FAQ – All questions

Who are the people involved in the Honor System?

The Honor System is led by the Honor Council, a group of students who are elected to their positions by their peers.  Elections take place every fall for first year representatives and every spring for the other classes.  Each class votes for 5 students to represent them.  The Honor Council is led by the Honor Council President, who is elected by the entire student body.  The complete membership of the Council is listed here.

The Council is advised by a group of dedicated faculty, one from each campus building.  The list of faculty advisors is here.  Drs. Doug Searcy and David Rettinger serve as procedural advisors on the Fredericksburg Campus.  Dr Beverley Epps advises the Stafford Campus.  Dr. Rettinger advises the Council on most day-to-day activities.

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How do I join the Honor Council?

The Honor Council is made up of 5 representatives of each of the four classes.  Representatives of the rising Sophomore-Senior classes are elected every year in April.  First year representatives are elected in September.  To learn more about running, visit the Honor Council table at Club Carnival or email honor@umw.edu.

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What does the Honor System cover at UMW?

The system covers student behaviors.  Violations of the honor code can include lying, cheating, or stealing.  Lying includes any statement or behavior that is intended to deceive; cheating refers to both exam cheating and plagiarism in all of its forms; stealing is the appropriation of objects or information without permission. More information is available in Article I, Section 1 of the Honor Constitution.

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Who can report an Honor Code violation?

Any member of the UMW community may report a violation.  This includes all students, faculty, and staff.

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What do I do if I suspect a violation has occurred?

First, investigate the situation as quickly and discretely as possible.  This generally includes talking to the student involved, requesting documentation if appropriate, and interviewing potential witnesses.

Next, if you still believe a violation has occurred, fill out an Honor Accusation Form and send it to the Honor Council via campus mail.  Simply writing “Honor Council” on the envelope is sufficient.

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How long do I have to submit an accusation form?

You must submit the form within 10 days of discovery of the violation and 5 days after completing your investigation.  This refers to “academic days,” meaning weekdays that the University is open for classes or exams.

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Do I have to report a violation?

If you are a student, you are strongly encouraged to report Honor Code violations to the Council.  If you are a faculty member, you are contractually obliged to report violations.

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What can I do to prepare for a hearing as an accuser?

The best preparation is to organize the evidence you’re providing as clearly as possible.  You may submit evidentiary materials up to 48 hours before the hearing, and so providing both evidence and analysis in writing is extremely helpful.  Give some thought to how you will explain the circumstances and nature of the violation, and consider writing a statement in advance.  Also, consider what sanction you would recommend if the accused is found responsible.  Your student honor advisor can help with all aspects of this process.

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Someone has informed me that they are sending me to the Honor Council because of a supposed violation. What does that mean?

This person has come to the conclusion that they have evidence that you have committed a violation of the Honor Code. They have or will inform the Council of this evidence and the violation which they believe occurred.

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What happens after I’m accused?

Soon, you will get a letter in your UMW mailbox. It will say that the council has been alerted to a possible violation of the Honor Code, and it will ask you to submit a statement. You have 5 days to submit a statement. After you have submitted a statement, the Council will review the evidence. They will decide whether or not there is enough evidence to make a case.

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How long until my hearing is scheduled?

It takes from 3-6 weeks to schedule a hearing.

Most of the lag time is the result of constitutional protections for the accused.  Once the accusation is filed, an accused student has 4 days to respond.  The Honor Advisory Board evaluates this response as quickly as possible, always within 5 days.  If the accusation is found sufficient, the accused student then has additional time to determine their plea.  Only then is a hearing scheduled.  Finding a time that both accused and accuser are available is frequently challenging and can also lead to delays.  In total, these protections allow for 2-3 weeks of time to pass.  The Honor Council is committed to keeping the time between accusation and hearing as short as possible.

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What will happen in the hearing?

Basically, the president will introduce the case with its given information (who everyone is, and what the accusation is). The Accuser will be asked to read his or her statement out loud to the Council. Then the Accused will be asked if you have any questions for the Accuser. The Council is also asked if they have questions. Then it is your turn to read your statement out loud to the Council. After, the Accuser and the Council may ask you any questions they have.


  1. If you have pled Responsible, the Council will leave to discuss your sanctions. They may come back in with additional questions.


  1. If you have pled Not Responsible, the Council will leave to read over the evidence and discuss any additional questions. The council will return to the room and ask their questions, if they have any. Then, you are asked for a final statement, you do not have to provide one, if you so chose. The Council will then leave the hearing room to decide whether or not you are found Responsible or Not Responsible, and if Responsible, what sanctions you will receive.

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What are the possible sanctions (punishments) for an honor code violation?

The possible sanctions are:

  1. Community service – usually reserved for non-academic violations or those cases where the community trust has been violated
  2. Honor education – an online course designed to reinforce the values of integrity and honor
  3. Loss of credit for the course- student receives an F for the course in which the violation occurred.
  4. Honor Suspension- student is involuntarily separated from the University for a period of one or more semesters.  May be combined with loss of credit in the course or other sanctions
  5. Permanent Dismissal

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Do sanctions remain on a student’s transcript permanently?

Honor Education and Community Service remain on the transcript until graduation.  Loss of credit for a course is noted on the transcript and the notation remains for 3 years following graduation.  Suspension and dismissal result in permanent transcript notations.

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Can a student appeal a verdict or a sanction?

Yes.  Verdicts may be appealed on procedural grounds, or on the basis of new evidence.  Sanctions may be appealed based on the argument that the sanction was too harsh for the offense.  Both types of appeal must be made within 5 days of the verdict or sanction.  Appeals must be made in writing.

The details are contained in Article III, section 3 of the Honor Constitution.

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Is the Honor Council out to catch me?

The goal of the Honor Council is to make sure that Mary Washington provides a learning community where all members trust one another.  Everyone at UMW wants students to succeed and as a result, no one is “out to get you.”  Even when violations do occur, the number 1 goal is to help the violator understand their behavior, learn from it, and change in the future.  While punishments are necessary, the purpose of the Honor System is to support education for everyone, even the accused.

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How can I avoid plagiarism in my writing?

Here are some tips from fellow students:

  1. Always know what your professor expects. Ask ahead, visit office hours, and know what style of citations they want.
  2. Visit the Writing Center for help.
  3. Never ever make up citations.
  4. When in doubt ask for help from your professor, a classmate or the librarians.
  5. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your bibliography.
  6. Use online resources such as Purdue OWL

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This page is a work in progress.  Feel free to submit questions below

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