Disciplinary Procedures and Sanctions

It is the expectation of the Harvard Chan School that all students, whether or not they are on campus or are currently enrolled as degree candidates, will behave in a mature and responsible manner. This expectation for mature and responsible conduct also encompasses accountability for one’s own well-being, including responsible decision-making regarding physical and mental health. Further, the School expects every student to be familiar with the regulations governing membership in the Harvard community, set forth in this handbook. Because students are expected to show good judgment and use common sense at all times, not all kinds of misconduct or behavioral standards are codified here.

Examples of violations of academic or community standards include without limitation: academic dishonesty such as cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized use of materials in academic exercises or examinations, misrepresentations, and/or distortions or serious omissions of data in research reports or other academic work; false statements or serious omissions on applications for admission or financial aid or any other official form or petition; disruption or obstruction of teaching, research or other University activities; unauthorized removal or misuse of library books, computer networks, or other university property; threat or use of force against others; harassment, coercion, or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person (including without limitation sexual or gender-based harassment); theft of or damage to property; hazing; infractions of university regulations, and infractions of city, state, and federal laws that reflect upon the person’s suitability to be a health professional; and any other illegal, unethical, or other behavior inappropriate to the public health profession.

Students are expected to comply with all disciplinary rules from matriculation until the conferring of the degree. A degree will not be granted to a student who is not in good standing or against whom a disciplinary charge is pending.

Note About Admission Materials: Occasionally, candidates for admission will make inaccurate or incomplete statements or submit false material in connection with their application. In most cases, these misrepresentations or omissions are discovered during the admission process and the application is rejected. If a misrepresentation or omission is discovered after a candidate is admitted, the offer of admission normally will be withdrawn. If a misrepresentation or omission is discovered after a student has registered, or registered and completed courses, the offer of admission normally will be rescinded, the course credit and grades will be revoked, and the student will be required to leave the School. If the discovery occurs after a degree has been awarded, the offer of admission normally will be rescinded, and the course credit, grades, and degree will be revoked. The determination that an application is inaccurate, incomplete, or contains misrepresentations rests solely with the Admissions Office and will be resolved outside the student disciplinary process. Cases involving misrepresentations or omissions in connection with a student’s application may be decided by the Admissions Office rather than by the Student Code of Conduct Council.

Note About Student Discipline Pursuant to a Finding of Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment
The Harvard Chan School has adopted the University Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment. When information suggests the possibility of inappropriate conduct involving allegations of sexual or gender-based harassment, the University Policy applies, as do the University’s Procedures for Handling Complaints Involving Students Pursuant to the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy (the “University Procedures”), which can be found on the Harvard Title IX website. Under the University Procedures, the Harvard University Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) is responsible for determining whether a student has violated the University Policy.

When the Student Code of Conduct Council learns that a formal complaint has been filed with ODR, a Student Code of Conduct Council representative will meet with the respondent to explain, among other things, the disciplinary process that may take place following the issuance of the ODR’s final report, the range of disciplinary sanctions, and the appeals process following the imposition of any discipline.

Whenever a formal complaint of sexual or gender-based harassment against a School student results in the issuance of a final report from the ODR, the Student Code of Conduct Council must accept as final and nonreviewable the report’s findings of fact and its conclusions as to whether a violation of the University Policy has occurred. The role of the Student Code of Conduct Council is solely to determine the appropriate disciplinary response.

The Student Code of Conduct Council may interview the parties and may undertake any other action it deems necessary to arrive at its conclusions, including consulting with senior faculty or administrators at the University when it feels additional expertise or advice would be useful. The council’s disciplinary proceedings against the student based on conduct addressed by the ODR’s final report will proceed with the understanding that the final report carries the same validity as a determination reached by the council itself. All members of the Student Code of Conduct Council will receive appropriate training in the handling and resolution of allegations of sexual or gender-based harassment. To the extent any existing Harvard Chan School policies and procedures interfere with compliance with the University Policy or Procedures, application of such Harvard Chan School policies and procedures shall be suspended.

The council may take a number of disciplinary actions as set forth below in the Sanctions for Misconduct (section E). When no violation of the University Policy has been found, the Student Code of Conduct Council will review the factual findings contained in the final report. Should the council conclude that the alleged conduct, while not a violation of the University Policy, might violate other Harvard Chan School policies or expectations for conduct, then the council will take up the case as set forth below. If the council votes to impose discipline, it will notify the respondent and, as appropriate, the complainant, of the discipline imposed.

Please note that for allegations of sexual and gender-based harassment, including sexual assault, sections A and B below do not apply.

