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.

  • Requirements &Sanctions

    The panel may assign any of the following requirements/sanctions (individually or in combination) in response to a violation of the Honor Code.  Students who are found responsible for violating the Honor Code are expected to learn from the hearing, finding, and requirement/sanction. Subsequent infractions of the honor code (after an initial incident) will almost certainly result in more severe sanctions.

    • Warning: A warning is intended to educate the student about the Honor Code and community standards, and to serve as notice that continuation or repetition of prohibited conduct may be cause for additional disciplinary action. A warning does not become part of the student's permanent record. Students who receive a warning can answer negatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. A warning remains in a student's file until graduation, when it is removed.
    • Mandatory educational tutorial: This Instructional material is designed to educate students about the importance of academic integrity, and to serve as a guide for proper practices around collaboration, citation, quotation, and more. This educational sanction does not become part of the student's permanent record. Students who receive this sanction can answer negatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. Notation of an educational requirement remains in a student's file until graduation, when it is removed. Students who fail to complete the tutorial by the end of the semester in which the infraction occurred will automatically be placed on disciplinary probation.
    • Failure in the assignment: The student will automatically receive an F for the assignment in which the infraction was committed. This sanction does not automatically become part of the student's permanent record unless it is accompanied by disciplinary probation or suspension. Students who receive this sanction can answer negatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. Notation of the hearing outcome remains in a student's file until graduation, when it is removed.
    • Failure in the course: The student will automatically receive an F for the course in which the infraction was committed. This sanction does not automatically become part of the student's permanent record unless it is accompanied by disciplinary probation or suspension. Students who receive this sanction can answer negatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. The failing grade will appear as an E on the academic transcript. Notation of the hearing outcome remains in a student's file until graduation, when it is removed.
    • Disciplinary Probation: To be assigned for a specified period of time. This sanction becomes part of the student's permanent record, and remains on file for seven years. Students who receive this sanction must answer affirmatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. Subsequent violation of the Honor Code will normally result in suspension or expulsion from the College. The student meets regularly with a dean during the probationary period.
    • Suspension:Separation from the College, and exclusion from College premises, and from other privileges and activities. Readmission to the College after the term of suspension is not automatic but requires an application to the Dean of College. This sanction becomes part of the student's permanent record, and remains on file for seven years. Students who receive this sanction must answer affirmatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline. Subsequent violation of the Honor Code will normally result in suspension or expulsion from the College.
    • Expulsion:Permanent termination of student status, and exclusion from College premises, privileges, and activities. This sanction becomes part of the student's permanent record, and remains on file permanently. Students who receive this sanction must answer affirmatively if they are asked if they have been subject to College discipline..
    • Other Actions:In addition to or in place of the above actions, the hearing panel may assign such other penalties, as it deems appropriate.

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  • 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.