Graduate programs build upon the levels of knowledge and competence acquired at the undergraduate level and prepare students to enter into a community of scholars. Academic freedom, a fundamental component of the production of knowledge in higher education, depends upon integrity. The academic community adheres to a tradition of academic integrity designed to protect the integrity of its collective scholarship. Graduate and post-baccalaureate students are responsible for understanding and adhering to this tradition. While academic integrity is expected of all students, Westfield State University holds graduate students to a higher standard. Any graduate student or post-baccalaureate student who violates this academic integrity policy may be subject to immediate dismissal from the University.
The purpose of the Graduate Academic Integrity Policy is to provide a clear statement of expectations on academic integrity and a fair process to handle alleged violations involving graduate students. Graduate and post-baccalaureate students are responsible for understanding and following this policy.
1. Underlying Principles
A. Academic integrity, a necessary foundation of a learning community, is expected of all members of the university community. Academic freedom depends on integrity. The university makes academic integrity a priority and takes seriously any allegations of potential violations.
B. Maintaining the standards of academic integrity requires the mutual cooperation of all members of the campus community. Both students and faculty/librarians are called upon to promote the pursuit of truth and learning, and respect for the intellectual accomplishment of others. Students are responsible for understanding the principles of academic integrity and for the academic integrity of all work submitted for credit. All members of the academic community are also expected to report incidents of academic dishonesty to the faculty member teaching the course or the graduate program faculty chair/administrator for the College of Graduate and Continuing Education (hereinafter referred to as “graduate program chair”). In addition to the entire community’s responsibility, faculty will promote academic integrity through clear expectations stated on the course syllabus for homework, collaborative assignments, research papers, exams, use of the internet, and so on. If any member of the academic community finds evidence of a violation of academic integrity, they are expected to report it promptly (see process and deadlines below).
C. Violations of the Academic Integrity Policy are unacceptable and are subject to academic penalties, including reduced grade, failure of the course, and suspension or dismissal from the university.
D. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to, cheating on academic assessments, plagiarism, fabrication, submission of papers for credit in two or more courses, interference with the ability of other students to make use of permitted course materials, facilitating another’s violation of academic integrity, engaging in research on human or animal subjects without permission from the appropriate campus committee, and failure to report academic integrity violations.
E. Once a student has been charged with a formal violation of this policy, no sanctions will be applied until the conclusion of Graduate Education Council proceedings and no degree will be awarded until the matter is resolved. Withdrawal from the course or the university may not be used to avoid a sanction for violating academic integrity or a formal charge thereof.
F. Parties involved in this process, including the student, faculty member, Department chair, graduate program faculty administrator, the Dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE Dean), and the Graduate Education Council, shall maintain strict confidentiality during and after this process.
The following examples represent a partial list of serious breaches of academic integrity:
A. Cheating on Academic Assessments, inclusive of but not limited to examinations
Violations of academic integrity with regard to academic assessment may include the following:
i. Receiving unauthorized assistance or assisting others while an assessment is in progress.
ii. Obtaining or attempting to obtain, prior to an assessment, copies of the assessment or the questions to appear on the assessment.
iii. Disseminating any written or verbal information regarding the contents of an assessment to students who have not yet completed or taken the assessment.
iv. Using or consulting any unauthorized information, electronic devices, notes, books, etc., during an academic assessment.
Plagiarism is the act of presenting the intellectual work of others (works, ideas, artwork, computer programming code, etc.) as if it were one’s own work. Some common forms of plagiarism are submitting someone else’s paper as one’s own, copying a passage from another source without citing the source, and expressing a published idea or theory in different words without crediting the source of the idea. Plagiarism constitutes a violation of academic integrity and a theft of intellectual property. Plagiarism is a very serious charge in academia, for it undermines the integrity of academic inquiry and scholarship. All students and professional scholars are to be held to the same standards. Issues of plagiarism may be subtle; therefore, students are encouraged to discuss any questions they have with the faculty member teaching the course and other support services on campus.
Students may not fabricate - that is, falsify or invent - information or citations included in any academic assignment. This includes falsifying information used in laboratory experiments or reports and misidentifying the source of a quotation or idea (i.e., citing a book or article as the source of a quotation or idea when the quotation or idea was cited by the author(s) of the book or article source as taken from another source).
