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Procedures for Imposition of Sanctions for Violations of CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity

Introduction

As a legal matter, in disciplining students for violations of policies of academic integrity, CUNY, as a public institution, must conform to the principles of due process mandated by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution—generally speaking, to provide notice of the charges and some opportunity to be heard. In the context of court-litigated violations, questions as to how much and what kind of process was "due" turn on the court's judgment whether the decision on culpability was "disciplinary" (a question of fact) or "academic" (a question of the instructor's expert judgment). This distinction has proved difficult to apply on campus. Accordingly, these procedures provide for alternative approaches depending on the severity of the sanction(s) being sought. If the instructor desires solely an "academic" sanction, that is, a grade reduction, less process is due than if a "disciplinary" sanction, such as suspension or expulsion, is sought.

A faculty member who suspects that a student has committed a violation of the CUNY or the College Academic Integrity Policy shall review with the student the facts and circumstances of the suspected violation whenever possible. The decision whether to seek an academic sanction only, rather than a disciplinary sanction or both types of sanctions, will rest with the faculty member in the first instance, but the college retains the right to bring disciplinary charges against the student. Among the factors the College should consider in determining whether to seek a disciplinary sanction are whether the student has committed one or more prior violations of the Academic Integrity Policy and mitigating circumstances, if any. It is strongly recommended that instance of suspected violation should be reported to the Academic Integrity Official on a form provided by the College. Among other things, this reporting will allow the College to determine whether it wishes to seek a disciplinary sanction even where the instructor may not wish to do so.

Procedures in Cases Where the Instructor Seeks an Academic Sanction Only

  1. Student Accepts Guilt and Does Not Contest the Academic Sanction

    If the faculty member wishes to seek only an academic sanction (i.e., a reduced grade1 only), and the student does not contest either his/her guilt or the particular reduced grade the faculty member has chosen, then the student shall be given the reduced grade, unless the College decides to seek a disciplinary sanction. The reduced grade may apply to the particular assignment as to which the violation occurred or to the course grade, at the faculty member's discretion.

  2. Student Denies Guilt and/or Contests the Academic Sanction

    If the student denies guilt or contests the particular grade awarded by the faculty member, then the matter shall be handled using the College's grade appeals process, including departmental grading committees where applicable, or the Academic Integrity Committee. In either case, the process must, at a minimum, provide the student with an opportunity to be heard and to present evidence.

Procedures in Cases Where a Disciplinary Sanction Is Sought

If a faculty member suspects a violation and seeks a disciplinary sanction, the faculty member shall refer the matter to the College's Academic Integrity Official using the Faculty Report form, to be adjudicated by the College's Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee under Article 15 of the CUNY Bylaws. As provided for therein, the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee may, among other things, investigate, conciliate, or hear evidence on cases in which disciplinary charges are brought.2 Under certain circumstances, College officials other than the Academic Integrity Official may seek disciplinary sanctions following the procedures outlined above. If a reduced grade is also at issue, then that grade should be held in abeyance, pending the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee's action.

Procedures in Cases in Which Both a Disciplinary and an Academic Sanction Are Sought

If a faculty member or the College seeks to have both a disciplinary and an academic sanction imposed, it is not advisable to proceed on both fronts simultaneously lest inconsistent results ensue. Thus, it is best to begin with the disciplinary proceeding seeking imposition of a disciplinary sanction and await its outcome before addressing the academic sanction. If the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee finds that the alleged violation occurred, then the faculty member may reflect that finding in the student's grade. If the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee finds that the alleged violation did not occur, then no sanction of any kind may be imposed. The decision whether to pursue both types of sanctions will ordinarily rest with the faculty member.

Reporting Requirements

  1. By the Faculty Member to the Academic Integrity Official

    In cases where a violation of academic integrity has been found to have occurred (whether by admission or a fact-finding process), the faculty member should promptly file with the Academic Integrity Official a report of the adjudication in writing on a Faculty Report form provided by the College as described above. The Academic Integrity Official shall maintain a confidential file for each student about whom a suspected or adjudicated violation is reported. If either the grade appeals process or the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee finds that no violation occurred, the Academic Integrity Official shall remove and destroy all material relating to that incident from the student's confidential academic integrity file. Before determining what sanction(s) to seek, the faculty member or the Academic Integrity Official may consult the student's confidential academic integrity file, if any, to determine whether the student has been found to have previously committed a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy, the nature of the infraction, and the sanction imposed or action taken.

  2. By the Academic Integrity Official to the Faculty Member

    Where a matter proceeds to the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee, the Academic Integrity Official shall promptly report its resolution to the faculty member and file a record of the resolution in the student's confidential academic integrity file, unless, as indicated above, the suspected violation was held to be unfounded, in which case all reporting forms concerning that suspected violation shall be destroyed.

