Policy on Academic Misconduct


The Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct contains definitions of various forms of academic misconduct and the process by which allegations of academic misconduct are to be resolved. Nonetheless, for many years there has been some confusion in the department among GSIs and instructors regarding these issues. One reason for this is that the Code lacks examples specific to the sorts of assignments typically assigned in astronomy classes, and does not prescribe a process for how allegations of cheating are to be handled among graders, GSIs, and instructors.

It is the purpose of this policy to interpret and clarify the definitions in the Code, to reiterate and emphasize the appropriate measures to be taken when allegations of cheating are made, and to establish departmental guidelines for the roles of instructors, GSIs, and graders in identifying, confronting, and sanctioning students who commit academic misconduct.


Following the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct, the Department of Astronomy recognizes the following forms of academic dishonesty:

A. Cheating

Cheating is defined by the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct as follows:

[F]raud, deceit, or dishonesty in an academic assignment, or using or attempting to use materials, or assisting others in using materials which are prohibited or inappropriate in the context of the academic assignment in question. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Providing answers to or receiving answers from others for any academic assignment. In “group assignments” and “cooperative learning” situations, it is the responsibility of the student to ascertain from the instructor to what degree the work must be done exclusively by the student or may be done in collaboration with others;
  • Using notes, information, calculators, or other electronic devices or programs during exams or for assignments from which they have been expressly or implicitly prohibited;
  • Improperly obtaining or using improperly obtained information about an exam or assignment in advance of its availability to other students, or assisting others in doing so;
  • Putting one’s name on another student’s exam or assignment; or
  • Altering previously graded work for purpose of seeking a grade appeal.

Specific examples of cheating recognized by the Department of Astronomy as being particularly applicable to work typically assigned in astronomy classes include:

  • Submitting an assignment identical or nearly identical to that of another student;
  • Referring to solution sets from prior years when forbidden to do so; and
  • Bringing inappropriate or forbidden materials to an exam.

B. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined by the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct as:

[T]he use of intellectual material produced by another person without acknowledging its source. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Copying from the writings or works of others into one’s academic assignment without attribution, or submitting such work as if it were one’s own;
  • Using the views, opinions, or insights of another without acknowledgment; or
  • Paraphrasing the characteristic or original phraseology, metaphor, or other literary device of another without proper attribution.

The Department of Astronomy further notes that:

  • This definition applies to all submitted course work, including written examinations, homework, laboratory exercises, computational assignments involving computer code, and extra credit assignments;
  • Any quotations or paraphrasing must be fully and properly cited, and any ideas or insights properly acknowledged;
  • Websites and other internet resources must be cited and acknowledged just as any other resource would;
  • Plagiarism standards are not relaxed in an astronomy or other science courses as compared to, for instance, history or literature courses; and
  • Lecture materials and course textbooks may usually be referenced, though not quoted, in assignments for that course without citation.

C. Furnishing false information in the context of an academic assignment

According to the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct, this includes, but is not limited to:

  • Writing an exam or term paper for another student;
  •  Soliciting another person to take an exam or write a paper for one’s own class;
  • Submitting the same piece of work as partial fulfillment of the requirements in more than one course without permission of the instructor;
  • Representing oneself as another person, or failing to identify oneself forthrightly and honestly in the context of an academic obligation; or
  • Representing, explicitly or implicitly, that work obtained from another source was produced by oneself.

Specific examples of furnishing false information recognized by the Department of Astronomy as being particularly applicable to work typically assigned in astronomy classes include:

  • Reporting, as original work, rise and set times or the appearance of heavenly bodies without having personally witnessed and measured said events;
  • Reporting, as original work, charts, figures, graphs, or results of numerical calculations without having calculated or generated them; and
  • Falsely reporting one’s presence at field trips or star-viewing sessions.

D. Creating an improper academic disadvantage to another student or an improper academic advantage for oneself.

According to the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct, this includes, but is not limited to:

  • Removing, defacing, hiding or deliberately withholding library books or other materials, particularly those with short-term loan periods or on reserve for courses;
  • Contaminating a laboratory sample (e.g., a “mystery substance” in qualitative chemistry); or
  • Altering the indicators of a practical exam (e.g., moving the pin in a dissection specimen in anatomy).

E. Interference with courses of instruction.

According to the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct, this includes, but is not limited to:

  • Failure to comply with the instructions or directives of the course instructor; or
  • Disruption of classes or other academic activities.

F. Theft or damage of intellectual property.

According to the Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct, this includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sabotaging or stealing another person’s assignment, book, paper, notes, experiment, or project; [or]
  • Improperly accessing or electronically interfering via computer or other means with the property of another person or the University.

G. Selling or distributing course lecture notes, handouts, readers or other information provided by an instructor, or using them for any commercial purpose without the express permission of the instructor.


It is the policy of the Department of Astronomy that its instructors and GSIs take steps to prevent academic dishonesty including, but not limited to, the following:

A. Instructors shall inform students of and acquaint students with the definitions and consequences of cheating, including the specific examples in this Policy, where applicable. This may include distributing copies of portions of this Policy, the Code, or requiring students to submit signed statements of understanding of these policies and definitions. Policies specific to the course, such as materials allowed or disallowed during exams, should be included in such course materials, as well as on the course syllabus and website, if any.

B. Instructors should encourage students to further familiarize themselves with the Code of Student Conduct and the Office of Student Judicial Affair’s (OSJA’s) Student Guide to Academic Integrity at Cal and Student Guide webpage. Links to these documents from course websites are encouraged.

