The publication Rights, Rules, Responsibilities defines policies and rules with respect to accepted standards of conduct for students. It also includes the constitution of the Honor Committee and a detailed account of standards governing academic integrity and behavioral conduct.
Jurisdiction over Undergraduates for Violations of Academic Rules and Regulations
Jurisdiction over violations of academic rules and regulations rests with two distinct committees at Princeton. All written examinations, tests, and quizzes that take place in class are conducted under the honor system. All violations of the honor system are the concern of the Undergraduate Honor Committee. Violations of rules and regulations pertaining to all other academic work, including essays, term papers, and laboratory reports, fall under the jurisdiction of the Faculty/Student Committee on Discipline. Should there be any uncertainty regarding which body is responsible for the adjudication of a particular case, clarification should be requested from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the chair of the Honor Committee.
Princeton’s honor system was established by the undergraduates in 1893 and has been in effect without interruption since that time. It has been successful because generations of undergraduates have respected it, and by common agreement, have given it highest place among their obligations as Princeton students.
Student obligation to the Honor Code
At Princeton all in-class written examinations, tests, and quizzes are conducted under the honor system. Its constitution is printed in full below. A letter from the chair of the Honor Committee explaining the honor system is included in the online matriculation website. Newly admitted students then signify by submitting the Honor Code statement that they understand and will abide by the conditions under which the honor system is conducted. Final entrance to the University is contingent upon the committee’s receipt of this submission. Status as a student “in good standing” and graduation from the University are contingent upon continued participation in the honor system. All students acknowledge the obligation to report any suspected violation of the honor system that they have observed. It is the common understanding among Princeton students that, where the honor system is concerned, an individual’s obligation to the undergraduate student body as a whole transcends any reluctance to report another student. Thus, under the honor system, students have a twofold obligation: individually, they must not violate the code, and as a community, they are responsible to see that suspected violations are reported.
Examination procedures set by faculty
Procedures during the course of an examination are determined by the faculty member present. Students may not leave the examination room without the specific permission of the faculty member. Such permission must be granted uniformly; that is, if one student is allowed to leave the room, no other may be denied such permission upon request. Students may not take their examinations with them outside of the examination room. Students are advised to sit one seat apart from other students, to refrain from bringing notes and books into the examination room, and if possible, to avoid sitting near those with whom they have studied. Laptop computers as well as handheld electronic communication devices (e.g., cell phones, BlackBerry devices, etc.) are forbidden in final examination rooms. Additionally, students may not wear headphones attached to audio devices during examinations. The faculty member, who is present only briefly to answer questions and to pick up the completed examinations, has the responsibility to make sure the examinations are turned in by students at the
Under the honor system, the students assume full responsibility for honesty in written examinations. Examinations are not supervised. The instructor in charge
distributes the examination papers, waits for a short time for any questions, and then leaves the room, returning at the end of the stated period to collect the answer books. On each examination paper, the student writes out and signs the following statement: “I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination.”
Role of Honor Committee
The Honor Committee consists of two current class presidents, two past class presidents, two members of the freshman class, and undergraduates selected by application from the student body at large. Violations of the honor system are the concern of the Undergraduate Honor Committee. When a report of a suspected violation of the honor system is received, the Honor Committee immediately conducts an investigation. If the investigation indicates that it is warranted, the full Honor Committee is convened and a confidential hearing is held. If the student in question is acquitted, all records of the hearing are destroyed. If a student is found guilty, the committee recommends an appropriate penalty to the dean of undergraduate students. Normally, a student found guilty of violating the Honor Code can expect to be suspended from the University for one, two, or three years. A second offense will result in expulsion. Censure may be added to all penalties to underscore the seriousness of the violation.
Much of the internal organization and virtually all of the operating procedures of the Honor Committee are determined by the committee itself. The tone and style of each year’s committee may vary, but there is continuity in procedure from year to year. Generally there are at least three members on the committee who have served previously.
