Frequently Asked Questions
What sort of documentation should I collect?
In cases of submitted written work, retain the original assignment and any copies you have annotated or marked-up, and any evidence that illustrates an offence (e.g. photocopies of the plagiarized sources, originality reports from Turnitin.com, another student’s assignment with similarities, etc.). In cases of cheating on tests or exams, retain any crib notes or other prohibited aids, documentation of any suspicious activity observed (including reports made by you or your TA during the test or exam. You may also note important dates or emails received from the student.
It seems like the student made an honest mistake. Do I still have to pursue the case?
Unfortunately, yes. In the Code, there are no provisions for intentional or unintentional offences. Although the Code uses the term “knowingly” in describing offences (and interprets this to include “ought reasonably to have known”), there may be times when the student is genuinely unaware that what he or she has done is wrong or is naive about the rules. In this kind of situation the process can be educational, not strictly punitive.
What if the student does not admit to committing an offence?
If there is no admission and you are satisfied that no offence has been committed, inform the student that you will not be pursuing the matter further and take no further action unless additional evidence comes forward that changes your mind. If there is no admission and you believe an offence has been committed, provide a written report of the matter for the Chair, who will contact the student in writing, and discuss the matter further with them. If there is still no admission, the matter will be forwarded to the Divisional level.
Do I have to report all academic offences?
Yes. It is your responsibility to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence for a case to go forward. However unpleasant the task, it is your obligation to confront a case of plagiarism (or any other academic offence) head on. Not to do so undermines the effectiveness of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters and sends the message that the University is not serious about cheating.
Can I ask my teaching assistant to deal with academic offences?
No. If a TA suspects plagiarism or other academic offences it is their responsibility to inform the course instructor before returning any work to the student. They have no authority to make any decision regarding the work. They should refer the student to the instructor if the student has any questions. The responsibility in these cases lies with the professor, and teaching assistants should never make accusations or impose sanctions on students.
What if the student gets upset during the initial meeting with the student?
Do your best to remain calm and objective. Meetings of this nature can be stressful and it is common for students to become anxious or upset, particularly if the concerns are a surprise. Explain that you are simply following procedure by looking further into the situation. Emphasise that the matter is confidential; you will not be informing other instructors or their family about the situation.
Ask the student if they would like to speak to someone for advice or counselling. You may refer them to their Registrar for advice. Be especially alert during the meeting for indications that the student may harm himself or herself or possibly endanger others, and act prudently. This may mean accompanying a student to the office of a counsellor or health service or making an appointment on their behalf.
Student Crisis Response: (416) 976-7111
Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS): (416) 978-8070
Community Safety Office: (416) 978-1485
Campus Police 24/7 (non-emergency): (416) 978-2323
Student Retention Services (persistent difficulties with engaging in University life): (416) 946-0424
What should I do if I am not sure an offence has been committed?
While the Code outlines six categories of offences, in some situations it is not immediately obvious whether a student has violated the Code. Review the list of offences above. You may wish to consult your Divisional Academic Integrity office/representative or your Department Chair on how to proceed. There may also be times in which a student has not committed an offence, but rather submitted work that did not meet the expectations of the assignment or course policies. Your Chair may offer you advice about how to resolve this.
What if the student does not respond to requests to meet?
Make at least a few attempts to schedule a meeting. If the student still does not respond, discuss the matter with your Chair or appropriate Divisional contact.
What if the student tells me s/he has dropped the course?
Students may try to drop a course in order to avoid being sanctioned for an offence. In cases where an academic integrity investigation is underway, the student is not allowed to drop. Continue to pursue the matter, and contact your Chair if you are unable to meet with the student. Students may be reinstated into courses pending resolution of the investigation.
Is there a timeline that I should follow in pursuing matters of academic offences?
In a word, be prompt! It is important for fairness and for accuracy to move as quickly as possible when you suspect an offence may have occurred. It is a fact that many cases of alleged offences occur at “crunch times” (which tend to overlap for both students and instructors) and there is a temptation to put off dealing with an issue. Don’t. Delays can cause unnecessary anguish for students – especially if the allegation proves to be unfounded – and they can dim recollection of exactly what happened. But do not confront a student until you are prepared. You should have whatever evidence exists in hand and have thought through your approach before meeting with the student.
Who should I contact if I have questions about the policies and procedures?
If you need additional clarification or assistance you should speak with the person in your department responsible for coordinating academic offence cases, usually the Undergraduate Coordinator, Associate Chair, or Chair. If you are uncertain about how to move forward or have any concerns or questions be sure to make your inquiries before you pursue the matter. Deviation from the steps set out in the Code can not only be unfair to the student – and provide grounds for appeal – but can weaken your own case, especially if the matter is sent to Tribunal.