Academic Misconduct - Honor Code

The information on this page represents a section of Williams’ Code of Conduct. Learn more about the Williams Honor System.

  • As an institution fundamentally concerned with the free exchange of ideas, Williams College has always depended on the academic integrity of each of its members. In the spirit of this free exchange, the students and faculty of Williams recognize the necessity and accept the responsibility for academic honesty.

    A student who enrolls at the College thereby agrees to respect and acknowledge the research and ideas of others in his or her work and to abide by those regulations governing work stipulated by the instructor. Any student who breaks these regulations, misrepresents his or her own work, or collaborates in the misrepresentation of another’s work has committed a serious violation of this agreement.

    Students and faculty  report alleged violations of this agreement to the Honor and Discipline Committee. The Honor and Discipline Committee is made up of eight students, eight faculty, and the Dean of the College.  The Dean designates one student as chair. The Faculty Steering Committee designates a Faculty Chair.

    A case begins when a member of the community comes forward with evidence that a violation of the Honor Code might have occurred. This person normally brings the suspected violation to the attention of the Student Chair (SC) or the Faculty Chair (FC). If the Chairs decide that there is sufficient evidence to proceed, the SC meets with the concerned student(s) as soon as possible, informs them of the allegation, and presents them with copies of the supporting evidence. The SC listens to what the student(s) has to say and provides instruction/guidance concerning their rights and the Honor Committee’s standard procedures. The conversation between the student and the SC may become part of the evidence at a hearing at the discretion of the SC. The SC should make clear during the conversation with the student whether the discussion is confidential or not. The SC encourages all students to meet with a dean who can offer them advice and support as they prepare for the hearing.

    Students who are brought before the Honor Committee have the right to be accompanied by an advisor. The advisor must be a member of the College community (i.e., student, faculty or staff); students may not be accompanied by or represented by an attorney. During the hearing the advisor and the accused student may speak to one another, but the advisor may not address the committee or question witnesses.

  • The Honor Committee must have at least three-quarters of its student (voting) members on campus at the time of the hearing. If fewer than five student members can be present at a hearing, both the accused student and the Dean must agree to proceed with the hearing.

    The individual who has brought the case forward presents his or her evidence and explains why s/he suspects an Honor Code violation. Members of the committee, as well as the accused student may ask questions for clarification at any time. After the presentation, committee members and the accused student may ask any additional questions. If there are additional witnesses to the alleged violation of the Honor Code, they are brought in one at a time and questioned first by the committee and then by the accused student.

    Next, the accused student has the opportunity to respond to the charges: this could include providing an explanation, presenting exculpatory evidence, offering an apology, or whatever else the student wishes the committee to hear. The student may choose to call witnesses on his or her behalf. Witnesses are brought in one at a time. The committee and the individual who brought the case forward questions the accused student and any witnesses in turn.

    Once questions have been asked and answered, the individual who brought the case forward and any remaining witnesses leave the hearing. The accused student may address the committee or answer any final questions. When finished, the accused student leaves the room.

    The committee then deliberates over three questions:

    1. Is the alleged behavior an infraction of the Honor Code?
    2. If it is, did the accused student commit the infraction?
    3. If s/he did, what penalty is recommended to the Dean?

    All members of the committee present at the hearing participate in the deliberations; however, only the student members can vote. A vote of three-quarters of those present and voting is required both for finding the student responsible for violating the Honor Code and for recommending a sanction to the Dean. In the event that a three-quarters vote to recommend a sanction cannot be reached, one or more students may endorse separate recommended sanctions. A recommendation for dismissal requires a unanimous vote of the student members present. The dismissal is carried out only upon approval by both the Dean of the College and the President of the College.

    Immediately after the hearing, the SC lets the accused know what the committee decided. The FC relays the same information to the person who brought the case forward.

    If the committee does find the accused responsible for violating the honor code, then the dean will relay the decision formally, in writing. In a letter to the student (copied to the person who brought the case forward, the SC, and the FC), the dean will let the student know the sanction imposed, the reasons for this, and the committee’s particular concerns.

  • Sanctions range from a letter of warning to failure on an assignment, failure in the course, suspension, or expulsion from the College. Sanctions can be augmented by placing the student on disciplinary probation for a set period, ranging from a semester to several years. The standard sanction for a violation of the Honor Code is failure in the course. There are, however,  no set penalties automatically imposed for a given offense. Much depends on the nature of the offense, possible mitigating factors, and the committee’s impression of the student’s understanding of and respect for the Honor Code. A student who is found to have committed a breach of the Code of Conduct or the Honor Code while on disciplinary probation risks severe sanctions, including suspension or expulsion.

  • The accused student may request a reconsideration of the Committee’s decision on the basis of substantial new evidence or improper procedures. A request for reconsideration must be made in writing to one or both of the Committee chairs within a week of the Committee’s decision, or the decision is considered accepted. The request for reconsideration will only be granted if a majority of the Committee members who heard the case agree. The Committee may choose to reconsider either the case in its entirety or just one or more aspects of the case, and in doing so may receive or review any information it determines is relevant to the reconsideration. Following its reconsideration, the Committee will refer its decision to the Dean for the Dean’s action, if any, as appropriate. After a rehearing, the Dean’s decision is permanent. The student does not have any right to contest the rehearing’s decision and sanction.