ACADEMIC ADVOCACY

If you are a student at Saint Mary’s and are facing an issue with your grade, an academic dishonesty charge, problems with your supervisor/department/university, discrimination or harassment, the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association (SMUSA) offers advice, information and representation that is free and confidential.

We want to listen to your concerns and support you through the process, help you understand University regulations and appeal procedures, discuss possible resolutions and act as a liaison between you and the administration/faculty. We have an open door policy and will ensure a welcoming, non-judgemental and professional setting.

 

WHAT WE DO:

  • Provide free, confidential, impartial advice and support regarding all kinds of appeals (discipline appeal, grade appeal, misconduct appeal, suspension appeal).
  • Sit on the Academic Senate and various sub-committees advocating for students’ needs and concerns.
  • Overlook the Experiential Learning Fund which aids students by allowing them to supplement their academic knowledge with an Experiential Learning component (conferences, competitions, society trips, etc.).
  • Offer a tutor database through our website in which we regulate and approve tutors and match needed students with tutors.
  • Regulate a Facebook book exchange group where students can buy, sell or swap used textbooks (please search SMUSA Book Exchange and request to join).

 

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY:

Students at Saint Mary’s University are expected to commit to the values of Academic Integrity (honesty, trust, fairness, respect & responsibility) and be aware of the various forms of Academic Dishonesty, how to avoid them and the consequences of an offense.

Some of the common forms of Academic Dishonesty are:

  1. Plagiarism: The presentation of words, ideas or techniques of another as one’s own
  2. Cheating: The attempt to secure a grade by unethical means or helping another student do so
  3. Tampering: Tampering university materials/resources which would deprive others of their use
  4. Falsification: Falsify any academic record or to use a falsified record

 

The consequences of being found guilty of being involved in Academic Dishonesty can range from a repeat of a coursework, failure of the course and revocation of scholarships to suspension or even expulsion from the University.

To read more about Academic Integrity and the Resolution processes in case you have been accused of Academic Dishonesty, please read our Academic Integrity Information Handbook or the University’s latest Academic Calendar.

 

APPEALS:

Academic Discipline (Type 1 and Type 2 Resolutions)

In the case of a first offense of Academic Dishonesty, the professor will usually contact you and try to resolve the issue informally (Type 1 Resolution). This could mean:

  • You agreeing to a 0 in the piece of work where the offense was made
  • The professor reconsidering the issue and agreeing that no violation has occurred, based on the discussion with you
  • Re-doing the test/assignment
  • Other resolutions

If you agree to the decision:

  • The incident and the resolution decided upon will be reported using the Academic Dishonesty Incident Report Form. The Dean, Chairperson and Registrar and you will each receive a copy of this Form.
  • The record of the first offense will be placed in your official file, but will NOT be publicly accessible.
  • Type 1 Resolutions that you agree to cannot be appealed further.

Want to appeal the accusation? Seek the Type 2 Resolution (i.e – formal hearing). Here’s how:

  1. If it is a second offense, the Registrar will notify you of the accusation and a Type 2 Resolution will be triggered automatically.
  2. If you and the professor cannot agree on a Type 1 Resolution, you can appeal the accusation by filing a written notice to the Registrar within 5 working days of receiving the notification of accusation from the Registrar.
  3. If the professor did not meet with you to resolve the issue informally, the Registrar will notify you of the accusation and you can appeal by filing a written notice to the Registrar within one month of the written notification.

Before the hearing:

The Chair will schedule a hearing within 30 calendar days of receiving the request for a Type 2 Hearing, giving adequate notice to the parties, and request written submissions from both parties.

You are encouraged to seek help from the SMUSA VP Academic in preparing the written statement or to discuss the issue. You will submit your written statement within 5 working days of receiving the professor’s statement and documents. The Chair will supply all submissions provided to each side within 3 working days of receiving them.

It is important that you stay relaxed and write a strong and convincing statement that will clearly state why the accusation is untrue.

At the hearing:

  1. Remember to stay calm and composed.
  2. Address specific points from the professor’s statement and explain why you think the accusation is untrue.
  3. Explain the process you use to do your assignments/ write tests so the panel understands your point of view. Describe the layout of the classroom if you were accused of cheating and explain how it may not have been possible to do so.
  4. If you had plagiarized unintentionally or did not cite correctly, explain the situation to the panel and state how you plan to ensure it does not happen again. Intent is definitely a consideration.
  5. Remember your rights: You have the right to be heard, to an unbiased panel, to be able to provide all relevant evidence and information you deem necessary, to comment on the testimony of the complainant and to question the complainant directly or through the panel. You can also be represented or assisted by a lawyer or other person, but you must notify the Chair at least 2 working days before the hearing.

