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COAM Frequently Asked Questions

What is academic misconduct?

The university's Code of Student Conduct  defines academic misconduct as "any activity that tends to compromise the academic integrity of the University, or subvert the educational process."

While many people associate academic misconduct with "cheating," the term encompasses a wider scope of student behaviors which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Violation of course rules;
  • Violation of program regulations;
  • Knowingly providing or receiving information during a course exam or program assignment;
  • Possession and/or use of unauthorized materials during a course exam or program assignment;
  • Knowingly providing or using assistance in the laboratory, on field work, or on a course assignment, unless such assistance has been authorized specifically by the course instructor or, where appropriate, a project/research supervisor;
  • Submission of work not performed in a course: This includes (but is not limited to) instances where a student fabricates and/or falsifies data or information for a laboratory experiment (i.e., a "dry lab") or other academic assignment. It also includes instances where a student submits data or information (such as a lab report or term paper) from one course to satisfy the requirements of another course, unless submission of such work is permitted by the instructor of the course or supervisor of the research for which the work is being submitted;
  • Submitting plagiarized work for a course/program assignment;
  • Falsification, fabrication, or dishonesty in conducting or reporting laboratory (research) results;
  • Serving as or asking another student to serve as a substitute (a "ringer") while taking an exam;
  • Alteration of grades in an effort to change earned credit or a grade;
  • Alteration and/or unauthorized use of university forms or records.

Cases of alleged academic misconduct are adjudicated through a formal hearing process by the Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM), a standing committee of the University Senate. To insure a broad representation on the Committee, COAM draws its members from throughout the university's academic community: faculty (appointed by University Senate), graduate students (appointed by the Council of Graduate Students), and undergraduate students (appointed by Undergraduate Student Government). 

Many of the most common questions regarding the academic misconduct process at The Ohio State University are answered below. 

 

Why should cases of alleged academic misconduct be reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct?

One of the primary duties and responsibilities of the Committee on Academic Misconduct is to "investigate...all reported cases of student academic misconduct, with the exception of cases in a professional college having a published honor code, and decide upon suitable disciplinary action," and "instructors shall report all instances of alleged misconduct to the committee" (University Faculty Rule 3335-5-487[B1]). Aside from this rule, there are several additional reasons why faculty should report all instances of alleged misconduct to the Committee.

When a case of alleged academic misconduct is brought to the Committee:

  • The case is resolved by an impartial hearing panel;
  • The panel uses a consistent standard in reviewing alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct;
  • The panel uses a consistent standard when applying sanctions;
  • The panel has the authority to determine if a student has a prior history of misconduct and to take this into consideration when sanctioning a student; and
  • The panel has the authority to authorize grade sanctions for courses in which students have violated the Code of Student Conduct.
  • The Committee has the authority to impose other sanctions as necessary to maintain the academic integrity of The Ohio State University.

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What kind of information about academic misconduct(academic integrity) should I include in my course syllabus?

The Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM) recommends that every faculty member, instructor, and graduate teaching associate who is teaching a course prepare and distribute (or make available) to all students a course syllabus. (See also, "What steps can students take to avoid and instructors take to prevent academic misconduct?") Furthermore, COAM recommends that the course syllabus contain a statement concerning “academic misconduct” or “academic integrity.” The Ohio State University does not have a standardized statement on academic misconduct that instructors can use in their syllabi. Thus, COAM has prepared the following statement, which course instructors are free to use (with or without modification) for their syllabi.

Please note that this is a generic statement, which may or may not fit the needs of your course(s). Please read the following carefully before use and edit as necessary to fit your specific needs. If there are additional policies or guidelines that apply specifically to the course(s) that you teach, please include these policies and/or guidelines in your syllabus.

(Click here for a Word document containing the statement below. You may "cut and paste" from this document as necessary.)

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY (ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT)

Academic integrity is essential to maintaining an environment that fosters excellence in teaching, research, and other educational and scholarly activities. Thus, The Ohio State University and the Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM) expect that all students have read and understand the University’s Code of Student Conduct, and that all students will complete all academic and scholarly assignments with fairness and honesty. Students must recognize that failure to follow the rules and guidelines established in the University’s Code of Student Conduct and this syllabus may constitute “Academic Misconduct.”

The Ohio State University’s Code of Student Conduct (Section 3335-23-04) defines academic misconduct as: “Any activity that tends to compromise the academic integrity of the University, or subvert the educational process.” Examples of academic misconduct include (but are not limited to) plagiarism, collusion (unauthorized collaboration), copying the work of another student, and possession of unauthorized materials during an examination. Ignorance of the University’s Code of Student Conduct is never considered an “excuse” for academic misconduct, so I recommend that you review the Code of Student Conduct and, specifically, the sections dealing with academic misconduct.

If I suspect that a student has committed academic misconduct in this course, I am obligated by University Rules to report my suspicions to the Committee on Academic Misconduct. If COAM determines that you have violated the University’s Code of Student Conduct (i.e., committed academic misconduct), the sanctions for the misconduct could include a failing grade in this course and suspension or dismissal from the University.

If you have any questions about the above policy or what constitutes academic misconduct in this course, please contact me.

Other sources of information on academic misconduct (integrity) to which you can refer include:

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What steps can students avoid and intructors take to prevent academic misconduct?

The Ohio State University represents a large and extremely diverse academic community. Faculty and students come from diverse academic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and their interests cover hundreds of academic disciplines. Thus, it's not surprising to find that faculty and students often have different ideas of what types of student behavior constitute "cheating" and other types of academic misconduct, so the Committee on Academic Misconduct believes firmly in the proverb:

 An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

That is, faculty must be proactive in explaining and students must be proactive in understanding what types of behavior constitute academic misconduct in each course, laboratory, field setting, academic program/discipline, and/or other research or scholarly activity. Note that the onus rests with both faculty and students.

