Academic Integrity and Community Standards
All University faculty, students, and staff are responsible for compliance with the Rules of University Conduct. Copies of the full text are available in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community and at the Office of the University Senate, 406 Low Memorial Library.
Students in the School of General Students are part of a wider intellectual and social community that holds itself to the highest standards of tolerance, respect, integrity, and civility. Students who violate the standards of the University community, in academic or social behavior, are subject to disciplinary action. The continuance of each student upon the rolls of the University, the receipt of academic points, graduation, and the conferring of any degree or the granting of any certificate are strictly subject to the disciplinary powers of the University.
Disciplinary authority of the University is vested by the Trustees in the President and Provost and, subject to their reserved powers, in the dean of each faculty. The dean and her staff are given full responsibility for establishing the standards of behavior for all General Studies students beyond the regulations included in the Rules of University Conduct and for defining procedures by which discipline will be administered.
Civil Behavior and Community Standards
It is expected that in and out of the classroom, on and off campus, each student in the School of General Studies will act in an honest way and will respect the rights of others. Freedom of expression is an essential part of University life, but it does not include intimidation, threats of violence, or the inducement of others to engage in violence or in conduct which harasses others. Conduct which threatens or harasses others because of their race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or for any other reason is unacceptable and will be dealt with severely. For all to benefit from the diversity to be found at Columbia, all must live up to these standards.
Additionally, it is the expectation of the School of General Studies that students will conduct themselves in a respectful and civil manner when working with fellow students, faculty, and university staff. This expectation includes the exercise of patience and the use of a respectful tone in all communications (electronic and verbal) as well as the assumption that fellow members of the community are acting with best intentions.
Honor Code and Honor Pledge
In 2013 the student councils of the undergraduate schools of Columbia University, on behalf of the whole student body, created an Honor Code to uphold the maintenance of academic integrity as a fundamental and jointly held responsibility for all students. The councils also created an Honor Pledge, which all students recite and affirm when they matriculate as Columbia students.
It is essential to the academic integrity and vitality of this community that individuals do their own work and properly acknowledge the circumstances, ideas, sources, and assistance upon which that work is based. Academic honesty in class assignments, term papers, examinations, laboratory reports, and computer projects is expected of all students.
Because intellectual integrity is the hallmark of educational institutions, academic dishonesty is one of the most serious offenses that a student can commit at Columbia. It may be punishable by suspension or dismissal from the School of General Studies.
Students who are unsure about the proper presentation of their own independent work should consult with their instructor or academic advisor.
Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to the following:
- Plagiarism: Failure to cite or otherwise acknowledge ideas or phrases used in any paper, exercise, or project submitted in a course but gained from another source, such as a published text, another person's work, or materials on the Web.
- Self-plagiarism: The submission of one piece of work in more than one course without the explicit permission of the instructors involved.
- Misrepresentation of authorship: The submission of work as one’s own which has been prepared by or purchased from another.
- Cheating on examinations or tests: To give or receive assistance from written material, another person, his or her paper, or any other source during an examination or test, to hire or attempt to hire someone to take your exam for you.
- Falsification or misrepresentation of information in coursework or lab work, on any application, petition, or forms submitted to the school.
- Fabrication of credentials, in materials submitted as part of an admissions application or materials submitted to the University for administrative or academic review.
- Violating the limits of acceptable collaboration in coursework set by a faculty member or department.
- Removing, hiding, or altering library materials in order to hinder the research of other students.
- Facilitating academic dishonesty by enabling another to engage in such behavior.
- Lying to a faculty member, dean, or advisor about circumstances related to your academic work or failure to complete academic work.
Ignorance of the School’s policy concerning academic dishonesty shall not be a defense in any disciplinary proceedings. The School of General Studies holds each member of the community responsible for understanding these principles and for abiding by them.
Academic Integrity in the Virtual and Hybrid Class Environment
The Columbia undergraduate classroom, whether real or virtual, is a vital and dynamic space for learning, sustained by the expectation that the class experience is shared only by participants in the course. The free and respectful exchange of ideas is the foundation of teaching and learning and can occur only if all course participants agree as a matter of academic integrity (subject to standard penalties) to respect the guidelines established below.
