Academic Integrity FAQs

How does the investigation process work?

The instructor's first step is to bring the matter to your attention. Using the Notice of Investigation form letter, the instructor will inform you of the following:

  • the information on which the investigation is based (you should be supplied with all documents related to the investigation);
  • the possible sanctions (as listed in the Academic Integrity Regulation 1 of the Calendar)
  • the opportunity to respond to the investigation in writing or in person; and
  • the right to have representation for any response made to the investigation of departure from academic integrity (for instance, you may contact the Coordinator of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms).
What are the purposes of the investigation?
  • To seek the truth.
  • To clarify events or actions.
  • To provide an open and fair forum to both the instructor and the student to explain their actions.
  • To make the best decision based on all of the available evidence.
  • To respect all parties in the process.
  • To maintain an academic environment where all students can be successful and free to explore ideas, to build and advance knowledge and to share the ideas and knowledge that emerges from a range of intellectual pursuits.
What happens after the instructor finishes the investigation?

If the instructor is satisfied with your explanation and determines that there are no grounds for a finding of departure from academic integrity, all documents related to the case will be destroyed and the instructor will inform you that the matter has been closed.

  1. If the instructor believes that there is evidence that a departure from academic integrity has taken place, the instructor will make a Finding and then determine an appropriate sanction or remedy. At this point, evidence of previous departures from academic integrity becomes relevant, and you can expect that the instructor with check with the Associate Dean (Academic) to find out if there is a previous finding of departure from academic integrity on your record.
  2. If you have a previous finding on record, the instructor will refer the case to the Associate Dean (Academic) for sanctioning. The instructor will use the Finding form to notify you of the finding and the referral.
  3. If there is no previous finding, the instructor will set a remedy or sanction and use the Finding form to notify you of the decision.
May I drop a course before an investigation is undertaken?

You may not drop the course while an investigation is under way; however there is no mechanism on SOLUS to prevent you from doing so prior to the academic deadline. Therefore, the instructor will proceed with the investigation whether or not you drop the course. If your instructor, or the Office of the Associate Dean (Academic), becomes aware that you have dropped the course while under investigation, you will be reinstated by the Faculty Office pending a decision on the case. If the investigation results in a finding of a departure from academic integrity, and it is discovered that you dropped the course, you will be reinstated at that time.

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What is expected of me?

It is important that you participate in the investigation process!

  • Remember that you are always responsible for your actions.
  • Be aware of your rights and responsibilities 
  • Seek advice from knowledgeable people, such as the Office of the Ombudsperson https://www.queensu.ca/ombuds/
  • Respond promptly to each request for a meeting or information.
  • If you realize you have made a mistake, take responsibility for it. This allows the process to move to the important work of considering an appropriate remedy or sanction. Mitigating circumstances such as prompt admission of a departure from academic integrity or an expression of regret and a willingness to undertake educative remedies can be taken into account by the instructor to ensure that the penalty imposed is fair, reasonable, and proportionate to the gravity of the departure.
  • Bring all information that you think is important to the meeting (e.g. study notes, rough drafts of papers, witness contact information, etc.)
  • Tell the truth. Don't complicate matters by fudging the details. Such a strategy can, and does, lead students into more serious problems.
  • Trust the process - don't be defensive. If you aren't responsible, this will come out in the investigation. Remember the instructor who is investigating your situation is also exploring your innocence. Share everything that helps demonstrate that innocence.
  • You don't have to accept the decision of the instructor. You have the right to appeal the finding and/or the remedy or sanction to the Associate Dean (Academic).
What are my rights as a student?
  • You have the right to know that you are being investigated for a departure from academic integrity, the evidence upon which the investigation is being mounted, and the academic regulations that govern academic integrity matters, including the possible sanctions or remedies.
  • You have the right to respond fully to the investigation. You may meet with the instructor in person; you may prepare a written response; or you may do both.
  • You have the right to obtain help in preparing your response.
  • If you wish to meet with the instructor, you may be accompanied by an advisor of your choice.
  • You have the right to be considered innocent of the charges until proven responsible by clear and convincing evidence;
  • you have the right to appeal the decision, if desired.
How much time do I have to respond to the instructor?

