Academic Ethics and Conduct

As a graduate student at UAB, you have joined a distinguished academic community that is guided by a conviction in the worth of knowledge and its pursuit. By virtue of your membership in this community, you accrue many benefits—among them, access to the ideas and materials of others. Graduate students not only learn from others but also engage in the pursuit of new knowledge and, in some instances, teach or provide service to others. Being a member of an academic community and functioning in multiple roles in the community carries with it certain responsibilities. For this reason, we provide guidance here in the forms of both general standards of conduct and university policies.

As members of an academic community, students, faculty, and administrators share a responsibility to seek truths and communicate them to others. As we pursue knowledge and encourage learning, we acknowledge the need for a free exchange of ideas and recognize the importance of listening to and maintaining respect for the views of others. We must always aspire to learn, apply, and communicate to others the best scholarly standards of the disciplines in which we are involved. High scholarly standards demand high ethical standards. We must commit to learning and communicating the best ethical standards and their application to our disciplines. In interactions with others, we must demonstrate respect for them as individuals, give credit for significant academic or scholarly assistance, and respect the confidential nature of some exchanges. We must adhere to the highest standards of academic conduct, avoiding those acts of misconduct and dishonesty that undermine the purposes of the academic community.

Academic Conduct—Honor Code

The University of Alabama at Birmingham expects all members of its academic community to function according to the highest ethical and professional standards. Students, faculty, and administration of the institution must be involved to ensure this quality of academic conduct.

Academic misconduct undermines the purpose of education. Such behavior is a serious violation of the trust that must exist among faculty and students for a university to nurture intellectual growth and development. Academic misconduct can generally be defined as all acts of dishonesty in an academic or related matter. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following categories of behavior:

ABETTING: helping another student commit an act of academic dishonesty. Allowing others to copy your quiz answers, or use your work as their own are examples of abetting.

CHEATING: use or attempted use of unauthorized materials, information, study aids, the answers of others, or computer-related information.

PLAGIARISM: claiming as your own the ideas, words, data, computer programs, creative compositions, artwork, etc., done by someone else. Examples include improper citation of referenced works, use of commercially available scholarly papers, failure to cite sources, copying others' ideas.

FABRICATION: presenting as genuine falsified data, citations, or quotations.

MISREPRESENTATION: falsification, alteration or misstatement of the contents of documents, academic work or other materials related to academic matters, including representing work substantially done for one class as work done for another without receiving prior approval from the instructor. Misrepresentation also includes misrepresenting schedules, prerequisites, transcripts, or other academic records.

A student who commits an act of academic misconduct within the context of meeting course requirements will be given the grade of F in the course or on the assignment at the discretion of the department or program in which the misconduct occurred. Academic misconduct can occur in other contexts as well, such as when taking comprehensive examinations, performing research, preparing manuscripts or generally during the performance of other activities related to the process of satisfying degree requirements. Under Graduate School policy the program in which the student is enrolled may choose to expel the student from the university on the first offense. Students should consult the policies of their graduate program to determine whether expulsion can occur with a first offense. If, as determined by the records of the Graduate School or the department or program, the act of academic misconduct is a second offense, the student will be expelled from the university. The transcript of a student expelled for committing academic misconduct will bear the statement “Expelled for Academic Misconduct.”

Reporting Academic Misconduct

When a faculty member or another student sees cause to charge a student with academic misconduct, within 7 days of noting the incident that individual will communicate the charge to the department chair or program director of the department or program in which the accused student is enrolled. The department chair or program director to whom the charge is presented will notify the student of the charge and provide the student with an opportunity to respond. If the student can respond in a way that, in the opinion of the program director and the department chair, either dispels the charge or provides the opportunity to resolve the issue informally, an informal resolution can be prescribed. If the student cannot refute the charge effectively, the department chair or program director will expeditiously notify the student of the administrative action to be taken. The notice shall also inform the student of the right to appeal and the steps involved in that process. Copies of any such communication will be provided to the Academic Dean of the school in which the student is enrolled.

If the school or department in which the student is enrolled has its own honor code, then the procedures of that honor code must be followed, including any prescribed appeals process. For dual degree students whose academic misconduct occurs in one of their two schools, the honor code of the school in which the infraction occurred should prevail.

However, if no local honor code exists, the following procedure must be followed.

Right to Appeal and Formation of an Honor Council

If a student is the subject of an administrative action as the result of an academic misconduct violation and wishes to contest that administrative action, he / she may appeal in writing to the Dean of the school in which the student is enrolled. The dean will then convene an Honor Council consisting of five students and three faculty members from various departments within the school. All of the students chosen to serve must be in good academic standing.

The Honor Council shall elect a chairperson from among the eight members. The Chair may be either a student or faculty member. The duties of the Chair include convening the Honor Council, presiding over hearings and communicating with the administration of their school on behalf of the Honor Council. In all matters, the members of the Honor Council are instructed to treat the information put forward to them in the strictest of confidence. Breaches of confidentiality are themselves violations of the Student Honor Code and will be treated as such.