The following list includes some (but certainly not all) of the things a course/laboratory instructor, teaching associate, or project supervisor might do to increases students' awareness and understanding of academic misconduct:

  • Read and follow the "Ten Principles of Academic Integrity for Faculty."
  • Provide in your course syllabus (or, as appropriate, other materials made available to students) a clear description of academic misconduct. In particular, tell students what types of behavior are and are not permissible in your course or on a particular assignment or type of activity. At the very least, instructors should remind students to review the section on academic misconduct in the University's Code of Student Conduct. (See also, "What kind of information about academic misconduct (academic integrity) should I include in my course syllabus?")
  • Include in your syllabus (or tell students about) Ohio State University's Ten Suggestions for Preserving Academic Integrity and/or Northwestern University's Eight Cardinal Rules of Academic Integrity.
  • For writing assignments, including master's theses and doctoral dissertations or other graduate-level documents, review with students the definition of plagiarism. If possible, provide students with explicit information regarding (1) the differences among quotations, paraphrasing, public domain, and their original thoughts, (2) what resources they can and can not use, and (3) how each of these resources should be cited in a writing assignment.
  • The Internet provides students with a wealth of information; it also provide the Committee on Academic Misconduct with many cases of alleged plagiarism. Depending on the course you are teaching and the type of assignment, an extra warning about using the Internet might be warranted.
  • If you receive any e-mail messages requesting course information (e.g., examinations, keys to examinations, etc.), authenticate the message's source before sending the information. The Committee has seen several instances where students have established "bogus" e-mail accounts and misrepresented themselves as instructors and/or TA's.
  • In many courses or other assignments/projects, collaboration among students is permissible and expected. For those courses (or assignments) in which collaboration among students is permissible, faculty should explain carefully where acceptable collaboration ends and academic misconduct (collusion) begins.
  • Administer examinations and quizzes in such a manner that minimizes the possibility of students copying from each other and/or using unauthorized materials. For example:
    • Separate students during examinations. If necessary, schedule your examinations in a different room (a room with a larger capacity) from that where you normally hold class.
    • Use multiple forms of the same test, making sure that adjacent students have different forms.
    • Arrange for proctors to help you administer examinations and quizzes and monitor students' behavior during the examinations and quizzes.
  • When administering an examination or quiz, count everything carefully, particularly the number of students taking the examination and the number of examinations turned in for grading.
  • Photocopy examinations or answer sheets before returning them to students.
  • In larger courses where you might not recognize all of the students, check students' ID's to verify their identifies.
  • If you post information on the Internet, delete the files when they are no longer needed. Even if you remove the links to old files, the files might be found using a search engine.
  • Supervisors of courses, assignments, and projects (whichever may apply) should make students aware of pertinent policies related to the use of intellectual property, copyright, and other relevant issues, as appropriate.

As noted above, students must also take a proactive role in preventing academic misconduct.

"Ignorance is no excuse."

If a student has any questions about what is or is not permissible in a course, an assignment, or other scholarly activity, he/she should ask the faculty member in charge of the course or the supervisor in charge of the activity! Students should also read Ohio State University's Ten Suggestions for Preserving Academic Integrity and Northwestern University's Eight Cardinal Rules of Academic Integrity.

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If I suspect that a student is violating the Code of Student Conduct(e.g., is in the process of "cheating" during an exam), what should I do?

If you suspect that a student is violating the Code of Student Conduct, you should take the following steps:

  • Observe the student's behavior carefully and write down what you saw;
  • If possible, have another person verify your observations, especially in a testing situation, and have this person write down what he/she saw;
  • Collect any other information that might be relevant to the alleged academic misconduct, such as examinations, answer sheets, notes, or other materials;
  • Include in your observations the date, location, and time of the alleged misconduct, as well as the student's name;
  • If the faculty member teaching the course is not present when the alleged misconduct occurs, contact the faculty member immediately.

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If I suspect that a student has violated the Code of Student Conduct(e.g., has already turned in an assignment, examination, or quiz, etc.), what should I do?

If possible, contact the student and make arrangements to meet with him/her. This meeting should be held in private, and a witness (e.g., another faculty member, a department/college administrator, a teaching associate, etc.) should be present. Explain to the student that you believe that he/she has violated the Code of Student Conduct, and explain the basis of your suspicion. For example, "I believe that you violated the Code of Student Conduct by altering your exam and turning it in for regrading." Tell the student that you are required by University Rules to report these allegations to the Committee on Academic Misconduct, and that the Committee will determine whether or not he/she has violated the Code of Student Conduct.

If the student wishes to comment on the allegations of academic misconduct during this meeting, he/she should be permitted to do so. You can include in your report to the Committee any comments that the student makes. However, the primary purpose of the meeting between you and the student is to inform the student of the allegation of academic misconduct; you should not interrogate the student.

The Committee on Academic Misconduct recommends that you inform a student of an allegation of academic misconduct before submitting the allegation to the Committee. However, the Committee also realizes that it is sometimes difficult to contact students, especially if the student has completed the course, project, or activity in which the misconduct allegedly occurred, so the meeting with a student is not mandatory. The Committee on Academic Misconduct will accept and adjudicate cases of alleged academic misconduct even if this preliminary meeting between student and instructor is not held.

In cases involving alleged academic misconduct by a graduate student, consultation with the chairperson of the student's graduate program and/or the Graduate School might be warranted prior to contacting the student or COAM.

