Navigating SFU Academic Misconduct Hearings


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Please feel free to contact the SFSS Student Advocacy Coordinator at ANY stage of this process for guidance and/or support. Remember, the SFSS Advocacy Coordinator CAN attend your hearing as a support person should you wish, but they CANNOT speak for you.

Flow Chart for the Most Typical Paths Through Academic Integrity Hearings

How The Process Works

Step One: Allegation of Misconduct is Raised

  • Sometimes an Instructor, Department Chair, or the Registrar will contact a student to discuss concerns about academic misconduct. They will usually share their evidence with you, may ask you for clarification or explanation and may impose their own penalty, (a failing grade for the assignment is the most common outcome by far).
  • You have the right to see the assignment/quiz/test in question and ask for their evidence. The burden of proof is on your instructor to prove that misconduct most likely took place.
    • ADVOCATE’S ADVICE:
      • Keep all communication professional and try to remain calm and respectful. The situation will only get worse if you attack/threaten/swear at a University employee.
      • Conduct discussions of the situation over email so you have a written record. This can be submitted as evidence if you choose to appeal.
      • If you are asked to meet in person with your instructor or TA, let them know you will be taking notes so you can be crystal clear about all aspects of the situation. Also consider asking to record the conversation for your own records and to review again after the meeting. You may feel stressed during this meeting, so a recording can help if you miss anything. This can also assist you should you wish to file an appeal.
  • If the situation does not resolve, the case may be advanced through the formal board process. Alternatively, if you disagree with the allegations, YOU can appeal to the University Board on Student Discipline for a hearing too. If you don’t dispute the allegations, but do feel your punishment is too severe, YOU can also appeal to the Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals.
  • Sometimes an instructor may assign you a zero for an assignment without filling out an Academic Incident Report (AIR) and give you a “warning”. If you wish to dispute this, you can request a hearing before the UBSD and request that your instructor fill out an AIR to get the process started.

