Legal & Ethical Issues


In order to participate successfully in the Stanislaus State campus community, faculty should understand the norms and policies that bear on teaching, research, and day-to-day interaction with colleagues, staff, and students. Stanislaus State promotes a set of values that incorporate mutual respect for all members of the community and for the differences among various campus constituencies.

All university employees must comply with the federal, state, and local laws. However, faculty, staff, and students also share responsibility for maintaining an atmosphere that enhances learning and creating a climate that affirms everyone's rights to study, work, and learn in harassment-free, non-discriminatory environment.

Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom

Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable aspects of true academic life; accordingly, membership in the academic profession also carries with it special responsibilities and expectations. California State University, Stanislaus has adopted a Professional Ethics statement, based on guidelines from the American Association of University Professors, outlining the scope of these responsibilities and the nature of academic freedom associated with faculty work. The entire statement can be found in the Faculty Handbook. sional_ethics.pdf

Academic Dishonesty and Academic Integrity

As we transmit the values of the academic community, we should make clear to students what does and does not constitute academic dishonesty within our university culture. Such definitions are not always clear- cut. They may vary, for instance, in classes, workshops, or labs where students work together and share ideas, where they co-author or co-present reports, or where they are asked to reflect on other people's ideas or work. You should make the norms for your class very clear, especially with regard to group work, in order to avoid difficult situations.


Plagiarism is a complex, problematic issue for students, faculty, and even skilled researchers. Faculty can help students foster good research skills and methods, and reduce plagiarizing by providing examples of primary and secondary sources and by offering practice activities to summarize, paraphrase, and cite works correctly. Most references, such as the MLA Handbook, provide detailed analyses of appropriate and

inappropriate uses of source material. Requiring a bibliography, notes, and several drafts before submitting the final version also helps reduce the possibilities of plagiarism. In addition, the CSU System has a license agreement with (TII), a web-based system for assisting faculty in identifying plagiarism from sources both on the Internet and in their growing database. For more information about TII, creating an account, and using it, contact Bob Koehler, Instructional Technology and Design Specialist, MDL/OIT, FDC 112, 667-3898,

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A few simple strategies can help reduce incidents of cheating in the classroom: proctoring exams, providing official exam books, creating more than one version of an exam, making sure students sit at least one desk away from others when they take an exam, and requiring students to hand in notes and multiple drafts of papers.

However, it is also important to provide students with a list of clear examples of academic dishonesty, so there is no question about your expectations. Your list might include the following:

  • Using unauthorized notes or books during an exam;
  • Copying another student's work during an exam;
  • Taking an exam or writing a paper for another student;
  • Submitting material written by someone else;
  • Submitting the same paper for different classes without getting permission from the instructors;
  • Inventing data for a paper or report.

Students should know that academic honesty is an essential value in the university, and they should understand exactly what you mean by the term in the context of your class. Students also need to be aware of the consequences of cheating and plagiarism. A statement on your course syllabus can be useful.

If you encounter an instance of academic dishonesty in your class, do not ignore it. Your response should be in keeping with the individual situation and with any information you have already provided your students on the topic. In dealing with an individual incident, you may wish to take one of the following actions:

  • Issue a warning;
  • Request that work be resubmitted or an exam retaken under qualified conditions (and with a possible grade penalty);
  • Adjust the grade given for the assignment;
  • Adjust the grade for the course (this could include giving an F).

Only the instructor can assign a grade penalty. A faculty member cannot impose administrative sanctions, such as probation or suspension. However, if you believe an incident is serious enough to warrant administrative as well as academic sanctions, you should notify the Office of Judicial Affairs at Ext. 3177.

Grade Disputes

While students are obligated to adhere to high standards of academic honesty, faculty members are obligated to maintain high standards of objectivity, fairness, and accuracy in evaluating student's work. You can help prevent grade disputes by establishing clear grading criteria on your syllabus, setting up a grading system for your class that is fair and easily understood, and writing responses that summarize clearly the strengths and weaknesses of each student's work that are in accordance with the criteria you have established. When dealing with a group project, it is particularly important to have clear guidance in your syllabus about grading and your expectations with regard to group process

If students question the grade they received for an assignment or for your class, they should discuss it with you first. If the dispute remains unsettled, students can go to the department chair and then to the college dean. The Grade Appeal Committee provides final resolution of grade disputes that have not been resolved through the department or college. For specific questions regarding grade-appeal procedures, contact the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Ext. 3082, or see the University Catalog.

