How to handle cases of (Potential) Academic Integrity Violations?

In accordance with the AUC’s efforts to promote a culture of academic integrity on campus, the Rhetoric and Composition Department strictly enforces the academic integrity principles found in AUC’s Code of Academic Integrity. Instructors are expected to seek to ensure that students are doing their own work; and as part of that to require all students to use for all drafts of major assignments.

General Policy

The RHET department has a two strike policy in regards to academic integrity, meaning that the first offense should mainly be a learning opportunity, with minimal, if any, penalty. Any additional offense in that or a later RHET course (assuming the first offense process was followed) is always considered serious and an AIC case is filed. However, if the first offense is "egregious" then it is treated more seriously and an AIC case is filed.

Two Steps to Determining the Type of Case

Step 1: The first question is to determine if this is a standard first offense or an egregious (or second offense) situation. Standard situations are using passages without quoting, borrowing some ideas from students but writing it as their own, sloppy paraphrasing, etc. Egregious cases might be buying a paper online, going through a very tricky way to try to cover up cheating (like double translating a paper), having their girlfriend/boyfriend write the paper for them. It is generally advisable for the instructor to meet with the student as part of this fact-finding process, although it is difficult to do this with assignments submitted at the end of the semester. In all cases, for a standard case (first time only a warning), the student needs to admit wrongdoing. If a student does not acknowledge wrongdoing, and the instructor is certain that an academic integrity violation has occurred, then the case elevates to a serious case. For all egregious cases, skip below to Handling a Second or Egregious Offense.

Step 2: If you personally determine that the case is not an egregious case, then you must next see if the student has been warned previously in any prior RHET course for an academic integrity violation. To do this, email Julia Barsoum ( and ask if the student has any warning on record. If Julia says that the student has had a previous warning, skip below to Handling a Second or Egregious Offense. If the student has not had a previous warning, then read Handling a First Offense.

Handling a First Offense
For all first offense cases, instructors need to complete this form. This allows us to track first offenses, in case the student has additional offenses in future courses.

Ideally, most cases will be first offenses and will be approached as a learning opportunity. A good learning opportunity generally has most, if not all, of the five components listed below.

  • Teaching-Education:(essential) The instructor clearly explains what the academic integrity violation is, why it is considered wrong, and how to avoid it in the future. Many of our students do not come from an educational background where academic integrity is taught.
  • Warning: (essential) Clearly explaining to the student that this first offense is a warning, but that this warning is documented and any future academic integrity violation at the university will be considered serious and a case will be filed at the AIC.
  • Small Penalty:(optional) Depending on the nature of the infraction and the assignment, some instructors may choose to give a small penalty (such as a 10% reduction), but the penalty should not be steep and should not go against the general principle of a first offense being a learning opportunity.
  • Re-doing:(optional) Instructors will usually make the student redo the assignment or at least fix the part of the assignment where there was plagiarism or some other form of academic integrity violation. This demonstrates that the student understands the problem, and knows how to avoid it in the future. Many instructors will not give a grade on the assignment until this redone assignment is completed.
  • Reflection: (optional) Some instructors will have their students write a short reflection paper acknowledging where they made their mistake, why, and how they will avoid doing so in the future.

​The RHET department only asks that you do at least the first two (Teaching and Warning), while the other three (Small Penalty, Re-doing, and Reflection) are often valuable, but are up to the instructor's discretion on if or how to use them. The fourth and fifth components are difficult to do with assignments submitted at the end of the semester, but, even if by email, the first and second components must be done.

Handling a Second or Egregious Offense

  1. First, make sure that you have all the evidence and documents needed ( reports, samples of student writing, or anything else that might be evidence for your charge against the student). Generally an instructor should have met with the students as part of or prior to this step.
  2. (Read this step carefully) Second, in step three you will need to complete an online "Incident Report" form for AUC, but before that is submitted, you first should have the Department Chair review the content of the report. In order to do this, you should open the Incident Report Link, look at the fields that need filled in, and write your main answers in an email or document and send them to the Department Chair for review, be sure to attach/include the evidence that you will submit with the Report. The Chair will use her/his experience with the AIC to give feedback on the content and/or will simply approve you to submit.
  3. Once you have made any updates to your report and have the approval of the Chair, then you officially submit the incident report using the link above. This report should be filled in a timely manner, as close to the offense as is reasonably possible.
  4. You also need to decide on the consequence to the student. It will usually range anywhere from a minimum of failing the assignment to a maximum of failing the course. The later is quite common. Whatever the consequence is, you need to email the student of the consequence and notify him/her that a case has been filed at the AIC. This email should include the reasons for the case being filed, and the student should be be notified that he/she is allowed to appeal the case to the Chair at this point.