether that grade should stand or be changed. The decision will be provided to the student, the faculty member, and the Vice Provost.

9.  The student and the faculty member must be notified of the right to appeal the Committee's decision to the Provost.

G.  Appeal of Committee Decision. The student or faculty member may appeal the Committee's decision to the Provost within five (5) business days of receipt of the decision.

1.  An appeal must be submitted in writing and may only be filed based on one (1) or both of the following conditions:

a.  An error in procedural due process by the Committee that prejudiced the student to the extent that he/she was denied a fundamentally fair hearing as a result of the error; and

b.  The emergence of new evidence that could not have been previously discovered by the exercise of due diligence and which, had it been presented at the initial hearing, would have substantially affected the decision of the Committee.

2.  The Provost may:

a.  Affirm the Committee decision;

b.  Reverse the Committee decision in whole or in part; or

c.  Return the matter to the Committee for reconsideration of the sanction.

3.  The decision of the Provost shall be final.

H.  UAPA Hearing. Any matter that may result in suspension or expulsion of a student from the institution is subject to be heard pursuant to the contested case provisions of the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, T.C.A. § 4-5-101, et. seq., and shall be processed in accordance with Policy 110 Cases Heard Pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, unless the student waives the right to such a hearing in writing.

Forms:  

Academic Misconduct Faculty Referral

Revisions: none.

References: T.C.A. § 4-5-101, et. seq., Policies 32 University Committees; 110 Cases Heard Pursuant to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act; 211 Misconduct in Scholarly Activities and Research; Policy 313 Student Grade Appeals.