All cases are conducted in accordance to the procedure outlined in the Honor Code Constitution. A typical case would be conducted as follows:
Report and investigation of a suspected violation
A suspected violation of the honor system is usually brought to the attention of the Honor Committee by a reporting witness. The reporting witness is typically
faculty member, a student, or the violator. After receiving the report, the chair of the committee will assign two members of the committee to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegation. If necessary, the investigators will meet with the student in question. The meeting in which investigators notify the student in question of the alleged violation will be recorded to ensure fairness. The student in question may also have a witness present during the meeting with the investigators. If the chair and investigators jointly determine that the facts of the case should be evaluated by the entire committee, a hearing will be scheduled. A representative from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students will serve as a procedural adviser for the student in question. The two investigators and/or the chair will inform the student in question that the case will proceed to a hearing, and the student will be given at least 24 hours notice. The committee may also ask potential witnesses to appear at the hearing. As much confidentiality as possible is maintained during the investigation in order to
protect the principals from rumor.
In the hearing, witnesses provide information about the possible violation that has been observed and are questioned by the committee. Next, the student in question is given the opportunity to respond to the allegation of a possible violation. The student in question is urged to choose a peer representative who will be present throughout the hearing. Only a current undergraduate member of the University community who is not a member of the Honor Committee may serve as the peer representative. The peer representative may ask questions of all witnesses. Investigators do not participate in deliberations or hearings, but only serve to corroborate information pertaining to the investigation following each witness’ testimony. Before the committee begins deliberations on guilt or innocence, the peer representative and the student in question will have the opportunity to make any final remarks. The identities of the student in question, student reporting witnesses and any other student witnesses are kept completely confidential. This helps to ensure that Honor Code-related cases will not lead to prejudice outside the hearing room.
Evidence for the hearing usually includes the examination(s) in question and any other relevant material which are duplicated, if necessary, for use by the individual members of the committee during the hearing. If a faculty member reports the alleged violation, or if consultation with the professor administering the examination or the preceptor or section leader of the student in question seems helpful, the committee may call that person or persons to the actual hearing to discuss the facts as then known. The committee may also have present, during the hearing, a student or faculty member who is knowledgeable in the field of the examination in question.
After a report of a suspected violation is received, the chair consults with the dean of undergraduate students or the dean’s designee concerning the general character of the suspected violation, the nature of the investigation in progress, and any questions that may arise during the course of the investigation. The chair may also, if the chair deems it necessary, consult with the dean during the course of the hearing. The chair also informs an associate dean of undergraduate students of the name of the person under investigation. The associate dean of undergraduate students provides the chair and the two investigators, prior to any scheduled hearing, whatever information is determined appropriate concerning the student in question for consideration by the
committee. This might include any special or extraordinary circumstances affecting the student. While an investigation or hearing is underway, an administrative hold may, in situations where necessary, be placed on the transcript of the student in question.
The only adequate defense for a student accused of an Honor Code violation is that the actions did not, in fact, constitute a violation. In determining whether an Honor Code violation has occurred or the severity of such a violation, the committee will take into account whether the student should have reasonably understood that the actions were in violation of University policy and/or exam room procedures. Neither the defense that the student was ignorant of the regulations concerning the exam nor the defense that the student was under pressure at the time the violation was committed is considered an adequate defense.
Decision and results
The principals and witnesses may be called for testimony several times before the committee renders a judgment. The committee deliberates in private and arrives at a decision by individual vote. If the student is found to have intentionally misled the committee during the course of the hearing, the committee may take that fact into account in reaching a conclusion and assigning a penalty. When a decision is reached, the student in question is called and informed of the judgment. Then the reporting witness is informed of the judgment, thanked for the exercise of a responsibility that is difficult but necessary, and cautioned against discussion of the case.
If the student in question is acquitted, all written record of the student’s involvement in the case is destroyed.
Guilty verdict and consequences
If a student is found guilty, the student is informed of the penalty, which is, at the committee’s discretion, a one, two, or three year suspension, a suspension with conditions, or in the case of a second offense, permanent expulsion. The committee shall also have recourse, in the presence of extenuating circumstances, to probation up to four years, which becomes a part of the student’s permanent record. Only the dean of the college may review the final penalty.
