Honor Code

The role of the physician in our society transcends almost all conventional personal boundaries. The physician asks what no one else may ask and views what no one else may view. With this privilege comes great responsibility. The Students of the UAB School of Medicine have devised this Honor Code so that they may meet the responsibility of this profession, and to our future patients.

By this Honor Code we purpose to maintain the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct in all academic matters in order to create a fair academic environment and more importantly, to establish an atmosphere that expects these standards.

A. Scope

This honor code applies to all Students enrolled at the UAB - School of Medicine. It proscribes all acts of academic misconduct and tolerating such actions by another. Offenses that constitute violations of state or federal law, or violations of University policies and regulations, or violations of professional conduct, are best handled by the appropriate authorities.

B. Definitions

Academic Misconduct is the misrepresentation of academic achievement: any act or failure to act that could impact an academic record, or is intended to impact an academic record to give an impression that is not accurately reflective of the academic effort or accomplishment of any Student. Examples include, but are not limited to:
  • using unauthorized materials on an examination
  • retaining examination materials (unless specifically permitted by the course /module director)
  • providing materials or information to another Student with knowledge that use of those materials may constitute academic misconduct
  • altering documents related to one's academic records, such as transcripts or letters of recommendation
  • collaborating on an academic assignment without proper authorization or acknowledgment
  • using another's words or ideas without proper acknowledgment
Tolerance includes willfully ignoring, withholding evidence of, or otherwise failing to take action after witnessing or learning of a possible breach of the Honor Code.

C. Pledge

Each Student shall sign agreement with the following pledge at orientation to UASOM: 

"On my honor as a Student of the medical profession, I have not and will not tolerate or engage in academic misconduct."

No other affirmation of this pledge is required by the Honor Code. All Students will be presumed to have signed this pledge by the act of registration for classes.

A. Composition

The Honor Council shall consist of eighteen (18) elected members, four (4) from the first year class, four (4) from the second year class, five (5) from the third year class, and five (5) from the fourth year class. The third and fourth year members shall include three (3) from the Birmingham campus, one (1) from the Tuscaloosa campus and one (1) from the Huntsville campus.

The first and second year members will be elected for terms that conclude in the spring of the following calendar year. Third year members for each campus will be elected in the spring of their second year by the Students assigned to their respective campuses, to serve a term concluding upon graduation.

Each class shall also have a named Alternate Member. They will have no responsibilities unless called upon by the Chair to serve in the event of a temporary term, or completing an unexpired term, they shall have all responsibilities of an Honor Council Member.

The Honor Council shall elect a Chair and the two Vice-Chairs from among the current members of the Honor Council, by a simple majority vote for a term of one year beginning in the spring. The Chair will be responsible for ensuring the timely performance of all Honor Council responsibilities and for carrying out the duties stated within the Honor Code.

In each incident, one Vice-Chair shall be designated as scribe at the Preliminary Review and if needed, at the Honor Council Review. The other Vice-Chair shall serve as the Moderator at any Honor Council Review required. The Vice-Chairs shall fulfill the duties of the Chair, if needed. Another Honor Council member may fulfill the duties of a Vice-Chair in the event that the Chair or a Vice-Chair must be absent from the Preliminary Review and/or Honor Council Review.

An Administrative Advisor, a member of the Office of Student Services, will be appointed by the School to assist the Honor Council. The Advisor's duties include, but are not limited to: remaining impartial as to the outcome of any incident; advising the members of the Honor Council as to procedure and precedents; keeping the Honor Council records in a place that is both safe and inaccessible to Students and faculty (other than those given permission by the Chair of the Honor Council or the Associate Dean for Students). The Administrative Advisor has no vote in any Honor Council proceedings.

B. Election of Members

Potential members must submit to the existing council an essay outlining their intentions and qualifications as a member. The essays, including the names of applicants, will be made available to their respective classmates. Members from each class will be elected by a simple vote; those receiving the most votes will become Honor Council Members. The candidate receiving the most votes, but not enough to become a member, shall be designated as the alternate member.