Students often want to know how an allegation of academic misconduct will affect their enrollment or grade in a course. Thus, for allegations related to a course, you should tell the student that (1) he/she is permitted to continue in the course without prejudice and (2) his/her final grade will be determined after the allegations of academic misconduct are adjudicated.

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What happens when the allegations of misconduct involve a graduating senior?

If allegations of misconduct are made against a graduating senior (especially if it's late in the quarter), the Committee on Academic Misconduct can facilitate the hearing process. Even if the allegations are made during the 10th (or final) week of the quarter, the Committee can hear and resolve the case during the early part of the following week.

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I have a "hold" on my records. Why? how do I find out who put it there? Why? How do I get it removed?

There are a number of possible reasons why there's a "hold" on your records, but in a majority of cases it's because someone at the University is trying to get your attention. By putting a "hold" on your records, the University forces you to contact whoever put the "hold" on your records so you can provide that person with whatever information he/she needs. If the Committee on Academic Misconduct (COAM) is unable to contact or obtain a current local address for a student, COAM will often put a "hold" on that student's records. This forces the student to contact COAM and provide the necessary information. Once the student provides the required information, COAM removes the "hold."

If you have been suspended from the University for Academic Misconduct (or some other violation of the University's Code of Student Conduct), the Registrar's Office will put a "hold" on your records. This is done to prevent you from registering for classes while you are suspended. Once your suspension has been satisfied, the Registrar's Office will remove the "hold" from your records.

Who Put it There?

If you have a "hold" on your records and want to find out why or have it removed, the first thing you need to do is find out who placed the "hold." The simplest way to do this is to telephone (614-292-8500) or visit the Registrar's Office (located in the student Academic Services Building) and ask who placed the "hold" on your records. Once you have determined which University office placed the "hold" on your records, you can contact that office for additional information.

How do I get it removed?

That depends on which office put the "hold" on your records and why. The best thing to do is contact the University office that placed the "hold" and find out what you need to do to get the "hold" removed.

If the "hold" was placed by the Committee on Academic Misconduct, or if you were suspended from the University by COAM, you should contact COAM at 614-292-7262.

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How do I report a case of alleged academic misconduct? What do I send and where do I send it?

What do I send?

This depends on the nature of the alleged misconduct, but you should submit all original documents (e.g., examinations, answer sheets, lab reports, etc.) and a copy of the course syllabus to the Committee on Academic Misconduct. If the allegations include plagiarism, include a copy of the student's work and the work that you believe was plagiarized, and highlight the sections that you believe were plagiarized in both the original and the student's work. If the allegations include collaboration among students, submit the work of all of the students, and explain the basis of your allegation. If the allegations include possession and/or use of unauthorized materials, include the unauthorized materials.

When submitting this information, please remember that:

  • The members of a panel hearing a case of alleged academic misconduct may come from diverse academic disciplines. Thus, unless the nature of the allegation is clear, you should provide the panel members with a concise, written explanation of the reason(s) for the allegations of academic misconduct.
  • The materials that you send constitute the "evidence" the panel will consider in determining whether or not the student has violated to Code and the sanctions. Additional evidence may not be introduced during a hearing.

All cases submitted to the Committee on Academic Misconduct should be accompanied by a letter from the department chairperson or program director (or other appropriate administrative officer).

Where do I send these materials?

Committee on Academic Misconduct
33 W. 11th Avenue, Room 107
CAMPUS

Send electronic submissions to: coam@osu.edu  

These materials should be sent to the Committee in a way that maintains confidentiality.

COAM has prepared a template that provides step-by-step instructions for (1) what to report and (2) how to report it. Click here to download the template and instructions from completing it.

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If I report a student to COAM, how do I handle the student's course grade?

The student should be allowed to continue in the course without prejudice. However, if the allegation of academic misconduct is not resolved before the end of the quarter, you should report a final grade of "I" (incomplete) for the student. For the "alternate grade," you should report the grade the student would have received if he/she had not been accused of academic misconduct.

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What happens with my grade if I am accused of academic misconduct?

There are a number of possible answers to this question, depending on the circumstances and timing of the allegations.

If you are accused of academic misconduct while enrolled in a course, you are assumed to be "not in violation of the Code of Student Conduct" until the allegations are resolved. This means that you are permitted to continue in the course without prejudice; you should continue attending class, and you should complete all course assignments. If the allegations of academic misconduct are resolved before the quarter ends and you are found to be "not in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," your final grade in the course will be calculated as if nothing had happened. However, if the allegations of academic misconduct are resolved before the quarter ends and you are found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," the instructor will calculate your final grade in the course based on the grade sanction authorized by the hearing panel or officer.

If you are accused of academic misconduct, you may withdraw from a course if you want. However, if you withdraw from a course and are found subsequently to be "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," COAM has the authority to re-enroll you and give you a failing grade in the course. In other words, if you are found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," you could receive a failing grade in the course even though you withdrew from the course.

If you are accused of academic misconduct and the allegations of academic misconduct are not resolved before the quarter ends, the instructor must turn in a final grade for you. The grade will be either a letter grade (i.e., A, B, C, etc.) or an incomplete (I). If the instructor reports a letter grade for your final course grade, this does not mean that the allegations of academic misconduct have been dropped or resolved, and you should recognize that your final course grade can be changed if you are found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct."

