Frequently Asked Questions for Accused Students


Common Questions By Students Accused of an Honor Code Violation

The following information is meant to assist you with answering common questions relating to the Honor System and the accused student's role in the investigative process. 

Q: What Happens When Someone Has Been Accused of an Honor Code Violation?

A: If you have been accused of an Honor Code violation. An active member of the Honor Council, your student investigator, will contact you to arrange an informal meeting concerning the alleged violation. Prior to this meeting, the investigator will have already met with your accuser, the professor of the course, and any witnesses that may have been involved.

During this meeting with your investigator, you will have three choices in proceeding with your case:

  • By entering a GUILTY plea, you are acknowledging the violation, and you will receive the standard penalty. A hearing is not required.
  • By entering a plea of GUILTY with EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES, you are acknowledging the violation, but believe there are circumstances that would merit a deviation from standard penalty. A hearing is required.
  • By entering a NOT GUILTY plea, the case will proceed as follows: Any relevant information collected through the investigation is compiled in a report given to the Chair of the Honor Council. The Chair, in turn, decides whether there is sufficient evidence in your case to warrant a hearing before the Council. If your case is to be brought before the Council, the investigator will contact you within 48 hours of that decision to arrange a hearing date. The Council has 25 academic days to complete each case.

If a hearing is warranted, you should take time to familiarize yourself with the V.U. Honor System and the details of the impending hearing. Your investigator will also present you with a formal letter of the charges against you. If you plan to refute the charges, make sure that you fully understand the letter of accusation. A copy of the V.U. Honor System constitution can be acquired from your investigator or downloaded here. Be prompt in arriving at the scheduled time of the interview with the student investigator and/or hearing. Notify your investigator immediately or no later than 48 hours before the hearing, if you have a witness pertaining to the case. Also, notify your investigator at least 48 hours beforehand if you are bringing any character witnesses (maximum of one in person) and two in writing. 

On the date of the hearing, the investigator begins the proceedings by outlining the investigation for the assembled Council members. Following the presentation, you the accused, are brought before the Council and are asked to enter a plea of "guilty with extenuating circumstances" or "not guilty" in the records. At this time, you have an opportunity to present a defense of your plea and to answer questions from Council members. Any witnesses round off the testimony presented during the hearing. The Honor Council considers all evidence and testimony privately and then renders a decision of guilt or innocence. In the event of a guilty verdict, the Council then votes on application of the standard penalty or a deviation from the standard penalty.

The results of the hearing are final and are sent through the V.U. Vice-President’s office, Academic Affairs, and then to you in the form of a letter. An appeal process is also outlined in this letter. The standard penalty for a first violation under the V.U. Honor System is an "F" in the course. Standard penalty for an offender’s second offense is an "F" in the course and suspension from the University for a semester. If a third violation occurs, the standard penalty mandates an "F" in the course, and expulsion from the University. The standard penalty is established as a guideline for most Honor Code violations. The Council reserves the right to deviate from them when there are extenuating circumstances involved in a case. Read Honor System Constitution for more information. Deviation is considered a viable option if the circumstance clearly meets the standards of the definition of 'deviation on the grounds of extenuating circumstances' or 'deviation on the ground of aggravating circumstances.'

Q:  What are My Rights as an Accused Student?


  • You have the right to defend yourself against all charges.
  • You have the right to be presented with all the evidence in the case, except the identity of the accuser.
  • You have the right to a fair and impartial hearing.
  • You have the right to call upon 3 character witnesses (one in person, two in writing) in your defense. The character witness appearing in person is limited to a 5 minute, pre-constructed statement. The Council shall receive written statements no later than 24 hours before your hearing. Any written character statement should be signed by the character witness who wrote it and bear the signature across the seal of the envelope.
  • You have the right to bring evidential witnesses on your behalf. If you decide to do so, you must schedule these witnesses through the investigator, who is responsible for making sure the hearing goes smoothly and you are represented in the most fair way.
  • You have the right to consult the faculty advisor of the Council, a member of the Council, and/or an attorney. Attorneys, however, are not allowed into the hearing.
  • You have the right to have a Counselor appointed to you by the Chair of the Honor Council. Counselors are faculty members who once served on the Honor Council and are able to answer questions, talk with you about any issue, and be a helpful guide through this sometimes confusing process.
  • You have the right to ask questions and to refuse questions by the Council members during the hearing.
  • You have the right to request an appeal before the Appeals Board within 10 academic days of receipt of the letter from the Provost’s office.
  • You DO NOT have the right to know the identity of the accuser, unless the accuser agrees.
Q:  As an Accused, Should I Stop Attending Class?

A:  NO! Continue attending class until your case is closed.

Q:  What if I Did Not Know That I Was Violating the Honor Code?

A:  Ignorance is not an excuse for an honor code violation. It is your responsibility as a student to find out what is authorized and unauthorized aid for each class, assignment, project, presentation, quiz, examination, etc... Your professor should also tell you this sometime at the beginning of the semester and/or frequently throughout the continuance of the course.

Q:  How Will My Grade Be Determined If My Case is Not Completed Before the End of the Semester?

A: You will receive an “NR” for the course in question. You will not receive credit for the course at the end of the semester, and it will not be factored into your grade point average. You will receive the appropriate grade upon the completion of your case.

Q: With Whom Do I Speak With if I Have Any Further Questions?

A:  You should speak with your investigator if you have any questions or concerns. The student investigator is your primary contact with the Honor Council. You may also contact the Faculty Advisor, Paul Trapp. All communication will remain confidential.

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Contact Information

Honor Council (General)
Meier Hall, Rm 146
Valparaiso University

Honor Council (Appeals)