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Graduate Academic Rights and Responsibilities

Graduate Studies

Academic Integrity Statement

“As a member of the Shepherd University community of scholars, I will uphold the fundamental values of academic integrity: Honesty, Trust, Respect, Fairness, and Responsibility.”

Academic Rights and Responsibilities

All students, faculty, and staff are responsible for understanding and complying with the university’s stated academic requirements.

  1. Student grades are based solely on academic performance as measured by the standards set forth in the course syllabus.
  2. Students should feel free to express their thoughts and opinions in an academic forum.
  3. Assignments must be completed by the student for whom the work is assigned and without unauthorized aid of any kind.
  4. Instructors shall encourage honest effort by exercising care in planning and supervising academic work.
  5. A student who does not comply with the university’s honesty standard may be subject to appropriate penalties imposed by the instructor, and even to academic probation, suspension, or dismissal.
  6. The policies regarding both academic standing and academic dishonesty are outlined in the Shepherd University Catalog.

Students who choose to enroll at Shepherd have the following academic rights:

  1. Access to the Shepherd University Catalog, which describes all academic program requirements including: required courses, total credit requirements, residence requirements, special program requirements, minimum grade point average requirements, probation standards, professional standards, and other pertinent information.
  2. A written syllabus containing the academic requirements of, and the instructor’s expectations for the course
    • Course syllabi will be distributed by instructors of record, and should contain information pertaining to: attendance policies, grading procedures, course information, special requirements including field trips, extra costs, and other pertinent matters
    • Students have the right of appeal if they are discriminated against due to: race, color, national origin, age, gender identity, familial or associational status, disabilities, religion, or sexual orientation

Academic Actions Imposed by the University

  1. Shepherd University will take appropriate academic action when a student fails to maintain the academic standards of the university, or when there is evidence that a student has violated an academic policy. Students also have the right to appeal academic actions
  2. Examples of situations requiring academic action would include the following.
    • Infraction of institutional academic standards, rules, and regulations (required grade point averages, ) as stated in the Shepherd University Catalog.
    • Final grade challenges
    • Academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, cheating, falsifying records, etc. )
    • Failure to meet the standards required for continuing in a program of instruction, thus leading to dismissal from that program
  3. For failure to maintain academic standards, the university may impose the following student sanctions:
    • Instructor Imposed Sanctions include the reduction of a grade, or the failure of a course, all of which may be applied by an individual. The maximum penalty a professor may impose is a grade of F in the course.
    • Academic Probation is a sanction imposed for failure to meet academic standards (see the Catalog).
    • Academic Suspension is the exclusion from all institutional activities for a definite stated period of time not to exceed one calendar year (see the Catalog).
    • Academic Dismissal is the termination of student status from some or all programs, including any right or privilege to receive a benefit, recognition, or certification.

Academic Actions Concerning Admissions and Credits

  1. Institutional procedures for administering admission policies are detailed in the Shepherd University Catalog.
    • The Office of Admissions shall be responsible for administering admissions policies outlined in the Shepherd University Catalog.
      • Prospective students who fail to meet the academic standards necessary for admissions will be notified of their deficiencies.
      • Prospective students who wish to challenge or seek an exception to an admissions policy may petition the Graduate Council for an exception to the rules in particular cases.
    • The Office of the Registrar is responsible for administering the institutional academic standards as outlined in the Catalog.
      • The Office of Registrar will notify students who have deficiencies and thus fail to meet the minimum academic standards necessary for remaining in a given program.
      • Students wishing to challenge or seek an exception to a university policy may, in particular cases, petition the Graduate Council for an exception to the rules in particular cases.
        • All petitions shall include required signatures on the appropriate petition.
        • All petitions will include a written statement of the reason that an exception to a policy should be granted.
  2. Decisions of the Graduate Council may be appealed to the university president whose decision is final.

The Graduate Council Academic Appeal Committee

  1. The faculty pool utilized in this process consists of all faculty who sit on Graduate Council.
  2. Members of the committee will hear cases involving grade appeals, academic dishonesty, and program dismissals.

