Academic Honor Code

Academic Honor Code
As an academic institution built on trust, Saint Mary's College is committed to fostering the development of scholars who practice integrity in all their academic endeavors.

Saint Mary’s College Academic Honor Code

Saint Mary’s College expects every member of its community to promote and abide by ethical standards, both in conduct and exercise of responsibility towards other members of the community. Academic Honesty must be demonstrated at all times to maintain the integrity of scholarship and the reputation of the College. Academic dishonesty is a serious violation of College policy because, among other things, it undermines the bonds of trust and honesty between members of the community and betrays those who depend upon the College’s academic integrity and knowledge. 

As an expression of support for academic integrity throughout the Saint Mary’s learning community and as an administrative tool to discourage academic dishonesty, Saint Mary’s has implemented the Academic Honor Code. The Academic Honor Code has been approved by the Associated Students, the Faculty Academic Senate, the Provost and the President of Saint Mary’s College. 

Student Responsibility: The Pledge

All students, whether undergraduate or graduate, are expected to commit themselves the following Academic Honor Pledge and abide by the Academic Honor Code. Students affirm this commitment when they accept admission to the College; not having read the Code is not an excuse for violating it. The pledge reads as follows: 

As a student member of an academic community based in mutual trust and responsibility, I pledge: 

  • To do my own work at all times, without giving or receiving inappropriate aid; 
  • To avoid behaviors that unfairly impede the academic progress of other members of my community; and 
  • To take reasonable and responsible action in order to uphold my community’s academic integrity. 

Principles of Action


All student information generated in connection with the Code and its implementation are educational records of the student(s) involved and cannot be discussed or disclosed (or re-disclosed) other than on an educational need-to-know basis or with the student(s)’s prior written and dated consent. This principle applies to all involved parties, including any faculty, staff, other students, and all Council members. 

Individual Responsibility 

It is the responsibility of every student and faculty member of the College community to know and practice the tenets of the Academic Honor Code. If there is confusion over the appropriateness of a particular action in light of the Code, or if a community member has recommendations about how to amend or alter the Code, those questions and suggestions should be addressed to the Academic Honor Council through the Academic Honor Code Coordinator, or to the program director or dean for adult and graduate programs. 

Community Responsibility 

In addition to maintaining one’s own academic integrity, each member of the academic community should strive to preserve and promote integrity among their peers. This community empowers its members to take appropriate action in support of the Academic Honor Code. If a student, faculty member, staff member, or administrator suspects a violation of the Academic Honor Code, they should take action consistent with the Academic Honor Code Procedures described below. Additional possible actions include: 

  • Actively encouraging academic integrity among one’s peers;
  • Using moral suasion to avert a peer’s academic dishonesty; 
  • Alerting a faculty member to suspected violations of academic integrity; 
  • Educating one another regarding the responsibilities of academic integrity; 
  • Helping a faculty member maintain an environment that is conducive to integrity. 


All violations of the Academic Honor Code are administered by the Academic Honor Council (AHC). Members of the academic community are presumed to be familiar with the procedures outlined for determining a violation of the Academic Honor Code, and, therefore, ignorance of the Code is not available as an excuse for an alleged violation of it. Violations of the Academic Honor Code include, but are not restricted to: 

    In Examinations 

Unauthorized talking during an exam; use of unauthorized materials during an exam, physical (e.g., cheat sheets) or digital (e.g., online assistance); having someone other than the student registered in the course take an exam; copying from another student’s work; giving assistance to another student without the instructor’s approval; gaining access to an exam prior to its administration; informing students in other course sections of the contents of an exam; preparing answer sheets or books in advance of an exam without authorization from the instructor; unauthorized collaboration on a take-home exam; altering another person’s answers in the preparation, editing, or typing of an exam; bringing unauthorized materials into an exam room; usage of smart phones, smart calculators or smart watches that are not previously approved by the faculty of the given class. 

    On Papers and Class Assignments (understood as all work assigned in a course) 

Submitting work prepared by someone else as one’s own; using the thesis or primary ideas of someone else, even if those ideas have been edited or paraphrased, without proper citation; plagiarizing words, phrases, sections, key terms, proofs, graphics, symbols, or original ideas from another source without appropriate citation; receiving unauthorized assistance in preparing papers, whether from classmates, peers, family members, or other members of this or any other community, including online or paid assistance; collaboration within a class or across sections of a class without the consent of the instructor; preparing all or part of a paper for another student; intentional failure to cite a source that was used in preparing the paper; citing sources that were not used or consulted to “pad” a bibliography; citing sources out of another’s bibliography without having consulted those sources; re-using previous work without the consent of the current instructor; providing a paper to another student for any purpose other than peer editing or review; using unapproved sources in preparing a paper; lying to an instructor to circumvent grade penalties; interference with access to classrooms, computers, or other academic resources. 

