Brief Overview of the Academic Dishonesty Process
At a high level, the overall process is simple. If you violated course policies, you admit guilt and we reach a swift resolution. However, if you did not violate course policy, or you are not sure if you violated course policies, you can request adjudication where you get a chance to hear our case and explain your situation.
If you did commit an act of academic dishonesty, please do not waste our time or yours by trying to get out of negative consequences. It probably won’t work and it’s unethical.
For those of you want more details on the process, read further. However, you shouldn’t need these details to decide what to do.
About Academic Dishonesty and How The Process Works
Given how very hard so many people in 61BL work for what they achieve, we must pursue cheating cases very seriously, and without much mercy.
However, we also don’t want to derail your undergraduate plans for a single, albeit serious, mistake. This is particularly true today in the era of the 3.3 GPA cutoff and remote learning. For this reason, if you submit work that was not yours, but come forward on your own to admit plagiarism, the penalty is reduced to a score of zero on the given assignment.
For students who knowingly submitted plagiarized work and wait until we come to them, there is no such reduced penalty option.
For those of you who did do something dishonest: I understand that the pressure is very high at Berkeley, and that under this pressure, you may have done something you wouldn’t usually do. This is not a reflection on who you are as a person, but nonetheless, we must administer sanctions to maintain the integrity of the department. We hope you will learn from this experience and that it does not cause you too much grief.
In 61B, there are four possible sanctions in response to academic dishonesty, divided into two categories: Point Penalties and Office of Student Conduct Referrals.
- Failing grade.
- Receiving a point penalty.
Office of Student Conduct Referrals
- Non-Reportable Warning (NRW) from the Office of Student Conduct (OSC).
- Reportable warning from the OSC.
The following section describes what each of these mean. The section after that describes the process by which sanctions are assigned.
Description of Sanctions
Failing Grade (Grade Penalty Type 1)
This grade penalty is typically assessed if you cheat on an exam or have two or more violations on projects, hws, or labs. However, it can be assessed in other circumstances as described in “Process” portion of this document.
Failing the course will impact your GPA. However, if you retake 61BL, your original grade will be replaced with your new grade. However, even if you retake the course, the failing grade will be factored into your 61A/61B(L)/70 GPA for purposes of declaring the major, effectively rendering it impossible to enter the major.
If you are already on academic probation or are in danger of losing some sort of scholarship or financial aid, then unfortunately this may significantly impact your life. However, dismissal is not permanent. If this is your situation, please contact the staff immediately so we can advise you on how to proceed.
Point Penalty (Grade Penalty Type 2)
This grade penalty is given for plagiarism on a HW, lab, or project. For students who come forward on their own, the penalty is reduced to a zero on the assignment.
For students who did not come forward, the penalty varies depending on whether you copied or let others copy code, and on the plea that is entered.
Non-Reportable Warning (NRW) (Warning Type 1)
The Office of Student Conduct will issue a formal warning to you that “violation of specified University policies or campus regulations has occurred and that continued or repeated violations of University policies or campus regulations may be cause for further disciplinary action.”
Such warnings are completely private, and will not be observable to anybody outside the OSC, or as they put it “records of non-reportable warnings are maintained only for in-house reference in case of subsequent violations.” This warning will not affect your ability to declare yourself as a CS major, and will not appear on any documents (including transcripts, financial aid, a letter to your parents) whatsoever.
Such warnings are called Non-Reportable Warnings (NRW). A second NRW in 61B or another course will likely result in temporary or even permanent dismissal from the university.
See the code of conduct for more.
What a Reportable Warning Means (Warning Type 2)
Similar to a non-reportable warning, except that it is “maintained as part of the student’s conduct record.” I’m not sure who has access to these. Please contact the office of student conduct for more.
In order to resolve each case, we must establish two things: The facts of your case, and the appropriate sanction (if any). The 61BL academic dishonesty process follows up to three phases, described below.