Initial Procedures

After being informed of the charges and the failure to reach an informal resolution, the Academic Dean may also attempt to informally resolve the impasse between the student and the faculty member(s). In the event this attempt is unsuccessful, the Academic Dean shall refer the allegation(s) to the Honor Council. The Academic Dean will provide the Honor Council with a statement of the allegation(s) against the accused student, a description of the evidence and supporting documents (if available). The Honor Council shall convene to review the charge and all evidence supporting it. After review, the Council may either dismiss the allegation(s) on the grounds that insufficient substantiating evidence exists, or support the charges, also based on the evidence. The Honor Council shall provide notice of the specific charge or of the dismissal of the alleged violation to the accused student by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by hand delivery, and to the Academic Dean. If substantiated, the statement of the charge shall include a brief summary of the alleged violation and the evidence presented in support of the charge, in enough detail as to allow the accused the opportunity to rebut the charge, and shall provide notification to the accused student of his/her right to a hearing. The accused student must respond to the charge within five days, unless excused by the Honor Council. In his/her written response to the Honor Council, the accused student must admit or deny the charge and must formally request or waive his/her right to a hearing before the Honor Council.

Once notice of the specific charge has been provided to the accused student and to the Academic Dean, the Honor Council shall decide on a time for the hearing and any preliminary deadline(s) for the submission of supporting documents and the names of proposed witnesses. Granting a request from the accused, or from the School, to reschedule the hearing is within the discretion of the Honor Council, but shall not be unreasonably denied. The Honor Council shall provide written notice to the accused student of the time and place for the hearing, and if witnesses are to be called in his/her defense, ask the student to provide their names along with a statement describing the testimony of each witness. The Honor Council shall review any documentary evidence provided by the student in advance of the hearing.

The Hearing

The process shall generally include the following: (1) call to order by the Chair; (2) introduction of those present; (3) statement of the Charge and possible penalties if the charge is proven; (4) statement of the evidence and testimony in support of the charge, and questioning of witnesses; (5) statement of evidence and testimony in opposition to the charge (rebuttal), and questioning of witnesses; (6) closing statement. All questioning of witnesses shall be by the Honor Council unless the Honor Council shall decide otherwise.

A hearing before the Honor Council shall not be bound by formal rules of evidence or judicial rules of procedure. The Honor Council may hear any testimony or receive any supporting evidence that it deems to be pertinent to the charge. Both the accused and a representative of the School may be present throughout the hearing. The accused student shall be afforded a reasonable opportunity to be heard, to question witnesses indirectly through the Honor Council, to rebut adverse evidence, and to make a brief closing statement. Members of the Honor Council may ask any questions at any time during the hearing and may elect to disallow or to curtail testimony that the Honor Council determines to be unnecessarily redundant or not relevant to the issue(s) being heard. Throughout the hearing, all persons present shall conduct themselves in an orderly manner.

The accused may be accompanied at the hearing by an advisor of his/her choosing, however, the advisor may not participate in the hearing. The Honor Council shall be responsible for the conduct of the hearing at all times and shall keep a record of the proceedings in a format it chooses. Hearings before the Honor Council are confidential proceedings and only those persons determined by the Honor Council to have a need to be present shall be included. Except for the accused (and an advisor if invited by the accused) and the representative of the School, all other witnesses shall be excluded from the hearing room, except when testifying. No more than one witness shall be called to testify at a time. The School or the Honor Council may elect to invite UAB Security to be present at an Honor Council hearing.

As soon as practicable following the conclusion of the hearing, the Honor Council shall meet in private session to consider all of the evidence presented, and shall decide on one of two outcomes. The decision of the Honor Council shall be that the charge is either (1) proven by a preponderance of the evidence or (2) not proven by a preponderance of the evidence. A vote of six of the eight members shall be required for the charge against the accused to be proven. Following the vote, the Honor Council shall record the vote and shall provide a brief narrative statement explaining the rationale for their finding(s). The written decision and rationale of the Honor Council shall be transmitted to the Academic Dean, by internal communication, upon the conclusion of the Honor Council's deliberations. The Honor Council shall notify the accused of the outcome by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by hand delivery. A decision of the Honor Council in favor of the accused student shall conclude the case.

Penalties for Violation of the Honor Code

Generally, a first violation of the Honor Code shall result in the assignment of a failing grade in the assignment or in the course in which the violation occurred, at the discretion of the instructor. A notation on the student’s permanent academic record may also be made to indicate that a reduced or failing grade was assigned because of an Academic misconduct violation (e.g., "F, Academic misconduct violation, June 15, 2006"), on the judgment of the Honor Council. A second violation of the Honor Code shall result in expulsion from the University. No student may graduate until pending allegations of an Academic misconduct violation have been resolved. No student expelled from the Graduate School because of an academic misconduct violation shall be eligible for readmission.

If at the end of the appeals process performed at the school level, the accused student wishes to appeal to the Graduate School Appeals Board, he/she must follow the procedure outlined in this Handbook. Upon receipt of the appeal from the student, the Graduate Dean will request from the Academic Dean of the school in which the student is enrolled all appropriate documentation accumulated to that point. The Graduate Dean will then be responsible for maintaining records of all additional proceedings..

Nonacademic Conduct

The university is a community of scholars and learners; therefore, all participants are expected to maintain conduct that (1) facilitates the institution’s pursuit of its educational objectives, (2) exhibits a regard for the rights of other members of the academic community, and (3) provides safety for property and persons. Through appropriate “due process” procedures, disciplinary action will be taken in response to conduct that violates these principles. A more detailed description of nonacademic misconduct can be found in the student handbook, Direction. It is the student’s responsibility to be fully aware of the policies and procedures described in Direction. The Vice President for Student Affairs has the responsibility for coordinating policies and procedures regarding students’ nonacademic misconduct.