At the University of Waterloo all student academic integrity matters are governed by Policy 71. The information described here provides a summary of both items related to the operation of your  course as well as a description of how Policy 71 cases are to be handled in the Faculty of Engineering. This information does not examine non-academic offences (contact the Associate Dean, listed as AD on this page  directly on these matters).
Please note: nothing provided here is intended to override or supersede Policy 71. The intent is to provide a working “guideline” for faculty members. There will be cases that, by their nature, require treatment that differs from the process described below. Additionally, in some cases the instructor may delegate some of the investigation to another party. In such cases, the instructor remains responsible for adherence to policy.
There are a number of online resources that have been introduced; these new resources along with existing resources are listed below for your use.
- Policy 70 - Student Petitions and Grievances and Policy 72 –Student Appeals provide some additional information on the process.
- Policy 71 – Student Discipline provides the basis for dealing with alleged misbehaviour by students – both academic and non-academic. Associated with this policy is a set of suggested Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties for various offences, and it should be noted that every case is different and these penalties are intended to be guidelines only. The actual penalty could be increased or decreased from this material.
- The Office of Academic Integrity, part of the Associate Provost’s office provides a website that is intended to grow into a central repository for Student academic integrity resources. It currently includes an academic integrity tutorial as well as suggested academic integrity acknowledgement forms for submission by students with their work to clarify authorship.
- There is now an Academic integrity web page for current undergraduate students under Academic Support.
- The AccessAbility Services collaborates with all academic departments to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.
Course operation: What to do before any incident occurs
The best time to deal with academic integrity matters is before they happen. The following is a list of steps that you can take to help to reduce the number of cases.
- Help students understand why academic integrity matters to you. Why do you want the student to complete the assigned work independently (or with the degree of independence that you expect)?
- Indicate how you will be interpreting the rules related to plagiarism, copying and excessive collaboration. Be sure to include in your information for the course a pointer to the Faculty of Engineering Course responsibilities. This provides a place to start from, even if you decide to accept some items that may be precluded on that page. The web page for Ethical behaviour from the Faculty of Arts, gives many good examples of how to understand what is considered to be plagiarism.
- Provide the class with the details on how you expect them to handle items such as the following.
- Citations: In addition to normal sources and internet sources, many students are confused as to whether or not they must cite the lab manual or the textbook. You should also be clear about referencing input from other students. As you will note from the Arts page on plagiarism that quoting, without citation from the text is an offence. This is not the case in all of our classes; help your students by telling them your requirements (or stating it on a web site).
- Collaboration: In my view this is the biggest ticket item. Students need to be told what is allowed. The following list of items could (at your discretion) be included as an offence, or not.
- Phoning/texting a friend to confirm answers are the same (and discussing differences)
- Sitting beside a friend and …
- Discussing a solution in the abstract before placing pen to paper
- Given a paper/electronic copy and modifying it before submission
- Finding a solution online and submitting it as their own work. (Perhaps from last year?)
- Using a sample solution from a friend.
- Examination expectations: if there is to be a crib sheet, then what is the intent of the crib sheet and what are the rules (font?, one side?, examples?) and will you be collecting them at the end of the test/exam?
- Explain to the students what you believe they will learn by completing the assigned task. There is some evidence that if the students see a task as meaningless that they have less difficulty copying.
- Consider the examination environment and take actions that may reduce cheating opportunities (multiple examinations, assigned but random seating, and enough seats for good spacing).
- It should be remembered; despite all of these actions no amount of diligence will prevent all offences and as a result you should continue to seek to detect offences.
Even after taking all of these precautions you may still detect what appears to be an offence.
Before moving to the next step, as described below, if you have a large number of alleged offences in the same course and assignment, you would be wise to consider other possibilities (perhaps the messaging was unclear or perhaps your expectations were unclear). This is not to say that a large number of cases are not possible, only to ask you to review the cases before acting on this large number of cases.
If you are unsure whether the events that you believe happened are an offence or should or could be pursued, please contact the Associate Dean (AD) for advice.
Once you have determined that you believe the case should be pursued, the first step in this process is to collect all of your information and evidence. The items listed below are intended to provide you with an idea of what may be needed; each case will have different needs and challenges.
- All the information given to the students (the question, the rules that may have been specified and so on). In the case of computer programming cheating, it will also help to have copies of sample code provided to the students as part of the question or as part of the course.
- List all of the people that may have additional information on the case (and their contacts). The contact list for the course may be sufficient with the specific people identified. Include in the list any students that may have information.
- If TAs are involved, it may help to ask them to put their observations on paper (or email) that can be signed and dated and used later.
- Raw evidence of the alleged offence (submissions, tests, labs etc.,) should not be returned to the student but kept until the case is disposed of in some manner. (More on this below.)
Once you have the evidence and have convinced yourself that an offence may have occurred there are two possible paths forward:
- Formal (always possible) and
- Informal (possible in many minor cases).
The table below lists the characteristics that may push an investigation formal or informal.
The student signs-off on the informal agreement and thus waives their right of appeal.
There is no requirement for the student to sign-off on the penalty or finding as the student has the right to appeal/grieve the finding and penalty as determined and assigned by the AD.
The most important advice is that the instructor should discuss the case with the AD before deciding whether an informal resolution should be attempted. The informal investigation should be completed, if possible, without knowing if the student has a previous offence. However, you should caution the student that if there is a previous offence the AD will not approve any informal resolution, so the student may opt to request a formal investigation at that point. You should also caution the student that the AD must concur with any penalty to keep the penalties somewhat consistent for similar offences in the Faculty and University.
