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Student Misconduct

Colleges are learning communities, and individuals accepted into these communities have both the privileges and responsibilities of membership. Further, there are explicit theories about how campuses best promote student learning and growth. A genuine shared purpose among all members of a campus community can be created by recoupling individual rights with a sense of personal and social responsibility around issues of teaching and learning. This requires that we set and communicate our expectations, and to do this we must operate with a set of standards. When a student breaches the Student Code of Conduct, instructors are charged with the right and responsibility to corrective actions against the student. Each university has its own unique set of regulations that delineate a student's rights, responsibilities and the code of conduct that must be followed. The information provided in this teaching tip is specific to Purdue University and is based on the information provided by the Office of the Dean of Students' Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.


  • Rezaee, Z., Elmore, R.C., Szendi, J.Z. (2001). Ethical behavior in higher educational institutions: The role of the code of conduct. Journal of Business Ethics, 30(2), 171-183.
  • Borkowski, S.C., Ugras, Y.J. (1992). The ethical attitudes of students as a function of age, sex. Journal of Business Ethics, 11(12), 961.
  • McCabe, D.L., Butterfield, K.D., Trevino, L.K. (2003). Faculty and academic integrity: The influence of current honor codes and past honor code experiences. Research in Higher Education, 44(3), 367-386.


Words of Wisdom

  • What are suggested dos and don'ts for handling student misconduct?
    • Document your expectations of students in your course syllabus. Include policies for late-work, make-up work, extra credit, attendance, exams, dress code, laptop usage, professionalism and other miscellaneous course related issues to include instances of misconduct.
    • Design your course to foster a positive learning environment and to prevent possible instances of student misconduct. For instance, have multiple opportunities for students to earn points in the course.
    • For cases of student misconduct, document every aspect of the case, including:
      • students' names
      • witnesses (if necessary, witness statements)
      • times
      • dates
      • a narrative of the event
    • If witness names or statements are collected, keep their names, information and statements confidential.
    • Submit your case to the Office of the Dean of Students' Rights and Responsibilities.
    • If you are unfamiliar with Purdue University's polices or are faced with an unfamiliar situation, do not take disciplinary action against a student without first consulting the Dean of Students' Office of Rights and Responsibilities.
    • Do not divulge any information regarding the case to anyone other than the necessary course staff, the Dean of Students, your Department Head, etc.
  • What does the Dean of Students consider to be a student's responsibilities?
    The Office of the Dean of Students requires that students, "conduct themselves in accordance with accepted standards of social behavior, to respect the rights of others, and to refrain from any conduct which tends to obstruct the work of the University or to be injurious to the University" (http://www.purdue.edu/ODOS/osrr/conductcode.htm). Accordingly, Purdue University's Dean of Students publishes the students Bill of Rights and Honor Code on their website. Essentially, the Dean of Students views a students' responsibilities as those that pertain to their academic endeavors while enrolled at Purdue University. However, beyond the requirements set forth in the Student Handbook, Bill of Rights, and Honor Code, the University leaves most course decisions up to the Instructor of Record.
  • What does the Dean of Students consider student misconduct?
    The following is a short list of actions that may be considered misconduct:
    • Academic Dishonesty (see the Teaching Tip on Academic Integrity for more information)
    • Forgery or falsifying documents
    • Obstruction of University activities (such as severe disruption during class)
    • Physical abuse or threats
    • Theft or vandalism
    • Unauthorized use of University equipment or access to buildings
    • Possession or use of drugs or alcohol on campus
    • Lewd or indecent acts
    • Harassment
    • Possession of weapons
    • To a lesser degree, any conflict between the student's actions and the expectations set forth in the course syllabus.
  • What actions can I take against a student who has exhibited misconduct?
    As an instructor, you have the right to reasonably and equitably penalize a student in your course a number of ways:
    • You may assess a grade penalty, using a specific percentage or point based methodology.
    • You may adjust or cap their final grade.
    • You may require the student to do extra work or to redo an assignment.
    • You may fail the student from the course.
    • You may do nothing (but not recommended).
    • You may refer the case to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.
      • It is strongly recommended that you refer the case to the Dean of Student for their records. (Even if they do nothing, they will record it in case the student is a repeat offender).
      • The Dean of Students will issue a decision regarding the student's academic standing, (i.e., probation, suspension, expulsion).
      • Your decision to penalize a student is separate and independent from the Dean of Student's decision regarding disciplinary action.