Academic Integrity at Boston College
Academic integrity is taken quite seriously at Boston College and by the dean and faculty of the School of Theology and Ministry in particular. STM abides by the University policy on academic integrity to be found in the Policies and Procedures section of this Catalog. The roles and responsibilities of students, faculty, and deans with regard to promoting academic integrity can be found there as well. STM students are strongly encouraged to become familiar with these policies and procedures, as they are held responsible for this knowledge. Students with questions regarding what constitutes a violation of Boston College’s Academic Integrity Policy, especially with regard to specific courses and assignments, are invited and encouraged to ask these questions of their professors and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
STM Academic Integrity Procedures
Each member of the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) community is responsible for supporting a teaching and learning environment that cultivates the necessary habits of heart and mind that are rooted in the Gospel. Because each violation of academic integrity—whether intentional or unintentional—harms our common goal to create an academic culture of honesty, all violations are taken seriously at the STM. Faculty members are responsible for promoting academic integrity in their courses by including a clear statement in their syllabi of the school’s policy and by discussing this policy in class at the beginning of the semester. Faculty are also responsible for promptly reporting violations of academic integrity as they occur. Consistent with the expectations set forth at Boston College, STM students are personally responsible for upholding academic honesty in all aspects of their work and should hold their peers accountable when they suspect that a questionable act of academic dishonesty has taken place, either by directly addressing the violation as it is happening or by informing the appropriate individuals (a trusted faculty member or dean).
Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to, plagiarism. Students are responsible for educating themselves about what constitutes plagiarism and the inappropriate use of sources in an academic context. Any reference to the ideas or insights of others, either in direct quotation or in paraphrase, should be given explicit and clear attribution; to fail to do so is intellectually dishonest. Other instances of academic dishonesty include:
- Unauthorized collaboration on papers, presentations, assignments, and exams
- Unauthorized use of materials and sources in assignments and examinations
- Collusion with the intent to deceive
- Knowingly allowing your work to be used by others in an academically dishonest way
- Submitting the same work for two different courses
- Misrepresenting work that has been purchased or written by someone else as your own
- Lying in order to secure an extension on an assignment, to reschedule an exam, or to manipulate an outcome of a course requirement
- Cheating or copying from another student
- Fabricating stories or otherwise misrepresenting data in conversations related to training in counseling, CPE, and spiritual direction
- Inappropriate use of confidential information and inappropriate use of privileged access to spaces or information
In order to cultivate an academic culture of honesty, faculty are asked to document all instances of academic dishonesty, even if the assignment itself is not graded or the violation did not result in a grading penalty. Violations of academic integrity are taken seriously because of the mission of the STM to prepare students for leadership in teaching and active ministry in the global Church where students will be expected to promote a culture of integrity after leaving the STM.
STM Review Process
Cases are reviewed by the Academic Integrity Committee (AIC), which is constituted by (usually four) members of the faculty, one student, and the associate dean for academic affairs (hereafter “academic dean”). The chair of the AIC is a faculty person appointed by the Dean of the STM. All cases are handled with strict confidentiality. When a faculty member determines that a student’s work violates the standards of academic integrity, that faculty member should discuss the violation with the student, ideally in person, or in writing. The violation should be described and documented in a letter and sent to the academic dean along with the following supporting documents:
- Course syllabus with the instructions for the assignment highlighted
- The student’s work
- Evidence that a violation has taken place (e.g., copy of the original publication)
Along with the supporting documentation, the faculty person should clearly state if the violation will or will not incur a grade penalty, and, if so, what the faculty member thinks that penalty should be.
For instances where there is no grade penalty, either because the assignment itself is not graded or because it is a low-weighted assignment, faculty should submit the necessary documentation and a clear explanation for why no penalty was issued in a confidential sealed envelope addressed to the academic dean. The chair of the AIC and the academic dean will meet to determine whether or not a violation has taken place. For these instances where a violation does not incur a grading penalty, an individual meeting between the student and the academic dean may or may not be scheduled. The academic dean will issue a warning letter documenting the violation to the student and to the faculty member. All paperwork associated with the violation will be archived in the office of the academic dean in a confidential file until the student graduates, at which point it will be destroyed. Such instances are considered to be minor violations or warning violations.