C. Removal and Replacement

If any member of the Honor Council perceives a potential conflict of interest, they must temporarily step down from their official duties. Their duties will resume after the potential conflict has passed.

A member shall be removed from the Honor Council with evidence of improper conduct. Request for removal of a member must be submitted to the Chair in writing outlining the alleged misconduct. A vote of two-thirds (2/3) majority of the existing council is needed to remove a member. In the event an Honor Council Member resigns, is removed or for a temporary absence, the Alternate Member from the same class shall replace the Member until such time as the Member returns or a new, regularly scheduled election is held.

All persons involved in any capacity of an Honor Code incident shall not discuss any information pertaining to the incident with any persons not directly involved with the case, unless necessary for the investigation, the procedures outlined in this code, or if directed to do so by the Chair or the Associate Dean for Students. Violations of confidentiality shall themselves be considered a violation of the Honor Code (since such violations could unfairly impact the academic appraisal of the Students involved). Anyone involved in any portion of any incident will be reminded of this confidentiality policy upon initiation and completion of his/her participation.

A. Reporting of a Violation

Students and faculty are responsible for reporting any possible violation of the Honor System to an Honor Council Member or contact the Honor Council Chair directly via the on-line reporting form. The individual reporting a possible Honor Code incident shall be referred to as the reporter. The initial report should include ONLY the name of the reporter, and the class(es) of the Student(s) in question. NO OTHER DETAILS SHOULD BE GIVEN.

An Honor Council Member receiving a report must notify the Chair of the Honor Council.

B. Preliminary Fact-Finding

Once notified of an incident, the Chair shall appoint a Preliminary Fact-Finder. The Fact-Finder shall be a member of the Honor Council and shall not be a classmate of the Student(s) in question. Neither the Chair nor a Vice-Chair may serve as the Fact-Finder.

Once appointed, the Fact-Finder shall retain that role throughout the entire process (unless he/she must excuse himself/herself due to a conflict of interest).

The Fact-Finder shall be given only the reporter's name. The Fact-Finder will contact the reporter for an interview. At this interview, the reporter will reveal the name(s) of the Student(s) in question, the details of the incident, and the names of any witnesses. After this first interview, the Fact-Finder will meet with the Administrative Advisor before proceeding. The purpose of this meeting is to share only enough information to ensure that the incident and/or student in question is being investigated by only one process or authoritative body.

The Fact-Finder will interview all persons involved with the incident, including the Student(s) in question and any witnesses. Any factual or material evidence pertinent to the allegations will be gathered. When doing so, he/she will inform all persons interviewed of their duty to maintain absolute confidentiality regarding the incident.

The Fact-Finder should approach potential witnesses or sources of pertinent information only if necessary and with all possible concern for the confidentiality of the individuals involved.

The Fact-Finder will compile a written report to be presented at the Preliminary Review. This report shall summarize all statements, facts, and information obtained, but MUST NOT include the name of any individual.

Should the incident proceed to an Honor Council Review (See Article VI A), the Fact-Finder shall make himself/herself available before and during the Honor Council Review.

A. Preliminary Review

The Honor Council Chair will coordinate the Preliminary Review. His/her duties include:

  • appointing four members of the Honor Council to comprise the voting members
  • appoint one of the Vice-Chairs to serve as Scribe
  • scheduling the Preliminary Hearing
  • overseeing the Preliminary Hearing

Once appointed, the Preliminary Review will consist of:

  • one Vice-Chair who will serve as the Scribe and has no vote in the outcome
  • the Administrative Advisor who has no vote in the outcome
  • the Fact-Finder who has no vote in the outcome
  • the Chair, who does have a vote in the outcome
  • four (4) Honor Council members who also have a vote in the outcome

If possible, the Preliminary Review Committee should include at least one voting member from the campus where the incident(s) occurred, and one voting member from each class unless circumstances prohibit as determined by the Chair.

The Preliminary Review will be a closed proceeding attended only by the persons identified above.