An appeal of a decision of the Honor Committee should be directed to the Office of the Dean of the College within one week of the committee’s decision. Such appeals can only be made on the grounds of procedural unfairness or harmful bias. The penalty levied by the Honor Committee may not be increased upon appeal. If the dean of the college determines that a penalty of the Honor Committee should be reduced, the dean will make a recommendation to the president, describing the reasons for the proposed modification, and the president will decide whether or not to implement the recommendation.
Constitution of the Honor System
Adopted by the undergraduates in 1893. Amended in 2012, 2014, and 2015. Revised in 2015, 2017, and 2018.
Article I - Charter and Composition of the Honor Committee
1. The Honor Committee consists of fifteen members who will represent the student body and address all suspected violations of the Honor Code.
1. The members of this Committee will be the presidents of the sophomore and junior classes, former sophomore and junior class presidents, two members of the freshman class, and members to be appointed from the student body at large until the Committee consists of fifteen members.
2. Appointed members.
a. The freshman class members will be appointed in the fall semester by a subcommittee comprising four members of the Honor Committee and the Undergraduate Student Government president.
b. Following spring Undergraduate Student Government elections, the Honor Committee will solicit applications from the student body at large.
c. Appointed members will serve one-year terms, but may seek reappointment thereafter. Committee members seeking reappointment may not participate in the selection process. All members of the Committee excluding the members up for reappointment will reach consensus on whether to retain appointed members or to replace them with a new applicant.
d. All appointments are subject to approval by the Undergraduate Student Government.
3. Ex officio members. The newly elected sophomore and junior class presidents and the newly appointed members will normally become members of the Committee at the beginning of the fall term following their election/appointment, but, if needed, can serve on the Committee immediately after their election.
C. Dismissal and Replacement of Members
1. The Committee may dismiss a member for neglect of duty. A vote of twelve of the fourteen other members is required for such a dismissal. If any member becomes unable to serve for any reason, or is dismissed, a new member will be appointed by the Honor Committee as explained in Article 1, Section B, subject to approval by the Undergraduate Student Government. Any member who becomes unable to serve or is dismissed for neglect of duty must go through the same selection process as a new applicant if they wish to rejoin the committee.
D. Clerk, Chair and Chair Emeritus
1. Clerk. Every academic year, after the first of December, a subcommittee comprising the senior class members of the Honor Committee, the Undergraduate Student Government president, and the Clerk will select a sophomore member of the Committee to serve as Clerk of the Honor Committee during the following spring and fall semesters. This subcommittee will interview all interested sophomore members of the Committee and appoint one sophomore by a majority vote. This sophomore member will automatically become a member of the Committee the following year. In the event that the Clerk withdraws from the University, or is otherwise unable to serve as Chair, the subcommittee described above will convene to select a new Clerk from the Committee members in the spring semester of their sophomore year or fall semester of their junior year.
2. Chair. The Clerk will become the Chair of the Honor Committee at the beginning of the spring semester in their junior year. In the event that the Chair withdraws from the University, or is otherwise unable to serve as Chair in the spring semester of their junior year, the Chair Emeritus will serve as Chair until they graduate, at which time the Clerk will become Chair. In the event that the Chair withdraws from the University, or is otherwise unable to serve as Chair, in the fall semester of their senior year, the Clerk will become Chair.
3. Chair Emeritus. The former Chair will take on an advisory role, in addition to their responsibilities as a committee member, as Chair Emeritus during the spring semester of their senior year, to guide the new Chair. The Chair Emeritus may serve as acting Chair if needed.
4. Evaluation. Each Honor Committee member that is not currently nor ever has been the Clerk or the Chair will be afforded ONE opportunity to “evaluate” the Clerkship or Chairship.
