George Mason University > University Catalog > Introduction > Academic Policies

Skip Navigation
George Mason University
2002-03 University Catalog

Academic Policies and Procedures Affecting Both Undergraduates and Graduates

Honor System and Code

George Mason University shares in the tradition of an honor system that has existed in Virginia since 1842. The Honor Code is an integral part of university life. On the application for admission, students sign a statement agreeing to conform to and uphold the Honor Code. Students are responsible, therefore, for understanding the provisions of the code. In the spirit of the code, a student's word is a declaration of good faith acceptable as truth in all academic matters. Cheating and attempted cheating, plagiarism, lying, and stealing of academic work and related materials constitute Honor Code violations. To maintain an academic community according to these standards, students and faculty must report all alleged violations of the Honor Code to the Honor Committee. Any student who has knowledge of, but does not report, an Honor Code violation may be accused of lying under the Honor Code.

The Honor Committee is independent of the Student Government and the university administration. It is made up of students selected by the student body and has the primary duty of espousing the values of the Honor Code. Its secondary function is to sit as a hearing committee on all alleged violations of the code.

At the beginning of each semester, faculty members have the responsibility of explaining to their classes their policy regarding the Honor Code. They must also explain the extent to which aid, if any, is permitted on academic work. The complete Honor Code is printed below.

Honor Code

To promote a stronger sense of mutual responsibility, respect, trust, and fairness among all members of George Mason University, and with the desire for greater academic and personal achievement, we, the members of George Mason University, have set forth the following code of honor.

I. The Honor Committee

The Honor Committee is a group of students elected from the student body whose primary and indispensable duty is to instill the concept and spirit of the Honor Code within the student body. The secondary function of this group is to sit as a hearing committee on all alleged violations of the code.

II. Extent of the Honor Code

The Honor Code of George Mason University deals specifically with cheating and attempted cheating, plagiarism, lying, and stealing.

A. Cheating encompasses the following:

  1. The willful giving or receiving of an unauthorized, unfair, dishonest, or unscrupulous advantage in academic work over other students

  2. The above may be accomplished by any means whatsoever, including but not limited to the following: fraud; duress; deception; theft; trick; talking; signs; gestures; copying from another student; and the unauthorized use of study aids, memoranda, books, data, or other information

  3. Attempted cheating

B. Plagiarism encompasses the following:

  1. Presenting as one's own the words, the work, or the opinions of someone else without proper acknowledgment

  2. Borrowing the sequence of ideas, the arrangement of material, or the pattern of thought of someone else without proper acknowledgment

C. Lying encompasses the following: The willful and knowledgeable telling of an untruth, as well as any form of deceit, attempted deceit, or fraud in an oral or written statement relating to academic work. This includes but is not limited to the following:

  1. Lying to administration and faculty members

  2. Falsifying any university document by mutilation, addition, or deletion

  3. Lying to Honor Committee members and counsels during investigation and hearing. This may constitute a second charge, with the committee members who acted as judges during that specific hearing acting as accusers

D. Stealing encompasses the following:

Taking or appropriating without the permission to do so, and with the intent to keep or to make use of wrongfully, property belonging to any member of the George Mason University community or any property located on the university campus. This includes misuse of university computer resources (see the Responsible Use of Computing Policy section in the "General Policies" chapter). This section is relevant only to academic work and related materials.

III. Responsibility of the Faculty

Professors are responsible, to the best of their ability, for maintaining the integrity of the learning and testing process, both in the classroom and outside of it, and for fostering conditions of academic integrity. Faculty members may actively proctor examinations in situations that they believe warrant it.

To alleviate misunderstandings, all professors are required to delineate at the beginning of each semester what constitutes a violation of the Honor Code in their classes. This should include an explanation of

A. The extent to which collaboration or group participation is permissible in preparing term papers, laboratory exhibits or notebooks, reports of any kind, tests, quizzes, examinations, homework, or any other work

B. The extent to which the use of study aids, memoranda, books, data, or other information is permissible to fulfill course requirements and

C. Guidelines on what constitutes plagiarism, including requirements for citing sources

All professors are encouraged to send the Honor Committee a written copy of their Honor Code policies, which are kept on file. These requirements should also be stated before each test, examination, or other graded work to clarify what is permissible.

Faculty members who witness an Honor Code violation should proceed as outlined under Procedure for Reporting a Violation.

IV. Responsibility of the Students

Students should request a delineation of policy from each professor if none is given at the beginning of each semester. Students should also request an explanation of any part of the policy they do not understand. Students are responsible for understanding their professors' policies with regard to the Honor Code. Students are also responsible for understanding the provisions of the Honor Code.

As participating members of this community, all students have the duty to report to a member of the Honor Committee, within the prescribed time outlined under Procedure for Reporting a Violation, any violations of the Honor Code. This duty is important not only because it enforces the Honor Code, but also because it gives all students the opportunity to express their respect for personal integrity and an honest academic community.

V. Procedure for Reporting a Violation

All students or faculty members witnessing or discovering a violation of the Honor Code should enlist, wherever and whenever possible, one or more corroborating witnesses to the overt act. The accuser(s) (student, faculty, or staff), within 15 working days from date of realization, notifies the Honor Committee.

