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Addressing Academic Misconduct

Given that research, scholarship, and teaching are the cornerstones of the University, fostering a culture of honesty and integrity within the academic disciplines is essential. Thus, all forms of academic dishonesty compromise the integrity of the University, its students, and alumni. 

The Office of Academic Integrity (OAI) reviews and addresses concerns of student-involved academic misconduct in partnership with instructors. Together, we seek to emphasize the importance of academic honesty and contribute to the overall success and reputation of the university.

Reporting Academic Misconduct

If an instructor has reason to believe, based on observation or other information, that a student has violated the university’s academic integrity standards, they are encouraged to submit a report to OAI.

Instructors may consult with OAI at any point during the process and OAI can advise on how to respond to an incident, help explain the reporting options, discuss how to manage the student’s continued participation in the course, and answer any other questions that come up. However, OAI does not recommend or apply grade-based outcomes for academic integrity violations. The instructor will assign appropriate grades and grade penalties in consideration of OAI’s findings.

Reporting Options

When an instructor discovers an incident of alleged academic misconduct, they may choose to either initiate a Faculty-Student Resolution or Administrative Review. Both are submitted to the Office of Academic Integrity.

Instructors are encouraged to report incidents swiftly and must submit reports within one year of discovering the alleged violation. 

Supporting documentation should minimally include:

    • The original version of the work in question with any applicable notes
    • Assignment/Exam instructions
    • Course syllabus
    • Incident description explaining the instructor’s concerns
    • Supporting documentation (e.g., Turnitin similarity report, alleged source materials, witness statements, etc.)
    • Any communication (e.g., emails, texts, etc.) with the student(s) regarding the alleged violation
Materials submitted to OAI will be shared with the alleged student using appropriate redactions to protect the identities of other students identified in the report.
 

Optional Initial Meeting

Instructors may elect to meet with students to discuss the alleged misconduct. Meetings are required if an FSR process is desired. Otherwise, instructors are not required to meet with students to discuss their concerns.

If a meeting occurs, instructors are encouraged to update OAI with any new information obtained so that it may be included in the student’s case file.

If an instructor obtains new information that resolves or addresses their concerns about a student’s alleged academic misconduct, they may request to withdraw their complaint with the Office of Academic Integrity. The instructor should promptly provide the new information to OAI in writing, explaining how it has resolved their concerns about the reported violation. OAI will review the request and the new information provided. If sufficient evidence exists to close the case, OAI will inform the student that the matter is withdrawn without a finding. Any holds related to the withdrawn case will be released.

Sample Student Notification

Instructors are encouraged to notify the student that a report of alleged academic misconduct has been submitted to OAI.

Email Example:

Dear STUDENT,

I am writing to inform you of a concern regarding your [assignment/exam] that you submitted for [course number and section] on [date]. After reviewing your work, I noticed some irregularities that I’d like to discuss with you. 

As an instructor, I am required to report any suspected misconduct to the Office of Academic Integrity (OAI). I submitted a report on [date], and I expect OAI will be in touch with you to discuss the matter further. I encourage you to work with them to help resolve this situation. Please know OAI serves as a neutral party and will give your situation fair consideration and attention.

In the meantime, due to this pending case, you cannot withdraw from the course or participate in the Pass/No Pass grading option. The Registrar may reverse any attempts to do so. I understand this restriction can be frustrating, but it is standard policy to maintain academic integrity. 

I have included OAI’s contact information below, as they can best advise you on next steps and answer any questions about the process you may have. I also encourage you to review the USC Student Handbook to learn more about the university’s policies and expectations regarding academic integrity.

Office of Academic Integrity:
Email: academicintegrity@usc.edu
Phone: 213-764-4163

Sincerely,
[Instructor’s Name]

Assigning Grades (Pending Cases)

Students accused of academic dishonesty are expected to continue participating in the course while OAI reviews the matter. The instructor should assign a mark of “MG” (missing grade) until they receive notification from OAI that a final decision has been made.

Instructors will be asked to change the student’s grade from MG to an appropriate letter grade based on OAI’s findings.

If the student is not found responsible for a violation, they will not receive a grade penalty.

Registration/Enrollment/Degree Conferral

Students may not withdraw from a course in which they have committed or have been accused of committing an academic integrity violation. Students found to have withdrawn from a course in which an academic integrity violation is alleged or determined will be re-enrolled in the course.

In cases where a student has registered for a course on a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis and an academic integrity violation has occurred, a letter grade will be assigned when a grading option exists.

The Office of Academic Integrity may place a degree hold on a student’s account to prevent the conferral of their degree while a review of an academic integrity violation is pending. Timely submission of an incident report, especially near the conclusion of an academic term, is crucial to ensure that students do not receive a degree before the incident is fully resolved.

Unauthorized or Inappropriate use of Generative AI Tools

As Generative AI tools like ChatGPT become more accessible, instructors are encouraged to set clear expectations around proper usage. University policy states that work authored by another (including material created by ChatGPT and other Generative AI tools) but represented as the student’s work, whether paraphrased or copied verbatim or in near-verbatim form, is considered plagiarism. The Office of Academic Integrity encourages instructors to outline expectations in their syllabi and identify if Generative AI is appropriate. Whether you decide to encourage the use of Generative AI in your course, permit its use for specific assignments, or prohibit the use of it entirely, sample language can be found at https://cet.usc.edu/teaching-resources/syllabus-template/.

Identifying and Discouraging Inappropriate use of Generative AI Tools

While automated detection tools may seem promising, their capabilities and limitations warrant careful consideration. These technologies cannot definitively identify AI-generated content; worse, they have been shown to produce false positives, unfairly implicating students. Overreliance on automated detection risks incorrectly labeling student work as AI-generated, possibly damaging trust and harming innocent students.

The university is reviewing various products to aid in effectively and accurately identifying generative AI in academic work. In the meantime, below are some techniques that may help discourage and identify the use of Artificial Intelligence applications like ChatGPT:

    • Craft assignment prompts that require applying course concepts to specific contexts. This makes generically fabricated responses less plausible and more easily detectable. 
    • Compare the assignment of concern to a student’s previous work. Dramatic inconsistencies in voice, style, and grasp of concepts may indicate the use of AI-generative tools. You may even identify inconsistencies within a single submitted assignment.
    • Gently inquire about their writing process and sources. Students are often eager to discuss insights from their work and learning about their writing process (when they started the assignment, what was their drafting/editing process, what tools were used, etc.) may help determine if unauthorized resources were used.
    • Verify citations and quotes. AI tools often generate fictional sources and misattribute source material.

Final Grade Determination

Instructors will be informed when the academic integrity review is completed and if sufficient evidence was provided to find the student responsible for one or more alleged violations.

If OAI concludes that academic misconduct occurred, the instructor will apply an appropriate grade penalty based on the severity of the violation. However, if OAI finds insufficient evidence of misconduct, the instructor may not penalize the student’s grade. Instead, the final grade should reflect the student’s academic performance in the course without consideration of the unfounded misconduct allegations. Ultimately, the instructor has the authority to assign grades according to their assessment of each student’s work while taking OAI’s conclusions into account.