Some universities have a rule that, for example, "if it appears that a student in your class may be guilty of academic misconduct, you must promptly ask the student to meet with you informally to discuss your concerns." The quote is taken from one such university, the University of Wisconsin. UW's Academic Misconduct Guide for Instructors goes on to say: "You can discuss the matter with the student in person, by telephone, or online. During this meeting, you should explain why you believe the student may have committed academic misconduct and give the student an opportunity to respond. It is not necessary to inform the student in writing before this meeting."

What is the rationale behind this type of requirement?

Bonus: How common is this? When did universities in the US start instituting this type of requirement?

  • 3
    My university has this rule, and its practical effect is to make plagiarism on a final paper/project a nightmare to deal with. (My university wants the meeting to be in person (or telephone if necessary) with prior mention of academic disconduct, and the student has the option to bring someone with them.) Ahem, so this is a suggestion and not merely a rant: perhaps you can add another bonus question of how many students I had to squeeze in meetings with the day before flying home for Christmas because of this rule. ;) May 12, 2018 at 2:59
  • 2
    @cactus_pardner - This just strengthens my curiosity about the raison d'être of the rule. May 12, 2018 at 3:02
  • 1
    At my school we have an academic integrity reporting form, whose principal feature is a check-box for "Did the student admit to the charge of cheating, plagiarism or other act of academic dishonesty?". I'm guessing that this greatly simplifies the academic integrity administrator's work. May 14, 2018 at 5:06
  • @DanielR.Collins - But I'm imagining that things could get very messy, if the instructor says yes, the student did admit, but the student says no, I didn't admit. I don't know whether that would be likely to be an issue in practice; but it just seems strange not to have a paper trail. May 15, 2018 at 1:23
  • 3
    Isn't the answer in the question: " give the student an opportunity to respond"?
    – Taladris
    Jun 5, 2019 at 15:34

4 Answers 4


I believe that the main impetus for a meeting with the student is to inform them directly that they are being charged with academic misconduct, and to know that they are consciously aware of such charges, so that they cannot claim "no one told me." In general, until recently, at my school, the process dragged on and on because the students need to sign a form indicating their willingness to accept or refuse the sanctions.

However, in recent years, this process has become more digital, and, for instance, at my university, the school no longer requires a face-to-face meeting. The forms are filed and processed electronically, and notification of the intent to file charges can be provided to the student via the campus email system.

  • To add to the bonus question: my university also does not require a face to face meeting. (However I have no idea if they did in the past or what their rationale would have been.)
    – Kimball
    May 12, 2018 at 17:41

The reason a meeting is called before filing academic misconduct charges, is...

Because what looks like cheating can have a non-cheating explanation, and a accusation taken far enough can be devastating to the student, who might want to sue.

So, pragmatically, the Risk Management division of the University would have advised the University that they have to be sure as they can be, in the validity of their information before taking difficult-to-reverse and possibly devastating actions.

That way, since the meeting guarantees hearing all the sides and going through a logical deliberation process, any case against the university, on such matters, would be seen as frivolous, because the University had done their due diligence, allowing the University to avoid legal costs.

  • Do you have any evidence this was the actual rationale some universities used? At my university, one of the points of the academic integrity office is to ascertain how likely it is the student engaged in academic misconduct, and whether it should go on their record etc. I also can't imagine many professors at my university would report students frivolously.
    – Kimball
    May 12, 2018 at 17:40
  • @Kimball - IIRC, one of the memes at (workplace.stackexchange), is "HR is not your friend". Meaning that HR's goal, is to CYA, for the business? ... I assume that most rules that aren't legally mandated are made by HR, and so, follow that purpose. ... What are you asking, by mentioning your Academic Integrity Office? ... The rule precludes the possibility of frivolous reporting, and is easier than constantly watching just in case?
    – Malady
    May 12, 2018 at 20:35
  • 3
    Perhaps a more noble name for CYA is "due process"... May 13, 2018 at 3:28
  • 1
    @Malandy - It might be called Risk Management. It might be called University Counsel. Those are the names I've heard most often. May 15, 2018 at 1:25
  • 5
    +1, A lot of commenters seem hostile to the idea (CYA comments). I'm a bit surprised. Actually this is in the student's interest as it is potentially somewhat informal. Escalating it to honor committees, etc. is saved for situations that can't be explained or resolved simply. The student has a chance to speak without a large audience. A general rule, probably a good one, is to handle problems at as low and local a level as reasonable.
    – Buffy
    Jul 31, 2018 at 20:12

In my experience, many students confess during this initial meeting. In those cases I will bring the formal charges but typically recommend a light punishment (perhaps just a warning or maybe a 0 on the assignment.). Having confessed, students typically won't appeal this punishment.

If the student denies cheating and has no believable explanation, then I feel comfortable recommending a punishment of F in the course. Students can then enter into the judicial process if they want to.

In practice, I've never seen a student produce a believable excuse for apparent cheating.

  • "I've never seen a student produce a believable excuse for apparent cheating." - I suppose it depends on the type of assignment in question. In large programming classes one would not be shocked to see a dozen solutions to the same problem that are nearly identical to each other or something found online, yet a conversation with the student would easily make it clear that they did or did not write it themselves. Jun 5, 2019 at 16:39
  • I'm not saying that it couldn't happen, just that it never has happened in my 30 years of experience dealing with cheating math/numerical analysis courses. I'll keep giving students the chance to respond to the accusation. Jun 5, 2019 at 16:53

Adding another perspective on this (why some prefer to contact students personally before escalating): once a formal complaint is filed, then the university has no choice but go through the bureaucratic process of academic misconduct, which is both annoying and time consuming for lecturers (they have to answer emails, attend disciplinary committees etc.). If students admit to cheating (preferably in writing), and not make lecturers go through this process, they get "rewarded" for their cooperation with a milder consequence (maybe just failing the specific assessment rather than the entire class, not having a disciplinary record etc.). In my experience, this is probably the main "unofficial" reason that people go through informal channels - settling things "in house" results in less hassle and pain for everyone.

  • At my institution (and I believe this is common elsewhere), the instructor is required to report every incident including ones that end up with a small punishment. The time consuming hearings only happen if the student disagrees with the punishment proposed by the instructor or if the dean wants to make a bigger deal of things (typically because the student has been caught cheating in other classes in the past.). Jun 6, 2019 at 18:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .