Frequently Asked Questions - For Students

What is academic integrity?

Does the policy apply to me?

What is plagiarism?

What about cheating?

Collaborating is cheating? 

What if I’m not sure whether something is plagiarism or cheating?

What is the process if I have been accused of an offence?

What if I don’t want to meet with the instructor?

How do I give my side of the story to the Chair/Director? 

What does the Chair/Director do?

What if allegations against me are dropped?

How are penalties decided?

What will the penalty be if this is my first offence? 

What if I’ve been found guilty of academic dishonesty before? 

Can I withdraw from the course? 

Can I appeal?

What can I appeal?

What should I do to prepare for an appeal?

Are transcript notations permanent? 

If I have committed an offence, am I still eligible for Trent’s Honour Rolls? 

What if I have more questions about the policy?

What is academic integrity?

The policy states that all members of the University community share the responsibility for the academic standards and reputation of the University. Academic integrity is defined by the basic principles of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility (as articulated by the International Center for Academic Integrity). These values serve as the foundation for the development and acquisition of knowledge and all members of the University community are expected to uphold them. For students, adherence to these fundamental values is essential for earning academic credit in all courses, whether offered on- or off-campus, online, or as placements, practicums or internships.

Does the policy apply to me?

The Undergraduate Academic Integrity Policy applies to students currently or previously registered in Trent undergraduate courses as well as to applicants to Trent’s undergraduate programs. A similar but distinct policy applies to graduate students and applicants: see Graduate Academic Integrity Policy.

What is plagiarism?

The policy defines plagiarism as knowingly presenting the work of another person in a way that represents or could be reasonably seen to represent the work as one’s own. Knowingly includes if you should reasonably have known. That standard recognizes the responsibility of students to educate themselves about plagiarism as well as the University’s responsibility to educate students.

What about cheating?

Cheating is, of course, also prohibited by the policy. Many examples are listed in the policy, including less obvious ones such as:

  • submitting the same original work in two or more courses (including a course you are repeating)
  • collaborating with one or more individuals when collaborative work has not been expressly authorized by the instructor
  • falsifying or tampering with results in lab experiments or research assignments

Other examples include:

  • communicating with another student(s) during an unsupervised online test (e.g., using home computer)
  • bringing unauthorized electronic devices (e.g., cellphone, tablet computer) into an exam
  • using someone else's iClicker in a class where iClicker responses constitute a portion of the course grade

Collaborating is cheating?

Under the policy, doing work collaboratively is cheating unless collaborative work has been expressly authorized by the instructor. If you are unclear about whether or to what extent working with others is permitted, check with your instructor (e.g., sometimes the instructor allows students to work together to talk about problems, but students must work on their solutions independently).

What if I’m not sure whether something is plagiarism or cheating?

If you are unsure, it is your responsibility to consult with the instructor for guidance. Claiming that you weren’t sure is not an adequate defense for a charge of plagiarism or cheating.

What is the process if I have been accused of an offence?

Your instructor will notify you that you have been accused of an offence, and will request a meeting to discuss the matter. The instructor’s role is to investigate an apparent case or accusation of academic dishonesty. The investigation process will be handled as confidentially as possible, although absolute confidentiality cannot be assured.

If the instructor concludes that academic dishonesty has occurred, the instructor’s role is to prepare a report to the Chair/Director of the Department, who will make a decision if you have no other dishonesty on record. You will receive a copy of this report. You will be prevented from withdrawing from the course unless the instructor finds that no academic dishonesty occurred, in which case no further action will be taken unless new evidence comes to the instructor’s attention.

What if I don’t want to meet with the instructor?

You are not required to meet with your instructor but understand that, if you don’t attend a meeting or respond to a request to meet, a charge may still proceed against you. The best opportunity to resolve a matter is usually closest to the source of the problem so you are encouraged to meet with your instructor.

How do I give my side of the story to the Chair/Director?

You have two opportunities to communicate your version of events before a first-level decision is made. The first opportunity is to provide an explanation to the instructor who is investigating. If the matter is going forward, the policy states that the instructor should include a summary of your version of events in their report.

You have seven days from the date you receive your copy of the instructor's report to send written comments to the Chair/Director. That is your second opportunity to communicate your side of the story.

What does the Chair/Director do?

The Chair/Director’s role is to review the report and your comments, if you have submitted any. If the Chair is not satisfied that academic dishonesty occurred, the Chair will inform you of that decision and no further action will be taken unless new evidence arises. The Chair will also inform the Dean's Office of that decision so that the block on your registration which had prevented you from dropping the course will be removed.