B. Procedures of the Preliminary Review:

The Fact-Finder shall give a full, written presentation to the Preliminary Review Committee. Those in attendance shall discuss the facts and issues of the case. The Administrative Advisor shall provide only advisory input relating to past Committee actions and correct procedure. At no time should he/she have input as to the outcome of a particular case. After discussion, by a simple majority (3 of 5 members), the Committee may choose to:

  • dismiss the incident without further action
  • request a more thorough investigation to be presented at a later date
  • find significant evidence of wrong doing and move to proceed to an Honor Council Review
  • refer to other authorities because charges may be substantial but are not within the realm of the Honor Council

The Committee's decision will be delivered to both the reporter and the Student(s) in question in writing.

In the event that the Preliminary Review determines that a violation more likely than not did occur, the Committee will additionally determine an appropriate action should the Student(s) in question concur with the finding. Such action can be one or a combination of the following. However, the sanction is at the discretion of the Preliminary Review Committee and the following is only a guide.

  • Recommendation to seek assistance from appropriate professionals for any underlying issues that the Student may have
  • Requirement to perform a determined number of community service hours
  • The placement of a note of professional concern in the file of the Student (such notice may or may not be included in the content of the MSPE)
  • Recommendation to the module/clerkship/course director to fail the Student
  • Recommendation to the Associate Dean for Students to make mention of the offense in the MSPE of the Student
  • Recommendation of suspension from the SOM for a determined time period
  • Recommendation of expulsion from the SOM

In the event that multiple reports result from a single incident, or multiple Students are implicated in a single incident; it will preferably be handled by a single Preliminary Review Committee, with separate decisions for each of the Student(s) in question and incidents.

If the incident is dismissed, all documentation is to be secured by the Administrative Advisor to be kept for future reference. No names will be included in these documents. Documentation from past cases can only be released at the request of the Chair or the Associate Dean for Students.

C. Notice of Finding

It will be the responsibility of the Honor Council Chair to report the findings of the Preliminary Review in letter format to all parties involved in the incident.

If the Preliminary Review finds substantial cause to convene an Honor Council Review, the Honor Council Chair shall give written notification to the Student(s) in question. This will include:

  • the specifics of the incident in question
  • a list of options (i.e. concur or appeal), and rights (i.e. an Honor Council Review)
  • the sanctions determined by the Preliminary Review Committee (should the Student(s) in question concur)
  • the name, address, and telephone number of the Honor Council Chair to whom written response must be made
  • a statement informing the Student(s) in question that failure to respond in writing to the Honor Council Chair within ten (10) days shall result in an automatic appeal to Honor Council Review
  • a copy of the Honor Code.

D. Response to the Preliminary Review Findings – Student in Question

The Student(s) in question must reply with a written statement within ten (10) days of receiving the Notice of Finding. The response must be given to the Honor Council Chair and should either:

  • Concur with the finding of the Preliminary Review and accept the sanctions decided by that Committee. A Student that concurs may not change this decision.
  • OR
  • Appeal the finding of the Preliminary Review, in which case the Honor Council Chair will initiate the process to convene an Honor Council Review. A Student that appeals may decide to concur at any point until an Honor Council Review is convened. If the Student(s) in question fails to respond within ten (10) days, the Chair shall assume that the Student wishes to appeal and shall initiate the process to convene an Honor Council Review. During this 10 day period, the Student(s) in question may choose to request information and assistance from an Honor Council member, the administrative advisor, or any other individual as long as the request does not violate any confidentiality, e.g. naming the reporter(s) or witnesses.

E. Response to the new information after the conclusion of the Preliminary Review

If after the Preliminary Review has concluded, the Reporter or any other witness finds any new facts they feel may change the outcome of the original Preliminary Review, he/she should contact the Fact-Finder assigned to the original case, or, if the Fact-Finder is no longer a member of the Honor Council, the current Chair.

