Policies You Can Turn To:
S-10.01 Student Academic Integrity; S-10.02 University Board on Student Discipline; S-10.03 Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals; T-20.01 Grading and Reconsideration of Grades, Graduate Student Admissions Handbook
What if I am accused of plagiarism or academic misconduct?
As in all policies, you have the right to be treated fairly before being penalized. This means you are entitled to information about the alleged wrongdoing and having the ability to provide a response. In the case of plagiarism, an internal and impartial board is established to make decisions regarding matters of student academic discipline. There are also tribunals or boards that can be appealed to should you feel your case has been assessed unfairly.
It is suggested that you contact the SFU Ombudsperson for assistance in navigating such academic and non-academic conduct issues.
How do I appeal decisions made about academic or student misconduct?
Academic and non-academic misconduct have their own processes of adjudication and appeals as laid out in Academic Honesty and Student Conduct policies (S 10.01-10.05). It is highly suggested you use your right for support and advocacy in navigating these processes by connecting with the SFU ombudsperson.
Two types of academic misconduct appeals:
A Complaint must be received normally within four months of the incident of alleged Student Misconduct or of the University learning about the incident.
1) Appeal to University Board of Student Discipline (UBSD) - available to students where a penalty has been imposed and the student disputes the facts of the case (i.e. I did not do what they are alleging I did). The UBSD will provide an impartial forum in which there will be a complete examination of allegations of academic dishonesty and academic misconduct on the part of the student
2) Appeal to the Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals (SCODA) - available to students where a penalty has been imposed and the student wishes to dispute the severity of the penalty (i.e. I made a mistake but this penalty is too much).
S.10.05 states that appeals of decisions made regarding non-academic conduct will go first to the Executive Director, Student Affairs, then to the Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Students and International (VPSI), and to an unnamed Senate committee if the penalty is a suspension. This Senate Committee is currently in the process of being created to respond with empathy and trauma-informed practice to non-academic misconduct cases. Up to the date of this printing, almost every incident of non-academic misconduct at SFU has been resolved through informal resolution agreements.
Student rights within the appeals process:
- The right to expect all rights associated with procedural fairness
- The right to an investigation founded on a balance of probabilities with the burden of proof being placed on the instructor.
- The right to be accompanied by a support person or advocate
- All rights associated with procedural fairness
- The right to timeliness of response and decision-making
Students have the right to retake a course in order to improve your grade, though only two courses can be repeated through their degree program with no course being repeated more than once.
Students do have the right to appeal any grades assigned through the Instructor or Department Chair. If an appropriate resolution is not sought at this level, students can then appeal to the Dean and in limited circumstances to the Senate Appeal Board.
As outlined in policy T-20.01, requests for grade appeals will be reviewed by the Department Chair in consultation with the student. If this does not resolve the concern, the student has the right to request the Chair arrange for further evaluation of the work and establish a grade. The student has a right to anonymity in such a re-evaluation.
To fully enact this right, it is your responsibility as a student to retain all exams and assignments that are returned. Concerns or needs of clarification about a grade on either a term assignment or the final grade must be brought to the attention of the instructor within 10 days of its assignment. Students have the right to expect a timely response to this, normally within 10 days.
According to the GGRs, the supervisory committee shall report on the student’s progress at least once each year. All graduate students have the right to a full understanding of how and on what terms progress is evaluated. These progress evaluations should be based only on academics and not include performance in RA or TAships. You also have the right to be informed about how progress evaluations impact funding agreements and offers.
GGR 1.8.2 states that if a progress evaluation has been determined to be unsatisfactory by the supervisor or committee, the student concerned has the right to appeal. This must be done within 15 days from receipt of the letter. If a student should appeal, they have the right to appear before the Graduate Program Committee when the case is considered and to bring a support person. There are three outcomes that can come from GPC:
- If it is determined that the student's progress is assessed satisfactory despite the supervisory committee's report, the student will be informed of satisfactory progress with a letter, and meet with the supervisory committee to review the areas of concern.
- If the student’s progress is determined to be unsatisfactory, a remediation plan is made for the next three terms.
- If the student’s progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory, they may be required to withdraw.
Student rights within this appeal to progress evaluation include:
- The right to have a support person or advocate present
- The creation of a remediation plan made in collaboration with the student that takes into account any medical,social, and personal contexts of the student
- The right to timeline that reasonably accounts for the realities of the student
Any decision of the GPC may be appealed to the appeals subcommittee of the Senate Graduate Studies Committee, by submission of an appeal to the Dean of Graduate Studies. The decision of the appeals subcommittee shall be final.
In some cases, PhD students who have received unsatisfactory progress evaluations may be asked by their supervisor to “Master out” of their degree. Any decision to “Master out” is not one that can be made solely by your supervisor - it must be made collaboratively between the supervisory committee, the student, and, if needed, the Graduate Program Committee. Often, this option shows a lack of support on behalf of the supervisor. If you feel this is the case, the right to seek an outside opinion should be exercised.
In some cases, it may be the will of the student to “Master out” of a PhD program for any number of reasons including job opportunities or mental health concerns. This opportunity to exit the program with a degree should be discussed with the committee, though the committee should not hinder the student’s agency in this decision.
Throughout any process related to grading or progress evaluation concerns or appeals, you have the right to discuss your options with outside support structures such as the GSS Advocacy office or SFU Ombudsperson.