    In Research 

Fabricating or falsifying data in any academic exercise, including labs or fieldwork; using material out of context to inappropriately support one’s claims; sabotaging another person’s research; using another researcher’s ideas without proper citation; taking credit for someone else’s work; hoarding materials and/or equipment to advance one’s research at the expense of others. 

    In the Use of Academic Resources 

Destruction, theft, or unauthorized use of laboratory data, research materials (including samples, chemicals, lab animals, printed materials, software, computer technology, audiovisual materials, etc.); stealing or damaging materials from the library or other College facilities; not returning materials when asked to do so; appropriating materials needed by others such that their work is impeded; helping others to steal, hoard, destroy, or damage materials. 

    In Academic Records 

Changing a transcript or grade in any unauthorized way; forging signatures on College documents; willful public misrepresentation of achievements, whether academic, athletic, honorary, or extracurricular; falsifying letters of recommendation to or from college personnel; bribing any representative of the College to gain academic advantage; breaking confidentiality about the proceedings of the Academic Honor Council, an Academic Review Board, or an investigative committee in the adult and graduate programs. 

    In Community Participation 

Engaging in conduct that, if found to have occurred, violates the College’s Technology Use and Whistleblower policies. 

These types of conduct constitute violations of the Academic Honor Code and will be considered, if determined to have occurred, as acts of academic dishonesty. Any conduct that falsely represents one’s own performance or interferes with that of another is academic dishonesty.  

Academic dishonesty is distinguished from academic inadvertence. The Academic Honor Council receives and considers all reports of conduct that is alleged to be a violation of the Code and, thereafter, decides whether the alleged conduct, if determined to have occurred, constitutes academic dishonesty or academic inadvertence, which involves an act that might appear to be a violation of the Academic Honor Code, but is determined during the Review Board process not to be. In cases of academic inadvertence, no charge of academic dishonesty is made, and the student is referred to the instructor for appropriate resolution. 

The Academic Honor Code is not intended to impede or inhibit the free exchange of ideas and collaborative learning which are hallmarks of a Saint Mary’s education. The College supports and encourages cooperative learning, group projects, tutoring, mentoring, or other forms of interchange of ideas among students and faculty, one of the most important benefits of academic life. 

Oversight and Sanctions

The procedures for the administration of the Academic Honor Code, the determination of violations, and the imposition of sanctions are overseen by the Academic Honor Council (AHC). 

Council Membership 

The AHC consists of a minimum of sixteen student members and six faculty members, with representation among various departments and communities on campus. These members share a special responsibility for the dissemination and implementation of the Academic Honor Code on campus. 

Responsibilities of the Academic Honor Council (AHC): The responsibilities of the AHC include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • To select from its membership a student Chair or Co-Chairs who will oversee the operations of the AHC for one year; 
  • To review and revise the Academic Honor Code as necessary, offering recommendations for changes to the Code to the Admissions and Academic Regulations Committee (AARC) of the Academic Senate; 
  • To serve in an advisory capacity for the College community in understanding and interpreting the Code; 
  • To promote and maintain the Code, primarily through community education via publications, workshops, forums, and community events; 
  • To create and facilitate a non-credit seminar on academic integrity to be taken by students who are in violation of the Code; 
  • To constitute Review Boards from among its membership to consider alleged violations of the Code; 
  • Through its Chair or Co-Chairs, to consider requests for the removal of “XF” grades; 
  • To be a Review Board as a whole for petitions of reconsideration brought forward by the Chair or Co-Chairs; 
  • To provide an annual report (maintaining appropriate confidentiality) for the Academic Senate and the Student Senate, reviewing the AHC’s activities for the year. 