F. Conclusion of the Preliminary Review

Should the student in question concur with the finding of the Preliminary Review, a public notice with names omitted will be posted on public bulletin boards describing the honor code violation in general terms and the sanctions.

A. Make up of the Honor Council Review

The Vice-Chair of the Honor Council who did not participate in the Preliminary Review shall act as Moderator. Duties of the Moderator include advising the Honor Council on any procedural questions, and guiding the review through the proceedings in an unbiased fashion.

The Scribe is the Vice-Chair of the Honor Council who served in that position during the Preliminary Review. He/she is responsible for ensuring that the entire review is recorded.

The Reporter is expected to attend the entire Honor Council Review.

The Student(s) in question is expected, but not required, to attend the entire Honor Council Review and speak on his/her own behalf, but is not required to speak to the Honor Council Review.

The Honor Council Review shall consist of the all Honor Council members who did not participate in the Preliminary Review and who can attend. A quorum of at least 7 members must be in attendance, with at least one from each class.

The Honor Council Chair and the Administrative Advisor shall attend the Honor Council Review and serve as advisors to any party. They shall not address the entire Honor Council Review unless instructed to do so by the moderator.

B. Convening the Honor Council Review.

The Honor Council Review will convene at the date and time assigned by the Chair in cooperation with the principal parties.

C. Procedures of the Honor Council Review.

  1. The Scribe will formally record the date and time on a recording of the Honor Council Review.
  2. The moderator shall remind everyone present of the confidentiality of the meeting.
  3. The Scribe will formally recognize the presence of everyone in attendance (including the reporter and the Student in question) and their role in the Honor Council Review.
  4. Any member of the Honor Council shall be given the opportunity to excuse himself/herself if they have a close relationship with any of the key participants in the incident. The moderator shall specifically ask the Honor Council Review Panel if they have any doubt that they can review the particulars of the incident without partiality. The reporter and the Student in question may excuse any one member of the Council with no need to provide a reason.
  5. All Honor Council members that will not participate shall be reminded of confidentiality and excused.
  6. The moderator shall remind the Honor Council that the Student in question is not required to attend or speak during the Review. Questions should be directed to the Student(s) in question directly, only if he/she has given permission for that to occur.
  7. The Fact Finder shall present the written report of his/her findings.
  8. The moderator shall then permit the Honor Council to ask questions of the Fact Finder, the Reporting Student(s), or the Student(s) in Question (subject to point 6 above) one at a time. The moderator will be in charge of the number and duration of questions from the Honor Council.
  9. No formal laws shall govern what facts may be presented, the objective is to arrive at the truth. If any items that may be presented to the Honor Council are challenged, the moderator shall determine on the basis of:
    1. Is the witness or information generally reliable
    2. Is the information to be presented pertinent
  10. When the moderator believes the Honor Council is likely to have a sufficient grasp of the facts of the incident, the Honor Council will be asked if they wish to retire to discuss the incident, or if they wish to ask more questions.
  11. When the Honor Council is ready to retire for discussion, the moderator shall instruct the Honor Council that they should discuss the case amongst themselves and review for them the decisions they must make. (This is not a court of law, where things must be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt". The Student(s) in question is presumed to be not in violation of the honor code unless shown otherwise by a "preponderance of evidence." This means that it is more likely that the Student(s) violated the honor code than that he/she did not.)
  12. The Honor Council should move to a private area and then decide
    1. Based on the information presented, is it more likely that the Student(s) in question did not violate the honor code, than did? If so, they shall overturn the finding of the Preliminary Review Committee. (Requires majority plus one (1) vote.)
    2. Or, based on the information presented, is it more likely that the Student(s) in question violated the honor code, than not? If so, they shall uphold the finding of the Preliminary Review Committee. (Requires majority plus one (1) vote.)
    3. They shall also determine what if any statement the group would like to make on the record of the Honor Council Review.
  13. All parties are expected to remain in the vicinity, unless notified otherwise, in case the panel determines they would like more information.
  14. Any person leaving the Honor Council Review at any time shall be reminded by the moderator regarding the confidentiality of the meeting.