Non-Grade Disputes

Disputes sometimes occur between faculty and students over non-grade issues. The University Catalog and the "Rights and Responsibilities" section of the Students Handbook provide information on student's fundamental academic freedoms and responsibilities. Both documents can be resources for preventing and resolving conflict with students.

Once again, you often can resolve such disputes yourself. Go to your department chair only when you and the student cannot reach an arrangement. If problems continue, the college dean or the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs/Dean of Students may be called in to help resolve the matter.

Classroom Conduct

The classroom is a special environment in which students and faculty come together to promote learning and growth. Faculty and students need to respect the rights of others seeking to learn while balancing this with the general goals of academic freedom.

As a faculty member, you are responsible for respecting student diversity and varying student's views, but students are also responsible for contributing to the orderliness and integrity of the classroom. Students have

the right to express unpopular views; however, if their conduct disrupts the learning process, then you have both a professional responsibility and the legal authority to maintain order in the instructional setting.

Use your discretion in assessing a disruptive situation. Often, you can speak with the student privately, outside of class, and resolve the problem. You also may ask a student to leave that particular class
session. You do not have the authority to ask students not to attend another class or to drop a student from your class altogether. If problems continue you should meet with both the student and your chair and inform your college dean. Make sure to keep a record of dates, times, and details of disruptive incidents.

If there is any threat of harm or disruption of the educational process call the University Police at 911. Faculty members also can request that the University Police be present for private meetings with a disruptive student. The Office of Campus Compliance or Judicial Affairs, can also provide assistance with difficult students. Through the Judicial Office a faculty member can report the student for misconduct, with consequences ranging from filing a report to initiating a formal student discipline investigation resulting in suspension, expulsion or other educational sanctions. A student advocate is also available to advise students on these and other issues, at Ext. 3833.

In serious situations, when students are charged with misconduct, student disciplinary procedures follow system-wide guidelines established by the California State University Office of the Chancellor. If you have a question about a student problem, speak to your chair, dean or the Judicial Officer

Disruptive Conduct and Threat Assessment

The campus has a process to evaluate situations through a case management team. Please contact the Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at Ext. 3177.

Computer Etiquette

The rules of student discipline apply consistently. This includes the use of computers. Hacking and other misuses of computers should not be tolerated. For confidential advice on how to deal with the misuse of computers, contact Jill Tiemann-Gonzalez at Ext. 3177.

Confidentiality-Privacy Rights of Students

Federal laws and campus policies ensure that students have right to inspect their educational records and to challenge their accuracy. These records include files, documents, and any other materials relating directly to the students that are maintained by the university. If a student requests permission to inspect a file or record, the inspection should take place under appropriate supervision. An important federal law with regarding student rights in the Federal Right to Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) which is discussed in Appendix I of the University Catalog.

Students also have rights concerning the privacy of their grades and campus records, as stipulated in FERPA. Your grade books and notes evaluating student work are private records not subject to review by any students. The only official record of grade is the grade roster submitted at the end of each semester.

If you choose to post grades at the end of the semester, privacy regulations forbid posting grades by name or any other means (e.g., Social Security numbers) that will allow students to be identified personally. You may use the last four digits of the student ID number as long as you are able to avoid duplication.

You may wish to encourage students to provide you with a stamped, self-addressed envelope for reporting end-of-semester grades. Some restrictions apply to sending grades over e-mail. Check with your department chair to clarify the policy.

You should not share information regarding individual student grades. Be careful, also not to give out information about a student over the telephone. Items such as address, telephone numbers, grades, major, and class level may be protected confidential information. If you have computer printouts containing information about students, be sure to keep them in a secure location.

For a copy of Stanislaus State policies and procedures concerning access to student records, contact the Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006.

Privacy Laws

Current federal and state laws and policies provide for confidentiality and student access to education records. The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act provides specifically for students' rights to privacy. The University is committed to securing and protecting information security as required by law. For information on privacy rights and responsibilities contact the Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006.

Unlawful Harassment and Discrimination

The California State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, veteran status, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. The university supports an academic and work environment that protects the dignity and promotes the mutual respect of faculty, staff, and students.

