Important Reminders: Academic Integrity and Honor Code

December 7, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented so many challenges this year, including in how we teach and how our students learn. Your creativity and ingenuity have been so inspiring. Thank you for all that you continue to do. We have all been strained and stressed this year, and that added strain, combined with the temptations of online learning, can lead some students to make poor decisions, including engaging in academic misconduct or dishonesty.

We are asking for your support in reinforcing our campus commitment to academic integrity. Increases in academic misconduct are a trend among colleges and universities across the country, including UC Berkeley. Current data shows that Berkeley has already exceeded the semester totals for 2018 and 2019 in the number of academic misconduct cases reported to the Center for Student Conduct (CSC) this fall.

Berkeley Honor Code
Both faculty and students have moral obligations under the Berkeley Honor Code, which reads simply “As a member of the UC Berkeley community, I act with honesty, integrity, and respect for others.” The Honor Code was specifically written in an inclusive way so that it is not only about plagiarism or cheating on exams, but broadly about our shared commitment to engaging with each other with integrity and mutual respect. For faculty, acting with integrity and respect for others includes helping our students to learn how to be honest scholars, and treating them fairly if we suspect they have failed to do so.

Shortly, students will receive a CALmessage reminder about Berkeley’s Honor Code and their role in ensuring academic integrity. We ask that you also remind students of the Honor Code and advise them to be cautious of online companies that offer tutoring services, as specific sites are known to facilitate misconduct. It may be a violation of the Code of Student Conduct to view or post on these sites. Instead, we recommend students utilize academic support services available through the Student Learning Center, which is free, offers remote services, and does not risk leading them into misconduct.

The CSC can also assist faculty who discover course materials or exams posted on an online tutoring website. Please contact the CSC as they can coordinate with the company to have them remove the material and provide information about who posted the material and who viewed it.

Handling Suspected Misconduct
If you suspect a misconduct violation, the CSC has created an Academic Misconduct Resource Sheet for Instructors (a student-facing version is also available). You may choose to report allegations of academic misconduct to the CSC via the CSC reporting form. Graduate student instructors should consult with their course instructor on any suspected academic misconduct.

Faculty can attempt to directly address the alleged misconduct with undergraduate students through the Faculty Disposition Form (FDF). If the student accepts responsibility for the violation, they can sign the FDF with the faculty member. However, students are not required to sign the FDF, and if they choose not to sign, or the faculty member does not attempt to engage in that process, the case can be referred to the CSC for adjudication. The FDF is applicable for undergraduate students only; cases involving suspected academic misconduct by graduate students will be processed through the typical conduct process.

The Center for Student Conduct has drafted sample templates and language for instructors to utilize when communicating with students about suspected misconduct.

If the CSC finds a student responsible for academic misconduct in a course, the student will not be allowed to drop that course, change the grading option, or request an Incomplete (or freeze an Incomplete). If the college does grant a drop or approves a change, or the student withdraws, and they are later found responsible, the course will be reinstated to the student’s record.

Please note that academic sanctions, such as a grade penalty, may be imposed by faculty members only. Additionally, grade penalties are advised only if the student has been found responsible.

Remote Examinations
The Academic Senate has continued to update their Best Practices for Remote Examinations and we encourage you to consult their guidance on safeguarding academic integrity. As a reminder, only courses participating in the Remote Proctoring Pilot may use video proctoring for final exams this semester. The pilot will continue in Spring 2021; if you are interested in participating in this pilot next semester please email for more details.

Thank you for your support in this matter, and best wishes as you wrap up the semester.


Catherine P. Koshland
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education

Jenna Johnson-Hanks
Chair, Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate

Becca Lopez 
Assistant Dean of Students & Director, Center for Student Conduct

This message was sent to all faculty, instructors, and graduate student instructors.