Interaction with a student
Once you have the evidence you will need to make a copy of it so that if the student requests he can review the evidence . Once the copy is made, then you should invite the student to meet with you to provide his/her side of the events that led to the allegation. If on hearing the student’s view you believe that the student is not guilty there is little else for you to do. If there are no other students involved in the case you can return the lab/assignment to the student (if it was returned to the other students not in the case). If there are other students in the case you will need to keep all of the evidence until the case is concluded. If anyone is found guilty you will need to keep the original evidence.
In cases that involve multiple students you must seek to avoid identifying one student to the other students in the investigation. This is necessary as the mode of operation is that who is being investigated and any penalties assigned is private information in the Policy 46 sense and thus we must try to avoid unnecessary identification. As a result, if you wish to interview the students, then you should do this as individual interviews (if at all possible). Please note, if the student indicates that they are prepared to be identified to the other student(s), if the other student(s) are identified to them, (for all combinations), then you do not have to preserve the confidentiality. You should encourage each student to identify the others involved in any action (that is I spoke to "name here" and they provided me with a copy of their solution, however I agreed that I would not copy the material. Is an important element of student input? )
When meeting with the student they may ask what is the impact of an informal vs. formal investigation. This is a difficult question to provide a complete answer too, in many ways they are the same. The key differences are listed below.
- The student will not have a right to appeal as they will have signed off on the penalty and the offence. (informal)
- The penalty, while similar to a formal penalty will be slightly more flexible than if imposed as a result of a formal investigation.
- The informal process will end once the student signs (and the AD eventually agrees to the penalty).
- In most cases, the only ones that can even be considered informal are ones that have a penalty that is constrained to the elements of the course (and disciplinary probation).
The informal process is not expected to be a drawn out negotiation process. You indicate to the student what you have in the way of evidence or a concern, the student is then encouraged to explain what led to the situation. At that point, either you have a consistent view from all parties (yourself and the students) that is consistent with the evidence and an informal resolution may be possible, or there is some inconsistency and you should refer the matter for formal investigation.
The informal process ends (from your perspective and the student’s perspective) with a memo to the AD. There is also an academic discipline report form that can be used in lieu of a memo. If using the memo format, it is to be signed by both the student and the instructor, and should clearly describe the events and proposed penalty as well as student(s) and course information.
If the instructor and the student cannot reach an agreement/acceptance then the case is forwarded to the AD as a formal case.
Please note that adjustments cannot be made to a student’s grade as a result of academic misconduct without the use of UWaterloo Policy 71. Any informal finding of guilt as a result of Policy 71 requires that the AD be informed and they must agree that the treatment is consistent within the Faculty and the University.
In a formal investigation all of the evidence is to be forwarded to the AD. (You should keep a copy of the evidence for your own records).
From that point forward you should assume that the student is not guilty (as far as future assessment is concerned); however do not submit a final grade for the student until the AD has provided you with a completion letter (more below).
Once the AD has the evidence the student will be sent an allegation letter, with a copy to you as well as the Registrar’s office. In most cases this letter will also apply a grade of UR to the student. This grade means that the grade is under review. Once this grade is applied any grade revision for this student in this course will require the AD’s approval.
The AD investigation starts with a request to the student for a response letter. Once that letter is received the AD may need to contact you (or other people listed in your evidence) to make a determination of guilt or innocence. Once there has been a determination you will usually receive a copy of the letter (not guilty or implementation) sent to the student. That letter will provide information about how a grade is to be calculated for the student.
In most cases this is the end of the process. Some students appeal the decision and/or penalty usually to the FCSA. In most cases this will not involve you, however in some cases you may be called as a witness. Usually you are not involved in the appeal as an appeal is of the AD’s decision.
Typical first offence penalties
The typical first offence cheating offence (assignment copying, plagiarism and excessive collaboration offences only) penalties are listed below. A complete list of Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties is available on the secretariat website.
Typical First Offence Penalty
Numerically graded course
0 on the item (assignment, lab, report) plus an additional 5 marks off the final grade.
Credit/no credit courses
0 on the item (assignment, lab, report) plus additional work (not necessarily related to the course but rather related to the offence)
Reporting and timing
The policy has very clear guidelines on reporting and timing. Please refer to the policy for all of the detailed information; however the list below is to summarize the types of activities listed in the policy.
- Any member (other than a TA) can report an alleged offence to the instructor or the AD. (within 5 days of detection)
- A TA is expected to report an alleged offence to both the instructor and the AD. (within 5 days of detection)
- The instructor is expected to report all informal resolutions to the AD for confirmation that the penalty matches the offence and matches the standard practice of the university and faculty.
- Summaries of all cases (where guilty) are to be forwarded to the secretariat (by the AD) for inclusion in the annual summaries.
- 5 days from detection to report to instructor or AD. (depending on case details)
- 10 days to resolve informal cases. This may not be possible if there is a distance involved and a student is not able to respond or arrange for a meeting. The expectation is that this time is to provide a guideline for how involved an instructor should become in a case before deciding to forward it to the AD for a formal resolution. My suggestion would be if the student does not respond or if that response is inconsistent with the evidence that it should be immediately forwarded to the AD. Exceptions can be handled by contacting the AD and agreeing on a process.
- Formal response by student to allegation (by AD) 5 days.
- Default maximum time to case conclusion: 50 days. This can be modified by informing the student when the case is expected to be resolved.
One final note
Please note the investigation of a student is quite serious and quite personal on both sides. Please do not share any identifiable information of your suspicions or investigations with others in the university environment.
 You should only let the student have access to copies of the evidence. If part of the evidence is material from another student, then take all reasonable steps to make the source anonymous (remove names and such references that could be traced, also include only a minimum amount of the other student’s material.