I am being accused of academic dishonesty on a problem for a class this year. I have already accepted an offer to a Ph.D program and if I am convicted, there will be no mark on the final transcript I send them, and the effects are probably going to be nonexistent on my actual grade. Should I be concerned that this will turn up, and is it likely I will have to disclose this later?

Edit (some more information that may be relevant):

This has no way of connecting to the professors who wrote my recommendation. My concern in case of conviction is mainly the extent to which I may have to graduate schools, and whether or not my existing statement that I have not been convicted (submitted prior to all this) will be checked (in the case of a conviction, it may appear that I lied).

The alleged offense is itself minor (as far as these things go) and based on resemblance with something online. Not that I expect this to have an impact on how it is externally viewed.

  • 1
    Did the alleged dishonesty, if committed, have the potential to affect any of the grades that you reported on your grad school application and that were used by the program when they decided to admit you? (Not sure how much that matters for the answer, but it seems potentially relevant.)
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 23, 2021 at 23:39
  • No these are going to be new grades, if they are affected.
    – jivonad125
    Mar 23, 2021 at 23:47
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    I think the answer depends on facts that you have not given us, and may not want to. You can edit the question to tell us more if you wish. Did you actually cheat? If not, does the circumstantial evidence that led to the accusation reasonably call for an investigation? Do the professors who wrote letters of recommendation for you know of the accusation? Has their opinion of you changed? Mar 24, 2021 at 0:14
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    @EthanBolker the relevant question is not whether OP really cheated or not, since if they are convicted of cheating then for all intents and purposes the world will assume that they cheated. Let’s not ask intrusive questions that contribute nothing to the discussion, shall we?
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 24, 2021 at 0:16
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    ... So we don’t want to deter people from asking questions by asking intrusive “did you do it?” questions that force them to either admit their wrongdoing or to lie to us (which will likely lead to getting bad advice), just like the legal system doesn’t want to deter people from seeking legal advice by having lawyers ask these sorts of questions of their clients. That’s what I meant with that analogy.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 24, 2021 at 6:24

4 Answers 4


The graduate school, or whoever sets local regulation, can do whatever they want. But most likely:

  • No information will be sought beyond a transcript.
  • The graduate school will not find out about misconduct not on the transcript.
  • If the graduate school finds out, and any information you provide agrees with information provided by your previous institution, the graduate school will consider the previous institution's actions to have settled the matter.

If you disagree with your previous institution's findings, instead of saying "Y happened", say " found that X happened, but I found that Y happened." This way it is clear you are not misleading anyone.


I will venture an opinion.


The alleged offense is itself minor (as far as these things go) and based on resemblance with something online.

you should be able to mount a convincing defense. In my experience there's a big gap between "this might be plagiarism and we have to look at it, but can't know for sure" and "we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that it's cheating".

In any case you did not lie on your application.

Even if the accusation should be deemed true, I think it very unlikely that your new school will ever hear about it. If they do, tell them your version of the facts. I very much doubt that you would be dismissed from the program.

Good luck.


If you’ve told other people that something is true and then some time later it stops being true, and its truth status is a material fact that leads to you getting access to valuable resources, then the most ethical course of action — the kind that requires a high level of personal maturity and moral courage — is to inform the people of the change in the truth status of your statement.

Now, I’m not saying that this is what you must do, or even that this is something an average person would do. But this is, at least, an ideal to keep in mind and to aspire to.

If you don’t do this, you still have the reasonable (in my opinion) defense, in case you are criticized later, that you did not lie, since the statement was true at the time you made it. There is no universally recognized ethical principle that we have a hard obligation to correct any instance of a past statement we made ceasing to be true. What will happen in practice if/when you try to use that defense, I cannot predict. Should you be concerned that someone will not find it as reasonable as I do? I cannot say.

The most important thing in my opinion is that you must not lie about your misconduct charge if asked about it in the future. Saying untruthful things to the grad program could get you into serious trouble. Even if you get lucky and don’t end up getting caught in the lie, just living with the fear that you will be found out at some indefinite point in the future will be a heavy mental burden to carry.


At this stage it is merely an allegation, so I don't think you have any obligation to disclose that. If you are found guilty of the alleged misconduct, such that there is an actual finding of misconduct against you, that may well be something you should disclose. This is particularly so if the misconduct gave you any advantage that would have shown up positively in your application for your present degree program. If you fail to disclose a finding of misconduct against you, that applies to a degree program that was one of the qualifications listed for your application to the program, then the university might take the view that you have failed to properly represent your academic record (or failed to properly update it with pertinent information).

If you are found guilty of the alleged misconduct: If the nature of the misconduct is minor, and you voluntarily disclose it without being prompted to do so, that will be to your credit. In some cases students engage in minor forms of misconduct when they are undergraduates, and then learn from this and improve their subsequent practices. (I do not understand that your assertion that it would be minor misconduct due to mere "resemblance" of your work with online material; resemblance is not misconduct, so presumably if you are found to have committed misconduct then it is going to be a finding saying that this was some kind of actual plagiarism.) What would be important here is for you to be able to give a compelling account of why your university should keep you despite the misconduct --- e.g., Do you accept that your conduct was wrong? Have you learned not to do that now?

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