Phase 1: Plea Bargaining
In order to streamline the process, we provide a low-friction way for you to admit guilt, with clear sanctions. We provide a form that you can fill out to provide your input on the case:
- You accept that you allowed another student to have a copy of your work (either directly or inadvertently) and sign the faculty disposition form. You are given no grade penalty in the course, but you are referred to the office of student conduct for an NRW, with a special note from Matt and Zoe that this was a very minor violation. Optionally, you may meet with Matt and Zoe, though this will not prevent an OSC warning. This penalty applies even if you simply posted your code somewhere publicly, e.g. a public Github repository.
- You accept that you submitted work for a grade that was not your own, and sign the faculty disposition form. You receive a penalty of a negative score on the assignment. You are also referred to the office of student conduct for an NRW. Optionally, you may meet with Matt and Zoe, though this will not prevent an OSC warning.
- You are unsure if your case constitutes academic dishonesty, and express a desire to enter the adjudication phase (see next section). You must schedule a meeting with Matt and Zoe to determine the facts of your case. You should NOT select this option if you are sure that you violated course policies, as this will result in harsher penalties.
To determine what plea to enter, please review the course collaboration policies. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on pleas.
For any case involving a group of students with matching code, the pleas of all participants will be rejected if there is no student who accepts guilt for plagiarism (option 2). In other words, if everybody claims option 1, we will invalidate all of these pleas (and thus re-enter phase 1).
If one student in a plagiarism case requests adjudication, then all members involved might need to meet at once with Matt and Zoe to establish the facts of the case.
If you are truly believe yourself to be innocent, please submit a request of type 3 above. We are very serious about ensuring that nobody is wrongly penalized!
If you aren’t sure which plea to enter, please email Matt/Zoe for additional information.
Phase 2: Internal Adjudication
If you request adjudication (plea 3 or 4), we will hold a meeting between you and ALL involved parties at the same time. During this meeting, we will attempt to establish the facts of your case, as well as an appropriate sanction.
We ask that if you come to adjudication, that you conduct yourself honestly. Attempts to be deceptive will be met very harshly as described below.
From here, there are six potential results for each person, determined independently.
- R1: We determine that you are innocent. The process ends.
- R2: You deny guilt, but we still think you are guilty. We then move to phase 3 (External Adjudication).
- R3: We determine that you have overcollaborated in a way that violates the course policy, but is not egregious. Copying any part of another student’s code is considered egregious. Your score will be replaced by a negative score on that assignment, and you will receive an NRW from the OSC.
- R4: We determine that you have committed an egregious violation of the course policies, e.g. submitting work that is not your own. Your score will be give replaced by a negative score on that assignment, and you will receive an NRW from the OSC.
- R5: We determine that you have given someone else your code. Your score will be replaced by a negative score on that assignment, and you will receive an NRW from the OSC.
- R6: You conduct yourself dishonestly during adjudication, wasting everybody’s time. In this case, regardless of the circumstances of your specific case or the minimal nature of your dishonesty, we will give you a failing grade and refer you to OSC for additional sanctions (e.g. community service).
Phase 3: External Adjudication
If we are unable to come to an agreement in phase 2, we will refer your case to the office of student conduct. They will conduct their own investigation, and resolve your case through their own process.
Note that censures are likely to be more severe if the OSC determines you are guilty, possibly including a Reportable Warning, which will become a part of your official student record.
The process is described in the flowcharts below. A NRW is a non-reportable warning from the OSC. “Plea validation” refers to the process of ensuring that not everyone in the group has claimed “option 1”, which is impossible.
We hope this process is fair and encourages you to establish a more solid foundation as you move forwards with your future in CS. If you are indeed guilty, do not feel that you are somehow a tainted person! Painful though it may be now, we hope that you will instead someday reflect on this process as ultimately enriching, as it helps build you into being more resistant to taking the easy low road in future times of great duress.
This policy is subject to minor revisions and should not be considered set in stone.