Student Grade Appeals

  1. In any grade appeal procedure, establishing good cause for changing a final grade rests on the student.
  2. Unless the student can offer convincing arguments to the contrary, good faith on the instructor’s part is presumed.
  3. When supported by sufficient evidence, any of the following reasons shall constitute good cause for challenging a final grade
    • The grade was the result of discrimination (as defined in I, B, 2, b).
      • A successful appeal must demonstrate that the instructor did not apply a consistent standard to all students in the classroom.
      • The student making the appeal must show that the instructor did not apply the same grading standard to the student making the appeal that was applied to other students in the course.
    • The grade was awarded in an arbitrary or capricious manner.
    • The grade was the result of an error on the part of the professor in calculating, recording, or reporting a final grade.
  4. None of the following shall constitute good cause for appealing a final grade:
    • Disagreement with the course requirements established by the professor,
    • Disagreement with the grading standards established by the professor,
    • Disagreement with the instructor’s judgment when applying grading standards, assuming that the instructor has made a reasonable effort to be fair and consistent in exercising that judgment,
    • The desire or need of the student to attain a particular grade,
    • Consequences that a student might face as the result of a grade award.
  5. What constitutes standing in a grade appeal case?
    • In the grade appeal process, standing is defined as those parties who are directly linked to this action procedurally.
      • Those parties who have standing include the instructor and the student desiring a grade change,
      • Those parties who do not have standing include classmates, other instructors, other administrators, and family members.
    • Parties with standing shall be allowed to present oral testimony to the Appeals Committee in the grade appeal process.
    • Relevant testimony from parties who do not have standing in the grade appeal process should be presented in the form of written statements that shall be made part of the official appeal file.
      • Committee members may invite other parties to be interviewed or to give testimony based on the written statements.
      • All written statements shall become part of the appeal file.

Grade Appeal Procedures

  1. Step 1: Scheduling a Faculty-Student Conference.
    • A student wishing to appeal a grade shall first confer face-to-face with the instructor of record (hereafter referred to as instructor) who assigned that grade.
      • The instructor-student conference shall take place within the first 10 class days of the regular semester immediately following the semester that the disputed grade was assigned (Summer sessions are not considered as regular semesters).
      • At the request of the student or the instructor, the program coordinator shall assign another graduate faculty member to witness the conference.
      • The reasons for questioning the grade shall be stated by the student, and the reasons for assigning that particular grade shall be explained by the instructor.
    • In a case where the instructor is not available for this conference (non-reappointment, retirement, death, extended absence from the area, or other debilitating circumstances), the instructor’s program coordinator shall act as the instructor of record.
    • Students who appeal a grade can expect one of 2 possible outcomes from the student-instructor conferences.
      • If the instructor finds that no grade change is justified, the student shall be so notified at the end of the conference
      • If the instructor does decide to change the grade, the instructor shall complete a change of grade form and file it with the registrar within 5 class days from the time that the conference occurs.
  2. Step 2: The Student appeals to the program coordinator.
    • Following the instructor-student conference, a student receiving an unfavorable decision may file an appeal with the instructor’s program coordinator.
      • The appeal to the program coordinator must be in writing and filed within 5 class days of the instructor-student conference, or within the first 15 class days of the semester that the grade is eligible for appeal.
      • If the student fails to contact the program coordinator within 15 class days of the beginning of the appropriate semester, the instructor’s grade award shall be considered finals.
    • The student’s grade appeal to the program coordinator must be in the form of a written memo or letter
      • The appeal memo or letter must be copied to the instructor.
      • The student’s written statement must include a justification that should conform to at least one of the criteria listed above for making a grade appeal.
      • The appeal must include all completed assignments that have been returned to the student.
    • The instructor shall submit a written justification for the assigned grade with supporting documentation that includes any assignments that have not been returned to the student.
    • In order to make an equitable decision, the program coordinator may hold a hearing involving the instructor and the student desiring a grade change.
    • If the instructor is the Dean, then the following procedures shall be followed:
      • Following the faculty-student conference, step 2 shall occur.
      • If applicable, step 3 will be skipped and the case will proceed to step 4.
    • Within 10 class days of receiving the student’s appeal, the program coordinator shall provide both the student and the instructor with a written notice of the coordinator’s decision.
      • The written notice should give the reasons for the decision and may be given to the parties directly or mailed by certified mail.
      • Following notification of the coordinator’s decision to all parties, the program coordinator shall forward the original grade appeal file to the dean of graduate studies and continuing education.
        • The file should include a copy of the decision and all written materials including notes from oral investigations that were used for reaching the decision.
        • The program coordinator shall retain a copy of these files for 5 years.
    • Both the student and the instructor have the right to appeal the program coordinator’s decision to the dean of graduate studies and continuing education.
    • If the program coordinator’s review decides that a change in grade is warranted, and the instructor agrees with the decision, the instructor shall file a change of grade form with the registrar within ten class days of the date of the decision.
    • If the program coordinator’s review decides that a change in grade is warranted, but the instructor does not consent to the change, the program coordinator shall automatically forward the appeal to the dean of graduate studies and continuing education.
  3. Step 3: The Student Appeals to the Dean
    • A student or an instructor may appeal the program coordinator’s decision to the Dean of Graduate Studies and continuing education within 5 class days of being notified of the program coordinator’s decision.
      • The appeal memo or letter must be copied to the program coordinator and the instructor.
      • The appeal shall be in writing and shall contain the student’s reasons for appealing the program coordinator’s decision.
    • Upon receiving an appeal, the dean shall review the appeal file.
      • In arriving at a decision, the dean should consider the written appeal, the instructor’s written response, and the program coordinator’s written report.
        • The dean may also consider the student’s written work for the course in question.
        • In order to make an equitable decision, the dean may hold a hearing involving the instructor and the student desiring a grade change.
      • The dean shall communicate the decision and the justification to the student, the instructor, and program coordinator within 10 class days of receiving the student’s appeal directly or by certified mail.
    • Both the student and the instructor have the right to appeal the decision of the dean to the Graduate Council.
    • If the dean’s review decides that a change in grade is warranted, and the instructor is in agreement, the instructor shall file a change of grade form with the Office of the Registrar within 10 class days of the date of the decision.
    • If the dean’s review decides that a change in grade is warranted, but the instructor does not consent to the change, the dean shall automatically forward the appeal file to the Appeal Committee.
  4. Step 4: Petition to the Graduate Council.