D. The Decision

A spokesperson for the Honor Council shall notify the Moderator when the decision(s) is made. The moderator will notify the Scribe, the Reporter, and the Student(s) in question and reconvene the Honor Council. The spokesperson for the Honor Council shall read the decisions of the Honor Council into the record of the Honor Council Review.

E. Sanctions

If the Student(s) is found to be in violation of the code, the Honor Council shall be given access to the sanctions recommended by the Preliminary Review Committee. They shall have 48 hours to determine the sanction, via majority vote, and with the supervision of the Moderator. Once agreed upon the penalty will be read, on record, by the Moderator. The sanctions will follow the same guidelines used during the Preliminary Review Committee, but are not required to agree with the suggested penalty from the Preliminary Review. They may change the sanctions as they feel best fits the case. The moderator shall be responsible to notify the Student(s) in violation of the sanction to be enacted.

F. Conclusion of the Honor Council Review

A public notice, with names omitted, will be posted on public bulletin boards describing the honor code violation in general terms and the sanctions.

Administrative Advisor will keep the recording of the Honor Council Review in a secure place.

G. Appeal

Any student or faculty member(s) involved in the case has the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Committee. Members of the Administrative Appeals Committee include the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, the Associate Dean for Students, and a senior faculty member at the campus at which the Student(s) is based.

A written request for appeal must be submitted within 7 days of the final decision of the Honor Council Review to the Administrative Advisor, who shall forward to Administrative Appeals Committee.

The Administrative Appeals Committee shall have full access to the written findings of the Preliminary Review and the complete recording of the Honor Council Review. The determination of the Honor Council Review can be overturned only if there is overwhelming new evidence or gross procedural misconduct resulting in compromise of due process.

A. Amendments:

  1. Proposal: An amendment to the Honor Code may be proposed by either a two-thirds (2/3) affirmative vote of the Honor Council, or a petition signed by fifty (50) members of the Student Body, which shall be presented to the Honor Council. If either of these requirements is met, a referendum election will be held. Prior to the referendum election, any proposed amendment shall be made public by distribution to the Student Body at least four (4) weeks in advance.
  2. Adoption: Proposed amendment(s) to the Honor Code must receive a simple majority affirmative vote from at least fifty (50%%) percent of the Student body by ballot and are subject to approval by the Dean.

B. Honor Code Review Committee:

Beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year and in every third year thereafter, the Honor Council, in conjunction with the Administration, shall appoint an Honor Code Review Committee to thoroughly examine all aspects of the Honor System for potential further revision.

The Honor Council shall appoint one member of the Honor Council from any class to Chair the Committee, an Honor Council member from each class, and a nonvoting member of the UASOM Faculty or Administration to sit on the Review Committee.

The Review Committee will solicit the opinions of UASOM Students and fellow Honor Council members regarding all aspects of the Honor System.

Within a reasonable time after appointment, the Review Committee shall submit its recommendations, if any, of proposed amendments to the Honor Code and its impressions of the general state of the Honor System at UASOM to the Honor Council.

C. Emergency Procedure

If an emergency situation occurs, the Honor Council may agree by a majority vote to modify procedural details without compromising the intent of the Honor System. One-half of the actively enrolled members of the Honor Council must be present for such a vote. Any such modifications shall be considered temporary on a case by case basis.

D. Annual Notice

A summary table consisting of the following results shall be posted at the end of each academic year, in a public area at UASOM:

  • Number of Incidents reviewed by Honor Council
  • Number of Incidents dismissed by Honor Council
  • Number of Incidents referred to other body
  • Number of Incidents in which the Student was found to be in violation
  • Number of Incidents in which the Student agreed that a violation occurred

E. Education

An annual education period shall be given at the beginning of the academic year to all four classes at the UASOM. It shall convey the information describing the purpose of the Honor System, definition of the Honor System, as well as procedures and responsibilities of the Students. All education pertaining to the Honor System shall be the responsibility of the Honor Council.