Possible Responses

The Honor Council's decisions are governed by the rules and regulations contained in the Handbook for Students, and are guided by considerations of equity. The Council is careful to treat each student fairly, and in reaching its decisions ensures that the outcomes are consistent with its treatment of other students. To take action, the Council must be sufficiently persuaded that the student has violated the Honor Code or rules on academic integrity. In the event the Council finds the student responsible for a violation, the outcomes generally depend on two criteria: 1) the seriousness of the infraction; and 2) extenuating circumstances, including the extent to which a student has had similar trouble before.

Any disciplinary action requires a majority vote of the Council team members present and eligible to vote and, in the case of a requirement to withdraw, at least a two-thirds majority of the Council team members present and eligible to vote. Some Honor Council outcomes change a student's status at the College, meaning that the student would not be “in good standing,” and others do not. Outcomes of "scratch", "take no action", "referral to the course for a local sanction", and "admonish" do not change a student's status. The other possible actions of the Council, including “disciplinary probation” and “requirement to withdraw,” do change a student’s status in the College, meaning that s/he is no longer considered to be in good standing. Outcomes that change a student’s status are disclosed to parents or guardians, as well as to graduate or professional schools under certain circumstances.

The following menu lists the range of possible outcomes available to the Honor Council.


Bracket. A case is bracketed when a decision is postponed pending receipt of additional information or documentation.


Scratch. A finding by the Council that nothing wrong occurred, or that there are no grounds for action. A decision of scratch is recorded in the student's file to signal that the Council found no fault.

Take No Action

Take No Action. This response indicates that a serious accusation was made but was not or could not be substantiated.


Admonish. Admonition is a warning from the Council that a student has violated the rules or standards of conduct in the College, and it begins a state of jeopardy (i.e. it signals to the student that the Council may respond to future misconduct with formal disciplinary action).

Exclusion from Course

Exclusion from Course. Noted as EXLD on the transcript, exclusion is an indication that the student was not permitted to continue in the course and received no credit. Exclusion from a course is equivalent in all respects to failing it, and in and of itself makes the student's record for the term unsatisfactory and therefore subject to academic review. Exclusion in a disciplinary case is ordinarily an action taken in conjunction with another outcome, such as Admonish, Probation, or Require to Withdraw. Though exclusion does not affect a student's standing at the College, an accompanying action on the unsatisfactory record as a consequence of the academic review may result in a change in a student's status.

Referral to the Course for a Local Sanction

Referral to the Course for a Local Sanction. A referral to the faculty member teaching the course in which the finding of academic dishonesty was made with a recommendation that "local sanctions" (for example, mandatory tutoring, a course warning, an ungraded rework of the assignment in question, a grade penalty, or a failure for the assignment) are appropriate. Such sanctions will be imposed at the discretion of the faculty member, in consultation with the Council.


Probation. Disciplinary probation puts a student on notice that his or her conduct gives considerable cause for concern. A student on disciplinary probation is expected to pay very close attention to his or her conduct, both during the period of probation and after. The Council will likely respond more seriously (e.g., requirement to withdraw) to further violations.

Require to Withdraw

Requirement to Withdraw. Action taken when a student's conduct is unacceptable and the Council has determined that the student needs to be separated from the College in order to gain perspective on his or her actions, or to address and resolve his or her difficulties. In all cases, the Council requires the student to leave the Harvard community completely and to hold a full-time, paid, non-academic job in a non-family situation for at least six consecutive months before petitioning for readmission to the College.

The length of withdrawal normally ranges from two to four terms. Readmission to the College after a requirement to withdraw for disciplinary reasons is not automatic, and requires a vote of the full Administrative Board. A student readmitted after a requirement to withdraw for disciplinary reasons is readmitted in good standing (unless the misconduct also resulted in an unsatisfactory academic record). Ordinarily, a second requirement to withdraw is final.

For information on what happens following the Council's response, see After the Case. Statistics on the frequency and circumstances of each response are available here.