Sexual harassment includes such unsolicited and unwelcome behavior as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct directed toward students, staff, or colleagues. See the "Affirmative Action-Equal Opportunity Discrimination-Non-discrimination Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Policies, Procedures and Guidelines" flier for additional information along with Appendix K, "Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures," in the University Catalog.

If students or faculty have complaints or questions regarding harassment issues, they should be directed to the Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006.

Field Experience Under Conditions of Risk

Faculty members are responsible for safeguarding the right and welfare of individuals involved in activities related to instruction and research. If you supervise a field activity, you must ensure student and faculty are not subjected to any substantial risk. Be sure to check with your department chair or college dean to determine whether there are any liability or insurance issues. You may also consult with Safety and Risk Management at Ext.3022.

The college dean is responsible for prohibiting instructional activities that involve substantial risk. If the student believes such risk is present, she or he may withdraw from the activity without penalty, and immediately inform the dean and department chair.

Misconduct in Research

Misconduct in research is defined as fabrication, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conduct in, or reporting research and creative activity. Misconduct does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretation of data.

For more information on policies pertaining to misconduct in research, see Appendix J in the Faculty Handbook or contact the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Ext. 3493.

Human Subjects Research

If you will be using human subjects in research (including research and student-led research projects), then you must obtain approval to conduct the research from the university's Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subject in Research before initiating the research. The Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006, can help you with this process. See also Appendix L in the Faculty Handbook for the policy on protection of human rights. In addition, Human Subject Research policy, forms, and publications can be found on the UIRB website.

Animal Care

The use of animals in research and instruction is governed by federal regulations under two different statutes: Health Research Extension Act of 1984 and Public Law 99-158, and two different agencies. These regulations cover most research or instructional use of warm-blooded and vertebrate animals. If you will be using animal subjects in research, then you must obtain approval to conduct the research from the university's Animal Welfare Committee. The Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006, can help you with this process. As with human subject research, you must obtain approval before initiating your project. See also Appendix N in the Faculty Handbook for the policy on the care and use of animals.

Intellectual Property

If you have questions related to copyrights or patents, or if you would like to know more about protecting your intellectual property, please contact the Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006. For more information, see Appendix P in the Faculty Handbook for the policy on intellectual property rights, and also refer to related provisions in the Unit 3 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Copyright Issues

Copyright issues frequently need clarification. If you are preparing material for class distribution, please familiarize yourself with the Copyright Act of 1976 and talk to your department chair.

Conflicts of Interest

As a faculty member, your primary responsibilities are to teach assigned classes and participate in activities appropriate to the advisement of students, your professional growth, and service to the university and community. While you may engage in political activity, you must do it on your own time, not on state time or state expense.

As both a state employee and a Stanislaus State faculty member, you may not engage in any outside employment or activity that is in conflict with your primary responsibilities.

If you have a question about whether your research may conflict with the mission and goals of the university discuss the matter with the Campus Compliance Officer at Ext. 3006.

Tips on Legal Ethical Issues

  • Review the Faculty Handbook and the University Catalog so that you have a clear understanding of university policies and procedures.
  • Be clear with your students regarding what constitutes cheating in your classes and what the consequences of cheating will be.
  • When incidents of cheating occur, you can assign a grade penalty, but you cannot issue administrative sanction such as probation or suspension.
  • You can help avoid grade disputes by making your grading system clear to students and by articulating clearly why each assignment has received the grade you have given it.
  • Try to resolve any student problems with the individual student before referring problems to your chair or dean.
  • Call the Judicial Affairs Office, at Ext. 3144 for confidential advice on handling disruptive student behavior and/or suspected academic dishonesty.
  • Treat colleagues, staff, and students as you would have then to treat you; practice collegiality and civility.
  • Call the Office of Faculty Affairs at Ext. 3011, for assistance and confidential advice on harassment and conduct issues.
  • Remember that freedom of speech is a right of all members of the university community.
  • Make sure that your speech and your conduct respect the rights and protect the dignity of colleagues, staff, and students.
  • Have the Institutional Review Board and/or the Animal Welfare Committee review all projects involving research with human subjects and/or animals.
  • Be sure to assess potential risks of field experiences and talk to your chair and/or dean about liability issues and coverage.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Copyright Act of 1976 and the limits of "Fair Use."
  • Maintain the confidentiality of student records.