Frequently Asked Questions about reporting to the Office of Student Conduct

The Director of the Office of Student Conduct has provided answers to the following questions that faculty frequently ask about reporting to the OSC. If you have additional questions please contact the Director of the OSC at (215) 898-5651.

1. Can I consult with OSC about my case without committing to a formal action?

Yes. There are no records kept of the initial consultation and if you decide not to continue with the case, the OSCwill take no action.

2. Should I speak to the student before reporting to OSC? 

If you are willing to talk to the student, perhaps the student can give you an acceptable explanation that leads you to believe no violation occurred. However, if you choose to refer the case to OSC, please advise OSC of what the student said when you discussed the matter. To avoid differing accounts of what transpired when you speak with the student, it would be wise to have someone else with you and to memorialize the conversation in writing immediately after.

The student might be emotional and might try to convince you that having an academic integrity violation on his or her record will be an impediment to getting into graduate or professional school and will “ruin their life.” It might well be the best thing you can do for the student (and for the other students in your class who did not cheat.)

3. How long will it take OSC to decide on my case?

It depends on a number of different factors. Sometimes students avoid coming into OSC once we contact them. At the time you report, OSC may have a high caseload or your investigation might be one which takes longer for any number of reasons. In addition, getting the student to accept responsibility in a case in which we have found the student responsible for violating the code of academic integrity, might take longer than we would like.

Expect at least a month and possibly longer. The most difficult cases can take up to three months or more.

4. What will my involvement be after reporting the case?

Once you have reported a case, OSC will try to keep you informed about the progress of the case. If the case goes to a hearing, you will be asked to explain to the hearing panel your reasons for referring the case to the OSC (however, very few cases go to a hearing.) Once the OSC’s findings are complete, and the student has signed a disciplinary agreement or asked for a hearing, you will be informed.

5. What should I do about the student's grade?

Once you have reported a case to the OSC, you are encouraged not to assign a grade either for the assignment, test, or paper or a final grade for the course until OSC has notified you of the outcome of its process. It is reasonable to consider the result of the disciplinary process in evaluating the merits of work in the course and determining the final grade. Whether or not there is a finding of academic misconduct, faculty may assign any grade for the work at issue or for the course that they deem appropriate.

According to university policy, the grade assigned is not considered a “sanction,” because only OSC can sanction a student for the violation. This does not mean, however, that the faculty member is constrained in reaching his or her own judgment about the merits of the work at issue or the course as a whole.

Penn Book statement about Faculty Authority to Assign Grades and Academic Integrity

6. What if OSC finds that the student is not responsible for a violation of acamic integrity but I still want to fail the student?

If you have given great weight to the findings of OSC, the university’s policy “is to preserve the faculty member’s right to grade work on the basis of all its qualities.”

7. What sanctions are typically assigned to students?

Sanctions can range from a letter of warning to expulsion. Because each case is different there are no “typical” sanctions. Not all sanctions in academic integrity cases create a reportable disciplinary record. Minor infractions often lead to sanctions such as a warning or a letter of reprimand. These sanctions are treated in the same way that minor infractions of Penn’s disciplinary code are treated: they are not part of a student’s permanent record and not reported outside of the institution. However, OSC does keep a record of these minor infractions and will deal more harshly with repeat offenders.

The sanction imposed depends on the facts of the case, the student’s year, whether the student accepts responsibility, whether the student has any prior violations, among many other factors. Generally, the OSC begins by considering suspension and goes up or down from there depending on the circumstances. Expulsion is rare and is generally reserved for repeat offenders.

The Charter of the Student Disciplinary System provides more details on the sanctions that might be imposed.

8. Will the findings of the OSC be noted on the student's transcript?

The only time a notation of discipline appears on a student’s transcript is when a hearing panel so decides. By University policy, a transcript notation is reserved for particularly egregious cases, such as repeated, serious violations of the Code of Academic Integrity.

Students whose violations merit a sanction above letter of reprimand do have a reportable disciplinary record. The record is part of the student’s academic file (but not their transcript), which is usually released only with the student’s written permission. The information, released by the dean of the student’s undergraduate school or in some cases by OSC, is very brief. It might state “X has a disciplinary record for plagiarism. He or she was found responsible and placed on academic probation.”

9. What is the chance that my case will go to a hearing?

Very few cases actually go to a hearing. In 2013-2014 of the 153 complaints, two cases went to a hearing.

10.  Are there any legal ramifications for me if I report a case to OSC?

Reporting to the OSC protects you as well as the student in most cases. Because the OSC protects the student’s due process rights and because it is a process established by the University of Pennsylvania for dealing with cases of academic dishonesty, reporting to OSC will generally remove you from any legal responsibility.