If the instructor reports your grade as an incomplete, the instructor must also report an alternate letter grade. In such cases, an "I" will appear on your grade report, but the alternate letter grade will not be indicated. If you receive an incomplete grade in a course, the alternate letter grade takes effect automatically six weeks after the quarter ends, and the Registrar's Office notifies you of this change by e-mail. For example, if an instructor gives you an incomplete in a course with an alternate grade of "B," your grade for the course will appear initially as an "I." If nothing happens to change your alternate letter grade during the first six weeks of the subsequent quarter, the "I" will change to a "B," and you will be notified of this change by the Registrar's Office; this is "standard operating procedure" for the Registrar's Office. You must recognize that this does not mean that the allegations of academic misconduct have been dropped or somehow resolved. Moreover, if you are eventually found to be "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," your final grade in the course (a "B" in this example) could be changed as a result of a grade sanction.

If an instructor reports your grade as an incomplete and the allegations of academic misconduct are not resolved within six weeks of the subsequent quarter, the instructor has the option of extending the incomplete grade. If this occurs, your letter grade in the course will change from "I" to "IX." As noted in the above paragraph, this does not mean that the allegations of academic misconduct have been dropped or resolved. The "IX" simply means that your incomplete grade has been extended, and that your final grade in the course will be determined once the allegations of academic misconduct are resolved.

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What happens after a case of alleged academic misconduct is reported to the Committee?

Once a case of alleged academic misconduct is received, the following series of events is set into motion:

  • The Committee's Coordinator verifies that the allegations fall within the Committee's jurisdiction and determines the specific charges against the student (e.g., plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, use or attempted use of unauthorized material during an examination, etc.).
  • The student is notified of the allegations of academic misconduct and the charges. The student is also notified that he/she has the right to review and/or obtain a copy of the information that lead to the allegations of academic misconduct.
  • The student is invited to meet with the Committee's Coordinator to discuss the allegations and hearing process, and to ask any questions that he/she might have.
  • All individuals scheduled for the hearing are notified of the hearing time and date.
  • The hearing is held.
  • The student is notified of the Committee's decision. If the student is found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," the student is notified of the sanction and the appeal process is explained.

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What are academic misconduct "charges?"

When allegations of academic misconduct arise, a student often does not know or understand what he/she has allegedly done wrong. Since the Committee desires that the hearing process be an educational process, the Coordinator charges the student with violating the Code using terminology that explains the nature of the behavior that lead to the allegations. The information below includes most of the formal charges used by COAM when charging a student with academic misconduct. As the nature of some of the charges may not be clear to students or include several different types of dishonest behavior, some charges are described in more detail than others. If appropriate, the Coordinator of the Committee may develop charges other than those listed below to describe the allegations.

Plagiarism (submitting plagiarized work in fulfillment of an academic assignment): Plagiarism is the representation of another's work or ideas as one's own. It includes the unacknowledged verbatim use and/or paraphrasing of another person's work, and/or the inappropriate unacknowledged use of another person's ideas. For the purposes of academic misconduct, plagiarism of published resources (e.g., books, journals, etc.), the Internet, or other printed/electronic resources (e.g., course syllabi, instructors' manuals, etc.) is considered a violation of the University's Code of Student Conduct.

Alteration and resubmission of course materials in an attempt to change the earned grade or credit: This includes altering in any way a laboratory report, a writing assignment, an examination, a quiz, or any other course material after it has been graded and submitting it again for grading in an attempt to change the earned grade or score.

Forgery: This includes any instance where a student alters a University or other form (or record), or where a student produces and/or submits to a faculty member, instructor, teaching associate, or other University official a forged, counterfeited, or fraudulent form, document or other information. Examples of forgery include, but are not limited to:

  • Unauthorized alteration and/or use of any University or other type of form or document;
  • Counterfeiting or unauthorized copying of any University or other type of form or document;
  • Any action where a student attempts to misrepresent himself/herself as somebody else. This may take the form of:
    • Forgery of a signature
    • Establishing "bogus" e-mail or other types of electronic messaging accounts or otherwise changing electronic messages in an attempt to misrepresent oneself;

Acting as a substitute ("ringer") for another student during an examination or other course activity: The nature of this charge is self-explanatory.

Requesting that another student take your place during an examination or other course activity: The nature of this charge is self-explanatory.

Copying or attempting to copy the work of another student in an unauthorized manner and misrepresenting it or attempting to misrepresent it as one's own work: This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, one student copying or attempting to copy the work of another student, and it includes any form of copying (or attempting to copy), such as:

  • One student copying or attempting to copy answers or information from another student during a test, quiz, or other course assignment;
  • One student copying or attempting to copy another student's assignment with the intent of submitting it (or actually submitting it) as his/her own work;
    • The type of information copied and the method used to copy the information are irrelevan.

Unauthorized Collaboration/Collusion and the sharing of electronic files: This includes any instance where two or more students work together and/or share information (electronic files) in a manner that is unauthorized, deceitful, fraudulent, or in violation of course policy for completion of an assignment.

Possession and/or use of unauthorized materials during an examination or other course activity: The nature of this charge is self-explanatory.

Submission of work not performed in a course: This includes instances where a student fabricates and/or falsifies data or information for a laboratory experiment (i.e., a "dry lab") or other course assignment, or where a student submits data or information (such as a lab report) from a previous course to satisfy the requirements of the course in which he/she is enrolled currently.

Failure to comply with course/program policies and/or requirements (sharing of electronic files): This includes instances where a student fails to follow or otherwise subverts published policies and/or requirements for the course or program in which he/she is enrolled including, but not limited to, the sharing of electronic files to complete an assignment.

Engaging in activities that place other students at an unfair advantage, such as taking, hiding, or altering source material, altering source material, or manipulating a grading system. Examples of such dishonest conduct include, but are not limited to:

  • Stealing reserved reading materials from the library;
  • Stealing or altering the labels on laboratory (teaching or research) specimens;
  • Stealing or altering the notes, laboratory reports, or other course assignments of another student.

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What's the difference between "fair use" and plagiarism?