D. Multiple Submissions of a Single Paper
Students may not submit the same paper, presentation, or other work for credit in more than one course without prior written consent from the instructors of the courses involved.
E. Interference with Use of Materials
A student may not interfere with the ability of other students to make use of permitted course materials. This includes denying others access to scholarly resources or deliberately interfering with the progress of another student or scholar such as by giving false or misleading information, making library materials unavailable by stealing or defacing books or journals, deliberately misplacing or destroying reserve materials, or altering computer files that belong to another.
F. Facilitating Violations of Academic Integrity
Students may not knowingly or negligently allow their work to be used by another student or otherwise help others violate any aspect of the Academic Integrity Policy. Students who are suspected of such acts may be charged with a violation of academic integrity even if they do not personally benefit from the dishonest act.
G. Improper Use of Human and Animal Subjects
Research involving human beings requires review and approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the Protection of Human Subjects. Such research requires informed written consent. Students and faculty engaged in research involving animals must seek review and approval by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Council (IACUC).
H. Failure to Report Violations of Academic Integrity
Students failing to report violations of academic integrity to the faculty member teaching the course or graduate program faculty administrator may be charged with a violation of academic integrity and are liable to the sanctions herein.
3. Recommended Syllabus Text
It is recommended that instructors discuss academic integrity on the first day of class and include the following text in their syllabus:
Academic integrity is expected of all members of the academic community. Academic integrity may include but is not limited to: cheating on examinations, plagiarism, fabrication, multiple submissions of a single paper, interference with others’ access to materials, facilitating violations of academic integrity, improper use of human and animal subjects, and failure to report violations of academic integrity. Violations may result in failure of the assignment, failure of the course, or suspension or dismissal from the university. Students are encouraged to complete academic integrity trainings available through the WSU Ely Library. http://lib.westfield.ma.edu/home
4. The Role of the Graduate Education Council
A. The Graduate Education Council (GEC) shall stand as the governing body in the graduate academic integrity process.
B. The GEC is charged with evaluating evidence, determining responsibility, and deciding sanctions. All evidence and deliberations before the GEC are confidential.
5. Process for Charges of Violating Academic Integrity Policies
The faculty member will notify the student of the alleged violation in person or by telephone, email, or other appropriate means. The notification must include documentation of the date of discovery and should allow the student the opportunity to discuss the allegations (either in person or by telephone, email, or other appropriate means) within ten (10) business days. Either the student or the faculty member may invite the graduate program chair, another appropriate senior faculty member, or CGCE Dean to be present during the discussion, but neither is required to do so.
A. Withdrawal from the course or the university may not be used to avoid a sanction for academic integrity violations or a formal charge thereof. A student may not avoid the charge by refusing to respond to the faculty. If a student fails to respond to faculty, a formal charge with hearing may commence.
B. Faculty members are encouraged to discuss and document the alleged violation with the student. The outcome of the discussion shall result in one of the three findings, as follows:
i. Warning: An agreement by the faculty member and the student that the violation does not merit a formal charge.
ii. Formal Charge Without Hearing: An agreement by the faculty member and student that an academic integrity violation did occur and the student’s acceptance of the sanction as imposed by the faculty member, resulting in a formal charge but no hearing.
iii. Formal Charge with Hearing: The student and faculty member dispute the allegations of the academic integrity violation, and results in the filing of a formal charge and a hearing with the GEC.
C. If the faculty member and the student agree during their discussions that the violation does not rise to the level of a formal charge, the matter is ended when the student receives a documented Warning and must sign the form included at the end of this policy. The form will be filed with the CGCE Dean and placed in the student’s CGCE file. In addition, a copy of the Academic Integrity Report form will be forwarded to the graduate program chair and filed with the Department. Along with the documented Warning, the faculty member will discuss the Academic Integrity Policy with the student and may elect a course of action that could include repeating the assignment, completing additional work, such as library tutorial about academic integrity, accepting a grade penalty for the assignment or the course, or agreeing to some other settlement. If the Warning also includes a subsequent course of action, this should be noted on the form included at the end of this policy.
D. If the faculty member and the student agree that an academic integrity violation did occur, the student must sign the form included at the end of this policy admitting to the violation of the policy and accepting the sanction stated on the form. The faculty member and CGCE chair also must sign the form. The form will be filed with the CGCE Dean and placed in the student’s CGCE file. In addition, a copy of the Academic Integrity Report form will be forwarded to the graduate program chair and filed with the Department. If the faculty member and the student agree that an academic integrity violation did occur, the faculty member cannot impose a sanction greater than failure of the course.
