Reporting Misconduct

If you believe that there has been a violation of the Code of Student Behaviour, you are required to submit a separate written report to the Dean or designate (often an Associate Dean) of your Faculty for each student involved. The more details you are able to provide, the better informed the Dean’s decision will be.

Information Checklist for Reporting

The following is a checklist of information to include in any report of inappropriate academic behaviour:
  • Student name and ID number
  • Course and section number
  • Your name, telephone number and/or email address
  • Nature of suspected offence
  • Relative weighting of assignment or exam in question
  • Record of meeting with student (see below)
    • Date
    • Who attended
    • Summary of discussion and notes from observer, if applicable
  • Evidence – examples might include:
    • Assignment or examination sheet
    • Student’s assignment, paper or other work in question, cross referenced with suspected source
    • Photocopy or print-out of source with areas of concern highlighted
    • Student’s examination, areas of concern highlighted
    • Copies of other students’ work, if relevant
    • Proctor statements or other eye-witness accounts, if available
    • Entire course outline or syllabus
    • Any other relevant handouts or information you gave your students (e.g. a handout on proper citation or academic integrity)
    • Account of any discussions of academic integrity in class
  • Recommendation for a sanction based on your assessment of the situation. See Section 30.4.3 of the Code for the range of available sanctions.

Meeting with a Student

All charges of academic misconduct under the Code are adjudicated by the Dean or designate of the Faculty in which the course is offered. As an instructor, you are required by the Code to meet with the student(s) who have allegedly committed the offence before submitting the case to the Dean. The following is a guide to use in your conversation with your student. You are not required to follow this format, and deviations from this guide will certainly not result in legitimate cases being dismissed. This is intended to ease the stress involved with this process for both the instructor and the students. See the Code of Student Behaviour for the section on Procedures for Instructors.
  • 1. Before the meeting

    Make an appointment to speak to the student(s). Respect their privacy (e.g., do not make a general announcement to the class). Email is an effective and discrete way to contact them.

    Be clear about the reason for the meeting. For example, “I have noted some problems with your use of sources in essay #2 and would like to discuss them with you.”

    Provide a date by which you would like to meet. Be reasonable, taking into account that students may have exams, jobs, or other commitments that may prevent them from meeting with you immediately.

    Inform the students about the Office of the Student Ombuds, a neutral office that advises students on University processes. An Ombudsperson can assist them throughout the discipline process.

    If several students were involved in the same offence, meet with them individually.

    If a student doesn’t respond or avoids meeting with you, you can send the evidence you have collected to the Dean, with a note that you were unable to meet with the student.

  • 2. During the meeting

    Allow the student to examine your evidence.

    Explain what you suspect and why.

    Give the student an opportunity to respond. S/he may be able to provide a plausible explanation. On the other hand, this may be an opportunity for a student who would like to take responsibility for the offence to do so.

    Be prepared for possible false excuses, but open-minded enough to consider plausible explanations.

    If, at the end of the meeting, you believe there was a Code violation, advise the student that you are required to turn the case over to the Dean of the Faculty and that you do not have the discretion to impose any sanctions on your own. You may wish to provide reasons for this: it maintains consistency across the Faculty and provides the opportunity for appeal. It also allows the University to track students who have violated the Code in other departments or Faculties.

    If you are planning to send the case to the Dean, let the student know that the Dean’s office will contact him or her to make an appointment.

    Avoid threatening to send the evidence to the Dean if the student doesn't confess. You are required to send the case on to the Dean any time you suspect a Code violation, whether or not the student has admitted to it.

    Do not take matters into your own hands and simply assign a zero on the paper. Our system is based on natural justice, which accords certain rights before any sanction is imposed. If you assign a zero on the paper without sending the information on to the Dean, not only are you acting without proper authority, but you are depriving the student of any right to appeal. You could also be laying the groundwork for a valid grade appeal and allowing serial cheaters to continue undetected.

  • 3. After the meeting

    Provide enough information in your report to the Dean for him or her to follow up. A checklist is provided above.

    If a case is still unresolved at the end of a term, report the student’s grade as IN (incomplete).

    The course instructor receives copies of any decisions made in the case, including those of the Dean, the Discipline Officer and the University Appeal Board.


Anonymous Reporting

Occasionally, students report witnessing other students engaging in dishonest behaviour but wish to remain anonymous. While we must take these students seriously and follow up on their allegations of misconduct, we must also ensure that the accused student has the opportunity to respond to the allegations. Part of knowing the case against oneself is knowing who has made the allegation. Consequently, laying Code charges based solely on an anonymous report is at odds with the principles of natural justice; it is necessary to find corroborating evidence in order to proceed.

On the other hand, it takes courage and conviction for a student to come forward with a report, even if it’s one you are unable to verify. We must not alienate those students who are trying to do the right thing by bringing academic dishonesty to our attention. We should be sure to communicate some kind of resolution to the students who brought the situation to light in the first place. While privacy law prevents us from disclosing the actual details and outcome of a case, you can thank them for coming forward and assure them that the University takes their concerns seriously and is doing all it can to address the issue they reported.

While an anonymous report may not provide enough evidence to proceed with charges against a particular student, you may certainly gain some ideas as to how to prevent the same kind of activity in the future. Changes designed to prevent academic dishonesty benefit everyone involved, and the students who initiated the complaint can be assured that they have made a contribution to academic integrity at the University of Alberta. Providing a way for students to discuss academic dishonesty with you encourages discussion and allows students a role in promoting academic integrity.