5. Step 5: Unusual Circumstances in Processing Grade Appeals

Academic Integrity Procedures

  1. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on examinations, falsifying records, submitting plagiarized work of any kind, or providing or receiving assistance in coursework in a manner not authorized by the instructor. Plagiarism is defined in the Shepherd University Catalog as “the act of stealing and using, as one’s own, the ideas of another or the written expression of ideas of another”.
  2. Any student, administrator, staff, or faculty member may bring charges of academic dishonesty against a student.
    • A student charged with academic dishonesty shall be accorded the presumption of innocence.
    • Consistent with the stated process articulated below, all willful incidents of academic dishonesty are to be reported by the faculty member to Office of the Dean of Students and to the department chair. Generally, any second offense of academic dishonesty will be grounds for suspension or expulsion from the university.
    • The instructor should carefully evaluate the evidence of academic misconduct and the severity of the offense prior to imposing sanctions on a student.
      • The instructor of record should make a charge of academic dishonesty directly to the student involved and decide on the sanctions to be imposed.
        • Instructor-imposed sanctions for academic dishonesty include requiring work to be rewritten and resubmitted; lowering a grade; reducing the grade on the assignment, even to zero; advising the withdrawal of a student from a class; and assigning a student a failing grade for the course in which the academic dishonesty Additionally, the instructor may recommend institutional action to the Student Affairs Office.
        • For a case of academic dishonesty, an instructor may impose a penalty no greater than a failing course grade.
      • The instructor should inform the student, in writing, of the sanctions to be imposed, the reasons for those sanctions, the availability of the appeal process, and the need to file an appeal within 5 days.
        • If the student admits responsibility and accepts the instructor-imposed sanctions, the instructor should submit a written description of the offense and the sanctions to the program chair, the registrar, and the Student Affairs Office.
        • If the charges are denied, the accused student has 5 class days to contact the instructor’s department chair to request a conference.
        • If the student does not respond to the instructor’s charges of academic dishonesty by contacting the program coordinator within 5 days, the instructor-imposed sanctions shall be imposed, and the reported charge is thereafter maintained on the student’s record in the Student Affairs Office.
      • When dealing with a case of academic dishonesty, the instructor may request a conference with the program coordinator and the student charged with the offense.
      • A student, who accepts a failing grade because of academic dishonesty, shall not be permitted to withdraw from that course, even if the failing grade is given prior to that semester’s official withdrawal deadline.
      • A student who receives a failing grade in a course as the result of a charge of academic dishonesty and chooses to appeal the grade shall not be allowed to withdraw from the course unless the appeal is resolved in the student’s favor.
      • A student who is in the process of appealing a charge of academic dishonesty has the right to remain enrolled in the class in which the charge was made until the completion of the appeal process.
    • When brought by anyone other than the instructor of record, a charge of academic dishonesty involving a student or students in a specific course should be made to the instructor’s program coordinator who may take 1 of 2 actions:
      • The program coordinator may refer the matter to the course instructor for appropriate action following the procedures outlined above.
      • The program coordinator may contact the student and the instructor directly and initiate a conference as outlined above.
    • A charge of academic dishonesty that does not involve a regular academic course (e.g., falsifying records, cheating on a standardized test) should be made to the Student Affairs Office, who will either contact the appropriate academic units or initiate action as a policy violation under the Student Code of Conduct.
    • Separate from instructor-imposed sanctions, the Student Affairs designee has jurisdiction to potentially take institutional action under the Student Code of Conduct policies and procedures, which may include suspension or expulsion, in response to any willful academic In the case of a first offense, substantial deference is accorded to the intent of the faculty member. In the case of a second offense, suspension or expulsion is presumed to be an appropriate institutional sanction.
    • Separate from instructor imposed sanctions, some academic programs at Shepherd are limited enrollment programs and/or have specific standards of professionalism associated with the If the student is enrolled in such a program and is found culpable of academic dishonesty under this policy, the Student Affairs designee shall give notice of the incident to the department chair of the student’s program. The program may choose to proceed with Academic Action, as provided for above.
    • Any individual making a charge of academic dishonesty has the responsibility to demonstrate that a preponderance of evidence indicates that a violation has occurred.
  3. Charges of academic dishonesty in a specific course that cannot be resolved by the instructor and the student involved should be referred to the instructor’s program coordinator.
    • A program coordinator conference can be initiated by a request from either the student or the instructor involved or by the program coordinator acting on a complaint from any member of the academic community.
      • The conference should take place in person within 10 days of the department chair first receiving a request from either a student or an instructor to hold it.
      • This conference does not constitute a hearing on the student’s responsibility for academic dishonesty.
    • The purpose of the program coordinator conference shall be to clarify procedures and possible sanctions for both the student and the instructor and to coordinate further appeals
      • The coordinator may review the evidence and recommend particular courses of action that are acceptable to both the student and the instructor.
      • The coordinator may not overturn an instructor-imposed sanction without the instructor’s consent.
      • The program coordinator conference cannot result in any penalties being imposed on a student beyond those previously described as instructor-imposed sanctions.
    • If, at the end of the conference, the student admits responsibility for the act of academic dishonesty and agrees to accept the sanctions proposed by the instructor and program coordinator, those sanctions will be implemented.
      • The program coordinator should obtain a written statement from the student who agrees to the sanctions that will be imposed as a result of the conference.
      • The program coordinator shall forward copies of this written statement, along with a description of the offense and the instructor-imposed sanctions, to the registrar and to the Student Affairs Office.