The doctrine of fair use allows the limited use of copyrighted material for certain educational, scholarly and research purposes without the permission of the copyright owner. It applies to any copyrighted material regardless of source, including the Internet. If you photocopy a page from one of your textbooks or print a page from a copyrighted Internet site for certain educational, scholarly or research purposes, your actions may fall under the doctrine of fair use. The copyright laws give you permission to copy the work (with certain limitations), even though the owner of the copyright did not.

Plagiarism is "the representation of another's work or ideas as one's own; it includes the unacknowledged word-for-word use and/or paraphrasing of another person's work, and/or the inappropriate unacknowledged use of another person's ideas" (The Ohio State University Code of Student Conduct). This means that if you use another person's work when completing any academic assignment, regardless of whether or not it's copyrighted and regardless of whether it is paraphrased or a direct quotation, you must give that person appropriate credit (provide a citation and use quotation marks, if appropriate). If you use another person's work (intellectual property) and do not give that person credit, you are representing that person's work as your own.

Consider the following example:

Bill copied five pages of copyrighted information from an Internet site for his history term paper. When Bill pasted this information into his term paper, he did not use quotation marks and he did not include a citation. Bill was charged with plagiarism. During his hearing before the Committee on Academic Misconduct, Bill argued that what he did was acceptable under the doctrine of fair use and, therefore, he did not violate the University's Code of Student Conduct.

For purposes of copyright law, Bill's assertion regarding the doctrine of fair use may be correct. That is, the doctrine of fair use may allow him to copy and use copyrighted material in his academic assignments (with certain limitations) without committing copyright infringement. Moreover, the doctrine of fair use does not necessarily require Bill to use quotation marks or cite the source of the copied material.

However, Bill's assertion that he did not violate the University's Code of Student Conduct is incorrect. Because Bill did not use quotation marks and did not cite the source of his information, he passed this work off as his own. This is plagiarism. Even if Bill paraphrased the information that he copied (in which case quotation marks are not required) but did not cite it, it's still plagiarism. Thus, Bill did violate the University's Code of Student Conduct.

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What can a student do to prepare for a hearing?

There are a number of ways in which a student can prepare for a hearing. When a student is notified of the allegations of academic misconduct, he/she is given the opportunity to meet with the Committee's Coordinator. If a student takes advantage of this opportunity, the Coordinator explains to the student the hearing process and answers any questions that he/she might have. (The hearing is held regardless of whether or not the student has a preliminary meeting with the Coordinator.) The Coordinator also informs the student of other ways in which he/she can prepare for the hearing, such as:

  • A student may invite to the hearing an advisor or support person. This might be a friend, an academic counselor, or a parent, etc. The advisor is not permitted to participate in the hearing process (i.e., address the Committee), but the advisor may advise the student during the hearing. Students who are not proficient in English are welcome to invite a translator as their support person.
  • A student may invite to the hearing any individuals who (1) may have witnessed the alleged academic misconduct and/or (2) may have information pertinent to the allegations of academic misconduct.
  • Before the hearing students are encouraged to prepare a statement.  Statements must be submitted to the COAM office at least two working days prior to the hearing. The statement may be sent electronically to “coam@osu.edu” or delivered in person. Statements should be no longer than two pages. Alternatively, the student may prepare a statement to present at the hearing (bringing six copies for the panel) rather than turn one in, in advance.  Students will be asked to present their views orally to the panel rather than read a written statement. If there are additional materials the student wishes to present they may be introduced during the student’s testimony at the hearing.  Additional materials not directly germane to the allegations may not be considered.
  • A student has the right to question the instructor who has made the allegation of academic misconduct. In advance of the hearing, a student receives a copy of all the materials that were submitted by the instructor in support of the allegation of academic misconduct. Thus, a student has ample opportunity to review this material and develop any questions that he/she thinks might provide useful information for the Committee.

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What happens if I (a student accused of academic misconduct) cannot attend my hearing or I have a conflict?

The Committee on Academic Misconduct will not check your class or personal schedule before scheduling a hearing. Thus, it is possible that your hearing time will conflict with your class or personal schedule. If this occurs, you may request a continuance for "due cause." If this applies to you, please read the following carefully.

What is "due cause" (i.e., what will COAM accept as a justification for cancelling and rescheduling your hearing)?

  • If you have a class assignment or activity for which you must be present (e.g., an examination or quiz) and which cannot be completed at another time.
  • If you are working and cannot change your work schedule.
  • If you will be out of town and cannot reschedule your trip.

What is not "due cause" (i.e., what won't COAM accept as a justification for cancelling and re-scheduling your hearing)?

  • If you have a class scheduled during that time.
  • If your advisor, support person or witnesses cannot attend at that time.

If I elect to do so, how do I request a continuance? Your request for a continuance must be submitted in writing to the Coordinator of COAM at least two working days before the hearing is scheduled to take place. Requests received less than two working days before a scheduled hearing will not be considered. Your request must indicate why you are requesting a continuance, and it should also contain any necessary documentation to support your request (or, you should be prepared to provide such documentation, if requested to do so). For example, if you must work or take an examination, you should provide (or be prepared to provide) a letter from your employer or instructor. If your continuance is approved, your hearing will be rescheduled.

Please note the following if you are considering a continuance:

  • You are entitled to only one continuance! If you request a continuance and the request is approved (i.e., your hearing is rescheduled), you will not be granted a second continuance for any reason. Thus, if you have a scheduling conflict that might be resolved in another way (e.g., by asking your instructor if you can take an exam or quiz at another time rather than rescheduling your hearing), COAM recommends that you try to resolve the conflict in this manner.
  • If you request a continuance and it is approved, your hearing could be delayed. At best, a rescheduling of your hearing will result in a delay of at least two weeks (since we must give you 10 days notice). At worst, a rescheduling of your hearing could result in a delay of one or two months. Thus, requesting a continuance should be avoided if you want to resolve the allegations of academic misconduct as quickly as possible.