C. Instructors shall take reasonable steps to discourage cheating, such as distributing multiple versions of an exam in a large class, actively proctoring exams, and the other strategies described in the OSJA’s Instructor’s Guide for Addressing Student Academic Dishonesty and Instructor’s Guide webpage.

D. Instructors shall deal with incidents of alleged academic dishonesty as described below quickly and consistently.


A. University Policy

The Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct contains extensive regulations regarding the procedure by which allegations of academic misconduct are to be resolved. It is the policy of the department to follow these campus regulations when an allegation of academic misconduct comes to his or her attention. These regulations are summarized below:

  • The instructor may investigate allegations of misconduct . If the instructor is thus satisfied that no violation has occurred then matter shall be dropped.
  • If the student admits to an academic violation, the instructor may impose an academic penalty and notify the OSJA of the matter for record keeping purposes or, in egregious cases, further discipline. The Department of Astronomy would prefer that cases involving academic misconduct be resolved in this fashion, if possible.
  • In all other cases the instructor shall notify the OSJA of the matter for the purpose of adjudication.

It is also the policy of the department that instructors follow these guidelines and explanations of the above regulations provided by the OSJA in its publication Instructors’ Guide for Addressing Student Academic Dishonesty:

Options for Instructors

…In a case where the student denies committing a dishonest act and the instructor continues to have suspicions, the instructor should forward the case to the OSJA for review by completing the Discipline Referral for Academic Dishonesty form. The OSJA will also review cases if the student cannot be reached during break periods or the student does not respond to [the instructor’s] request for a meeting.

To discourage repeat or multiple offenses, instructors are encouraged to notify the Office of Student [Judicial Affairs] of all cases they resolve through the academic penalty option by completing the Faculty Disposition for Academic Dishonesty form. In this way the OSJA can serve as a central repository for all cases of academic dishonesty. If the OSJA finds that a student has committed multiple offenses in various departments, the OSJA will conduct an administrative review of the student’s actions. In such a case, the instructors who reported the cases will be contacted for further assistance.

Assigning Academic Penalties

Academic penalties by instructors are governed by a November 7, 1987 memo from the Academic Senate Committee on Courses to all instructors. This memo states that [a]n instructor may assign an F grade both to the assignment in which the cheating occurred and, when the offense is sufficiently serious, for the course as a whole. A student should, however, always be informed of the action taken. The student should also be told of the right to a grade appeal, if he or she considers the grade unfair. Copies of this memo are available from the Office of Student [Judicial Affairs], 326 Sproul Hall and at the Academic Senate, 320 Stephens Hall.

B. Departmental Policy

Further, it is departmental policy that instructors, GSIs, and graders for courses taught by the department of astronomy shall follow the policies below:

  •  Instructors and GSIs shall take measures to prevent cheating, including familiarizing students with the definitions and punishments of cheating, such as those described in the OSJA’s Instructors’ Guide for Addressing Student Academic Dishonesty.
  • If a GSI suspects academic misconduct by a student, he or she shall report the matter to the instructor. If the instructor agrees that misconduct has occurred and that an allegation should be filed with the OSJA, the GSI (or the instructor, if the instructor so wishes) shall draft the complaint for submission to the OSJA and the instructor shall submit it, as consistent with university policies and guidelines.
  • While the Code permits anyone to file an allegation of academic misconduct, the department prefers that instructors, and not GSIs or graders, file complaints pertaining to misconduct in the astronomy courses they teach.
  • If a GSI feels that an allegation of academic misconduct has been mishandled or that departmental policy has been ignored, or if any serious disagreement between a GSI and instructor should arise on the subject, the matter should be decided by the department chairman, whose word in such cases shall be final.
  • If a GSI or instructor feels that a student has unintentionally violated some part of the Code (e.g. neglected to cite material out of ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism), then he or she may inform the student of the violation, instruct the student to review the Code, and inform the other GSIs and instructors that the student has been so warned.
  • Graders should take care to notice any violations of the Code and report any apparent violations to a GSI or the instructor for the course.


A. All instructors, graders and GSIs should be familiar with this Department of Astronomy Policy on Academic Misconduct, and with the Academic Honesty guides furnished by the OSJA. These guides provide advice to instructors and GSIs on how to confront students, bring complaints to the attention of the OSJA, and prevent cheating.

B. The department encourages reporting of all sanctions for academic misconduct to the OSJA, even if only for record keeping purposes. First offenses by students are rarely punished severely by the OSJA, but it is important to notify the OSJA of such cases nonetheless to help prevent repeat offenses.

C. When confronted, students should be made aware of the details of the adjudication process, possible penalties, and their rights to appeal, as outlined in the OSJA publication Student Guide to Academic Integrity at Cal.

D. In cases of academic misconduct, the OSJA requires that the violation be well documented and that the student have been informed that such conduct in unacceptable prior to the alleged offense. When possible, photocopies of relevant materials should be made.

E. The Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct, the aforementioned guides, Discipline Referrals for Academic Dishonesty, Faculty Dispositions for Academic Dishonesty, and other resources are available online at http://students.berkeley.edu/osl/sja.asp.

Note (8/28/2006 – JTW)

The Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct, as revised January 2005, and the Instructors’ Guide for Addressing Student Academic Dishonesty no longer contains some of the language quoted in this policy, in particular the definitions of various forms of academic misconduct. The OSJA, however, has stated that it still considers these definitions to be valid and in force. A new set of definitions is ostensibly being written for a future version of the Code.