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Frequently Asked Questions

Honor Code

What is the Smeal College Honor Code?
The Smeal Honor Code was an initiative started by Smeal students who wanted to hold themselves and each other accountable for their actions. The Honor Code is a contract that holds the community accountable for upholding the values of honesty and integrity.

Why did the Smeal College introduce an Honor Code?
Ethical decision-making has grown increasingly complex in a global marketplace. The Honor Code stemmed from Smeal’s continued commitment to prepare students for the professional challenges they are likely to face in their business careers.

Doesn’t Penn State already have an academic integrity policy? How is the Honor Code different?
Penn State has maintained a set of standards for academic conduct within the University. Those standards include a set of sanctioning guidelines or a range of penalties for violations. The Honor Code takes that commitment a step further with heightened awareness and accountability within the Smeal community.

Does the Honor Code only apply to Smeal?
The Smeal Honor Code does not directly apply to other programs at Penn State, but the University’s academic integrity policies – on which the Honor Code process is based – apply across the institution.

How have Smeal students been involved in the development of the academic integrity initiative at the college?
The Honor Code started with students. Since its inception, first with the MBAs and then with the larger community, students continue to play an active role in shaping the Honor Code process and the Smeal community’s commitment to integrity.

How have faculty members been involved?
Since the inception of the Honor Code, faculty members continue to have an active role in the Honor Code process. They send an important message to students by helping them to understand the Honor Code and how it applies to their course.

How have alumni been involved?
Alumni participated in a survey to understand their perceptions of academic integrity while they were students, and also about how their companies deal with issues of professional ethics and integrity. More specifically, the college’s Board of Visitors, Alumni Society Board, and MBA Alumni Advisory Board continue to be active in reviewing progress and making recommendations to strengthen the Honor Code process.

How have corporate partners been involved?
Corporate partners continue to express their support of the Honor Code. In fact, many recruiters are now asking students in interviews about their experiences with the Honor Code.

Who can sign the Honor Code?
Smeal faculty, staff, administrators, and students are encouraged to sign the Honor Code every semester.

When can I sign the Honor Code?
Honor Code signings are held at the start of the fall and spring semesters.

Must students agree to adhere to the Honor Code as a condition for admission to the Smeal College?
At present, students do not have to sign the Honor Code as a condition of admission. Even so, all students are held to the standards set by the Honor Code. Signing the code signals a commitment to the principles of the Honor Code.

If I previously signed the Honor Code, do I need to do so again?
If individuals have signed in the past, they are permitted and encouraged to sign again and reaffirm their commitment to integrity.

May non-Smeal students sign the Honor Code?
Yes, any student who is engaged with the Smeal community, meaning he or she is taking one or more Smeal courses, is encouraged to sign the Code.

Academic Integrity Violation Processes

What are some violations of the Honor Code?
Violations of the Honor Code include but are not limited to plagiarism, unpermitted collaboration, dishonorable retrieval and use of data, cheating on assignments, or failing to cite references or sources for an assignment.

Do I have to report someone if I know that they have violated the Honor Code?
As a member of the Smeal community, it is your duty to make sure others are upholding the Honor Code. If you see students violating the Code, you have an obligation to report them.

How can students report someone who has violated the Honor Code?
If you see an Honor Code violation, you have a couple of options. You can raise the issue with your faculty member or teaching assistant (TA). Another option is to seek out a trusted faculty member who can discuss the matter with you and provide direction. Anonymity of the student who reported the act is of high importance; however, in some cases the individual who reported the violation may be called into the investigation or review.

How can faculty report someone who is cheating?
The instructor should investigate and gather information to determine if an academic integrity violation has occurred. If the instructor believes a violation has occurred, the instructor determines the appropriate academic sanction. Any potential disciplinary violations and sanctions should be discussed with the Associate Dean prior to moving forward with any academic integrity violation.

The instructor should complete the University Academic Integrity Form (“AIF”) and meet with the student to discuss the allegation and sanction. The student may choose to accept the terms set forth on the AIF or contest the allegation and/or sanction. The decision will be indicated on the form. The student may take up to five business days to communicate the decision. Students failing or refusing to participate in the process will be deemed “not contesting” the terms set forth on the AIF.

The instructor should deliver the AIF to the college’s academic integrity Records Coordinator. The Smeal College Records Coordinator is Monica Snyder, 202 Business Building.

What happens if I am accused of an Honor Code violation?
You will be contacted by your professor to discuss the matter. It is in your best interest to attend the meeting and to learn about the academic integrity concerns. You will be presented with a University Academic Integrity Form that summarizes the issue and offers you the opportunity to accept or contest the case.

Can I contest the decision?
Yes, sanctions can be contested with the dean of the Smeal College of Business.

How is confidentiality maintained throughout the process?
One of the primary objectives of the Honor Code process is to maintain students’ confidentiality. Individuals on the academic integrity review committee understand the importance of confidentiality and are reminded of their responsibility to maintain that confidentiality. Although the results of all academic integrity cases are published in a disclosure notice that is released each semester, identifying information on the student and the course is omitted.

The Honor Code violation files are confidential and generally cannot be accessed without the consent of the student.

What are some of the possible sanctions for an academic integrity violation?
Possible sanctions for an Honor Code violation range from an academic warning, re-doing the assignment, receiving a zero or a reduced grade for an assignment, receiving a failing grade in a course, or dismissal from the program.

What is a formal academic warning?
Depending on the nature of the misconduct, a student might be given a formal academic warning. Counseling on academic integrity can help the student to avoid a repeat incident. The formal warning is kept on file and taken under advisement in the event of a future violation.

Will an Honor Code sanction affect a student's transcript or job search?
An Honor Code sanction can affect a student’s transcript or job search depending on the type of sanction imposed. Although a minor violation resulting in a formal academic warning may not have a major effect on a student’s transcript or job search, a moderate to severe violation resulting in a failing grade for a course will affect a student’s transcript and could be harmful when searching for a job.

How should I advise someone who has been accused of cheating?
It is clearly an uncomfortable position for anyone. Having a friend to confide in can ease some of the stress. The best advice you can give is to encourage them to meet with the faculty member and discuss the matter.

How can students be sure to avoid possible academic integrity violations?
The best approach is a proactive one and there are a number of ways to put it into practice. Familiarize yourself with the Smeal Honor Code and encourage others to do the same. Make sure you understand the rules of engagement and go out of your way to abide by them. Know what the professor’s expectations are for satisfactory completion and delivery of assignments or exams. If you have any doubts, you should seek clarification from the professor.

What is the role of the Honor and Integrity Director?
The Honor and Integrity Director is responsible for the college's honor and integrity initiatives, including marketing and communications, training and orientation, and policy execution and implementation. For more information, read the Q&A with the Honor and Integrity Director. She is not involved in the academic integrity process, as this is managed by the college’s associate dean for undergraduate education and the faculty director in the Penn State Smeal MBA Program.