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I have one incident of academic misconduct on my record from my sophomore year (I was guilty), and I received a grade sanction and disciplinary probation. This does not appear on my transcript and I am no longer on disciplinary probation.

I am now applying for PhD programs and some applications ask about conduct. On one application, I'm not sure whether I have to disclose my academic misconduct because of the wording of the question.
It asks if I have ever been "disciplined for academic performance" and gives examples like "academic probation, dismissal, suspension, disqualification, etc." For the same question, it also says: "Academic Infraction: Indicate whether you have ever been disciplined or placed on academic probation while attending an academic institution."

At least at my university, academic probation is something you receive for poor grades (like having a dangerously low GPA), whereas disciplinary probation is something you receive for misconduct (anything from underage drinking to academic misconduct). So I'm thinking I can answer "no" to this question, since I was disciplined for misconduct not academic performance, and it was disciplinary probation, not academic probation. It seems that "academic infraction" would be discipline for poor grades. But that "etc." makes me nervous and I wanted others' opinions.

I don't want to answer "yes" and put myself at a disadvantage when I don't have to, but I also don't want to mistakenly answer "no" and then be caught and have my application disqualified (or worse, get accepted, have someone find out about my academic misconduct halfway through my PhD, and be dismissed). I want to make sure I'm being truthful, but only as truthful as I have to be. For obvious reasons, I don't want to disclose this unless directly asked/required. Do you think I should answer "yes" or "no" to this question?

Edit: To be clear, I am not intending to deceive by being so particular about the word choice. I have disclosed my misconduct on other applications where it was clear that my answer should be "yes". I think it's understandable that I want to be absolutely certain that I am required to disclose it before I do. I am trying to be honest and accurate.

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    Tough call. I won't even venture an opinion. Is there a faculty mentor (perhaps one of the people writing a letter of recommendation for you) you are close enough to so that you could ask? Dec 30 '20 at 2:50
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    I think it is really clear that you need to. Trying to weasel around the words isn’t a good look. Will it ‘disadvantage’ you? Perhaps, but you were cheating in order to ‘advantage’ yourself. Own it and be prepared to explain it.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 30 '20 at 13:15
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    If in doubt you can always contact the program coordinator to confirm one way or another! If they agree with your assessment that they are not asking for your kind of probation then it's unlikely they will make your communication about administrative details part of your application that will be evaluated by the committee. Dec 31 '20 at 13:50
  • Thanks, I was thinking I should double check with someone who knows better. Would it be appropriate to contact my academic advisor about this, or someone on the academic integrity board at my university? I am hesitant to talk about this with people in my field (besides my academic advisor), because I am volunteering the information and people are free to talk. @user2705196
    – josh
    Dec 31 '20 at 18:37
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It seems that "academic infraction" would be discipline for poor grades.

That is wrong. Misconduct is a type of infraction. You were disciplined for an infraction. Disclose it.

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    Since the OP is confused about the meaning of words, it might help to give a definition of infraction, which means violation (of law, rules, agreement, ...). E.g., merriam-webster.com/dictionary/infraction
    – Kimball
    Dec 30 '20 at 15:26
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I received a grade sanction and disciplinary probation.

Receiving an adverse penalty or outcome for your conduct means that you have been "disciplined" for that conduct, so this falls within the scope of those questions. Attempting to split hairs using a distinction between "academic performance" versus misconduct seems willfuly evasive to me. The correct answer for both questions is yes.

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Rather than try to parse the words and not disclose, I would actually directly address the whole episode in the letter or statement included in the application. Write openly what happened, why it happened, and how you think about it now. I believe that such openness—especially if it shows that you learned from your past—would turn a possible negative into a positive part of your application.

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    While it may or may not be the right thing to do, in my experience, disclosing a negative thing you are not obliged to disclose does turn a positive application usually into a negative application.
    – user111388
    Jan 2 '21 at 8:38
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How likely are your LoR going to mention it? If they won't I would probably ignore the question if it's not on your transcript.

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    My letter writers do not know about it - It happened in a course outside of my department, and it happened before I knew any of my letter writers so I have not mentioned it. I have heard that it's unlikely to cause an issue if I just answer no, and I have heard of people answering no and not having any consequences. But there is a chance of them requesting my disciplinary records if I am accepted, and more importantly I don't want to be untruthful... Worse than being caught for the crime is being caught for lying about the crime.
    – josh
    Dec 31 '20 at 18:29
  • You could say no and feign ignorance if it ever comes up.(ex, it wasn't in the department you graduated from and you didn't remember). Dec 31 '20 at 18:38
  • While I initially thought I could truthfully say no, I know that I have a doubt in my mind about that. And to say I didn't remember my academic misconduct seems much worse. I remember it very very well, it was a stressful months long process, I feel extremely remorseful about it, it impacted my grades, and reshaped my morals. To say I didn't remember would be the opposite of the truth (and makes it seem like academic misconduct was no big deal to me and like I didn't learn anything).
    – josh
    Dec 31 '20 at 18:53

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