If the faculty member decides that the violation is serious enough to warrant a grade penalty, the following procedure will be followed: The faculty person should meet with the student in person or explain the situation by email. This communication should discuss the nature of the academic integrity violation and also how to avoid such violations in the future. There should be a clear statement about the grade for the work without the violation and the additional penalty that is being imposed for the violation. The penalty for the academic integrity violation should take into account the severity of the violation, the complexity of the assignment, and the weight of the assignment. Grade penalties for students found guilty of academic integrity violations should also consider the degree of premeditation involved. If violations of academic integrity occur towards the end of the semester, faculty should issue the final course grade of “I” until the AIC review process has been completed. The faculty person should document, in a letter addressed to the AIC, the meeting with the student, and the grade and grade penalty for the assignment, and forward this letter and all supporting documentation to the academic dean in a confidential file.
Every violation that incurs a grade penalty will fall under full review by the AIC and the academic dean. Upon receiving a report of an academic integrity violation, the academic dean will notify the student of the allegation and set up a meeting with him or her. The student will receive the report of the academic integrity violation report that has been submitted by the faculty member and the grade penalty for the violation. The student will have the chance to respond to the faculty member’s report in an individual meeting with the academic dean, and also be invited to submit his or her response in writing, so that it can be reviewed by the AIC. While a case is pending, the student may not withdraw from the course or program or change status in a course. The academic dean will serve as a non-voting member of and administrative resource for the AIC, acting as a liaison between the student and the AIC and maintaining the committee's record of notifications and relevant materials. In cases involving students from more than one school or students enrolled in joint or dual degree programs, the academic dean will coordinate the relevant academic integrity committees to participate in the review process.
The academic dean will notify the faculty member who reported the violation and the student(s) that the case is under full review by the AIC. Members of the AIC are held to strict confidentiality and may not discuss any case that is under review, even with the student(s) involved. At its discretion, the AIC as a whole may interview any individual, including the student, with knowledge pertinent to the case.
The AIC will review all cases involving a grade penalty. First, the AIC will determine whether or not a violation of academic integrity has taken place by a simple majority vote. Then, the AIC will assess the reasonableness of the penalty that has been given by the faculty member and either approve or reject the grade penalty. The AIC always reserves the right to make its own recommendation for a grade penalty based on the confidential information that it has about the student’s previous record of violations. Because academic integrity is a serious matter at the STM, instances of multiple violations are handled severely and may even result in dismissal from the School. The AIC may recommend a different grading penalty and/or impose additional administrative penalties, such as university probation, suspension, or expulsion, all of which become part of a student’s academic record and will be reported to graduate/professional schools and outside agencies. The academic dean is responsible for communicating the decisions of the AIC in writing to both the student and the faculty member.
The academic dean is also responsible for tracking all violations of academic integrity. A complete file of each case will be kept in a confidential file in the academic dean’s office until the student leaves the school or graduates. Unless the penalties include an action, which is by its nature public (see examples above), the case will not be reported to outside agencies or institutions.
Appeal of the committee’s decision may be made by written request to the Dean of the STM no later than ten days following notice of the committee’s decision. The Dean's decision will be final.
STM Academic Integrity Tutorial
This online tutorial, developed by STM faculty, students, and administrators (with assistance from offices across the University) reviews different instances where academic integrity is in question and introduces students to the academic culture at the STM. As well, the tutorial serves as an introduction to good research practices and resources in theology and ministry at the graduate level. The tutorial is required of all new STM degree and certificate students in their first semester or summer of study. Students who do not complete the tutorial by the deadline set each semester by the associate dean for academic affairs will not be able to register for courses for the following term. Information regarding the administration of the tutorial will be given at new student orientation and through e-mail from the associate dean for academic affairs.