 

After the hearing:

You will be notified of the panel’s decision by the Registrar. If your appeal is upheld, your professor’s initial punishment will be revoked. If your appeal is denied, the panel can uphold the professor’s initial punishment or impose further punishment (see Academic Calendar). The record of the second offense will be placed in your official file, and is publicly accessible.

Academic Discipline Appeal

If you wish to appeal the decision of the Academic Discipline Hearing, your grounds to appeal are:

  1. Failure to follow the rules of natural justice – This means you can appeal the decision if you feel your right to a fair and unbiased hearing where you had the opportunity to be heard, was violated.
  2. Failure to follow University rules, regulations and policies – You can appeal the decision if the panel did not follow the processes of the hearing stated in the Academic Calendar. This includes, but is not limited to, providing you with your right to provide evidence, your right to comment on the complainant’s testimony and question them.

How to appeal?

Once you receive the panel’s decision, you can appeal by submitting a written Notice of Appeal to the Registrar within 10 working days of receiving the decision. You are encouraged to meet with the SMUSA VP Academic to discuss the grounds of appeal and develop your written notice.

Your rights at the Hearing:

  • You are to be given adequate notice about the hearing and full opportunity to participate.
  • You can be represented by another individual, including a lawyer.
  • You can bring witnesses to support your appeal.
  • You can question the witnesses (brought in by yourself or by the other party).
  • You can request for the hearing to be open, limited to 5 observers.

The result:

The Registrar will notify you of the decision made by the panel within 5 working days of the panel coming to a decision.

The panel may deny the appeal, revoke the decision of the original panel, recommend a re-hearing, or modify the original decision.

The decision of the Academic Discipline Appeal Board is final.

Grade Appeal

If you are unhappy with a final grade, the first step you need to take is contact your Professor. If the matter is still unresolved, you can reach out to the Chairperson or Dean. If you still think your grade unfairly reflects your academic performance in the course (due to medical reasons, inconsistency with the course outline, unfair treatment by professor, etc.), you can file a formal grade appeal within 3 months of the last day of the semester in which the course was taken. Here is what you have to do:

  • Submit a written appeal to the Registrar by filling out the Academic Appeals form, available at the Registrar’s office. There is a 30$ fee involved that will be returned if your appeal is upheld.
  • In the form, clearly state the reason for the appeal, precisely which part of the coursework grades you are appealing (it could be the entire coursework) and what outcome you expect from the appeal.
  • Attach all necessary supporting documents – communication with professor (emails, etc.), any retained graded work directly related to the grade you are appealing and any other retained graded work of the overall course.
  • You can also submit a letter to the Committee on Academic Appeals explaining any medical or personal circumstances that hindered your performance, attaching medical or other related documents to support this letter.
  • You may be asked to come in to discuss the appeal in person with the Committee. Remember to stay calm and address specific points from the Professor’s statement.
  • You are encouraged to seek help from the SMUSA VP Academic in preparing your appeal package.

The final grade may be raised, lowered or unchanged. Remember that the decision of the Committee regarding grade appeals is final and no further appeals are possible.

Academic Suspension/Dismissal Appeal

As it stands, there is no formal Senate committee to review Academic Suspension or Dismissal Appeals. Each Faculty evaluates these appeals using their internal processes.

If you feel that you have valid grounds for appealing your suspension or dismissal, we strongly encourage that you visit the SMUSA VP Academics to help you plan your appeal package and prepare for the next steps. You can also meet with the Advisor, Dean or Associate Dean to discuss your case.

 

 

A typical appeal package will contain:

  1. A letter (usually to the Dean or Associate Dean) outlining your reasons for appealing the decision, what has improved and/or what steps you plan to take that will steer you to success if your appeal is upheld and you are allowed to return. Remember to include all your information including you’re Full Name, A-number, Email address, Mailing address and Phone number.
  2. Any documents that support your reasons (including medical documents, notes from counsellors, advising center notes, career counselling notes, etc.).
  3. Optionally, if you are taking courses in the Spring semester, you could attach copies of your recent graded work if they show strong academic performance and request a re-evaluation based on your performance in the semester.

Once you have gathered all the documents for your appeal package, submit it to your Advisor, preferably in person, and expect to hear back soon.

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