The evaluation process will proceed as follows:
a. A member of the Honor Committee will initiate the process by providing a statement outlining their reasons for the evaluation to both the Undergraduate Student Government Senate President and the sitting Chair of the Honor Committee. The member should declare upon submission of this statement whether or not they plan to continue with the subsequent steps of the process, keeping in mind that they are allotted only ONE opportunity to conduct an evaluation. If the member chooses not to continue with the subsequent steps of the process, the evaluation ends here.
b. If the member chooses to continue with the process, both the member that has submitted the evaluation and the Clerk or Chair then under evaluation will interview before an independent committee. This will only take place provided that the member belongs to the constitutionally appropriate year for the position under evaluation.
c. The independent committee will be selected by the Undergraduate Student Government President and composed of nine students. Three of these students must have at least one full semester on the Honor Committee, at least one of whom must be a current member of the Honor Committee. The remaining students must be elected Undergraduate Student Government Senate officials.
d. The independent committee will then determine by a two-thirds vote whether the sitting Clerk or Chair will be replaced in their executive capacity by the member submitting the evaluation.
e. Should the independent committee choose to change the Clerkship or Chairship, such a change is only to take place the following semester, thereby providing a period for transition during the recess.
f. The independent committee will release a statement outlining the criteria upon which the outcome was decided, regardless of whether or not there was a change. This will be done with due consideration for confidentiality for all those involved in the process.
Article II - Violations
A. The Honor Pledge
1. The Honor Pledge is as follows: "I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination." This must at all times be written in full on the examination paper and signed by the student on the examination. Any undergraduate who fails to write and sign the pledge on the examination paper will be reminded to do so by the instructor. If the instructor or the Committee cannot promptly obtain the written and signed pledge, the student will be reported to the Committee for investigation. Unwillingness to sign the pledge following notification by the instructor or the Committee will be prima facie evidence of a violation of the Honor Code.
1. Violations of the Honor Code consist of:
a. Any attempt to gain an unfair advantage in regard to an examination, both inside and outside the examination room.
b. Any attempt to give assistance, both inside and outside the examination room, whether the student attempting to give assistance has completed their own work or not.
2. Specific violations include, but are not limited to:
a. Tampering with a graded exam;
b. Claiming another's work to be one's own; and
c. Obtaining or attempting to obtain, previous to any examinations, copies of the examination papers or examination questions, or any illegal knowledge of these questions.
d. Other actions in violation of the policies set forth by the professor.
1. Committing perjury, defined as lying to or purposely misleading the Committee, is also a violation of the Honor Code. It will not be considered perjury for a student to maintain their own innocence.
D. Findings of Responsibility
1. A student will be found responsible if the Committee finds overwhelmingly convincing evidence that the student ought reasonably to have understood that their actions were in violation of the Honor Code.
E. Reporting Suspected Violations
1. Every student is obligated to report to the Honor Committee any suspected violation of the Honor Code that they have observed. The Committee will make every attempt to ensure the anonymity of reporting students. Students may make reports by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, contacting the chair directly, or any member of the committee.
Article III - Investigations and Hearings
A. Rights for Students In Question Under Investigation
A student suspected of a possible violation of the Honor Code is referred to as the “student in question.” During the investigation and hearing process the rights of the student in question include:
1. Rights during investigation
a. The right to be informed that they are under investigation as the student in question before answering any questions.
b. The right to have a witness present during the initial interview with investigators.
c. The right to review in advance of the hearing all documents constituting direct material evidence.
d. The right to call witnesses.
e. The right to maintain innocence at all times during the process.
2. Rights during Adjudication
a. The right to have a representative from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students serve as a procedural adviser prior to the hearing.
b. The right to choose a current undergraduate member of the University community to serve as a peer representative. While the student in question is expected to provide answers to questions, the peer representative may clarify or supplement their answers. The peer representative may also question witnesses. A current member of the Honor Committee may not serve as a peer representative.
c. The right, in the event of a finding of responsibility, to receive a copy of the chair’s summary of the case. This summary must outline the charge made against the student, describe the evidence and testimony provided in support of this charge, and provide the rationale for the Committee's finding, both in terms of verdict and punishment assigned.
d. The right, in the event of a finding of responsibility, to poll the votes of the individual Committee members.
e. The right, in the event of a finding of responsibility, to listen to any recording made of the hearing.