If the Chair is satisfied that academic dishonesty occurred,* the Chair will check with the Dean's Office to see whether you already have an offence on record.

If it is a first offence, the Chair will usually proceed to decide the penalty and an Academic Dishonesty Chair Report will be sent to you. If a prior offence is on record, or if the Chair feels that a very strong penalty is appropriate, the Chair will forward the material to the Dean's Office for a decision on the penalty.

*Note that the Chair must be satisfied that, more likely than not, academic dishonesty occurred.

What if allegations against me are dropped?

If allegations are dropped, no permanent record of the incident will be kept on file at the offices of the department, Registrar, or Dean.

How are penalties decided?

Under the policy, the decision-maker determines whether the offence is minor or major. The following factors are taken into consideration: the extent of the dishonesty, whether the act in question was deliberate or whether the student ought reasonably to have known, the importance of the work in question as a component of the course or program, the academic experience of the student, and any other relevant circumstances. The policy sets out the usual penalties for first and subsequent minor and major offences.

What will the penalty be if this is my first offence?

The policy states that the minimum penalty for a first minor offence is a failure on the piece of work (with no opportunity to rewrite). The recommended penalty is a zero grade. The penalty for a first major offence is a grade of zero on the work plus a transcript notation of Academic Dishonesty for the course. As an additional penalty, the final grade in the course may also be reduced. Extraordinary circumstances can justify a different penalty.

What if I’ve been found guilty of academic dishonesty before?

Penalties are stronger if you already have an offence(s) on record. The penalty for two minor offences will usually be the same as the penalty on a first major offence (see above). The penalty for an offence after that will usually be a period of suspension, and after that, expulsion from the University (plus a transcript notation of Academic Dishonesty for the course).

Can I withdraw from the course?

If an instructor finds academic dishonesty, you will not be allowed to withdraw from the course unless it is ultimately determined that no dishonesty occurred. If you had withdrawn from the course prior to the instructor making a decision that academic dishonesty occurred, you will be re-registered in the course and expected to complete it. You cannot withdraw from the University or graduate while an investigation is in progress.

Can I appeal?

Yes. Decisions of the Chair/Director can be appealed to the Dean (at academicintegrity@trentu.ca) within two weeks of receiving the Academic Dishonesty Report. Appeals of decisions of the Dean can be made within four weeks to the Special Appeals Committee.*

*Note that the charge against you must be demonstrated on a balance of probabilities. In other words, on appeal the decision-maker bears the burden of demonstrating that, more likely than not, academic dishonesty occurred.

What can I appeal?

You can appeal the finding of academic dishonesty, the penalty, or both the finding and the penalty.

What should I do to prepare for an appeal?

Write and revise your appeal documentation carefully so that you tell your side of the story clearly. Remember that the decision-maker(s) on an appeal have no first-hand knowledge of the situation. Think about your best argument(s). Gather the evidence (documentary and/or witnesses) that supports your defence. Have someone you trust read your appeal submission and provide feedback. Below are some additional tips.

  • Spend time preparing your appeal. Even if you are hurrying to meet the deadline, you should take as much time as possible to prepare your paperwork. Write clearly and check for grammatical and spelling errors. A typed submission is preferable over handwritten.
  • Present your case in a straightforward manner. A chronological presentation often works well. Remember that the decision-maker has no prior knowledge of your situation.
  • Stick to the point. Focus on your main point(s), not irrelevant detail. Keep your submission concise.
  • Be accurate. Make sure that all dates, course numbers, etc. are correct. Give precise details about the relevant circumstances of the situation. Be as specific as possible.
  • Reference attached documentation. Explain why it is relevant.
  • Be factual. Avoid using dramatic language.
  • Keep copies. Until a matter is settled, keep copies of all academic work (including drafts), research notes and papers, correspondence sent/received, as well as any other relevant documents.

Are transcript notations permanent?

The policy states that after two years a student can apply in writing to the Vice President Academic to have a transcript notation of Academic Dishonesty removed. Your letter should explain the reason for the request, what you have learned from the experience, and what you have done to ensure violations of academic integrity will not occur again. Note that grade deductions and notations of expulsion cannot be removed. A notation will remain on your transcript for five years unless you make the application to have it removed.

If I have committed an offence, am I still eligible for Trent’s Honour Rolls?

If you committed a major offence or multiple offences, you will not be eligible for the Dean’s Honour Roll that academic year. If there is a major offence or multiple minor offences on record, you will not be eligible for the President’s Honour Roll at graduation.

What if I have more questions about the policy?

If after reading the policy and these FAQs you still have questions about the Undergraduate Academic Integrity Policy, contact Anna Lightfoot in the Office of the Provost & VP Academic.

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