4. Academic dishonesty disputes that are not resolved by the conference with the program coordinator should be referred to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education.

Either the student or the faculty member may appeal the decision of the committee to the President of the University, whose decision shall be final.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend class and to know and understand the specific attendance policies established by their professors. Attendance policy for a given class is established by the professor. The professor will state the attendance policy in the course syllabus. Professors will make reasonable accommodations for occasional, unavoidable absences based on highly legitimate grounds. Professors will determine the most appropriate means of compensating for work unavoidably and legitimately missed in their classes. To be eligible for such substitute evaluation, students are responsible for discussing any absences with their professors; such discussions must occur in advance of foreseeable absences and as soon as possible following unpredictable ones.

Students are expected to plan their class, work, and personal schedules to avoid potential conflicts. Legitimate reasons for class absences include documented and/or instances of the following 1) death in the immediate family; 2) incapacitating illness or injury (not including any nonemergency doctors’ appointments that could be scheduled at other times); 3) field trips required for other classes, intercollegiate competitions, or activities initialing official representation of Shepherd University; 4) hazardous, weather-induced driving conditions (for commuter students only).

Students should contact the Student Affairs Office to obtain an Absentee Notice to be sent from the Coordinator for Student Conduct for the above reasons. Relevant documentation for these absences should be provided.

A student’s evaluation in a course is the professor’s responsibility. A grade decision in a course must be made by the professor prior to the initiation of a grade appeal. A student who believes his or her grade has been adversely affected by a professor’s inappropriate implementation of the attendance policy may pursue a grade appeal at the close of the semester.

Special Circumstances

  1. A student who has a documented medical disability or chronic illness that may affect their ability to attend class regularly and/or to complete scheduled in-class, graded activities (e.g., exams, oral reports, lab assignments) should confer with their professors as soon as possible after the semester begins. In consultation with the student (and with doctors or Shepherd staff when appropriate), the professor can develop a contingency plan to accommodate any absences that may occur because of the disability or illness. The professor may create alternative assignments or otherwise determine the best means of assuring that the student’s semester grade will not suffer should the student have to miss classes as a direct result of their disability or medical condition. To the greatest extent consistent with the particular dis- ability involved, a chronically ill or disabled student will not only be treated equally with other students, but will also be equally expected to adhere to course policies and assignments established for all students.
  2. In rare instances a student may suffer an unanticipated medical problem or military service obligation requiring complete absence from school over an extended period (i.e., weeks rather than days). Such a situation will create the need to confer with professors as soon as is feasible–possibly through a relative or other responsible individual. A professor may be able to design alternative assignments that can be done independently. However, some courses by their nature do not lend themselves to compensation for prolonged periods of missed classes and assignments. For such classes, the alternatives may be limited to either a Withdrawal or an Incomplete specifically mandating that the student actually take some or all of the relevant course when it is next offered. In such circumstances, the Admissions and Credits Committee will generally be agreeable to any necessary waivers regarding institutional deadlines regarding withdrawals or incompletes so long as l) the student’s petition clearly and fully explains the situation calling for the waiver, 2) appropriate documentation is presented, 3) the request is supported in writing by both the professor and the student’s advisor, and 4) the student’s request is made in a timely manner (i.e., as soon as possible given the circumstances and not substantially after the fact).