Coordinator of the AHC 

In addition to the members of the Academic Honor Council, there is a staff Coordinator. The Coordinator’s responsibilities are: to serve as first contact for a party who wishes to register a concern; to maintain office hours during which community members may file concerns, seek advice, and obtain written materials relevant to the Academic Honor Code; to update written materials and information as per the instructions of the AHC; to distribute materials to appropriate parties during student orientation and at the beginning of the new academic terms; to function as a neutral party in organizing and scheduling reviews by the AHC, coordinating with the Chair or Co-Chairs of the AHC the constitution and meetings of Honor Review Boards; to contact all involved parties and inform them of their rights and responsibilities in the process of pursuing a concern; to assign Advisors at the earliest possible time; to compile brief case inventories on concerns that are raised; and to schedule and book meetings of the Academic Honor Council at large.  

Honor Review Boards

In cases when a violation of the Academic Honor Code is not handled through the channels of No-Contest Resolution, the reported student may elect to have an Honor Review Board. If an Honor Review Board is decided upon, the AHC Coordinator schedules the hearing, taking into consideration availability for the student and faculty. If there are two or more pending cases, the reported student is given the option to decide whether or not they want their review boards to consist of the same AHC members. The pending review boards are not allowed to be scheduled on the same day. If the student chooses not to make this decision, it is at the discretion of the Chair or Co-Chairs to decide whether or not the boards consist of all the same members. 

The appropriate sanction is decided by the majority vote of the Review Board’s voting members, typically four students and one faculty member. The non-voting Facilitator serves as the neutral presiding officer of the review. The non-voting Advisor helps the respective parties in their understanding of the Academic Honor Code, provides confidential guidance, assists in preparing the respective parties for the Honor Review Board process, aids the parties in understanding the decisions of the Honor Review Board, and informs the parties of the process of petitioning for reconsideration. At no time during the review does an Advisor formally represent the party in the hearing or speak on their behalf; rather, each party is expected to speak for themselves. 


Standard Sanction: Assignment of an “XF” Grade 

For violations pertaining to a course, the standard sanctions for a student who commits a violation of the Academic Honor Code are as follows: 

  • First Violation Standard Sanction: Assignment of an “XF” grade in the course. The “XF” grade indicates failure in the course (“F”), and that the course failure was the result of a violation of the Academic Honor Code (“X”). A notation will be included in the student’s transcript indicating the meaning of the grade. For the purposes of computing grade point average and class standing, the “XF” will be treated as an “F.” In addition to the notation on the student’s transcript, an “XF” grade disqualifies a student from representing the College as the leader of an approved extracurricular activity, or as a member of an athletic or scholarly team that is sponsored by the College. Students with “XF” grades will be eliminated from consideration for departmental or College awards and honors. No student with a standing “XF” grade may be a member of the Academic Honor Council. If the “XF” is removed (see below), students can resume their regular activities.
  • Second Violation Standard Sanction: Semester Suspension. The standard sanction for a second violation is a semester-long suspension from the College. Timing of the suspension is to be determined by the review board that hears the individual case. 
  • Third Violation Standard Sanction: Expulsion. The standard sanction for a third violation is immediate expulsion from the College. 

For violations that do not pertain to a course, the sanction is determined by the Honor Review Board hearing the case. 

Through a letter filed with the AHC Coordinator, a student may petition the Academic Honor Council to remove an “XF” grade in the semester following its assignment. A successful petition will result in the replacement of the “XF” with the grade of “F” and the removal of the notation from the student’s transcript. Such a petition will be considered if the student has completed a non-credit seminar on academic integrity (administered by the Academic Honor Council) and has avoided any further violation of the Academic Honor Code. The decision to remove an “XF” grade resides with the Chair or Co-Chairs of the Academic Honor Council and is not guaranteed merely with completion of the seminar on academic integrity. A letter reflecting the violation, the sanction, and the removal of the “XF” grade remains in the student file held in the Office of the Registrar. Once the “XF” is removed, the student may retake the course in question for academic credit.

Alternative Sanctions

That the assignment of an “XF” grade is the standard sanction for violations that pertain to coursework does not preclude the right of the Honor Review Board to assign an alternative sanction, one that is either harsher or more lenient. The rationale for an alternative sanction other than the standard is the nature of the offense and not the status or identity of the offender. The community member who brings forth the charge against the alleged violator may recommend a particular sanction to the Honor Review Board, but the assignment of the sanction rests with the board. 