Misconduct Reporting Procedures
Procedures (including reporting procedures) of alleged violations of the University Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment are set forth in the University Procedures discussed above and found here. The procedures below apply to all other allegations of misconduct.

Allegations of student misconduct should be brought to the associate dean for student services (preferably in a written report), describing with specificity the circumstances that gave rise to the allegation, along with any supporting information. In some cases, as they deem necessary, the associate dean for student services may make a referral to the Student Code of Conduct Council in the absence of a formal complaint from another party.

If the reporting individual is a faculty member and the apparent misconduct concerns work submitted for credit, the faculty member remains responsible for deciding the grade to be awarded for the work on the academic merits. The Student Code of Conduct Council may, in consultation with the grading instructor, recommend a grade change in assignments, exams, or final course grades. When the student’s grade depends upon work for which a question of misconduct is not yet resolved, the faculty member will assign a grade of “Unassigned Grade” until the issue of misconduct is resolved.

Academic Misconduct Procedures
All members of the Harvard Chan community are responsible for upholding the School’s values and standards. There are also context-specific elements to every potential violation of standards. In recognition that contexts and situations vary, the governance of these standards includes flexibility and multiple paths toward addressing perceived student academic misconduct that include:

Mediation is a path for asking questions and obtaining confidential guidance prior to the formal reporting of an incident or at any time during the review of evidence about an incident. It might, for example, be useful to talk with the mediator if it is unclear whether an incident rises to the level of needing to be reported. Another example might include getting guidance about how best to talk with students about perceived or potential violations. A third example is to determine the path forward if a student is involved in a research misconduct incident, which will require coordination with the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Research Compliance and the Office of Student Services. Mediation is available both for someone who believes they have observed an incident of misconduct and for those who have been accused of misconduct, or both. Mediation is provided by the associate dean for student services. The associate dean may refer individuals to Student Support Services, suggest that there be further consultations between instructors, TAs, and students, provide advice about how to complete a form to register a violation, or any number of other actions designed to facilitate learning and adherence to our values and standards.

Internal review (usually within-course review) is a path for an incident to be documented but handled within the context of the perceived violation, without need for a hearing by the Student Code of Conduct Council. This most commonly occurs for incidents of academic misconduct, within the context of a course. Instructional staff who perceive academic misconduct would, in this context, determine whether there was a violation, complete a misconduct form, and determine the appropriate sanction and communicate it to the student without a hearing. Internal review is appropriate for incidents at Levels 1–3 of seriousness but not for a Level 4 incident.

Internal review is optional for both instructors and students. If either instructor or student (or both) prefer a Student Code of Conduct Council hearing, that is an option for a perceived incident of misconduct at any Level.

Student Code of Conduct Council hearing involves an incident that is reviewed by the council (a) either when one or both parties prefer a hearing to an internal review or (b) when the incident is serious enough to require a hearing.

Preliminary Investigation of a Report of Misconduct
In many instances, allegations of misconduct can be dealt with informally, without proceeding with the disciplinary process. Upon receiving a report of potential misconduct, the associate dean for student services (or designee) promptly conducts a preliminary investigation for the purposes of determining whether the incident should be treated as a disciplinary case. As part of this preliminary investigation, the associate dean for student services notifies the student about the concerns that have been raised and seeks the student’s account of the events in question. Students who receive such a notification are strongly encouraged to meet at least once with the director for student affairs or their designee.

If the preliminary investigation indicates that disciplinary action may be warranted, then the associate dean for student services initiates formal disciplinary proceedings by sending a written charge to the Student Code of Conduct Council, to the student, and to the student’s academic adviser. The written charge explains the nature of the alleged disciplinary infraction, describes in general the evidence on which it is based, and identifies the possible disciplinary actions that could result. A charge shall be issued only if the associate dean for student services believes it reasonably likely that the charged infraction can be established by a preponderance of evidence.

In cases of suspected plagiarism, student papers may be submitted to a private contracted service that reviews content for originality. Results from this review may be used to inform the associate dean and Student Code of Conduct Council in their inquiry.

Papers submitted to this service are retained by that company and become part of their database of materials used in future searches. No personal identifying information is either submitted or retained by the service.

The Registrar’s Office is informed that disciplinary proceedings are underway; transcripts will not be issued to third parties for students facing disciplinary proceedings.

Student Code of Conduct Council
The Student Code of Conduct Council is composed of three faculty members, four students, the Associate Dean for Student Services, and the Assistant Dean for Professional Education. The faculty members are appointed by the Dean for Education for three-year terms; one of the members is designated by the Dean for Education to serve as co-chair with the Associate Dean for Student Services. One student representative is appointed by the Dean for Education from each of the school’s four major degree programs (MPH, SM, DrPH and PhD). Student roles on the the Council may depend upon the specifics of the case (for example, a student representative could be recused if a student being reviewed by the Council comes from the representative’s department or program).