You have 10 days after receiving the Notice of Investigation to contact the instructor to schedule a meeting or to indicate that you will respond in writing. Do not delay contacting the instructor, even if it is to tell the instructor that you need more time to prepare your response.

When agreeing on a meeting date, you should give yourself enough time to review the evidence provided by the instructor, assemble all drafts and related materials relevant to the particular piece of work at issue, and seek advice (if desired) from an informed member of the Queen's community, such as the Coordinator of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms, or anyone whose advice you trust and value (e.g. a friend, close relative, counselor, advisor).

What happens if I do not respond to the Notice of Investigation?

The investigation process can proceed without your participation, and a decision will be reached without your input after the stated time for you to respond has elapsed. The instructor will base the decision on the basis of the available evidence.

Can I bring a friend or representative with me to the meeting?

To assist you with this investigation meeting you may invite any advisor that you wish, e.g. a friend, advocate, or legal support person of your choice. If you decide to bring legal counsel, however, you must advise the instructor in advance.

Do I need legal counsel present during the investigation process?

You do not need legal counsel, but you may have representative counsel with you at the meeting(s) and/or in preparing your response. If you decide to bring legal counsel to the meeting(s), you must advise the instructor in advance.

What if I do not agree with the decision of the investigation?

If you do not agree with the instructor's decision, you may appeal the finding of departure from academic integrity and/or the sanction imposed as a result of an instructor's finding to the Associate Dean (Academic). You have 21 calendar days after receiving the decision to submit a written appeal and copies of the relevant documents. Normally, the Associate Dean (Academic) will meet with the student (and his or her representative), the instructor (and his or her representative), and witnesses where appropriate to conduct a thorough investigation of the evidence. See Appeals Regulation 2 for more information.

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What kind of sanctions will I be given?

Each case is treated individually; therefore, sanctions will vary from case to case. Depending on the nature of the departure, a sanction may consist of a remedy which is meant to an educational process or it may be more severe. Where there is a finding of departure from academic integrity, the instructor is expected to assign an appropriate remedy or sanction that reflects the extent and severity of the departure, and past precedents in the Academic Unit and Faculty. The instructor may consult his or her undergraduate Chair and Department Head concerning the matter. The range of remedies or sanctions that the instructor can impose include:

  • rewriting or revising the assignment
  • the completion of other work
  • a low mark as is judged necessary
  • a failing grade (down to a grade of zero) in the course.
  • Or, if the instructor believes that a more serious penalty is warranted, the case shall be referred to the Associate Dean (Academic), who can impose not only the sanctions listed above, but more serious sanctions including a recommendation to the Senate Committee on Academic Procedures that a student be required to withdraw.
  • Repeated departures from academic integrity will result in increased sanctions.
What factors might influence the sanction that the instructor (or the Associate Dean (Academic) sets?

Any sanction should reflect the extent and severity of the departure from academic integrity and precedents in the Academic Unit and Faculty taking into account any mitigating circumstances. Factors which should be considered in assigning a remedy or sanction include the following:

  1. Evidence of a deliberate attempt to gain advantage;
  2. Seriousness of the departure having regard to its actual or potential consequences;
  3. The extent to which the work or conduct in question forms a significant portion of the final grade and whether the extent of the departure is substantial as demonstrated by the work or conduct in question;
  4. Injury to another student or to the institution;
  5. Multiple departures within a single incident or multiple departures discovered at one time, rather than an isolated aberration;
  6. The departure has been committed by an upper-year student who ought to be familiar with the expectations for academic integrity in the discipline, department and/or Faculty;
  7. Conduct that intimidated others or provoked the misconduct by others;

In addition, there may be occasions where there may be mitigating circumstances, that is, circumstances beyond your control. Although mitigating circumstances do not exonerate or excuse from the finding of a departure from academic integrity, these factors should be taken into account to ensure that the penalty imposed is fair, reasonable, and proportionate to the gravity of the departure found. The decision must outline the evidence supporting reliance on the mitigating circumstances. The onus is on the student to produce evidence of mitigating circumstances. The sorts of mitigating circumstances that may be relevant include:

  1. Documented evidence from an appropriate health professional of factors directly compromising the student's capacity to adhere to the standards of academic integrity at the relevant time;
  2. Prompt admission to the alleged departure from academic integrity by the student and expression of contrition and willingness to undertake educative remedies;
  3. Evidence that reasonable steps were not taken in the circumstances to bring the standards and expectations regarding academic integrity to the attention of the student at the relevant time.
What sanctions (penalties) may an instructor impose for a finding of departure of academic integrity?

