Frequently Asked Questions for Faculty

Faculty members have a number of different roles to play in supporting Middlebury's Honor Code. These include teaching students appropriate citation practices for the many different fields reflected in our curriculum; helping them to understand and embrace the value of intellectual integrity and the language of scholarship; clarifying for students their expectations in their own classes; apprising students of important resources for citation styles and practices; and holding students accountable for violations.

In addition to the information below, the New Faculty Handbook includes a discussion of the Middlebury Honor Code for faculty members.

Please contact Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs and Student Life Karen Guttentag (x2024) with any questions about Middlebury's Honor Code.

What are some recommended best practices for helping students to understand academic integrity?

  • Students respond very positively when professors take time to discuss not only the logistics of their assignments vis a vis the honor code, but broader issues of academic integrity in the context of their field and of their class. Although some professors do this at the beginning of the semester, others reinforce this theme by finding ways to integrate it throughout the class. For one professor’s especially thorough approach, see: www.academicintegrity.org/educational_resources/pdf/Letter_To_My_Students.pdf.

  • Students are less likely to cheat on assignments when the work’s intrinsic value is clear to them, and more likely to cheat when they perceive an assignment to be “busywork.”  It may be helpful to discuss the goals of each assignment in class or on your syllabus. 

  • This article identifies some of the common factors other than fundamental dishonesty that lead students to plagiarize, and suggests strategies professors can use to respond constructively: http://facstaff.elon.edu/sullivan/cheatpap.htm.
  • It is helpful to include in your syllabus specific instructions on what kind of assistance is and is not permitted. Issues to consider include sharing group-generated data; proof-reading by native speakers in language courses; parental collaboration; use of tutors, etc. It is additionally helpful to include in your syllabus a clear policy on late assignment submissions.

  • One aspect of Middlebury’s Honor Code that gets less attention than it should is the prohibition of duplicate use of written work without the permission of both instructors. It’s helpful to integrate this into any discussion of permitted and prohibited practices.

  • Make sure that all students who are participating in group projects understand their shared responsibility to ensure the integrity of their final work, and that this includes sections they did not author. Remind them to take the time to come up with a plan as a group to ensure that all material included in their final product is appropriately cited, as all members will be held accountable for violations.
  • Reinforce expectations for students by contacting the judicial affairs officer whenever you suspect Honor Code violations. For the Honor Code to be an effective deterrent to academic dishonesty, students must expect that they will be consistently held accountable for violations.

How do I make a distinction between a few sloppy citations and a case of plagiarism requiring a report?

There is no formula or guideline for making this distinction. In cases where you find yourself in this kind of gray area, it’s helpful to contact the judicial affairs officer, who can review your situation and provide some broader institutional context for how cases like this have been handled in the past.

How important is it to require the Honor Code pledge?

According to Middlebury’s Honor Code, all students must sign the statement “I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment” on all exams research papers, and lab reports, and faculty may require it on other assignments as they wish. While some have questioned the necessity of this step, in the 2008-09 Honor Code Review, a surprising number of students reported finding this to be a very meaningful affirmation of their integrity. It therefore continues to be encouraged as standard practice.

How much cheating/plagiarism happens at Middlebury?

Each year approximately 10-20 cases of cheating or plagiarism are referred to the judicial affairs officer. Of these cases, the majority involve plagiarism rather than cheating. However, in a 2008 survey of 484 students conducted by an Economics student, 36% admitted to giving unauthorized aid during their college career. Among those who admitted to academic dishonesty, 33% reported that they engage in such behavior at least once a semester. More than half of all sophomores, juniors and seniors (54%) witnessed academic dishonesty by others, and in 97% of these instances they did not report the incident.

That being said, 2009-2011 has shown a marked increase in students' willingness and comfort level in confronting each other about academic dishonesty, in sharing this information with appropriate staff, and in providing witness testimony in hearings as needed.

What happens if I think I have a case of cheating or plagiarism?

Contact the judicial affairs officer. You’ll talk through your situation and determine if there is enough evidence to move forward. When moving forward, the professor notifies the student that because of concerns about a possible Honor Code violation, they have referred the case to the judicial affairs officer. The professor then provides the judicial affairs officer with a statement describing the cause for concern, as well as any supporting documents, such as original source materials and syllabi.

Do all reports of Honor Code violations result in a judicial hearing?

No. When students accept responsibility for violating the Honor Code at the outset, it is possible to resolve the case through the Disposition without Hearing option, through which the judicial affairs officer assigns a sanction that approximates the sanction a board would likely assign. This is done in close consultation with the professor, as sanctions usually include failure of the assignment or failure of the class, as well as a reprimand or short-term suspension of some kind.

When students contest the charges, or when there are multiple students involved, the case is generally referred to the Academic Judicial Board, which includes four students and three faculty members. More information about the judicial process is available at go/judicial. In 2010-11, 9 cases were handled through Disposition without Hearing, and 5 were handled through AJB hearings.

Can I proctor exams if I really want to?

The Honor Code includes the following provisions:

c. The Dean of the College may grant an instructor permission to proctor an examination in his or her course when the instructor has communicated to the Dean of the College that she or he has a concern that students will cheat in examinations in the course. Authorization will apply to the remainder of the semester.
i) Communication of concern may take the form of an e-mail to the Dean of the College.

ii) Instructors who have concerns about cheating and wish to proctor must make a formal announcement to the class both in class and in e-mail form at least 24 hours prior to the examination. The Dean of the College must be copied on the announcement e-mail.

iii) Students may register complaints or concerns about the method of proctoring with the Dean of the College.

Since this provision was added in the fall of 2009, two professors have chosen to proctor exams.