Journalism School General Policy on Conduct and Discipline

School Policies and Disciplinary Procedures

Although ultimate authority on matters of student discipline is vested in the Trustees of the University, the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism and its faculty are given responsibility for establishing certain standards of behavior for Journalism School students beyond the regulations included in the Statutes of the University and for defining procedures by which discipline will be administered.

The faculty of the Graduate School of Journalism reserves the right to instantly dismiss or withhold a degree from any student it deems unworthy because of a general pattern of poor performance or unprofessional behavior.

Such behavior includes but is not limited to:

  • Faking a story; making up quotations; plagiarism (using the writings or ideas of another as your own); deliberately deceptive reporting and/or producing practices;
  • Failure to meet deadlines; dishonesty in academic assignments; turning in the same assignment in two different courses without prior knowledge and written approval of the instructors of both courses.

Policies Relating to Academic Work

Plagiarism includes:

  • Verbatim copying of material that appears in a newspaper, magazine or book, or on the Internet, radio, television or other published and unpublished sources (including student work) without proper attribution;
  • Paraphrasing of material that appears in a newspaper, magazine or book, or on the Internet, radio, television or other published and unpublished sources (including student work) without proper attribution;
  • Use of another person’s research, phrasing, conclusions or unique descriptions without proper attribution.

The use of facts that are generally known or easily accessible through multiple sources is not plagiarism. To qualify as common knowledge, the facts must be easily verifiable in multiple sources. It is always preferable to acknowledge previous publication of these facts. When in doubt, provide attribution.

As noted in the Academic Discipline Form that all students sign during orientation, if a student is confused about what constitutes plagiarism or has questions about any of the guidelines listed above, it is her/his responsibility to seek clarification from the Dean of Students Office. Students may not turn in the same assignment (or substantial amounts from a single assignment) in two different courses without prior written approval from instructors of both courses.

Students are expected to attend all classes and complete all assignments. If unable to do so, they must notify their instructors prior to the scheduled meeting of each class or assignment. If illness prevents a student from attending class, he or she must e­mail the Dean of Students Office or call 212-­854-­3861 before 9:15 a.m. each day of absence. If the student is not able to call, he or she must have someone do so. Failure to do so is an infraction of professional conduct.

The Dean and the faculty expect that in and out of the classroom, on and off campus, each Journalism School student will conduct him/herself honestly and will respect the rights of others.

Freedom of expression is an essential part of University life but does not include intimidation, threats of violence, the inducement of others to engage in violence or harassment of others.

Conduct that threatens or harasses others because of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, age or political view is unacceptable and will be dealt with severely. Anyone who believes he or she has been victimized should follow the instructions detailed in this document.

Academic Course Requirements

The Graduate School of Journalism has a pass/fail system of grading for its Journalism degree programs. Those in the Ph.D. program in Communications receive letter grades. The graduation requirements for each program are described below.

In most Journalism School courses, students receive written evaluations of their semester’s work from the instructors.

At any time during the course of study, professors and the deans may discuss a student’s progress and performance. If they determine that a student is not performing in a given class at a passable level, the student may be given a written warning or placed on probation for that class by the Dean of Students Office.

The warning or probation remains in effect until the professor of that class determines that the performance of the student has improved.

The purpose of warnings and probation is first to alert students that they are not meeting a professor’s expectations and to provide them with concrete ways to get back on track and second to provide documentation that they were informed about their deficiencies and given the opportunity to correct them.

In most M.S. classes, the instructor has the right to designate up to two students as receiving “honors in class” because of their exemplary performance. This is not a grade and will not appear on a student’s transcript. M.S. students are notified of the designation by the professor who awarded it via the written evaluation. The designation is used by the faculty in determining which students are graduating with honors from the Graduate School of Journalism.