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What kind of evidence will the panel consider during a hearing?

The procedures of the Committee are not as formal as those existing in a court of law, but they are designed to ensure fairness. Also, unlike decisions in a court of law, which must be based on evidence that is "beyond a reasonable doubt," decisions of the Committee are based on a "preponderance of the evidence." Students are presumed "not in violation of the Code," and, to ensure fairness, the panel will consider virtually any type of evidence that is submitted by the student or instructor as long as it is directly related to the allegations or charges at hand. In addition to the materials submitted by the instructor when the case is reported and any information provided by the instructor and/or student during the formal hearing, the Committee will consider:

  • A written statement provided by the student at least two working days prior to the hearing; (see 'What can a student do to prepare for a hearing?')
  • Statements provided by witnesses who attend the hearing;
  • Written statements by potential witnesses who are unable to attend the hearing;
    • Such statements must be authenticated in some manner (e.g., notarized or sent via a secure e-mail account and must be germane to the allegations or charges at hand);
  • Statements from individuals who are invited to the hearing by the panel or Coordinator and who have special expertise; and
  • Other forms of evidence that the instructor and/or student believe might be appropriate as reviewed by the Coordinator.
  • Supplemental materials presented at the hearing are subject to approval by the Chair of that day's hearing and time allowing.

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What is the standard of proof used in academic misconduct hearings?

The standard or level of proof required to find a student in violation of the Code of Student Conduct is a preponderance of the evidence. Known also as a balance of probabilities or "greater weight of the evidence," a preponderance of evidence is defined as follows: "The greater weight of the evidence required in a civil (non-criminal) lawsuit for the trier of fact (jury or judge without a jury) to decide in favor of one side or the other. This preponderance is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence. Thus, one clearly knowledgeable witness may provide a preponderance of evidence over a dozen witnesses with hazy testimony, or a signed agreement with definite terms may outweigh opinions or speculation about what the parties intended" (Law.com).

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Who attends a panel hearing?

In addition to the student, the following individuals are scheduled to attend a hearing:

  • The hearing panel, which consists of at least four (4) members of the Committee on Academic Misconduct. Of these four members, at least two must be faculty members and one must be a student. Only members of the hearing panel vote to determine if a student is "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct" and, if the student is found in violation, the sanction.
  • An advisor or support person and/or any witnesses invited by the student;
  • The person who reported the allegation of misconduct, most often a course instructor. Teaching associates, graders, lecturers, etc., who may have information about the alleged misconduct, are also invited;
  • A representative from the student's college of enrollment;
  • The Coordinator for the Committee on Academic Misconduct; and
  • Any other individuals who might be able to provide information that will help the Committee reach its decision.

(See, also, the section on administrative decisions.)

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What happens during a panel hearing?

To insure that a student understands why he/she has been called before a panel of the Committee, a hearing always begins with the panel's chairperson informing the student that he/she has been accused of violating the Code of Student Conduct, as well as the specific charges against the student (e.g., plagiarism). The panel's chairperson asks the student if he/she has received written notification of the allegations, if the student understands the allegations, and if the student agrees or disagrees with the allegations.

The individual who reported the allegations of misconduct (usually the course instructor) presents his/her evidence, and the student is then given an opportunity to present his/her side of the story (including the presentation of any witnesses). Members of the panel then ask questions of the instructor and/or student in order to get a better understanding of the situation that resulted in the allegation. During this time, the student and instructor also may ask each other questions. When the panel members, student, and instructor have no more questions, the student is permitted to present a final statement before the panel considers the evidence. The student and instructor then leave the hearing room.

The members of the panel discuss the evidence presented by the student and instructor and determine if the student has violated the Code of Student Conduct. If the student is found "not in violation of the Code," he/she is invited immediately into the hearing room and informed of the panel's decision. If the student is found "in violation of the Code," the panel determines an appropriate sanction. The student is then brought into the hearing room, and the decision is read.

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What is an "administrative decision?"

If the student agrees with the allegations of academic misconduct (i.e., admits to violating the Code of Student Conduct), he/she may elect to have the case resolved as an administrative decision. The student must waive his/her right to a panel hearing, and the case is resolved without a formal hearing. The student may submit a written statement explaining his/her view of the alleged incident, and a hearing officer (a member of COAM) assigns the sanction. If a student elects to have an administrative decision, the only basis for an appeal is that the sanction imposed is grossly disproportionate to the violation committed. Since a hearing is not held, administrative decisions can be made and the case can be resolved quickly.

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How long does it take to resolve an allegation of academic misconduct?