Alternative sanctions include but are not limited to: 

  • Reprimand by the AHC, with a letter placed in the student’s permanent file in the Registrar’s office; 
  • Community service requirements, either to the College or to a selected community agency consistent with the offense committed; 
  • Community education requirements, including participation in the development of workshops, displays, bulletin boards, testimonials, brochures, or College forums; 
  • Attendance of a non-credit seminar on academic integrity; 
  • Academic or extracurricular probation; 
  • Loss of privileges for College leadership or athletic participation; 
  • Removal from the course, with alternate plans for completing it; 
  • Failure of the assignment; 
  • Failure of the course;
  • Modified “XF” grade, with no limitation on extracurricular activities; 
  • Suspension from the College at the end of the term;
  • Immediate suspension from the College; 
  • Expulsion from the College; 
  • Withholding of a degree, even in cases where all College requirements have been met; 
  • Revocation of a degree already received. 

Procedures for Suspected Violations 

If a student, staff, or faculty member wishes to report conduct that might constitute a violation of the Code, they have two options: 

  • Refer the matter to the relevant faculty member, i.e., the instructor of record in the course in question, or 
  • Refer the matter directly to the Academic Honor Council through the AHC Coordinator. 

The procedures to be followed in any suspected violation of the Academic Honor Code are as follows:

Step 1: Initial Discussion 

If a faculty member, staff or student becomes aware of conduct that might constitute a violation of the Code, then they should first discuss the conduct with the relevant faculty member or the suspected violator(s). This discussion might include asking the suspected violator(s) to explain the situation or confronting them with relevant information about the suspected conduct. The possible outcomes are: 

  • If the suspecting party concludes that no violation has occurred, then the matter will be dropped. 
  • If the discussion results in confirmation by both parties that a violation has occurred, then the student can request a No-Contest Resolution through the AHC Coordinator or an Honor Review Board through the AHC Coordinator. 
  • If the discussion results in lack of confirmation by both parties that a violation has occurred, then the faculty member, staff, or student refers the case for review by an Honor Review Board through the AHC Coordinator. 

Step 2: Meeting with the AHC Coordinator 

When a student suspected of a violation of the Code is referred to the Coordinator, the reported student has two options to resolve the issue: 

  1. No-Contest Resolution (Step 3A) 
  2. Academic Honor Review Board (Step 3B) 

After the Coordinator formally notifies a student of a concern (via SMC email), the reported student has 5 business days to contact the AHC coordinator to discuss their options. After the 5-day period, the student has 24 hours to inform the AHC coordinator of their decision of whether they want to go forward with a Review Board or sign a No-Contest Resolution. If there is no contact within the specified time frame, an immediate “XF” grade will be assigned to the student’s academic transcript for the course in question.

Step 3A: No-Contest Resolution 

The No-Contest Resolution process is an option in cases when the following five conditions are met: 1) neither party contests that the conduct has occurred; 2) the nature of the violation caused by the conduct is clear; 3) the violation is course-related, 4) both parties agree to the standard sanction for the admitted violation, and 5) it is the first violation. 

In a No-Contest Resolution, the standard sanction of “XF” is applied. To provide fairness in its application, the AHC Coordinator is witness to the No-Contest Resolution process. 

Step 3B: Honor Review Board 

In the absence of a No-Contest Resolution, the case is referred through the AHC Coordinator to an Honor Review Board for review and determination. 

Preparation. The AHC Coordinator informs the Chair or Co-chairs of the AHC of the need to convene an Honor Review Board. Once the Coordinator and Chair or Co-chairs have established the Honor Review Board for a case, it will hold a review hearing. The hearing is a closed and confidential meeting with the person raising the concern, the alleged violator(s), and any witnesses who have relevant information that either party wishes to include in the proceedings. Prior to the review hearing, the Facilitator will provide a list of witnesses and relevant information to both the person raising the concern and the alleged violator(s). 

Confidentiality. All of the testimony and relevant information from the review hearing will be kept in confidence, in accordance with the College policy and to protect the privacy of the student(s) involved under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Failure to maintain the confidentiality of the matters and/or the student’s privacy of the student(s) involved will result in a separate and independent charge of Code violation. No lawyers or lawyers’ representatives (e.g. paralegals) representing the involved parties or family members of either party may be present during the review process or the deliberations of the Honor Review Board. 

Multiple Alleged Violators. In the case of multiple alleged violators in closely related cases, one Honor Review Board will hear all testimony and evidence. The Facilitator has the discretion to hold one review for all students concerned, subject to receipt of the prior written and dated consent of the student(s) involved, or separate reviews for each alleged violator. Reviews will be closed to all other persons unless all parties concerned consent in writing to an open review. 