1. All those involved in the investigation and hearing process are expected to maintain the confidentiality of all student involved in the case.
C. Investigation Procedures
1. Upon receiving a report of a suspected violation, the Chair will appoint two members on a rotating basis to conduct a preliminary investigation.
2. If an allegation of an Honor Code violation is made over the summer, the Committee will make every reasonable attempt to investigate it in a timely manner. All cases that cannot be practically concluded over the summer will resume in the fall.
3. The appointed investigators may:
a. Meet with the student or students in question;
b. Meet with witnesses;
c. Collect any relevant documents or material evidence;
d. Obtain any other information bearing on the allegation.
4. When making initial contact with a student, the investigators will disclose the student's status as a student in question or a witness. If the student's status changes during the course of the investigation, the investigators will inform them as soon as possible.
5. The investigators’ meeting with the student in question will proceed as follows:
a. The investigators will explain the rights of the student in question (see III.A. above).
b. The student in question will be asked to sign a statement prior to a hearing saying they have been informed of their rights under the Honor Constitution.
c. The student in question will be asked to provide an account of the suspected violation in question.
d. The student in question will be given a letter, describing the suspected violation in reasonable detail, from the reporting witness. The letter need not be signed.
e. The investigators will explain the nature of the suspected violation.
6. Upon the completion of the investigation, the two investigators in consultation with the Chair will determine whether or not a hearing is warranted.
a. If a hearing is not warranted, all records of the case that personally identify the student in question or any other student will be immediately destroyed.
b. If a hearing is warranted, the student may exercise their right of up to seven days of preparation.
D. Hearing Procedures
1. The place and time of all hearings will be determined by the Chair.
a. The Committee will make every reasonable attempt to hold and adjudicate the hearing in a timely manner. All cases that cannot be practically concluded over the summer will resume in the fall.
2. The hearing will proceed as follows.
a. The Chair will preside and will appoint six other members to hear the case.
b. The Committee will use a recording device to record the proceedings of each case.
c. The student in question will be given the opportunity to make statements, answer questions, present evidence, and question witnesses.
d. Members of the Committee may ask questions at any point, seek additional materials or testimony, visit any relevant location, recall or review evidence or testimony provided earlier, and in general seek to obtain any information bearing on the accusation.
e. It is incumbent upon the Honor Committee members to investigate all possible connections between the student in question and all witnesses protecting the confidentiality of all parties involved.
3. After testimony is concluded, the Chair and the six other Committee members who conducted the hearing will deliberate in private. Deliberations will proceed as follows.
a. The Committee will first deliberate on the question of whether to find the student in question responsible for the violation charged.
i. At least six of the seven members must be overwhelmingly convinced that the student in question is responsible for the student in question to be found responsible.
ii. Documented evidence and plausibility of method, in the absence of demonstrated intent, may be enough to convict.
b. Should the Committee find the student in question responsible, the appropriate penalty will be determined by a majority vote.
c. After deliberations have concluded, the Committee will inform the student in question of the decision.
d. If the student in question was found responsible, the Chair will write a summary directed to the dean of undergraduate students. The penalty will take effect upon imposition by the dean of undergraduate students.
4. A student will not be subjected to a second hearing for the same offense, except in light of new and important evidence, as determined by a majority vote of the Committee. The testimony of one individual, without more, will not warrant another hearing.
Article IV - Penalties
Students found responsible for violating the Honor Code will receive penalties in accordance with Rights, Rules, Responsibilities as follows:
1. Normally, the first offense will result in a suspension of one year from the University. In all cases, the Committee may exercise the option of suspension for two or three years. This rule is subject to the following exceptions:
a. Where a student is found responsible for writing overtime on an examination or otherwise gaining a time advantage, the Committee will recommend a punishment of disciplinary probation and recommend that the student receive a zero for the examination. However, in especially egregious cases of writing overtime, the Committee will recommend a punishment of a one-year suspension.
b. Where there are extenuating circumstances, the first offense may result in a penalty of disciplinary probation. Extenuating circumstances may include, but are not limited to, situations where there was a substantial, material error on the part of an agent of the university, and situations where the Committee fails to conclude that a student should reasonably have understood that their actions were in violation of the Honor Code.
c. If perjury occurs, the Committee may impose a penalty of two years for the first offense.