The time required to resolve an allegation of academic misconduct varies considerably among cases. The time required to resolve an allegation of academic misconduct varies considerably among cases. There are several things a student can do to assist in the process:

  • Make sure that you have a current local address on file with the University Registrar. If you do not have a current local address on file, all materials regarding the allegations of academic misconduct will be sent to your home address. This often delays the notification and scheduling processes significantly.
  • Once COAM is notified of the allegations, we will notify you by mail of the allegations. Once you receive this letter, you should telephone COAM's office immediately and schedule a pre-hearing conference. Pre-hearing conferences are scheduled on a "first-come first-served" basis, so the longer you wait the less likely you will be able to find a time that fits into your schedule.
  • Once you are notified by COAM of the allegations, make sure that you notify COAM of any changes in your personal information (especially your mailing address).
  • Prior to the pre-hearing conference, read the University's Code of Student Conduct and COAM's Procedures and Rules document. In particular, you should be aware that allegations of academic misconduct can be resolved via either a panel hearing or an administrative decision, and that the method you select could affect the length of time required to resolve the allegations.
  • Hearings to resolve allegations of academic misconduct for students enrolled at any of the regional campuses are scheduled less frequently than for those students enrolled on the main campus and, therefore, tend to take longer to resolve. Thus, if you are enrolled at one of the regional campuses and charged with academic misconduct, you should take special care to follow the above suggestions and, thereby, minimize the amount of time necessary to resolve the allegations. If you elect to have a panel hearing, the hearing will be scheduled to take place on the regional campus at which you are (were) enrolled. However, you can request that a hearing be held on the main campus. Since hearings on the main campus are scheduled more often, having your hearing on the main campus could shorten the process dramatically.

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What happens to a student if s/he is found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct?"

If the Committee on Academic Misconduct determines that the allegations of academic misconduct are supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the student is found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," and the student is sanctioned. The sanction consists of two parts, a disciplinary sanction and a grade sanction.

Disciplinary Sanctions

Any student found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct" receives a disciplinary sanction such as a letter of reprimand, disciplinary probation, suspension, or dismissal. The Committee views the hearing as an educational process, and in most cases it has no desire to interrupt an undergraduate student's academic progress. Thus, undergraduate students found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct" for the first time typically receive a letter of reprimand or disciplinary probation. In cases where the violations of the Code are egregious or the student has previous violations of the Code of Student Conduct, the Committee may suspend or dismiss the student.

Grade Sanctions

The Committee also authorizes a grade sanction to the course instructor. The severity of the grade sanction depends on the nature of the student's behavior and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. The grade sanction can range from an authorization that the student receive a "0" on the assignment to an authorization that the student receive a final grade of "E" in a course.

If a student drops a course after being notified by the course instructor or the Committee on Academic Misconduct of allegations of academic misconduct, and the student is found subsequently to be "in violation" of the Code of Student Conduct and the authorized grade sanction is a failing grade (E, U, or NP) in the course, the student will be re-enrolled in the course in which the academic misconduct occurred and given a failing grade. This policy does not apply if (1) a student drops the course before he/she is notified of the allegations of academic misconduct or (2) a student drops the course after being notified of allegations of academic misconduct and the grade sanction is anything other than a failing grade in the course.

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Can a student use the freshman forgiveness rule if s/he is found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct" and receives a grade sanction?

As long as the student meets the criteria for the "freshman forgiveness rule," the student may apply the rule to a grade sanction. As stated in the "University Faculty Rules" dated June 7, 2005, the "freshman forgiveness rule" (Rule 3335-8-27.1) is as follows:

If a course in which an undergraduate student receives a grade of "D+," "D," "E," or "EN" taken during the freshman year (the period during which the first forty-four credit hours are accumulated on the student's official permanent record) is repeated before the end of that student's sophomore year (when the student will have accumulated a total of eighty-nine credit hours), the original course credit and and grade will be automatically excluded from the calculation of the student's cumulative point-hour ratio and deficiency points, but will remain on the student's official permanent record. This action will be subject to the following conditions:

  1. If the grade in the original course was a "D+" or "D," a student may repeat the course for credit only upon the recommendation of the authorized representative of the dean, or director of the student's enrollment unit. Such recommendation must be obtained before noon of the third Saturday of the quarter in which the repeated course is taken.
  2. The same course may be repeated only once under this rule.
  3. This rule may be applied for a maximum of fifteen credit hours.

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What happens if a student is found "not in violation of the Code of Student Conduct?"

If the Committee on Academic Misconduct determines that the allegations of academic misconduct are not supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the student is found "not in violation of the Code of Student Conduct." In such cases, COAM maintains a permanent list of the names of students found "not in violation." However, all records pertaining to such a case are destroyed one year after the case has been resolved.

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 Can a student appeal the decision of COAM?

If a student is found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," the student may appeal the Committee's decision. The appeal process is described in the Code of Student Conduct (3335-23-18) and the Committee's Procedures and Rules (Section 11). Students are informed of the appeal process when they meet with the Committee's Coordinator, when the Committee's decision is read at the hearing, and in the letter that they receive after the hearing. A student may appeal the Committee's decision based only upon one or more of the following grounds:

  • Procedural error;
  • Misapplication or misinterpretation of the rule alleged to have been violated;
  • Findings of facts not supported by a preponderance of the evidence;
  • Discovery of substantial new facts that were unavailable at the time of the hearing; and
  • That the sanction imposed is grossly disproportionate to the violation committed.

If a student elects to have a case resolved in an administrative decision, the only basis for an appeal is that the sanction imposed is grossly disproportionate to the violation committed (see Section 5 of the Committee's Procedures and Rules).

Each student is limited to one appeal, and the decision of the appeal officer is final.

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How long does the appeal process work and what are the possible outcomes of an appeal?

If a student is found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," the student is notified in writing of the panel's (hearing officer's) decision. To appeal this decision, a student must submit his/her appeal to the Executive Vice President and Provost of the University (Office of Academic Affairs) within 5 days of the date on the letter that notified him/her of the panel's (hearing officer's) decision. As noted in the previous FAQ, the student's appeal must be based on one or more specific criteria.

If a student appeals, there is not another hearing to resolve the appeal. Rather, the provost or his designated appeal officer in the Office of Academic Affairs reviews all of the information relative to the case and determines if the student's appeal has merit. This review process can take several weeks to complete. Once the officer in Academic Affairs makes his/her decision, the student is notified of the decision.