Rules for Disciplinary Proceedings 

  1. Upon issuance of a formal charge by the associate dean for student services, the Student Code of Conduct Council begins its review of the alleged misconduct.
  2. A member of the council who believes they cannot properly discharge responsibilities in a given case may excuse him or herself. The council also may, either in response to a student’s request or on its own, decide to excuse a council member.
  3. Within one week of the issuance of a formal charge, the student should submit a written statement on the incident to the council, which should include the student’s perspective on the situation along with copies of any additional information bearing on the matter. This statement should be written by the student in his or her own words, but the student is encouraged to seek the help of their adviser, another faculty member, the director for student affairs, or the associate dean for student services.
  4. When a complaint involves allegations of serious criminal conduct, students are advised to seek legal counsel before making any written or oral statements to the School. The School’s disciplinary process is pedagogical rather than judicial, and attorneys for students are not permitted to participate. However, students are advised to seek legal advice about how the School’s disciplinary process could affect any criminal case in which they may be involved. Ordinarily, if a complaint is being pursued through the criminal justice system, the council may assess the timing of the investigation so that it does not compromise the integrity of the criminal investigation. In some cases, the council may choose to postpone or suspend its own review of the matter until the criminal case has been concluded.
  5. The student has a right to a hearing before the Student Code of Conduct Council. Disciplinary hearings will be private. A recording may be made of that portion of the meeting in which the student meets with the council. A copy of the recording, if made, shall be made available to the student (without charge) upon request.
  6. A student appearing before the Student Code of Conduct Council may be accompanied by an adviser (chosen by the student) from within the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health community. As noted above, in keeping with the nonadversarial character of the council’s proceedings, attorneys for students cannot be present at hearings of the council.
  7. The student, after giving prior notice to the council, may bring to the hearing persons who have information relevant to the facts of the alleged misconduct. Individuals wishing to attest to the character of a student may not attend the hearing but will be allowed to communicate with the council in writing.
  8. The council considers any information that it deems to be relevant and credible. Formal rules of evidence do not apply.
  9. The council may draw such reasonable inferences from a student’s decision not to cooperate with the disciplinary process as it deems appropriate. Statements made to members of the council and others may be considered by the council at the hearing regardless of when made.
  10. If the student wishes the council to consider a medical excuse, explanation, or justification in a particular case, the student must consent to the release to the council of their relevant medical or psychiatric records by Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) or another health care provider. Refusal to authorize disclosure of information obtained by HUHS or other health care provider shall not be weighed against the student. The absence of such information, may, however, properly preclude the council from considering a medical excuse, explanation, or justification in a particular case.
  11. Disciplinary sanctions will not be imposed unless conduct warranting sanction is established by a preponderance of the evidence. Decisions of the council are final, except for those recommending expulsion or dismissal, which require a two-thirds vote by the Faculty Council.
  12. All Student Code of Conduct Council business is treated confidentially. The student against whom allegations were raised will be told only the disposition of his or her own case and only by the chair of the council or the chair’s designee (usually the associate dean for student services).
  13. All decisions of the council to impose sanctions shall be communicated to the student in writing, along with specific findings of fact and conclusions, including, wherever appropriate, a statement of the reasons for the specific sanction and the principles upon which the council relied in setting the sanction. This information also may be conveyed to relevant faculty and staff of the School, including the student’s adviser, their department chair or program head, the registrar, and others as appropriate.
  14. If the council concludes that no disciplinary action is warranted, then a written statement of this decision is sent to the student and no record of the charge shall appear on the student’s transcript.
  15. The council’s decision takes effect immediately. When dismissal or expulsion is recommended (in addition to the requirement to withdraw), then the dismissal or expulsion becomes effective upon a two-thirds vote at a Faculty Council meeting.
  16. When a disciplinary case comes before the Faculty Council for a vote on dismissal or expulsion, the associate dean for student services will present the facts of the case in a written report to the Faculty Council.
  17. A student may request that the Student Code of Conduct Council reconsider its decision if new materially relevant information becomes available. If the council refuses such a request, it must notify the student in writing of the reason for the refusal.
  18. In the case of a disciplinary proceeding involving any crime of violence or nonforcible sex offense, the School may disclose the results of the proceeding to the alleged victim, without prior written consent of the student whose conduct was at issue, regardless of whether the council concluded a violation was committed.
  19. Should situations arise that are not covered by these rules and procedures or in which the application of these rules and procedures, in the judgment of the council, would be inappropriate, the council may formulate and follow an appropriate ad hoc procedure.
  20. Disciplinary cases are ordinarily considered by the Student Code of Conduct Council as quickly as is reasonably possible, given the council’s schedule and the need to investigate matters carefully.