2. Normally, a second violation of the Honor Code, or a violation of the Honor Code following a suspension for a violation of the University’s academic integrity regulations, will result in expulsion from the University.
a. Students whose first Honor Code or academic integrity violation resulted in a penalty of probation may face either suspension or expulsion should they be found responsible for a second violation of the Honor Code.
3. In cases adjudicated prior to the last day of classes, if the final decision is a separation from the University (e.g., suspension or expulsion), the student will normally not earn credit for the semester in which the infraction occurred. If the case is adjudicated during reading or exam period or if the student has essentially completed course requirements while awaiting the final disposition of the matter, obtaining credit for the semester will be at the discretion of the Committee. In such cases, the Honor Committee will normally recommend that the student receive a failing grade in the course in which the violation occurred.
A student found responsible for a violation may appeal the Honor Committee’s decision as follows:
1. Only the dean of the college may review the final penalty recommended by the Honor Committee.
2. Appeals can only be made on the grounds of procedural unfairness or harmful bias.
3. An appeal of the decision of the Honor Committee must be directed to the dean of the college in writing within one week of the Committee's decision. A student interested in appealing should first contact the associate secretary of the University to discuss the appeal process.
4. If the dean of the college determines that a penalty of the Honor Committee should be reduced, the dean will make a recommendation to the President, describing the reasons for the proposed modification, and the president will decide whether or not to implement the recommendation.
5. The penalty recommended by the Honor Committee may not be increased upon appeal.
6. In the case of a successful appeal, the Honor Committee will destroy all records of the case that personally identify the student in question or any other student.
C. Enrollment Status
1. If the student in question is found responsible, and if the appeal does not alter the Committee’s decision, the penalty will normally be considered effective as of the date of the original decision.
2. If a senior is found responsible for a violation during the spring reading or exam period, or if the senior has essentially completed all spring course requirements, the senior’s degree may be withheld in lieu of suspension. In such cases, the Honor Committee will normally recommend that the student receive a failing grade in the course in which the violation occurred.
3. Under normal circumstances, when a violation requiring suspension occurs during the fall term, the student in question will not be eligible to return until the following fall term. When a violation requiring suspension occurs during the spring term, the student in question will not be eligible to return until the following spring term.
4. Pending a hearing or the student's decision about whether to appeal a separation from the University or the withholding of the degree, and/or while an appeal is in process, an administrative hold will be placed on the student's University transcript. Should the student decide not to appeal a separation or the withholding of the degree, or should an appeal not result in an alteration of the committee's decision to dismiss the student or withhold their degree, the registrar will record the fact of the penalty on the student's transcript.
Article V - Publications
A. Constitution Publication
1. The Constitution will be published by the first week of each academic year. It will also be printed in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, copies of which are issued to all students upon matriculation at the University. In addition, Article II will be circulated immediately before midterm and final examinations.
B. Publication of Committee Statistics
1. Every year, the Committee will publish aggregated, anonymous statistics for the last five years, indicating the number of students reported to the Committee, the types of violations that are reported, the number of cases that go to hearing, the respective outcomes of those cases, the number of appeals made, and the respective outcomes of those appeals.
Article VI - Amending the Constitution
A. The Constitution may be amended in the following ways:
1. Upon the initiative of thirteen of the fifteen members of the Committee, followed by a three-fourths vote of the Undergraduate Student Government members present at a meeting of the Undergraduate Student Government; or
2. Upon the initiative by petition of 200 members of the undergraduate body, followed by a three-fourths vote in a student referendum as conducted by the Elections Committee of the Undergraduate Student Government. Article VI can be amended only by such a student referendum.