Policy on Conduct and Discipline

Life in the Academic Community

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science within Columbia University is a community. Admitted students, faculty, and administrators come together and work through committees and other representative bodies to pursue and to promote learning, scholarly inquiry, and free discourse. As in any community, principles of civility and reasoned interaction must be maintained. Thus, methods for addressing social as well as academic behaviors exist.

Rules of University Conduct

Rules of University Conduct are included under University Regulations in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community (facets.columbia.edu).

Student Conduct

The continuance of each student upon the rolls of the University, the receipt of academic credits, graduation, and the conferring of the degree are strictly subject to the disciplinary powers of the University.

Although ultimate authority on matters of student discipline is vested in the Trustees of the University, the Dean of the School and his staff are given responsibility for establishing certain standards of behavior for Columbia Engineering students beyond the regulations included in the Statutes of the University and for defining procedures by which discipline will be administered.

We expect that in and out of the classroom, on and off campus, each student in the School will act in an honest way and will respect the rights of others. Freedom of expression is an essential part of University life, but it does not include intimidation, threats of violence, or the inducement of others to engage in violence or in conduct which harasses others. We state emphatically that conduct which threatens or harasses others because of their race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or for any other reason is unacceptable and will be dealt with very severely. If each of us at Columbia can live up to these standards, we can be confident that all in our community will benefit fully from the diversity to be found here. Any undergraduate student who believes he or she has been victimized should speak with an adviser in the James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising, a member of the Residential Life staff, or a member of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards; graduate students should speak with an officer in the Office of Graduate Student Affairs.

While every subtlety of proper behavior cannot be detailed here, examples of other actions subject to discipline are:

  • dishonesty in dealings with University officials, including members of the faculty
  • knowingly or recklessly endangering the health or safety of others
  • intentionally or recklessly destroying, damaging, or stealing property
  • possession, distribution, or use of illegal drugs
  • possession of weapons
  • refusal to show identification at the request of a University official; failure to respond to the legitimate request of a University official exercising his or her duty
  • threatening, harrassing, or abusing others
  • violating local, state, or federal laws
  • violating the “Rules of University Conduct” (copies of which are available in 406 Low Library and other locations mentioned above)
  • violating the rules of the residence halls as outlined in the “Guide to Living”; this also applies to all fraternity and sorority housing
  • violating the University’s Alcohol Policy
  • violating the University’s Sexual Assault Policy
  • violating the rules governing Columbia University Information Technology (CUIT) policies and procedures
  • representing any commercial interest on campus or operating any business on campus without authorization from the Associate Dean of Career Services

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity defines a university and is essential to the mission of education. At Columbia students are expected to participate in an academic community that honors intellectual work and respects its origins. In particular, the abilities to synthesize information and produce original work are key components in the learning process. As such, a violation of academic integrity is one of the most serious offenses a student can commit at Columbia and can result in dismissal.

Students rarely set out with the intent of engaging in violations of academic integrity. But classes are challenging at Columbia, and students will often find themselves pressed for time, unprepared for an assignment or exam, or feeling that the risk of earning a poor grade outweighs the need to be thorough. Such circumstances lead some students to behave in a manner that compromises the integrity of the academic community, disrespects their instructors and classmates, and deprives them of an opportunity to learn. In short, they cheat. Students who find themselves in such circumstances should immediately contact their instructor and adviser for advice.

The easiest way to avoid the temptation to cheat in the first place is to prepare yourself as best you can. Here are some basic suggestions to help you along the way:

  • Understand what instructors deem as academic dishonesty and their policy on citation and group collaboration.
  • Clarify any questions or concerns about assignments with instructors as early as possible.
  • Develop a timeline for drafts and final edits of assignments and begin preparation in advance.
  • Avoid plagiarism: acknowledge people’s opinions and theories by carefully citing their words and always indicating sources.
  • Utilize the campus’s resources, such as the advising centers and Counseling and Psychological Services, if feeling overwhelmed, burdened, or pressured.
  • Assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless specified by the instructor.

Plagiarism and Acknowledgment of Sources

Columbia has always believed that writing effectively is one of the most important goals a college student can achieve. Students will be asked to do a great deal of written work while at Columbia: term papers, seminar and laboratory reports, and analytic essays of different lengths. These papers play a major role in course performance, but more important, they play a major role in intellectual development. Plagiarism, the use of words, phrases, or ideas belonging to another, without properly citing or acknowledging the source, is considered one of the most serious violations of academic integrity and is a growing problem on university campuses.

One of the most prevalent forms of plagiarism involves students using information from the Internet without proper citation. While the Internet can provide a wealth of information, sources obtained from the web must be properly cited just like any other source. If you are uncertain how to properly cite a source of information that is not your own, whether from the Internet or elsewhere, it is critical that you do not hand in your work until you have learned the proper way to use in-text references, footnotes, and bibliographies. Faculty members are available to help as questions arise about proper citations, references, and the appropriateness of group work on assignments. You can also check with the Undergraduate Writing Program. Ignorance of proper citation methods does not exonerate one from responsibility.