If the that officer determines that the student's appeal does not have merit, then the panel's (hearing officer's) decision and the disciplinary and grade sanctions are not changed. If the officer in Academic Affairs determines that the student's appeal does have merit, then the Academic Affairs has several options depending on the basis of the appeal and the circumstances of the hearing. These options include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Overturning the decision (verdict);
  • Sending the case back to COAM for a new hearing;
  • Modifying the disciplinary sanction;
  • Modifying the grade sanction.

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What happens if I'm charged with academic misconduct during the spring quarter and I'm not enrolled for winter quarter classes?

The Committee on Academic Misconduct does hold a limited number of panel hearings during the summer quarter. If a student has a pending case (e.g., from the previous spring quarter), COAM will attempt to schedule a hearing to resolve this case during the summer quarter as long as both the student and instructor are available. If either the student or instructor is not available, the hearing will not be scheduled until the autumn quarter.

If you have a pending case and are enrolled for courses during the summer quarter, we will assume that you are available for a hearing and attempt to schedule one. If we are able to schedule your hearing, we will notify you of the hearing date and time by mail.

If you have a pending case and are not enrolled for courses during the summer quarter, but you live in central Ohio, we will contact you via your OSU e-mail account to determine if you would like to schedule a hearing for summer quarter. If you want a hearing, we will attempt to schedule one. If you do not want a hearing (or we are unable to contact you), a hearing will be scheduled for autumn quarter.

If you have a pending case, are not enrolled in courses during the summer quarter, and do not live in central Ohio, we will assume that you are not available for a hearing during the summer quarter. However, if you are willing to return to campus for a hearing, you can request that a hearing be scheduled. Your request for a summer quarter hearing must be submitted in writing (e-mail is acceptable, but it must originate via your OSU e-mail account), and it should be submitted a least one month before you want the hearing scheduled. Because of COAM's limited hearing schedule during the summer quarter, there is no guarantee that such requests can be honored.

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 How are cases of alleged academic misconduct handled for students enrolled at the regional campuses?

With the one exception noted in the following paragraph, allegations of academic misconduct are handled the same for students enrolled at the main (Columbus) and regional (ATI, Lima, Newark, Mansfield, Marion) campuses. Thus, virtually all of the information in these web pages applies to students regardless of the campus at which they are enrolled.

The one exception is the location of the panel hearing. If a student is enrolled at a regional campus and elects to have a panel hearing to resolve allegations of academic misconduct, the hearing will be scheduled for the regional campus at which the student is (was) enrolled. However, the student does have the option of having the hearing on the Columbus campus. If the student wants his/her hearing on the Columbus campus, the student must make this request in writing to the Coordinator of COAM, and the request must be made before the hearing is scheduled on the regional campus.

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Are cases of alleged academic misconduct involving undergraduate and graduate students handled the same way?

Under the University's and COAM's current rules and policies, cases involving undergraduate and graduate students are processed and resolved in the same way. If an undergraduate student is found "in violation" of the University's Code of Student Conduct, the student's enrollment college is not notified of the Committee's finding. If a graduate student is found "in violation," the Graduate School is notified of the nature of the violation and the sanction.

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What records does the University keep relative to allegations of academic misconduct?

When students are found "not in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," COAM maintains a permanent list of such students' names. However, the Committee destroys all of its records that pertain to a case one year after the case is resolved.

If a student is found "in violation of the Code of Student Conduct," the Committee maintains records of the allegations and hearing according to its records retention policy. A record of the violation is also kept in the University's Office of Judicial Affairs. These records are confidential.

If a graduate student in found "in violation," the Graduate School is notified of the nature of the violation and the sanction imposed.

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What information is entered in a student's "permanent record?"

If a student is found "not in violation," nothing is entered in the student's permanent record.

If a student is found "in violation" and his/her grade in a course is changed as a result of the Committee's grade sanction, the new grade appears on the student's transcript. However, there is no indication on the student's transcript that he/she received a particular grade as a result of the Committee's sanction. For example, if a student fails a course as a result of the Committee's sanction, there is no indication that the failing grade was a result of academic misconduct.

If a student is found "in violation" and the disciplinary sanction is a formal reprimand or disciplinary probation, the disciplinary sanction is not entered in any of the student's permanent records (e.g., transcript, advising report, student databases). If the disciplinary sanction is suspension or dismissal, an appropriate notation ("disciplinary suspension" or "disciplinary dismissal") is added to the student's transcript.

Once the conditions of a disciplinary suspension have been fulfilled, a student may request that the "disciplinary suspension" notation be removed from his/her transcript. This request must be submitted through COAM's office. Since "dismissal" from the University is permanent, a "disciplinary dismissal" notation on a student's transcript is permanent.

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How long does the University maintain academic misconduct records?

If the disciplinary sanction for violating the University's Code of Student Conduct is anything other than "dismissal," the University maintains a copy of a student's judicial records for 10 years. After 10 years, the student's judicial record is destroyed. If a student is "dismissed" from the University for academic misconduct, the University maintains a copy of the student's judicial record for 50 years. After 50 years, the student's judicial record is destroyed.

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After a case is resolved, what should I do with my records regarding the allegation?

Since the University maintains all of the necessary records pertaining to allegations and findings of academic misconduct, you may destroy all of your records following resolution of a case. Although you are not required under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to destroy your records of alleged academic misconduct, you should recognize that the FERPA regulations do apply to any records that you retain (click here for a .pdf file of these regulations).

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Who has access to the records of COAM hearings?

As with all students' records at The Ohio State University, the Committee's records are confidential. The student may access these records, and the student may give permission for others to view these records. University personnel have access to these records on a "need to know" basis.

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