Master of Science

To graduate, Master of Science students must attempt all 37 of the required points and must pass 33 of them. They may attempt up to 43 points to meet this measure. Students must pass all four core courses to graduate: Reporting, Master’s Project, and two Seminar & Production courses. Students who fail the Reporting class may not remain enrolled at the Journalism School unless they are granted special permission by the Dean of Student Affairs to retake the course the next semester it is offered. Students may not register for additional classes until Reporting has been passed. The maximum time frame (separate from leaves of absence) is three semesters for full­-time students and seven semesters for part­-time students to allow students to retake a single failed class that put them over the four­-point maximum for failed classes. A student who fails any two courses, or the same course twice, will be dismissed.

Master of Arts

To graduate, Master of Arts students must pass all 36 points of required coursework. They may attempt 42. Students who fail the Seminar in Discipline class may not remain enrolled at the Journalism School unless they are granted special permission by the Dean of Student Affairs to retake the course the next semester it is offered. Students may not register for additional classes until Seminar in Discipline has been passed. The maximum time frame (separate from leaves of absence) is three semesters to allow students to retake a single failed class.

Dual M.S. degrees with SIPA/Business School/Law School

Students in these dual degree programs spend one academic year in residency at the Journalism School. During that year, they have the identical requirements and are held to the identical standards as those students enrolled in the single Master of Science degree described above.

Dual degree in Journalism/Computer Science with School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

To graduate from this blended dual degree program, students must pass 64 points of academic work. Thirty-­seven of those points are taken at the Journalism School and 27 are taken at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Students are in residency for the first three semesters at the Journalism School and for the final semester at SEAS. Students must pass all four core journalism courses to graduate: Reporting, Master’s Project, Computer Science Journalism Seminar and one Seminar & Production course. Students who fail the Reporting class may not remain enrolled at the Journalism School unless they are granted special permission by the Dean of Student Affairs to retake the course the next semester it is offered. Students may not register for additional classes until Reporting has been passed. Students will receive P/F grades for their journalism course work and letter grades for their computer science course work.

Incompletes

Professors award the grade of IN (incomplete) when a health problem or other emergency prevents a student from completing the assigned work within the duration of the course. Having an incomplete means that a student is required to finish the work for the class within a time frame specified by the professor and will receive an 'F' if the deadline is not met. The professor can allow no more than a year for the completion before the grade is automatically switched to an F by the grading system, but the professor is not required to give more time than he or she feels is warranted.

Failing Grades

If a student receives a failing grade, he or she may appeal to the Dean of Students Affairs. The appeal must be received within 10 days of the student's being notified about the failing grade. The Dean of Student Affairs will appoint a reading panel of three faculty members who will have 10 days to review the student’s work in the course and determine whether the failing grade was justified. All decisions of the reading panel are final.

If the failing grade is undisputed or is upheld by the hearing panel, the student may appeal to the Dean of Student Affairs for permission to retake the course in a subsequent semester. The appeal to retake the course must be received within ten days of the failure notification or within ten days of notification that the grade was upheld if a grade appeal was filed. If permission is granted, the student will be enrolled for the course by the Dean of Students Office and will retake the course from the beginning, usually with a different instructor, and will be required to pay the applicable, additional tuition for the second enrollment in the course.

M.S. Students who fail the Reporting class (or receive an incomplete that cannot be cleared before the start of the next semester) and M.A. students who fail the Seminar in Discipline class (or receive an incomplete that cannot be cleared before the start of the next semester) will be placed on Academic Suspension pending the resolution of the incomplete, successful appeal of the grade or the granting of an appeal to retake the course.

Students on Academic Suspension may not register to take classes at the Journalism School or elsewhere at the University. They may not apply to other degree or non­-degree programs while on suspension unless it is their intention to withdraw completely from the original program in which they were enrolled.