The Honor Committee will, within five working days, mail a letter of accusation to the suspected party. This letter is addressed to the accused student's current mailing address listed with the Registrar's Office. The letter informs the suspected parties that they have five Honor Committee working days to contact the Honor Committee office and make an appointment to see the committee chair (or his/her delegate), who advises them of their rights and options. The Honor Committee begins an investigation, which does not involve a presumption of guilt on the part of the accused. Any member of the George Mason University academic community who knows of but does not report an Honor Code violation may be accused of lying under the Honor Code.

VI. Counsel for the Accused and Accuser

Counsel for the accused and accuser may be provided by any member of the George Mason University student community, including members of the Honor Committee, but not including students of the School of Law.

VII. Appearance of Witnesses

The Honor Committee may require any member of the university community to appear as a witness before the committee at the time of the hearing. All requests for such appearances are issued by the chair of the Honor Committee, or by the counsel appointed to that case. The appearance of the accuser is required.

VIII. Verdict

To find a student guilty of an honor violation, there must be a four-fifths majority vote (four to one) for a verdict of guilty. Clear and convincing evidence must be presented to find the student guilty.

A student may not be tried more than once for the same offense except when an appeal is granted.

IX. Penalty

If the accused is found guilty of an honor violation, the Honor Committee determines the nature of the penalty by majority vote.

The Honor Committee is not restricted to one kind of penalty but determines one commensurate with the seriousness of the offense. Typical of the range of penalties that may be given are the following:

A. Oral reprimand: An oral statement to the student given by the chair of the hearing. No entry is made on the student's scholastic record.

B. Written reprimand: A written censure placed in the confidential files of the Honor Committee and in the student's academic file but not made part of the student's scholastic transcript records.

C. Nonacademic probation: Exclusion from holding or running for an elected or appointed office in any organization or activity associated with the university. Ineligibility to participate in any activity representing the university on either an intercollegiate or club level and ineligibility to serve as a working staff member of any student organization. This action is noted in the judicial administrator's file but is not made a part of the student's scholastic record.

D. Service hours: Library or other supervised university service hours to be completed by a specific time. Upon completion, the hold on the student's records is removed.

E. Failing grade: Recommendation in writing to the instructor for a grade of F for the work involved, or for the entire course. The student's permanent record reflects the academic evaluation made by the instructor.

F. Recommendation of suspension from the university for one or more semesters: A student's scholastic record would read, "Nonacademic suspension from (date) to (date)." The recommendation is made to the vice president for university life.

G. Recommendation of expulsion from the university: A student's scholastic record would read, "Nonacademic expulsion as of (date)." This penalty is recommended to the vice president for university life only in extraordinary circumstances, such as for repeated offenses.

X. Appeal

A written request for an appeal, detailing new evidence, procedural irregularities, or other sufficient grounds that may have sufficient bearing on the outcome of the trial, must be presented to the chair of the Honor Committee within seven working days after the date on which the verdict was rendered.

The written request is reviewed by at least three voting members who were not involved with the original case. If a new hearing is granted, no voting member from the original hearing may vote in a second or subsequent hearing of the same case.

XI. Keeping of Records

The records of the hearing are kept in the Honor Committee's files. These records include a tape or a full transcript of the hearing and all evidence presented at the hearing. If the evidence belongs to any person other than the accused, the original is returned to the owner and a copy kept with the records of the Honor Committee.

XII. Composition of the Committee

The Honor Committee is proportionally composed of students from each school and faculty advisor(s), although the latter are nonvoting members. Undecided majors, B.I.S. students, and continuing education students are considered together as a school. The total number of members is as close to one-half of one percent of the student body as possible. Freshmen are appointed in the fall to serve until the following spring election. One or more clerks appointed by the committee from the student body serve as aides to the chair.

The chair of the committee is elected by majority vote of the committee members. For each hearing, five members of the Honor Committee are designated as voting members.

A faculty hearing advisor, acting as a nonvoting member of the committee, sits with and advises the committee at all hearings. The faculty advisor and faculty hearing advisor are chosen by the Honor Committee.

Previous Honor Committee members may serve during the Summer Term.

XIII. Eligibility of Members

Any student who maintains a 2.0 grade point average and is in good standing with the university is eligible for the Honor Committee. A committee member must maintain a 2.0 average to continue in office.

XIV. Election of the Honor Committee

The Honor Committee is elected in the spring semester. The term of office begins upon election and runs until the following spring election.

In the fall semester the chair appoints new members to fill any vacancies that have occurred and to fill the freshman seats on the committee.

XV. The Challenging and Voluntary Withdrawal of a Member of the Committee from Participation in a Particular Hearing

An accused person who challenges the right of any member of the Honor Committee to sit in judgment on him or her must present cause to the chair of the hearing.

The hearing committee then decides the validity of the challenge with the challenged member abstaining from voting. A simple majority decides the validity of any challenge. A successfully challenged committee member must not be present during the hearing.

A member of the Honor Committee who feels prejudiced as to the facts of the case, is a close friend or relative of the accused, or would not be able to render an impartial judgment must withdraw from a specific hearing.

XVI. Provision for Amendments

Upon petition of 20 percent of the student body, amendments to or revisions of the Honor Code may be proposed for ratification. Said amendments and/or revisions are voted on by the student body as a whole. A two-thirds majority of the votes cast is necessary for acceptance of any amendment or revision.

The Honor Committee may also propose amendments to be voted on by the student body as described in paragraph one of this section.

Approved amendments take effect immediately for all new cases. New provisions are not applied to cases initiated prior to the amendments.