To support and sustain the class experience, the Columbia undergraduate Committee on Instruction sets forth the following expectations, pertaining both to course materials and to course meetings:
- Course materials, including handouts, readings, slides, and attendant materials must not be broadly shared, distributed, or sold outside the course environment (including on social media) without permission of the instructor. They must be understood as the product of instructors’ intellectual work, and treated as their property.
- The contents of class discussion and breakout rooms may not be circulated outside the classroom, in whole or in part, for non-educational purposes (e.g., on social media) or outside the Columbia community. Students are expected to respect the complex dynamics of class discussion and use discretion when repeating the ideas of others outside of the classroom. The audio and visual recordings of class discussion and breakout rooms belong to the course participants and must be understood in the context of the course. This is especially crucial to protect the identity of speakers; in certain circumstances, failure to do so could be a form of bullying and could endanger course participants.
- Recordings of class sessions must not be shared, in whole or in part, with those outside the class. Students are not permitted to record any portion of class sessions without the explicit consent of the instructor.
Students, faculty members, or Columbia staff who have concerns or complaints about a student's behavior, including issues pertaining to academic integrity, are asked to contact the Dean of Students or the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS) to discuss the concern. Based on the conversation with the complainant, the Dean of Students, in consultation with SCCS, will determine whether or not the complaint warrants an informal meeting with the student or a formal disciplinary hearing. If a formal disciplinary hearing is to be held, the Dean of Students will forward the complaint to SCCS who will in turn contact the student, explain the procedure, and set up an appropriate time and place for the disciplinary hearing.
A disciplinary hearing is held to discuss the allegations with the student and, when necessary, to determine appropriate sanctions. Present at the hearing are the charged student, and two members of SCCS who serve as the adjudicating officers. At the discretion of SCCS and/or the respective Dean (GS Dean of Students or Dean for the Postbac Premed Program) a GS hearing officer may also preside over the proceedings. A student’s advisor may be asked to participate, usually in academic cases. A support person may also be present at the request of the student, School or Conduct office. On the strength of the evidence and the student's response, the SCCS representative (often in consultation with the GS Dean of Students or Dean of the Postbac Premed Program) will reach a determination and notify the student of their decision after the hearing has concluded.
For students found guilty of academic dishonesty or misconduct, the sanctions may range from warning to probation, suspension, or dismissal. Because an objective of SCCS is to ensure that the disciplinary procedure is also an educational process, every effort is made to refer students to appropriate resources and support services that will help them learn from the experience. In cases of academic dishonesty, the disciplinary response is deliberately separate from the decision an instructor shall make concerning how the breach of the academic contract might impact a student's grade. In cases that have been referred for disciplinary action through the Dean’s Discipline process, a student may not drop or withdraw from the course in question. GS premedical, predental, and preveterinary students who have been found to have committed academic impropriety will be ineligible for committee support, until the expiration of the sanction even where the student remains in good standing. If a student is found guilty of a second violation of University regulations, academic dishonesty, or inappropriate behavior, that student is, in most cases, dismissed. Students have the right to appeal the decision of the disciplinary committee. Appeals must be submitted in writing within the deadline given in the letter informing the student of the disciplinary action taken. Appeals must be addressed to the Dean of the School.
In general, under University policy and federal law, information about disciplinary proceedings against a student is confidential and may not be disclosed to others.
Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Gender-based Harassment Policies
For information on the procedures for handling such complaints, please refer to the Sexual Respect website.
If the alleged misconduct involves sexual discrimination, the complaint should be filed with the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. To report an incident involving sexual assault, sexual harassment, or gender-based harassment, students should complete this form or contact the Gender-Based Misconduct Office at 212-854-1717.
Informal Complaints Concerning Misconduct
Any instructor, officer, staff member, or student who chooses not to put a complaint in writing can instead make an informal complaint. In these cases, the GS advisor usually discusses the matter with the student, though it is possible the advisor will be required to report the complaint to additional campus offices. In these situations, the student may receive a formal warning, which will be noted in the student's educational file, along with any recommendations made to the student. Such warnings will be taken into account if and when similar complaints are made in the future, and a pattern of informal complaints can lead to formal disciplinary action.