E. If the student and faculty member do not agree that a violation of the Academic Integrity policy occurred, the faculty member must file a formal charge of an academic integrity violation with the CGCE Dean within fifteen (15) business days from the date the student and faculty member reached an impasse, which sets in motion the hearing process. The faculty member may not issue sanctions without admission of a violation by the student or a finding by the GEC that an academic integrity violation did occur. Included in the charges will be a letter of explanation and all case materials that document or led to the charges. Charges may be filed against students who facilitate or engage in violations of academic integrity even if they are not enrolled in the class in which the violation takes place.
F. The CGCE Dean will schedule a hearing to take place within fifteen (15) business days of the formal filing of the charge. No hearings will be held between June 1 and August 31, or between the end of the fall and the beginning of the spring semesters. At any point in the process the student may admit the violation as charged or the faculty member may withdraw the charges.
G. The student charged will receive notification from the CGCE Dean of the date, time and place of the hearing; the source and nature of the charge; a list of the GEC members; and the possible sanctions. Evidence to be submitted at the hearing by the faculty member bringing the charge must be available at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing for review by the student in the College of Graduate and Continuing Education.
H. At the hearing, at least five (5) members of the GEC, including a student member, must be present to establish a quorum. Those members of the GEC present at the hearing will hereafter be referred to as the Hearing Council. Of these five members, no less than three must be faculty and one must be the GEC student representative. If the GEC student representative is in the same program or otherwise familiar with the student accused of academic integrity, the CGCE Dean shall appoint a different student to serve as representative. Likewise, no GEC member directly involved in the case, such as the faculty bringing charges against a student, graduate program administrator, student advisor, etc., shall serve on the Hearing Council. The hearing will be a closed meeting and may be attended by the faculty member, the student charged, and the CGCE Dean as well as by members of the Hearing Council. The student and presenting faculty member may each be accompanied by one person of his or her choice. This person may be present to advise and counsel his or her respective party, but may not represent said party to the GEC or serve as legal counsel. If the student charged and/or the faculty member making the charge choose not to participate, the hearing will proceed as scheduled.
I. The Dean will convene the hearing. The charge will be presented, along with relevant evidence and witnesses. In the case of team-taught classes, one of the teaching faculty members should be responsible for presenting charges. The student has an opportunity to respond to the charge and present evidence. The student, faculty member making the charge, and Hearing Council members may ask questions. The hearing will conclude with optional closing statements by the faculty member bringing the charge and then by the student charged, if both parties are present.
J. Immediately following the hearing, the Hearing Council and the Dean will meet privately. The Hearing Council will deliberate and determine the outcome by a majority vote through secret ballot. The Dean will be present to answer questions and to count the votes, but will not serve as a voting member of the Council. Hearing Council members may not abstain from voting. In the case of a tie vote, the Council members will deliberate further and then take another vote. If the tie continues, the decision will favor the student, who will be found not responsible for academic integrity. Once the finding is reached, the Hearing Council will discuss, and then decide upon, by majority vote, an appropriate sanction for the violation. The CGCE Dean will mail written notification of the decision and any sanction to the student and the faculty member involved.
K. Appeals may be based only on procedural error or sanction imposed by the Hearing Council and must be filed within five (5) business days of the notification of the decision. The appeal must be in writing and submitted to the Vice President of Academic Affairs for adjudication. In appeal decisions, the Vice President of Academic Affairs’ decision is final.
6. Sanctions Imposed by GEC Hearing Council
Recommended sanctions after a finding of an academic integrity violation are listed below. Council members are urged to take into account the seriousness of the offense and to seek the recommendation of the faculty member making the charge.
A. First Offense: Failure of the course, a one-year suspension from the University, and/or dismissal from the University
B. Second Offense: Dismissal from the University
If a student receives a reduced or failing grade for a course because of an admission or finding of an academic integrity violation, he or she may not repeat the course.
No sanctions will be imposed until all steps in the process outlined above are completed.