Personal Responsibility, Finding Support, and More Information

A student’s education at Columbia University is comprised of two complementary components: a mastery over intellectual material within a discipline and the overall development of moral character and personal ethics. Participating in forms of academic dishonesty violates the standards of our community at Columbia and severely inhibits a student’s chance to grow academically, professionally, and socially. As such, Columbia’s approach to academic integrity is informed by its explicit belief that students must take full responsibility for their actions, meaning you will need to make informed choices inside and outside the classroom. Columbia offers a wealth of resources to help students make sound decisions regarding academics, extracurricular activities, and personal issues. If you don’t know where to go, see your advising dean.

Academic Integrity Policies and Expectations

Violations of policy may be intentional or unintentional and may include dishonesty in academic assignments or in dealing with University officials, including faculty and staff members. Moreover, dishonesty during the Dean’s Discipline hearing process may result in more serious consequences.

Common types of academic integrity violations:

  • Plagiarism: the use of words, phrases, or ideas belonging to another, without properly citing or acknowledging the source
  • Self-plagiarism: the submission of one piece of work in more than one course without the explicit permission of the instructors involved
  • Falsification or misreprensentation of information in course work or lab work; on any application, petition, or forms submitted to the School
  • Fabrication of credentials in materials submitted to the University for administrative or academic review
  • Violating the limits of acceptable collaboration in course work set by a faculty member or department
  • Facilitating academic dishonesty by enabling another to engage in such behavior
  • Cheating on examinations, tests, or homework assignments
  • Unauthorized collaboration on an assignment
  • Receiving unauthorized assistance on an assignment
  • Copying computer programs
  • Unauthorized distribution of assignments and exams
  • Lying to a professor or University officer
  • Obtaining advance knowledge of exams or other assignments without permission

Disciplinary Procedures

Many policy violations that occur in the Residence Halls rules are handled by the Associate Directors of Residential Life. Some serious offenses are referred directly to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Violations in University Apartment Housing are handled by building managers and housing officials. Some incidents are referred directly to the School’s housing liaison in the Office of Graduate Student Affairs.

Most violations of rules concerning fraternities or sororities as organizations are handled by the Associate Director of Greek Life and Leadership. Some serious offenses are referred directly to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.

In matters involving rallies, picketing, and other mass demonstrations, the Rules of University Conduct outlines procedures. The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards is responsible for all disciplinary affairs concerning undergraduate students that are not reserved to some other body.

The Office of Graduate Student Affairs is responsible for all disciplinary affairs concerning graduate students that are not reserved to some other body.

Dean’s Discipline Process for Undergraduate and Graduate Students

The purpose of the Dean’s Discipline process is twofold. First, it is used to determine the accused student’s responsibility for the alleged violation(s) of Columbia Engineering or University policy(ies). In addition, it is an opportunity for the student to engage in a meaningful conversation regarding his or her role as a member of the Columbia community. The Dean’s Discipline process is not an adversarial process, nor is it a legalistic one, and therefore the technical rules of evidence applicable to civil and criminal court cases do not apply.

In a situation requiring immediate action, a student may be removed from housing, if applicable, and/or placed on interim suspension if it is determined that the student’s behavior makes his or her presence on campus a danger to the normal operations of the institution, or to the safety of himself or herself or others or to the property of the University or others.

When a complaint is received, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards or Office of Graduate Student Affairs determines whether Dean’s Discipline is an appropriate response or if the complaint should be referred elsewhere. If a Dean’s Discipline hearing is to occur, a student is informed in writing of the complaint made against him/her and of the next step in the process. At the hearing, at least two staff members will present the accused student with the information that supports the allegation that he/ she has violated Columbia Engineering or other University policy(ies). The student is then asked to respond and will be given an opportunity to present information on his or her behalf.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officers will make a determination, based on all of the information available to them, regarding whether the accused student is responsible for the violation(s). The standard of proof used to make this determination is the preponderance of the evidence standard. This standard allows for a finding of responsibility if the information provided shows that it is more likely than not that a violation of Columbia policy(ies) occurred. If the student is found responsible, the degree of seriousness of the offense and the student’s previous disciplinary record, if any, will determine the severity of the sanction that will be issued. The student will be notified of the outcome of the hearing in writing.

A student found responsible after a hearing has the right to request an appeal of the decision and the resulting sanctions. There are three grounds upon which an appeal of the decision may be made. A student found responsible for the violation of Columbia policy(ies) may request a review of the decision if: (1) the student believes a procedural error occurred, which the student feels may change or affect the outcome of the decision; (2) the student has substantive new evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing and that may change the outcome; or (3) the student feels that the severity of the sanction is inappropriate given the details of the case. The request for review must be made in writing as directed in the hearing outcome letter. For more information about the discipline process for undergraduate students, please visit the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards website . For more information about the discipline process for graduate students, please visit the Office of Graduate Student Affairs website.


In general, under University policy and federal law, a student’s record, including information about Dean’s Discipline proceedings, is confidential; however, there are certain exceptions to this rule. One exception to this principle is that the outcome of Dean’s Disciplinary proceedings alleging a crime of violence may be disclosed both to the accuser and the accused. To read more about the exceptions that apply to the disclosure of student records information, please visit facets.columbia.edu/policy-accessstudent-records-ferpa.

Students found responsible for reportable violations of conduct, including academic integrity violations, may face reports of such offenses on future recommendations for law, medical, or graduate school. The parents or guardians of undergraduate students may also be notified.