The instructor may consider a range of remedies or sanctions including:

  • an oral or written warning that such infractions constitute unacceptable behaviour;
  • a learning experience involving a rewriting or revision of the original piece of work;
  • the submission of a new piece of work;
  • the completion of other work;
  • the deduction of partial or total loss of marks for the assignment/exam;
  • or a failing grade (down to a grade of zero) in the course.
What sanctions (penalties) may the Associate Dean (Academic) impose for a finding of departure of academic integrity?

If there is a finding of a departure from academic integrity, a range of remedies or sanctions including, but not limited to, one or more of the following may be assessed:

  1. an oral or written warning;
  2. the submission of a revised or new piece of work;
  3. partial or total loss of marks for the assignment/examination;
  4. partial or total loss of marks for the course in which the departure of academic integrity took place;
  5. an official written warning that the penalty for a subsequent offence could be a requirement to withdraw from the Faculty or University for a specified minimum period of time;
  6. the rescinding of University- or Faculty-awarded scholarships, prizes and/or bursaries;
  7. a requirement to withdraw from the Faculty for a specified minimum period of time;
  8. a recommendation to withdraw from the University for a specified minimum period of time;
  9. a recommendation for the revocation or rescinding of a degree.
What is the difference between a Level I and Level II finding?

Normally, a finding will be considered Level I, unless one of the following factors applies, in which case it will be characterized as Level II:

  • a departure that involves an essential component of the course for which a failing grade would normally result in a failure in the course
  • an upper-year student who has taken several previous courses in the discipline (for instance, a fourth-year student in a concentration course)
  • previous departure(s) from academic integrity (the instructor would refer the new case to the Associate Dean)
  • significant and unacknowledged use of one or more sources
  • additional misconduct involving forgery, facilitation, etc.
  • direct negative effect on other students (e.g. stealing another student's paper, assignment, laboratory)

If a finding is classified as Level I AND there is no other finding of departure from academic integrity on your record, then the finding will remain in a sealed file and only to be consulted upon subsequent findings of departures from academic integrity.

If a finding is classified as Level II (regardless of whether it is a first finding or a subsequent one), the finding will be held in your main file in the Office of the Associate Dean (Academic).

When will I learn of the instructor's decision and remedy (or sanction)?

After considering the available evidence and your explanation, the instructor will make a decision in a timely manner. If the instructor makes a finding of departure of academic integrity, this will be sent to you with a copy to the Office of the Associate Dean (Academic). 

The finding will include the following:

  1. the decision or finding of departure from academic integrity
  2. the remedy or sanctions
  3. the type of departure Level I or Level II
  4. the opportunity to appeal the finding and/or the sanction to the Associate Dean (Academic)
  5. the deadline for appealing to the Associate Dean (Academic)
  6. the resources available for consultation (the instructor should inform you of the services provided by the Coordinator of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms)
What if I have a previous finding of departure from academic integrity on record?

If you have a previous finding on record, the instructor will refer the new finding to the Associate Dean (Academic) for sanctioning. The instructor will use the Finding form to notify you of the finding and the referral. The Associate Dean (Academic) will review the case and may set a more serious sanction than an instructor can impose.

Will this finding stay on my record?

Whether the finding remains on your record depends on the severity of the behaviour that leads to the finding and your academic experience.

  • A Level I finding will not be kept in your main file, but in a separate special file that will only be accessed if there is a future finding. It will be destroyed on your graduation.
  • Level II finding will be kept in your main student file. It will be kept for 10 years after your graduation.
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