Principles Regarding Academic Integrity

The principles set forth below arise from consultations carried out since 1990 with students, faculty, academic deans, the University General Counsel, and the Office of the Provost. Ratified by the Faculty Senate on May 13, 1992, they are the framework within which policies of the undergraduate and graduate schools of the University operate.

Academic integrity at Northwestern is based on a respect for individual achievement that lies at the heart of academic culture.  Every faculty member and student, both graduate and undergraduate, belongs to a community of scholars where academic integrity is a fundamental commitment.  The University as an institution makes collaboration and the pursuit of knowledge possible, but always promotes and evaluates individual effort and learning.

This statement broadly describes the principles of student academic conduct supported by all academic programs at the University, at every level – both undergraduate and graduate, and regardless of venue, including on-line courses and study abroad programs.  More detailed standards of academic conduct, procedures, and sanctions are set forth by each of the schools.  It is the responsibility of every member of the academic community to be familiar with the specific policies of his or her own school, and to bear in mind relevant policies governing activities not directly addressed herein, such as internships, specific graduate programs and University research.

A. Basic Standards of Academic Integrity                      

Registration at Northwestern requires adherence to the University's standards of academic integrity. These standards may be intuitively understood, and cannot in any case be listed exhaustively; the following examples represent some basic types of behavior that are unacceptable:

  1. Cheating: using unauthorized notes, study aids, or information on an examination; altering a graded work after it has been returned, then submitting the work for regarding; allowing another person to do one's work and submitting that work under one's own name; submitting identical or similar papers for credit in more than one course without prior permission from the course instructors.

  2. Plagiarism: submitting material that in part or whole is not entirely one's own work without attributing those same portions to their correct source.
  3. Fabrication: falsifying or inventing any information, data or citation; presenting data that were not gathered in accordance with standard guidelines defining the appropriate methods for collecting or generating data and failing to include an accurate account of the method by which the data were gathered or collected.

  4. Obtaining an Unfair Advantage: (a) stealing, reproducing, circulating or otherwise gaining access to examination materials prior to the time authorized by the instructor; (b) stealing, destroying, defacing or concealing library materials with the purpose of depriving others of their use; (c) unauthorized collaborating on an academic assignment (d) retaining, possessing, using or circulating previously given examination materials, where those materials clearly indicate that they are to be returned to the instructor at the conclusion of the examination; (e) intentionally obstructing or interfering with another student's academic work or (f) otherwise undertaking activity with the purpose of creating or obtaining an unfair academic advantage over other students' academic work.

  5. Aiding and Abetting Academic Dishonesty: (a) providing material, information, or other assistance to another person with knowledge that such aid could be used in any of the violations stated above, or (b) providing false information in connection with any inquiry regarding academic integrity.

  6. Falsification of Records and Official Documents: altering documents affecting academic records; forging signatures of authorization or falsifying information on an official academic document, grade report, letter of permission, petition, drop/add form, ID card, or any other official University document.

  7. Unauthorized Access to computerized academic or administrative records or systems: viewing or altering computer records, modifying computer programs or systems, releasing or dispensing information gained via unauthorized access, or interfering with the use or availability of computer systems or information.

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B. Due Process and Student Rights

In accordance with University Statutes, the enforcement of academic integrity lies with the faculties of the University's individual schools, and shall be in accordance with the procedures and provisions adopted by each individual school.

In all cases involving academic dishonesty, the student charged or suspected shall, at a minimum, be accorded the following rights:
  1. Prompt investigation of all charges of academic dishonesty, to be conducted, insofar as possible, in a manner that prevents public disclosure of the student's identity. Such investigation may include informal review and discussion with an official of the school prior to bringing a charge, provided that such review does not compromise the rights of the student in the formal process.
  1. Reasonable written notice of the facts and evidence underlying the charge of academic dishonesty and of the principle(s) of academic integrity said to have been violated.
  1. Reasonable written notice of the procedure by which the accuracy of the charge will be determined.
  1. Reasonable time, if requested, within which to prepare a response to the charge.
  1. A hearing or meeting at which the student involved may be heard and the accuracy of the charge determined by a neutral decision-maker.
  1. Review of any adverse initial determination, if requested, by an appeals committee to whom the student has access in person. Generally, implementation of sanctions will be suspended until all appeals made by the student have been exhausted.
  1. Final review of an unsuccessful appeal, if requested, by the Provost or an advisory committee designated by the Provost.

C. Procedures

Suspected cases of academic dishonesty should be reported to the course instructor, the administration of the school under whose jurisdiction the suspected offense took place, or to any student authorized by that school to receive such complaints. Students charged with academic dishonesty may not change their registration in a course in which the charge is pending, or in which a finding of academic dishonesty has been made. Procedures of investigation, adjudication, and appeal may vary from school to school. [Current practice does not involve reporting to a student, but instead to the course instructor or to a member of the dean’s office in the appropriate school.]

D. Sanctions

All proven cases of academic dishonesty should be penalized as appropriate under the circumstances. Sanctions other than a reduced or failing grade should be imposed by the school in which the student is enrolled. The imposition of any sanction other than a private reprimand should include a statement of reasons supporting its severity. A student may appeal any finding or sanction as specified by the school holding jurisdiction. Sanctions may include but are not limited to:

  1. Reduced or failing grade.
  2. A letter of reprimand.
  3. A defined period of probation, with or without the attachment of conditions.
  4. Withdrawal of University funding.
  5. A defined period of suspension, with or without the attachment of conditions.
  6. Exclusion from the University.
  7. Notation on the official record.
  8. Revocation of an awarded degree.
  9. Any appropriate combination of 1-8 above.

[Additional sanctions may include, but are not limited to, denial of academic honors. It should also be understood that there is no necessary connection between a first-time offense and a letter of reprimand. Depending on the nature of the offense, a student may be suspended or permanently excluded as a result of a first-time offense.]