The computer science department has launched an investigation into academic integrity violations in core course Computer Science 201.

All students who are currently enrolled in the class and who took the class in Spring 2014 received an email Wednesday night, notifying them that concerns about academic dishonesty have prompted a review of assignments. The email reminds students that taking solutions from either the Internet or peers is against course policy. Students are told in the email that if they come forward with an account of their violations by Nov. 12, they will be offered a faculty-student resolution if it is their first infraction.

Students who have any infractions on their record already, or who do not come forward by Nov. 12, will have their case referred to the Office of Student Conduct. The email notes, however, that any students' "decision to come forward and take responsibility will be taken into account" even if an infraction is part of their record.

Faculty-student resolutions have academic consequences but do not go on a student's externally visible disciplinary record, the email states. Cases that go through Student Conduct—if not resolved in the student's favor—have the possibility of academic consequences, a presence on the student's disciplinary record or influencing the student's enrollment through suspension or expulsion.

Ronald Parr, professor of computer science and chair of the department, said the department was officially deferring all comment to Student Conduct.

Stephen Bryan, associate dean of students and director of student conduct, declined to comment.

There are 217 students enrolled in the class this semester and there were 208 in Spring 2014, according to ACES. The course, Data Structures and Algorithms, is required for the computer science major.

Following the email, many students took to social media to voice concern or panic—particularly on the anonymous mobile platform Yik Yak. Dozens of posts were made about the incident, with some students asking whether or not they should come forward and others wondering whether students who had previously taken the course could be disciplined. Several users coined the situation "CopySci 201."

"I think that we—computer science and Duke—could have handled this a little better than we have," said Owen Astrachan, co-director of undergraduate studies and professor of the practice of computer science. "When mass emails result in a Yik Yak storm, something's not right."

Astrachan noted that the message was confusing for some students because there was no way for individuals to determine if they were suspected of any wrongdoing, creating panic for many students who are unsure of how to act moving forward.

He also noted that, for many students, the nature of today's computer science means searching for help online—which can blur the lines between a student violating course policy and one simply seeking further understanding of a concept. The policies regarding collaboration with other students are also somewhat unclear, he said.

"The reality of the situation is many students look online for help with programming," Astrachan said. "We as faculty—in computer science, at Duke and elsewhere—should think a little about how we expect our students to work."

Creating a "police state" in which all work has to be thoroughly checked for any sign of outside help hinders a collaborative classroom environment, he said, and faculty should consider updating course policies to reflect this.

See the full text of the email below.

Computer Science 201 Email by thedukechronicle

Check back for updates on this developing story. Editor's note: no Chronicle staff members who are currently enrolled or have ever been enrolled in Computer Science 201 were involved with the reporting or editing of this article.