Code of Conduct

While every subtlety of proper behavior cannot be detailed here, examples of other actions that would subject a student to disciplinary action are:

  • Dishonesty in dealings with University officials, including members of the faculty;
  • Harassment of others in the University community or of anyone visiting Columbia; Theft of property;
  • Destroying or maliciously misusing School facilities and/or materials;
  • Possession or distribution of illegal drugs;
  • Refusal to show identification at the request of a University official;
  • Failure to respond to the legitimate request of a University official exercising his or her duty; Inappropriate use of the School identification card and privileges;
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Threatening bodily harm.
  • Violating rules set forth in the Academic Discipline form signed by students when they enroll. 

In the event that a Journalism School student is charged by a member of the Columbia community with a violation of any of the above, the Dean of Student Affairs or his or her designee will investigate the case.

In cases alleging sexual or gender based misconduct, the Dean of Student Affairs will refer the matter to Student Services for Gender-­Based and Sexual Misconduct. 

For all other situations, if the Dean of Students Affairs (or the designee) determines that a hearing on the facts will be necessary, he or she will select three members of the Faculty Committee on Discipline to further investigate the case and hold the hearing. See below for the description of the Faculty Committee on Discipline’s hearing procedures.

If a student is determined by the committee to have committed an infraction, the committee will recommend an appropriate sanction to the faculty as a whole. The faculty will then vote to approve or disapprove the sanction. Penalties for infractions can range from censure to disciplinary probation, suspension or dismissal.

 

Procedures of the Faculty Committee on Discipline

If the Dean of Student Affairs determines that a student should be referred to the Faculty Committee on Discipline, the following steps will be taken.

1. The Dean of Student Affairs will select three members of the committee to serve as voting hearing panel members. None of the three voting members will be the faculty member who brought the student to the attention of the Dean for disciplinary action. One of the three faculty members will also be appointed to act as chair and secretary for the panel. The Associate Dean of Students will also serve as a nonvoting member of all disciplinary panels.

2. After being appointed, the chair of the panel will investigate the charges being brought against the student, will coordinate a meeting time for the committee and will gather all necessary information. The chair will be responsible for assigning tasks to the other two panel members, e.g., meeting with witnesses, gathering materials, talking with other faculty members or students.

3. The student is informed of the charges against him or her and is asked to respond. The student will be informed of a scheduled hearing a minimum of two days in advance of the hearing.

4. At the hearing, the person responsible for the charges will present his or her information to the panel. The student may then offer information on his or her behalf, including the testimony of witnesses, written information or other evidence.

While a student may choose to have the advice of an attorney, the attorney or advisor may not accompany the student to the hearing. The panel may also speak with other witnesses and investigate the complaint as it sees fit. The student has the right to be present to hear witnesses.

5. If the committee finds that the student has committed an infraction of the policies of the University or the Journalism School, the committee will recommend, within one week of the hearing, an appropriate sanction to the faculty as a whole. The faculty will then vote, if necessary in a special meeting, to approve or disapprove the sanction. A majority of the faculty present must vote to support the sanction for it to be applied. In the event that the faculty does not approve the recommended sanction, the matter will be referred back to the panel for further consideration. Penalties can range from censure to disciplinary probation, suspension or dismissal.

The student will receive the panel and faculty’s decision within two weeks of the hearing. The decision will be presented in writing by the Dean of Student Affairs.

6. If a student wishes to appeal a disciplinary decision, the appeal must be made in writing within five days of the date of the letter informing the student of the decision. Any such appeal must be addressed to the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism. The Dean will consider information provided by the student and may confer with members of the hearing panel, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, the Dean of Student Affairs, the Associate Dean of Students or any other advisers he or she may choose. After considering the appeal, the Dean will usually respond to the student within 10 days of the date of the letter of appeal. In the event that the Dean or his or her advisers are unavailable in that time period, the Dean of Student Affairs will inform the student of the anticipated delay.

All decisions by the Dean of the Journalism School are final.

In general, under University policy and federal law, information about pending disciplinary proceedings against a student is confidential and may not be disclosed to others. A limited exception to this principle is that the outcome of disciplinary proceedings alleging a sexual assault must be disclosed to both the accuser and the accused. See more information on how sexual assault allegations and proceedings are handled.