7. Official Records
The College of Graduate and Continuing Education will maintain official records of disciplinary action. Documentation will be placed in the student’s CGCE file and a copy will be forwarded to the relevant Department. Records will not be released to individuals outside the university except by the written authorization of the student involved or under the conditions specified in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Access to the official records of disciplinary action must be authorized by the Vice President of Academic Affairs, or Dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Education. GC-SAS does not consider appeals or convene between June 1st and August 31st.
Academic Dismissal Appeals Process
This academic dismissal policy is universal for all students enrolled in all academic programs, unless otherwise specified.
Students who wish to appeal being dismissed from their program must submit a written appeal to the Graduate Council Sub-Committee on Academic Standing (GC-SAS) no later than ten (10) business days from the date of the notice of dismissal following the instruction contained in the notification. Dismissed students must address and document the basis for the appeal and outline the actions they will take to ensure that they will become academically successful in the future.
GC-SAS membership includes the CGCE Dean who convenes and serves as the non-voting Chair, an Assistant/Associate CGCE Dean or other appropriate CGCE staff, as appointed by the CGCE Dean; and four members of Graduate Education Council, of which no less than three shall be faculty representatives. Faculty members who have been directly involved in the student’s dismissal may not serve on the student’s GC-SAS.
GC-SAS shall be convened by the CGCE Dean to review the appeal. The student may attend the meeting but is not required to do so. The student may be accompanied by one person of his or her choice. This person may be present to advise and counsel his or her respective party, but may not represent said party to GC-SAS or serve as legal counsel. GC-SAS maintains the right to place conditions upon the student and reserves the right to review the final grades of any pending coursework in either winter or summer sessions before reaching a decision. GC-SAS decisions are based on a simple majority vote of members in attendance. The GC-SAS shall notify the student of its decision within twenty (20) business days of the date of the receipt of the dismissal appeal.
If a dismissal appeal is granted, reinstated students are automatically placed on academic probation for the semester in which they return and are subject to the conditions noted above under the academic probation policy.
Students may appeal the decision of the GC-SAS only on the basis of procedural error to the Dean of CGCE. The decision of the Dean of CGCE is final.
GC-SAS does not consider appeals or convene between June 1 and August 31.
Academic Standing Policy
The Academic Standing policy is intended to support students’ academic progress and maintain academic excellence. All graduate students are expected to meet and maintain high academic standards set by the university and to demonstrate academic progress towards earning a degree. The College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) is authorized to award a Master’s degree for a program of study that includes an overall cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) or higher. No grade less than a B- may count towards degree completion. Students may not earn a B- in more than three courses.
*Students enrolled in the MS in Physician Assistant Studies program are held to the Physician Assistant Deceleration Policy in lieu of this academic standing policy. Students in the PA Program should consult the PA Student Manual for policies regarding Academic Standing.
1. Good Academic Standing
To be considered in good academic standing and to remain in a graduate program, students must maintain a term and overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher throughout the course of study. In addition, students may not earn a B- in more than three courses. Individual academic departments may also establish additional criteria by which a student is evaluated on academic standing and progress, and students are advised to seek guidance from their individual academic departments.
All matriculated students are reviewed at the end of the fall, spring, and summer II terms to insure they are in good academic standing.
2. Academic Probation and Dismissal
A student is placed on academic probation if either the term or overall cumulative GPA falls below a 3.0. or the student has received two grades of a “B-” or lower. The student will receive official written notification of academic probation status from the College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE). Students on academic probation are required to meet with a faculty advisor to develop a written academic success plan for improvement and must submit a copy of this plan to CGCE within thirty (30) days of notification. Students without a written academic success plan on file will not be permitted to enroll in future terms.
Students placed on academic probation have two terms of enrollment to achieve good academic standing unless provided an extension by permission of the Graduate Program Chair and the CGCE Dean. Students on probation must complete all outstanding incomplete grades before enrolling in future terms. Students
are required to repeat course(s) in which they have received a deficient grade (per the Deficient Grades and Course Repeat Policy) as soon as possible within their course of study. Academic probation may not be appealed
Students who do not achieve good academic standing within the two-term time frame will be academically dismissed from their program. Students may appeal academic program dismissal.
3. Deficient Grades and Course Repeat
A final grade of “B-” or lower is considered a deficient grade. No grade lower than a “B-” will count towards degree completion. Students may not earn a final grade of “B-” in more than three courses.