Occasionally students experience dissatisfaction with specific courses or instructors, find themselves in an untenable situation in a course due to an interaction with an instructor, or have an academic grievance. Columbia faculty hold themselves to the highest professional standards. The rights, duties, and obligations are delineated in the University Statutes and in the Faculty Handbook and can be found online.
Consistent with those duties and obligations, conduct that is grievable includes:
- Failure to show appropriate respect in an instructional setting for the rights of others to hold opinions differing from their own
- Misuse of faculty authority to promote a political or social cause within an instructional setting
- Conduct in the classroom or another instructional setting that adversely affects the learning environment
In such cases, students are advised to discuss their grievances with their GS advisors. Depending on the nature of the complaint, a student may be counseled to discuss the matter directly with the instructor, or with the director of undergraduate studies or chair of a given department or program. The School will direct a student to the appropriate office if the University has specific university-wide procedures that govern the matter. Links to those offices, resources and procedures are provided below. Students should raise any concerns not later than thirty days after the end of the semester in which the alleged misconduct took place. The School will make every effort to consider and address the student's complaint quickly, ordinarily within thirty days.
Advisors recognize and respect a student's need for confidentiality when discussing certain kinds of complaints, so students should make sure to bring up any concerns about confidentiality when speaking with their advisors about grievances. While advisors within the Office of the Dean of Students counsel students on appropriate avenues for addressing or resolving their complaints, and often can help to facilitate a resolution, students should understand that advisors are not in a position to arbitrate grievances. The Ombuds Office is an additional and alternative confidential source available to students to advise on various avenues of redress and can mediate a dispute, if both parties agree. Ombuds officers, however, do not have authority to adjudicate any complaint.
While resolutions are most often reached informally, formal procedures for addressing grievances do exist and in some cases may be the only way to adjudicate a particular complaint. Grievances related to faculty members outside the Arts & Sciences will be referred to the appropriate division or school within the University. Resolutions to complaints about academic assessments or grade disputes are usually handled informally (see Grade Appeals and Grade Changes; formal grievances about academic assessments are handled by the faculty within the appropriate department or program.
If a student believes that a faculty member has acted in an unprofessional manner, he or she should first speak with his or her advising dean, who will work with the student to review the claim, establish the substance of the complaint, and come to a decision about how best to address the concerns raised by the student. If appropriate, the advising dean will refer the student to the GS Dean of Academic Affairs who, working with relevant faculty, will investigate the case fully and attempt to resolve the matter. The dean will work with the student and the faculty to determine whether there has been a procedural breach and, if so, take immediate steps to formulate a remedy in consultation with the Dean of the School of General Studies.
The grievance procedures available through the Office of the Vice President for Arts and Sciences are intended to complement, not substitute for, the procedures available in each of the Schools, and they concern a considerably more limited range of issues. They are designed to address only those cases involving professional misconduct by a faculty member of Arts and Sciences in an instructional setting in which there were significant irregularities or errors in applying School procedures. Information on this process can be found on the website of the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences. If the instructor is not a member of the Arts and Sciences faculty, the advising dean will assist the student to identify the appropriate faculty and the right procedures. Each school has its own grievance procedures and they are posted on individual schools’ websites.
If at any time a student believes the process is not working in a constructive or timely fashion, the student may always contact the Dean of the School of General Studies.
The University has alternative procedures to address other specific concerns:
- In situations involving allegations of discrimination and/or harassment, the complainant should consult the Student Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment.
- In situations involving gender-based and sexual misconduct, students should consult the Gender-Based Misconduct Policies for Students
- In situations involving concern about scientific or scholarly misconduct, students should consult the Columbia University Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research
- The policy on romantic relationships is outlined in the Consensual Romantic and Sexual Relationship Policies.
Students are also encouraged to seek advice regarding handling academic complaints at the Ombuds Office, a neutral and confidential resource for informal conflict resolution. For further information, contact the Ombuds Office, 660 Schermerhorn Extension; (212) 854-1234; firstname.lastname@example.org.