The role of the Office of the University Ombudsperson is to help ensure processes and procedures are fair, to help people understand the policies and procedures within the university, and, most importantly, to empower people to navigate through university decision-making processes.
We know that receiving a Notice of Investigation can be distressing.
- Step One: Don’t panic! Take a deep breath, then another, then one more.
- Step Two: Understand the process.
- Step Three: Participate in the process.
To help in understanding what a Notice of Investigation is and how the process of an Academic Integrity investigation works, the Office of the University Ombudsperson has put together some information to help you navigate this process.
A Notice of Investigation is a formal notification from the instructor to the student to let the student know that evidence exists to indicate that there may have been a departure from Academic Integrity. In the Notice of Investigation document, a student is invited to a meeting with the instructor or invited to respond in writing if a meeting is not possible. The meeting is the student’s opportunity to tell their side of the story, respond to questions that the instructor may have, and ask questions they have about the evidence or situation.
The very first task is to schedule a meeting with your instructor, or indicate you’ll be providing a written response. This is your opportunity to tell your side of the story and ask any questions. Review our Frequently Asked Questions below for further guidance on navigating through the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Anyone who receives a Notice of Investigation is expected to participate in the process. This means a timely response to emails, attending meetings, or requesting an alternate meeting date if you are not available at the proposed time. Be aware of all deadlines and meeting dates. In all meetings, the Office of the University Ombudsperson encourages students to participate in the process and be clear, concise, and honest. This is your opportunity to clearly explain what happened. You may also find this tip sheet useful: Responding to a Notice of Investigation
Prior to the meeting the student should review all the evidence provided and consider their response in advance of the meeting. It can be helpful to gather any additional evidence available to support the information you wish to present at the meeting. This may include rough drafts, notes, screenshots, supporting documentation, and anything you would like the instructor to be aware of when considering the situation. Many students find it helpful to bring notes with the key points to cover clearly articulated. That way you can be sure you will cover the points you wish to highlight in the meeting. Remember to be clear, concise, and honest and clearly explain what happened. You may also find this tip sheet useful: Meeting with your Instructor
A key tenet of our Office is to remain impartial and unbiased in all university decision-making, therefore we cannot act as a support person or advocate for any member of the Queen’s community. Anytime a student is meeting with an academic decision-maker they can always make the choice to be accompanied by a support person. A “support person” is an individual whose role is to provide emotional support and assistance but does not advocate on behalf of a student. A support person can be anyone of the student’s choice, whether that be a friend, colleague, or parent.
Ombuds Academic Appeal Advisors are assigned at the discretion of the Office of the University Ombudsperson to assist students who are typically facing serious adverse academic consequences at the appeal stage of the academic integrity process. Ombuds Academic Appeal Advisors do not assist at the NOI meeting stage of Academic Integrity investigations.
You do not need legal counsel or paralegal support, but you may have representative counsel or paralegal support with you at the meeting(s) and/or in preparing your response. If you decide to bring legal support to the meeting(s), you must advise the instructor in advance.
Yes! Regardless of the outcome, you will receive a written decision letter. It is important to carefully read the decision letter provided by the instructor. It will clearly explain the finding, and the decision that was reached as a result of the investigation. The options are either responsible for a breach of academic integrity, or not responsible for a breach of academic integrity. If there is a finding of responsible a sanction will be assigned. If there is a finding of not responsible the decision will be communicated to you in writing.
The remedy or sanction should reflect the extent and gravity of the departure from academic integrity and should be consistent with the remedies or sanctions imposed in similar previous cases.
According to the policy, the instructor may impose one or more of a range of remedies or sanctions including:
- an oral or written warning that such infractions constitute unacceptable behaviour
- a learning experience involving rewriting or revising the original work within a stipulated period of time
- the submission of new or other work within a stipulated period of time
- the deduction of partial or total loss of marks for the work or exam
- a deduction of a percentage of the final grade in the course
- a failing grade (down to a grade of zero) in the course
The instructor will consider several factors in deciding the appropriate remedy or sanction. Careful consideration of the factors listed below will help to ensure that the remedy or sanction is fair, reasonable, and proportionate to the gravity of the departure found.
Factors that should be considered in deciding a remedy or sanction include:
- the extent and seriousness of the departure
- any educational measures that may be undertaken to ensure that the student understands the departure and what should have been the appropriate conduct in such circumstances
- the value of the academic work in relation to the overall grade for the course
- the experience of the student (for example, a first-year or an upper-year student; a student experienced in the discipline or a student in an elective course)
- any mitigating and/or aggravating circumstances
- possible direct injury to another student or the institution
Yes, if you meet the grounds for an appeal, you may appeal either the finding, the sanction assigned, or both. Review the Office of University Ombudsperson Appealing an Academic Integrity Decision (coming soon) page for more information.
You may contact the Office of the University Ombudsperson via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions around policy and procedure at Queen’s. Keep in mind that the role of our office is to help ensure processes and procedures are fair, to help people understand the policies and procedures within the university, and, most importantly, to empower people to navigate through university decision-making processes.