Potential Departures from Academic Integrity

When an instructor sees evidence in your work that suggests that a departure from academic integrity may have taken place, it is the instructor's responsibility to investigate the situation.

Resources on preventing plagiarism

The first step - don't panic!

Receiving such a notification can be extremely upsetting, and many students make the mistake of rushing into action -- for example, by immediately phoning or e-mailing the professor with a poorly thought-out excuse or explanation -- before they fully understand the process and the principles involved. The best advice we can offer is to calm down, read all documents carefully, and above all, consult an experienced person whose judgment and discretion you trust.

The University provides such individuals, in the form of "grievance advisors" - volunteer faculty (from other faculties than yours!) who advise students in such situations. The University Ombudsman can put you in touch with such a person – email ombuds@queensu.ca or call 613.533.6495.

The first step is to bring the matter to your attention. Using a Notice of Investigation form, the instructor will inform you of the following by email or by registered letter to your local address:

  • The information on which the investigation is based (you should be supplied with all documents related to the investigation)
  • The possible sanctions as outlined in the Smith School of Business Academic Integrity Policy
  • Your right to respond to the investigation in writing or in person
  • Your right to have representation for any response made to the investigation (you will be given contact information for Queen's Coordinator of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms who will be able to advise you on matters of process and on obtaining an advisor).

You may not drop the course while an investigation is under way. If the outcome of the investigation results in a finding of a departure from academic integrity, the course will remain on your record (or, if dropped, it will be reinstated at that time).

It is important that you respond to the investigation. If you don't respond, your instructor will make a decision on the available evidence, without the benefit of hearing from you. You may choose to respond either by:

  1. Submitting a written response to the instructor
    If you prefer to respond in writing, sign your response and send it to your instructor no later than ten days after receiving the Notice of Investigation.
  2. Meeting with your instructor to discuss the matter
    If you prefer to meet, you must contact your instructor no later than ten days after receiving the Notice of Investigation to arrange a mutually agreeable time.

In advance of the meeting or in preparing your written response, you should:

  • Review the evidence provided by the instructor
  • Collect all drafts and related materials relevant to the particular piece of work at issue
  • Seek advice 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. parents, a close relative, friend, counselor, etc.)

Take these steps into consideration when estimating the time it will take you to prepare your response, whether it is in writing, in person, or both.

Whether meeting in person or responding in writing, you need to provide the instructor with a detailed explanation of your side of the story, including how the information in question came about, and your line of thinking in preparing the work the way you did. Also, provide copies of earlier drafts of your work and other relevant documentation. If you meet in person, you may also choose to prepare something in writing to leave with the instructor, along with copies of drafts and other relevant documentation.

To accompany you to the meeting, you may invite an advisor such as a University Dispute Resolution Advisor, friend, advocate, or legal support person of your choice. If you decide to bring legal counsel, however, you must advise the instructor in advance. Many investigations are resolved at this early stage.

After considering the available evidence and your explanation, the instructor will make a decision within 14 days of meeting with you, or within a reasonable period of time depending on the complexity of the case.

  • 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 investigation has been dropped.
  • If the instructor believes that there is evidence that a departure from academic integrity has taken place, the instructor will make a finding of departure from academic integrity and will also determine an appropriate sanction or remedy. Up to this point, a record of previous departures from academic integrity is not relevant in making a finding of a departure from academic integrity.
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. After the finding is made, the instructor may consult with the Smith Dean’s Office on an appropriate sanction. The instructor will also contact the Smith Dean’s Office to determine if there have been any previous departures from academic integrity. In the case of a second or multiple findings, the matter will be referred to the Smith Academic Integrity Panel for consideration of a sanction.
  • An oral or written warning
  • 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 marks for the assignment/exam
  • A failing grade (down to a grade of zero) in the course. If the penalty amounts to a failure in the course, the student may not drop the course regardless of the drop deadlines

If the instructor believes that a more serious penalty is warranted, the case will be referred to the Smith Academic Integrity Panel (see Item 6 below).

If, in the instructor's assessment, the finding warrants a sanction within the scope of those available to the instructor (see above), the instructor will inform you in writing of the following:

  • The details of the decision or finding of departure from academic integrity, using the Finding of Departure from Academic Integrity form
  • The sanction(s)
  • The right to appeal the finding and/or the sanction to the Smith Academic Integrity Panel
  • The deadline for appealing to the Panel
  • The resources available for consultation (Queen’s Coordinator of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms is available to advise you on matters of process and on obtaining an advisor)
  • That a copy of the finding will be filed in the Smith Dean’s Office and in the student's file

If the matter appears to warrant a sanction more serious than the instructor may impose, the instructor may refer the case to the Smith Academic Integrity Panel, which has the authority to impose a heavier sanction than the instructor can impose. The Panel may impose sanctions ranging from those noted above to a recommendation to the Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP) that the student be required to withdraw from the University. If your case is referred to the Panel, the instructor will advise you, in writing, of the following:

  • The details of the finding of departure from academic integrity, using the Finding of a Departure from Academic Integrity form
  • The evidence on which the finding is based (you should be supplied with all documents related to the investigation)
  • The reason for referral
  • The possible penalties
  • The right to respond
  • The right to have representation for any response (the University Ombudsman is available to advise you on matters of process and on obtaining an advisor)
  • That a copy of the finding will be filed in the Smith Dean's Office and in the student's file

Instructors will retain a copy of all documents related to the case to be able to participate in the Smith Academic Integrity Panel’s investigation.

  • You may appeal the decision and/or the sanction imposed by the instructor in writing to the Smith Academic Integrity Panel, within 7 days of receiving the instructor’s decision.
  • If the Smith Academic Integrity Panel made the initial decision, you may appeal in writing to the Smith Academic Appeals Committee, within 7 days of receiving the Panel’s decision.
  • If considering an appeal, you are encouraged to contact the University Ombudsman, who can advise you on process as well as assign you an advisor.
  • As decisions on departures from academic integrity are academic matters, the Smith Academic Appeals Committee’s decision is normally final. If, however, a student believes that there are grounds for an appeal on other than academic grounds, the student may initiate an appeal to the University Student Appeals Board (USAB), as described in the Senate's Policy on Student Appeals, Rights and Discipline.