Sanctions for Misconduct
If a determination is made that there was no violation—whether through internal review or a Student Code of Conduct Council hearing—there will be no record of the incident kept in the student’s file.

Formal sanctions, which become part of the student’s official record, are described below. Also below are sanctions specific to academic misconduct.  Please note that the Student Code of Conduct Council may also (or instead) impose sanctions as appropriate to a specific case.

Admonition: A formal reprimand that becomes part of the student’s official record but does not appear on the transcript.

Probation: A warning to the student that they are in serious danger of being required to withdraw from the School, usually imposed for a specified period of time. At the end of the probationary period, the student may be relieved from probation by vote of the Student Code of Conduct Council if the student’s conduct has been satisfactory. A student on probation may be required to withdraw from the School by vote of the Student Code of Conduct Council at any time if their conduct is unsatisfactory. No student on probation may be recommended for a degree. That the student is on probation appears on the student’s transcript during the period of probation. The notation on the transcript will normally read “Disciplinary Probation” and will include the dates of the period of the probation.

Requirement to Withdraw: An action taken in serious disciplinary cases indicating that the student’s behavior is unacceptable in the School community. A student who has been required to withdraw is not in good standing as a candidate for a degree and must surrender their Harvard University student ID card and leave School property for a period determined by the Council, usually two terms. Without exception, students who have been required to withdraw must petition the council to be readmitted to the Harvard Chan School; readmission is not guaranteed but is decided on a case-by-case basis by the council based on its judgment of the student’s conduct during their time away from the School and the student’s readiness to rejoin the School community. That the student was required to withdraw for disciplinary reasons appears permanently on the student’s transcript. The notation on the transcript will normally read “Disciplinary Withdrawal Required” and will include the date of the withdrawal.

Dismissal: An action taken in serious disciplinary cases whereby a student’s connection with the School is terminated by a two-thirds vote of the Faculty Council attending the meeting where the case is presented. (The action taken by the Student Code of Conduct Council is a vote of requirement to withdraw with a recommendation to the Faculty Council that the student be dismissed.) Dismissal does not necessarily preclude a student’s return, but readmission is granted rarely and only by a similar vote of the Faculty Council. A dismissed student is not in good standing until readmitted. The fact of dismissal appears permanently on the student’s transcript. The notation on the transcript will normally read “Disciplinary Dismissal” and will include the date of the dismissal.

Expulsion: The most extreme disciplinary action possible. It signifies that the student is no longer welcome in the community and can never be readmitted. Expulsion must be voted by the Faculty Council as described under “Dismissal.” (The action taken by the council is a vote of requirement to withdraw with a recommendation to the Faculty Council that the student be expelled.) A student who is expelled can never be readmitted and restored to good standing. The fact of expulsion appears permanently on the student’s transcript. The notation on the transcript will normally read “Disciplinary Expulsion” and will include the date of the expulsion.

Academic Misconduct Sanctions
Level 1 or 2 Violation: A record of violation will be kept in the student’s file until graduation for Level 1 or Level 2 violations. Recommended sanctions and actions for Level 1 and 2 violations, with an emphasis on academic misconduct violations, include:

  • Redoing the assignment (appropriate for Level 1)
  • Reduction of one letter grade on the assignment (appropriate for Level 1)
  • Reduction of multiple letter grades on the assignment
  • Zero credit or score on the assignment
  • One-letter grade reduction in the course
  • Discussion with Office for Student Affairs regarding time management, support for stress
  • Discussion with the associate dean for student services regarding the School’s Code of Conduct

Level 3 Violation: A record of violation will be kept in the student’s file for three years after graduation for Level 3 violations. Recommended sanctions and actions for Level 3 violations, with an emphasis on academic misconduct include:

  • Two-letter grade reduction in the course
  • Loss of credit for the course
  • Discussion with the associate dean for student services regarding the School’s Code of Conduct

Level 4 Violation: A record of violation will either be kept permanently or for three years after graduation for Level 4 violations. The determination about whether the record is kept permanently or for three years will be made by the Student Code of Conduct Council on a case-by case basis. Level 4 violations include any individuals determined to have repeated violations. Recommended sanctions and actions include:

  • Loss of credit for the course
  • Suspension
  • Dismissal from Harvard University

Research Misconduct Sanctions
In addition to the listed sanctions for misconduct, in the case of research misconduct, termination on research project and potential reimbursement of expended research funds.