Honor Review Board. The Coordinator’s office, in coordination with the Chair or Co-chairs, determines the time and place for the review hearing, as well as its structure and flow. Each party has the opportunity to present their position and offer relevant information and testimony, including of witnesses, to support their respective positions. Members of the Honor Review Board may forward questions during any phase of the review with the permission of the Facilitator. 

Deliberation and Decision. Upon hearing all arguments, the Honor Review Board meets privately to deliberate and make its decision. A valid decision constitutes a simple majority arriving at a common conclusion as to whether a violation “more likely than not” occurred. In the event of a tied vote, the case will be referred to the full body of the AHC for deliberation and decision. Within 2 business days of the close of deliberations, the Student Advisor, Facilitator, or Coordinator of the Honor Review Board informs both parties about the decision and sanction, either through written notification or in person, depending upon the requested preference of the parties involved. Notwithstanding this notice requirement, failure to inform both parties of the decision and sanction within 2 business days does not constitute a material procedural irregularity or reason to petition for reconsideration. 

Removal of an Honor Review Board Member. Any member of the Board who has a conflict of interest or bias or whose participation would give rise to the appearance of bias or conflict of interest must recuse themself from the deliberation and decision process. If during the review hearing or the deliberations the Facilitator detects a bias that may interfere with the impartial consideration of information by any voting member of the Honor Review Board and that may significantly affect the outcome of the Board’s decision, the Facilitator must remove that representative from the Review Board immediately. Review and deliberations will continue with the remaining members. 

Ad Hoc Review Boards. In the event that a review is necessary outside of the confines of the regular academic calendar (in the summer or over Christmas break, for example), then the Academic Vice Provost may convene a special ad hoc Honor Review Board consisting of two students and one faculty member. If possible, those representatives should be current or former members of the Academic Honor Council, but the Academic Vice Provost may exercise the right to appoint other representatives as necessary. 

Step 4: Petition to Reconsider 

Grounds for Reconsideration. Except as permitted below, the decision of the Honor Review Board is final (whether it is the product of a regular or ad hoc review board), and will be reported to the Academic Honor Council as well as to the Registrar’s office. The decision may be reconsidered only if: 1) new information not available at the time of the deliberation and Board’s decision can be offered for consideration, 2) one or more parties can provide information that supports an allegation that there was a failure to follow procedure in a way that materially affected the decision of the board, or 3) the sanction applied goes beyond the standard sanction. If the case is not subject to reconsideration, then the matter ends at this step. 

Reconsideration: If a student who has been found in violation of the honor code chooses to submit a request for reconsideration, that student has 5 business days, starting the day that the AHC formally notifies them of the decision made by the Review Board, to turn in their request in writing to the AHC Coordinator. School holiday breaks (as defined in the student handbook) do not count as business days. If the request for reconsideration is not turned in within the designated time frame, the request will be rejected. 

Any petition for reconsideration of a decision by the Honor Review Board is filed with the AHC Coordinator, who informs the Chair or Co-Chairs of the Academic Honor Council. The Chair or Co-Chairs determine whether or not the information and reasons offered support the request for reconsideration (based on the above criteria). If the Chair or Co-Chairs deem that the information offered is sufficient to support reconsideration of the case, then it is brought before the full body of the Academic Honor Council. The Council re-hears the case, taking into account the new information and/or material procedural irregularity that have been established. 

The Chair or Co-Chairs facilitate the Appeal Hearing, presenting the original case (in brief), the board’s decision, and the stated grounds of the petition to the AHC. The AHC may, in its sole discretion, rely on existing written information or call for new information and/or testimony as needed to allow a full and fair consideration of the petition. A majority vote of the AHC members present will determine if the Honor Review Board’s decision should be overturned. If the AHC upholds the decision of the Honor Review Board, then the case will be closed. If the Honor Review Board’s previous decision is overturned, then a new decision will be reached by a majority vote of those members of the Academic Honor Council present at the Appeal Hearing. The Chair or Co-Chairs will only vote in the case of a tie. In either situation, the decision of the Academic Honor Council is final and cannot be reconsidered. 

Final Responsibility

Saint Mary’s, through its designated officers, faculty and/or employees, is solely charged with and responsible for interpreting and applying the Academic Honor Code. In exercising that responsibility, the College chooses to give students a distinct and significant role in designing the Code, hearing cases, recommending sanctions, and educating the campus community about the importance of academic integrity. This student participation, however, in no way prevents Saint Mary’s from exercising its sole discretion, without prior notice, in interpreting, implementing and/or amending these policies and procedures.