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The Honor Code

The Honor Code is a fundamental principle of conduct for all members of the Caltech community.   As members of the Caltech community, graduate students are obligated to uphold the honor system.  The Honor Code (HC) states that

"No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community."

The Graduate Honor Council

The Graduate Honor Council (GHC) is the official student group that reviews cases of alleged coursework honor code violations and makes recommendations to the Dean of Graduate Studies for action in those cases in which a violation is found to have been committed. 

The GHC is led by two chairs and is made up of students with a broad distribution of academic interests and who are in good academic standing with the Institute.  GHC chairs and members must attend trainings and meetings and serve on campus when called. When considering honor code violations, 7 members of the GHC will be selected to hear the case by the chairs.  

Reporting a Violation

Any member of the community may report a potential honor code violation to the co-chairs of the GHC by emailing GHC@caltech.edu.  Reports should not be made to faculty, the Graduate Studies Office, teaching assistants, or other community members.  Reports should go directly to the GHC using the following guidelines. 

  • If you believe that an honor code violation has occurred, please report the suspected violation to the GHC if this involves a graduate student by emailing GHC@caltech.edu, along with a summary with your concerns.  If this involves an undergraduate student, then the Undergraduate Board of Control (BOC) should be notified at boc@caltech.edu, along with a summary with your concerns.

  • Instructors, faculty and TAs should not independently investigate suspected honor code violations but turn these over immediately to the GHC or BOC, making copies of the suspected materials and providing these to the GHC or BOC.  They should assign a grade assuming no violation has taken place.  Corrective action will occur once a case has been investigated and the recommendations of the GHC have been considered by the Dean of Graduate Studies. 
  • Members of the community are not responsible to determine if a violation of the honor code has taken place; that is the work of the GHC.  Please contact the co-chairs and let them investigate your concerns. One of the chairs of the GHC will follow-up as soon as possible.

Confidentiality

It is very important to maintain confidentiality and not discuss cases, pending or closed, with other students or faculty. Cases do not always result in convictions and even when they do, the students involved may continue to be enrolled at Caltech. Hearsay and innuendo can be very damaging to a student's career and create an environment which is unacceptable at the Institute.  

If there are questions about how a case is being handled or the outcome, please contact or refer all inquiries to the Dean or Associate Dean of Graduate Studies.  

Violations Considered by the GHC

  • Examples of honor code violations include but are not limited to plagiarism, violations of the collaboration policy in a class and/or using resources that were strictly prohibited for homework. 

  • Examples of incidents that are not handled by the GHC include accusations of research misconduct, which are handled by the Office of Research Compliance; grade disputes, which are handled by the Office of the Provost; and Institute Policy violations which are handled by the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies or the appropriate administrative organization.

The Investigative Process

  • Once the GHC co-chairs have learned about a concern, they will do an initial investigation by interviewing the people involved, reviewing documents and/or considering other information.

  • If you are reported to the GHC for a violation of the honor code, the co-chairs will meet with you and discuss the allegations against you.

  • If it appears that a violation may have taken place, a hearing of the entire council will be scheduled. The person accused may be called to respond to questions of the GHC and will be given an opportunity to present information to support his or her version of the events. The accused will also be provided with an opportunity to provide a list of witnesses who should be interviewed by the GHC.

  • Other relevant parties also may be called to respond to questions. If there is reason to believe, after running an investigation, that a violation may have taken place, a hearing of the Graduate Honor Council will be scheduled. The person accused may be called to testify at this hearing.

Recommendations and Decisions

  • The GHC will complete its investigation and recommend the appropriate actions to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

  • The Dean will meet with the co-chairs of the GHC to hear their recommendations.  The Dean will make a final decision in consultation with the GHC chairs.

Notifications

  • The Dean will inform the subject of the investigation of the outcome and if necessary, meet with them as well as any other affected parties.

  • The class instructor will be notified of the outcome and if steps are to be taken to nullify advantage.  If re-grading is needed, the Dean will indicate to the instructor what material needs to be reconsidered and the instructor will be asked to email the new grade to the Registrar, who will amend the student's record.  

  • The GHC will inform all parties that the investigation has concluded and that any inquiries should be directed to the Dean.

Appeals

  • Students may appeal the outcome of an investigation to the Vice President of Student Affairs. 

Role of Faculty

Cooperation of faculty with the GHC and honor code system is essential to the functioning of the honor code.  Some of the specific roles of the faculty include: creation of a collaboration policy for each class they teach, distribution of that policy to students at the start of every term and to the Registrar as a matter of record, reporting of suspected violations to the GHC in a timely manner, and cooperation with the GHC during the case process.  Faculty members that report suspect violations from their classes will be informed of the outcome of every case.  Faculty and instructors are responsible for re-grading material, if necessary, and submitting a new final grade to the Registrar.