Step Two: A Formal Allegation or Dispute of Misconduct is Raised

  • Initiation:
    • The Policy states that this formal process must be initiated against a student by a Department Chair on behalf of an instructor or the Registrar,
    • OR a student may dispute the findings of an instructor, Chair or the Registrar and ask to have their case heard.
      • ADVOCATE’S ADVICE: If false allegations have been brought against you and you can prove it, dispute them! This process is in place to protect you too.
  • Board and Tribunal:
    • The University Board on Student Discipline (UBSD) is made up of 3 faculty, 4 students, 3 staff, and a coordinator. The coordinator appoints a tribunal made up of 3 members from the above. There must be at least 1 faculty member and 1 student on a tribunal.
      • ADVOCATE’S ADVICE: Impartiality of tribunal members CAN be called into question, so if you feel like you won’t get a fair hearing for some reason, speak up!
  • Procedure:
    • 4.1  “The UBSD is an internal administrative body, governed by the  principles of procedural fairness.  Within this framework, it is free  to develop procedures and practices to conduct hearings and is not  constrained by strict rules of procedure and evidence.”
    • 4.2  “Students must be treated fairly before being penalized for  academic dishonesty or academic misconduct.  They are entitled to  receive information about the alleged wrongdoing and to provide a  response.”
    • 4.3  “The Tribunal will provide individuals with an opportunity to  respond in a timely manner to allegations of academic dishonesty or  academic misconduct and, if appropriate, will recommend a course of  action to the President, or to the Vice-President, Academic and Provost if the President has already played a role in the case.”
    • 4.4  “In exceptional circumstances, the Coordinator of the UBSD may extend the time limits for a student to dispute the findings of fact made by an instructor, a Chair, or the Registrar.”
  • Your Response:
    • You will submit a written response including your side of the story.
      • ADVOCATE’S ADVICE
        • Keep to the facts of the case and avoid telling your whole life story.
        • Organize your response thoughtfully and use headings and topic sentences to make the response easy to read and navigate. Don’t make your readers work too hard to find your argument and evidence.
        • Keep your tone professional and focused on the matter at hand.
        • The SFSS Advocacy Office can offer advice, help you polish your response, and/or attend your hearing as a support person. Contact us here for help.
        • The Ombuds office can also help and has some great resources on writing your response and how the process works, but cannot be your support person at a hearing due to their mandate of impartiality.
  • Hearing:
    • You and your Instructor/Chair/Registrar are entitled to be present and bring a support person. If you can’t/won’t attend, the hearing CAN be held without you and actions taken. Your case may also simply be dismissed. In exceptional circumstances, a student can be represented by a delegate if they absolutely cannot be present, but you should do everything you can to attend.
      • Medical reasons for not appearing must be reported ASAP to the secretary of the UBSD and the hearing might be postponed at the discretion of the Chair
    • Hearings are closed to the public, unless written consent from both sides is received.
    • Hearings may be in person or virtual at the discretion of the Chair.
    • Witnesses may be called and both sides are able to ask them questions. The Tribunal may also hear impact statements from witnesses or parties.
    • The Tribunal is responsible for interpreting any policy under consideration and the Chair is responsible for maintaining order.
    • The burden of proof is on the person alleging academic misconduct or dishonesty.  The appropriate standard for a decision in this process is “proof on a balance of probabilities”.
      • This means your Instructor must prove you broke the rules and the case is judged on whether it is likely or not that the rules were broken by you as alleged by your instructor.
    • After the findings of fact, the Tribunal may have access to any other disciplinary information about the student that has been retained by the University. This may include previous AIRs on your record.
      • Advocate’s Advice: You will attend your hearing and present your side of the story. Make sure you bring a copy of your response letter and consider preparing an outline with your main talking points and supporting evidence in case you get nervous. Bring any evidence you may have. You are welcome to bring a friend and/or ask if the SFSS Advocate is available to attend with you.
  • Decision-Making
    • Tribunal deliberations are closed and no records are kept. The Chair votes only in the case of a tie. Abstention is not allowed by anyone on the Tribunal.
    • In cases brought before the UBSD by a student,
      • The Tribunal must confirm or overturn the findings of fact made by the person whose decision (usually the Instructor) is under review.  
        • If the decision is confirmed, the penalty remains unaltered.  
        • If the decision is overturned, the Tribunal must decide upon an appropriate course of action consistent with the finding of fact of the Tribunal.
    • In cases brought before the UBSD by a University official,
      • The Tribunal must convey its decision to the parties involved with regard to the penalty, the facts of the case, or both.
    • The Tribunal must provide a written decision that includes the findings of fact, the reasons and the recommendation regarding penalty, if any, and provide both parties and the Registrar with a copy.

Step Three: Possible Penalties     

The penalties for academic misconduct that may be  recommended by the UBSD and officially imposed by the President, may include (but  are not limited to) one or more of the following:

a.  Recommend the student receive  counselling or other professional assistance and, if necessary, assist  the student in obtaining counselling or other professional services;
b.  Issue a formal written reprimand to the student;
c.  Assess and recover costs to rectify the damage or loss caused by the student;
d.  Require the student to write a letter of apology to any person adversely affected by the student’s behaviour;
e.  Require the student to perform up to 50 hours of community service;
f.  Terminate the student’s scholarships or other financial support.
g.  Change any grade that the student may have received as a result of academic misconduct.

AND/OR

a. Denial of admission or re-admission to the University;
b. De-registration, with or without a tuition fee refund;
c. Forfeiture of University awards or financial assistance;
d. Suspension or permanent suspension from the University;
e. Revocation of a degree and  return of the student’s transcript and degree, certificate or diploma  parchment to the Registrar; or
f. Removal of all relevant documents from the SFU Library, including papers and/or theses. (usually not applicable for Undergraduate Students)

  • Statistically, the most likely penalty, especially for a first offense, is a Failing Grade for the assignment in question. (This occurred about 67% of the time in 2019/2020).

Step Four: Response to the Tribunal

  • The parties will have 3 weeks to provide the President with a response to the Tribunal’s recommendation.
  • The decision of the President must be communicated in writing to the parties with the reasons for the decision.  
  • The student must be advised of the process for appeal to the Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals (SCODA), the time limits for initiating such an appeal, and the services of the Ombudsperson’s Office.

