Cheating on an exam. Plagiarizing an essay. Stealing test questions. If you’re caught committing any of these acts, you could face charges under Concordia’s Academic Code of Conduct. And while the prospect of failing a course or being expelled from school is stressful, you are not alone: help and information is just a phone call away, says Raja Bhattacharya.
As Coordinator of the Student Advocate Program (SAP), run by Advocacy and Support Services, Bhattacharya and his team assist Concordia undergraduate and graduate students charged under the Academic Code of Conduct, the Code of Rights and Responsibilities and in appearing before the Graduate Academic Appeals Tribunal.
SAP also promotes academic integrity by raising awareness about behaviours that can result in such charges.
When a student is suspected of having infringed the Code, he or she will be informed through a formal letter from the dean’s office and a formal investigation will be initiated by the code administrator from the student’s Faculty. Before receiving the letter from the dean’s office, the professor may also inform the student of the alleged offence.
“The first thing students should do is get in touch with us right away,” says Bhattacharya, “This is a confidential service and whatever is discussed remains strictly protected.”
Meeting with SAP also enables students to receive specific information relevant to their particular cases.
“We’ve been doing this since 1991, and we’ve seen it all,” says department coordinator Angela Ghadban. “Some students may be reluctant to come to us for one reason or another but we don’t judge. The SAP is part of Student Services. Our goal as Student Services staff is to provide the best support and advice that the particular case or situation merits.”
Advocates explain the charges and offer support throughout the process, notes Bhattacharya. They also prepare students for their interview with the associate dean and code administrator, during which they will have a chance to explain themselves. Advocates generally accompany students to interviews, hearings and appeals.
Bhattacharya says some students don’t realize the seriousness of the situation and think they can handle the interview on their own. “We believe it is in the students’ best interest to be accompanied by a Student Advocate whose role is to ensure that they have all the experienced support they need. Having a Student Advocate involved in a case from the beginning and supporting students through each step makes for a smoother process.
“If you think you’re too nervous to speak during the interview, we’ll help you write a statement that you may read,” he says. “We also talk about the probable questions you might be asked, and encourage you to try to find answers to those questions.”
Students can face serious consequences if the charges against them are upheld, ranging from a reprimand, a grade of zero on the work in question, a letter grade reduction or failure of an entire course.
“Students need to know how important the Code is. Unfortunately, almost no one reads it,” says Bhattacharya. “Because of the two-strike policy, if a student is charged for a second time, he or she would face an expulsion. So this is why it is important to remember that the Student Advocate Program (SAP) is there to extend as much support as possible and accompany students through the process.”
• Student Advocacy Office
• Academic integrity
• Academic Code of Conduct
• Tips for becoming more informed about the Code