The Disciplinary Process

The section below provides you with a brief summary of the disciplinary process at Princeton. The Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline hears all cases of alleged academic infractions as well as any other violations of University codes of conduct that might result in a penalty of suspension, withheld degree, required withdrawal, or expulsion. In a typical year the committee considers 20 to 30 cases involving alleged academic infractions. You’ll find recent discipline summary reports online at www.princeton.edu/odus/standards.

Because this booklet concerns itself with the issue of academic integrity, this section summarizes the disciplinary process as it pertains to academic infractions only. Cases of suspected dishonesty during in-class examinations are the jurisdiction of the student Honor Committee.

You’ll find the complete and official description of the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline, its membership, procedures, and the possible range of penalties in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. Remember that, as a Princeton student, you’re held responsible for the content of Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. Ignorance of the regulations does not constitute a valid defense if you are charged with plagiarism or another violation.

The Allegation

If a student is alleged to have made any violation of the University’s academic regulations, he or she is first asked to meet with an assistant or associate dean of undergraduate students, who is charged with investigating all such complaints promptly. The facts of the case are discussed, the student may give his or her account of the incident, and the dean explains the procedure by which the case will be heard by the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline. The student has the opportunity to prepare a statement, collect any documents and other supporting materials, enlist the help of an adviser to be present at the hearing, and ask other members of the University community to serve as character witnesses.

The Hearing

The Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline is chaired by the dean of undergraduate students and consists of five student members, four members of the faculty, an assistant or associate dean of undergraduate students (who serves as secretary), and a representative of the Office of the Dean of the College. Shortly before the hearing, the committee members receive any materials prepared by the student, the faculty member involved, and the secretary. The faculty member bringing the allegation will usually be present at the hearing, and other persons with information about the case may be asked to appear by the student or secretary. The student may be accompanied by an adviser, who must be a current member of the University community and who may participate fully in the proceedings.

The student has the opportunity to make an opening statement, to review any pertinent materials, and to question any individuals who have provided information to the committee. The committee members may then question the student; they may also direct questions to the faculty member or other individuals who have provided information. After such questioning, the committee may hear from a member of the University community who may speak about the character and personal qualities of the student. Students may also submit additional written statements from character witnesses. Please understand, however, that the positive testimony of character witnesses cannot outweigh or cancel out evidence presented to the committee. The student then has an opportunity to make a final statement, after which the student, the adviser, and other others who are not members of the committee are excused.

The committee immediately adjudicates the case. A majority of the committee members present must conclude that the evidence presented constitutes a clear and persuasive case in support of the charges in order to determine that the student has violated a University regulation. If that is the committee’s finding, a determination of the appropriate penalty is then made. The secretary informs the student promptly of the committee’s decision.

The Appeal

A student may appeal a decision and/or penalty of the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline to either the Judicial Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community or to the dean of the college. The judicial committee considers appeals based only on questions of procedural error or unfairness. (See Rights, Rules, Responsibilities for the procedures of the judicial committee.) The dean of the college will consider an appeal on either of two grounds: (1) that new, pertinent information not available to the committee has come to light, or (2) that the imposed penalty does not fall within the range of penalties imposed for similar misconduct. After a review, the dean may decide that an additional hearing is warranted or may recommend to the president that the penalty be altered. If the appeal does not provide convincing grounds for an additional hearing or for altering the penalty, the dean will affirm the original finding and penalty. The dean’s decision is final.

Possible Penalties

The committee may administer any one of the following penalties, depending upon the severity of the violation: warning, disciplinary probation for a set period of time, withholding of degree for a set period of time in cases involving graduating seniors, suspension, required withdrawal, or expulsion. In addition, to underscore the seriousness of the violation, the committee may elect to add University censure to any of the above penalties. See Rights, Rules, Responsibilities for a more complete description of these penalties.

In determining the seriousness of an offense, the committee considers whether the student ought reasonably to have understood that his or her actions violated the standards of academic integrity described in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. When the committee concludes that a student ought to have known that he or she had committed a violation, the penalty is normally separation from the University.