Step Five: Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals (SCODA)

  • Initiation of Appeal
    • Either party may initiate a final appeal through SCODA ONLY IF
      • a procedural error occurred of sufficient magnitude that it may reasonably be said to have affected the fairness of the process or altered the outcome of the case; (policy 4.1.a)
      •  a factual error occurred of sufficient magnitude that it may reasonably be said to have altered the outcome of the case; (policy 4.1.b)
      • the penalty imposed on the student is excessive in all the circumstances of the case; (policy 4.1.c)
      • new, material evidence is available which, despite the exercise of due diligence by the party wishing to appeal, could not have been made available at the time of the hearing giving rise to the appeal. (policy 4.1.d)
    • Applications are made to the Secretary, Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals, Registrar’s Office and MUST be received in writing within 3 weeks of the decision by the University Board on Student Discipline.
      • In exceptional cases, students may ask the Chair of SCODA for an extension of time to file the notice of appeal.  The Chair must decide whether or not to approve an extension.  This decision is final.
  • SCODA Hearing
    • SCODA makeup
      • The number of members of SCODA required to hear an appeal is two faculty members, two students, and the Chair
      • No member with previous involvement in the case may hear the appeal.
      • Impartiality of SCODA members may be called into question. Your case should not be heard by faculty from your own department.
    • SCODA Rules
      • A SCODA hearing must be closed to the public unless there has been prior explicit written consent of all parties.
      • If the you fail to appear before the Committee at the appointed time, the Committee may proceed to determine the appeal. In exceptional circumstances, the Committee may permit the student to appear in absentia by delegate.
      • If there are medical or compassionate reasons for non-appearance, the Secretary must be notified immediately.  The Chair will determine the acceptability of such reasons and whether the appeal should be postponed.
      • The student or their representative must be given the opportunity to make a statement to the Committee to support the appeal.
      • The respondent may also appear at the appeal and be given an opportunity to make a statement.  Where the appeal is based on new evidence, the respondent is entitled to speak to the new evidence.
      • Both parties may be accompanied by a representative at the appeal and may be accompanied by a support person (the support person does not speak).
    • SCODA Process
      • Appeals must be based upon the record of the preceding hearing or decision and any other relevant documentation considered.
      • The Committee may hear new evidence only when a case is being appealed under section 4.1.d.
    • SCODA Decisions
      • Deliberations are closed and with no records
      • Chair casts deciding vote in the event of a tie and no abstentions are allowed.
      • Having heard the appeal, the Committee may find:
        • In favour of the student due to a procedural or factual error, and substitute its own finding or order a new hearing;
        • In favour of the student under the argument that a penalty was excessive and then vary the penalty;
        • In favour of the student in light of new evidence and substitute its own finding or order a new hearing; or
        • Against the student, confirming the original decision that remains unchanged.
      • This decision is final and must be communicated in writing with reasons to all parties as soon as possible after the decision is made.

Step Six: What happens after SCODA hearings

  • If the Committee determines that discipline of the student is unwarranted, the University must return the student to the position they would have been in before the allegations of misconduct were made. The responsibility for this will fall to the Registrar.
  • If a penalty is upheld, it takes effect at the expiry of the time limit for the appeal, or when a decision on the appeal is made by SCODA.  
    • At the discretion of the Registrar (or designate), students who are registered in and attending courses in the current term may request to have their suspension take effect immediately or at the beginning of the following term.
    • A notation of a permanent or other suspension must be placed on the student’s official transcript.  A notation of such a suspension will be removed when it expires.
    • The report will remain sealed and may be opened only on the authorization of the Registrar if the student is involved in other incidents of academic dishonesty or academic misconduct, or as permitted or required by law. 
  • Academic work undertaken by a student at another institution while under a penalty prohibiting attendance at SFU may not subsequently be transferred or in any other way credited to the student’s academic record at SFU.

For additional information on Academic Integrity from the Office of Student Services, go here. To read the actual policies and procedures, see below. :

SeriesPolicyEffective DateMandated Review
S10Student Conduct and Discipline  
S10.01Student Academic Integrity Policy (html) – (PDF version)
Procedures (PDF)
Schedule A (PDF)
 
Nov. 22, 2018November 2023
S10.02University Board on Student Discipline (html) – (PDF version)Nov. 22, 2018November 2023
S10.03Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals (html) – (PDF version)Nov. 22, 2018 
S10.05Student Conduct Policy (html) – (PDF version) Procedures (PDF) Appendix A (PDF) Appendix B (PDF) Appendix C (PDF) Appendix D (PDF)Jun. 24, 2021   Jun. 24, 2021
Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started