Procedures for Handling Student Complaints about Faculty Conduct in Academic Settings

  1. Introduction. The University and its Colleges have a variety of procedures for dealing with student-related issues, including grade appeals, academic integrity violations, student discipline, disclosure of student records, student elections, sexual harassment complaints, disability accommodations, and discrimination. One area not generally covered by other procedures concerns student complaints about faculty conduct in the classroom or other formal academic settings. The University respects the academic freedom of the faculty and will not interfere with it as it relates to the content or style of teaching activities. Indeed, academic freedom is and should be of paramount importance. At the same time the University recognizes its responsibility to provide students with a procedure for addressing complaints about faculty treatment of students that are not protected by academic freedom and are not covered by other procedures. Examples might include incompetent or inefficient service, neglect of duty, physical or mental incapacity, and conduct unbecoming a member of the staff.
  2. Determination of Appropriate Procedure. If students have any question about the applicable procedure to follow for a particular complaint, they should consult with the chief student affairs officer. In particular, the chief student affairs officer should advise a student if some other procedure is applicable to the type of complaint the student has.
  3. Informal Resolution. Students are encouraged to attempt to resolve complaints informally with the faculty member or to seek the assistance of the department chairperson or campus ombudsman to facilitate informal resolution.
  4. Formal Complaint. If the student does not pursue informal resolution, or if informal resolution is unsuccessful, the student may file a written complaint with the department chairperson or, if the chairperson is the subject of the complaint, with the academic dean or a senior faculty member designated by the college president. (This person will be referred to below as the "Fact Finder.")
  5. The complaint shall be filed within 30 calendar days of the alleged conduct unless there is good cause shown for delay, including but not limited to delay caused by an attempt at informal resolution. The complaint shall be as specific as possible in describing the conduct complained of.
  6. The Fact Finder shall promptly send a copy to the faculty member about whom the complaint is made, along with a letter stating that the filing of the complaint does not imply that any wrongdoing has occurred and that a faculty member must not retaliate in any way against a student for having made a complaint. If either the student or the faculty member has reason to believe that the department chairperson may be biased or otherwise unable to deal with the complaint in a fair and objective manner, he or she may submit to the academic dean or the senior faculty member designated by the college president a written request stating the reasons for that belief; if the request appears to have merit, that person may, in his or her sole discretion, replace the department chairperson as the Fact Finder.
  7. The Fact Finder shall meet with the complaining student and faculty member, either separately or together, to discuss the complaint and to try to resolve it. The Fact Finder may seek the assistance of the campus ombudsman or other appropriate person to facilitate informal resolution.
  8. If resolution is not possible, and the Fact Finder concludes that the facts alleged by the student, taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the student, establish that the conduct complained of is clearly protected by academic freedom, he or she shall issue a written report dismissing the complaint and setting forth the reasons for dismissal and send a copy to the complaining student, the faculty member, the chief academic officer, and the chief student affairs officer. Otherwise, the Fact Finder shall conduct an investigation. The Fact Finder shall separately interview the complaining student, the faculty member, and other persons with relevant knowledge and information and shall also consult with the chief student affairs officer and, if appropriate, the college ombudsman. The Fact Finder shall not reveal the identity of the complaining student and the faculty member to others except to the extent necessary to conduct the investigation. If the Fact Finder believes it would be helpful, he or she may meet again with the student and faculty member after completing the investigation in an effort to resolve the matter. The complaining student and the faculty member shall have the right to have a representative (including a union representative, student government representative, or attorney) present during the initial meeting, the interview, and any post-investigation meeting.
  9. At the end of the investigation, the Fact Finder shall issue a written report setting forth his or her findings and recommendations, with particular focus on whether the conduct in question is protected by academic freedom, and send a copy to the complaining student, the faculty member, the chief academic officer, and the chief student affairs officer. In ordinary cases, it is expected that the investigation and written report should be completed within 30 calendar days of the date the complaint was filed.
  10. Appeals Procedure. If either the student or the faculty member is not satisfied with the report of the Fact Finder, the student or faculty member may file a written appeal to the chief academic officer within 10 calendar days of receiving the report. The chief academic officer shall convene and serve as the chairperson of an Appeals Committee, which shall also include the chief student affairs officer, two faculty members elected annually by the faculty council or senate, and one student elected annually by the student senate. The Appeals Committee shall review the findings and recommendations of the report, with particular focus on whether the conduct in question is protected by academic freedom. The Appeals Committee shall not conduct a new factual investigation or overturn any factual findings contained in the report unless they are clearly erroneous. If the Appeals Committee decides to reverse the Fact Finder in a case where there has not been an investigation because the Fact Finder erroneously found that the alleged conduct was protected by academic freedom, it may remand to the Fact Finder for further proceedings. The committee shall issue a written decision within 20 calendar days of receiving the appeal. A copy of the decision shall be sent to the student, the faculty member, the department chairperson, and the president.
  11. Subsequent Action. Following the completion of these procedures, the appropriate college official shall decide the appropriate action, if any, to take. For example, the department chairperson may decide to place a report in the faculty member's personnel file or the president may bring disciplinary charges against the faculty member. Disciplinary charges may also be brought in extremely serious cases even though the college has not completed the entire investigative process described above; in that case, the bringing of disciplinary charges shall automatically suspend that process. Any action taken by a college must comply with the bylaws of the University and the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the Professional Staff Congress.
  12. Campus Implementation. Each campus shall implement these procedures and shall distribute them widely to administrators, faculty members, and students and post them on the college website.
  13. Board Review. During the spring 2009 semester, the Chancellery shall conduct a review of the experience of the colleges with these procedures, including consultation with administrators, faculty, and students, and shall report the results of that review to the Board of Trustees, along with any recommended changes.

1 A reduced grade can be an "F," a "D-," or another grade that is lower than the grade that would have been given but for the violation.

2 Typically, disciplinary sanctions would be sought in cases of the most egregious, or repeated, violations, for example: infraction in ways similar to criminal activity (such as forging a grade form; stealing an examination from a professor or a university office; or forging a transcript); having a substitute take an examination or taking an examination for someone else; sabotaging another student's work through actions designed to prevent the student from successfully completing an assignment; dishonesty that affects a major or essential portion of work done to meet course requirements. [These examples have been taken from a list of violations compiled by Rutgers University.]

Last modified: 9/3/2014