Students may repeat one course one time during their graduate program in order to maintain good academic standing (cumulative GPA of 3.0) with the exception of students enrolled in the traditional Master of Social Work and foundation Master of Science in Accounting track, who are allowed to repeat two courses one time each with permission of the respective Graduate Program Chair and the Dean of CGCE. Students are required to repeat courses in which they have received a deficient grade as soon as possible within their course of study.
Students must submit a Graduate Course Repeat form for a repeated course prior to the time of course registration. The final grade for a repeated course must be a “B” or higher. All grades will remain on the student’s transcript; however, when a course is repeated the original grade will not be used in computing the overall cumulative GPA average.
Students enrolled in the MS in Physician Assistant Studies program are held to the Physician Assistant Deceleration Policy in lieu of this deficient grades and course repeat procedure. Students in the PA Program should consult the PA Student Manual for information about deficient grades and course repeat procedures.
Grades of “F” earned as a result of violating the Graduate Academic Integrity Policy may not be repeated.
Students who feel they have received an unfair grade may appeal it per the Graduate Grade Appeal Policy.
Auditing of Courses
It is possible to audit any course offered by the College. If you elect to audit courses, you have the privilege of attending classes, but are not required to take any test or examination or turn in any written assignments. Faculty does not evaluate your work. When you take a course as audit, you do not receive a grade or academic credit. Therefore, audited courses do not contribute to the completion of a graduate program of study. Should you want to change a course from audit to credit, you must notify the office of Graduate and Continuing Education prior to the third class meeting by completing the appropriate form. Audited courses may not be re-taken for credit toward a graduate program.
Capstone Project/Master’s Thesis
The Capstone Project/Master’s Thesis is an important culminating experience for many master’s degree candidates. The Capstone/Thesis is meant to demonstrate that candidate’s ability to engage in discipline specific research and/or focused study. The Capstone/Thesis must be conducted with the approval of, and under the direction of, a graduate advisor and program administrator. After the work is complete, it is presented in a public forum arranged by the faculty advisor and announced one week prior to presentation. The student is also required to provide bound copies of the Capstone/Thesis to the Department, Westfield State University Library, and the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education. Individual programs may have additional requirements.
Students in Graduate Programs may change their concentration within a specific department with approval from the Department Chair and the Dean. To begin the process, students must complete a Graduate Degree program Change of Major form, available online or in the office of Graduate and Continuing Education. Upon acceptance into the new concertration, students complete a new Program of Study. Students who wish to enter programs sponsored by another department (e.g., Education to English) must re-apply. In either case, a new Program of Study must be completed with your advisor’s approval and the signatures of your Department Chair and Graduate Dean.
The comprehensive examination is the culminating experience of many of our graduate programs. The exam may be taken only after you complete all required courses and a total of 27 credits within your program. You should keep the exam in mind as you begin your program, retaining class notes, syllabi and bibliographies. Please note that some master’s programs may accept a thesis, research project, public presentation or other capstone experience in addition to or in lieu of a comprehensive examination. It is important to check with each department concerning specific degree requirements, capstone experience options and departmental policy.
Examinations may be written or oral (or both), as determined by each department. Students must fill out a Comprehensive Examination form available in the College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) Office to apply to take the comprehensive exam. No fee is required. A formal review of graduate folders will be made by the academic counselor to determine eligibility for the exam as explained in the criteria above.
Students who fail the comprehensive examination may be permitted to repeat the exam a second and subsequent time, provided the department and the Graduate Dean grant approval. Permission to take a second or subsequent exam will be granted when students have completed an approved program of remediation under the supervision of their graduate program advisor. The program of remediation will be designed by the student and the student’s advisor to address the areas of deficiency noted by the readers of the examination. Students who wish to retake the comprehensive examination must complete a remediation plan with their advisor. A 45 day filing period is allotted to students who wish to submit a program of remediation plan. The 45 day period will commence on the date of the letter of notification of failure to pass the examination. The nature of the proposal for remediation may vary from program to program. The chair of the student’s department and the Graduate Dean must approve the program of remediation. Students must fill out a form available in the CGCE Office to apply for permission to take the comprehensive examination for a second or subsequent time.
Previous graduate policy on time limits remains unchanged: a student is expected to complete all degree requirements, including passing the comprehensive examination, within six (6) years of the date of the first course credited toward their degree, including transfer credits from other accredited institutions. The Master of Arts in Counseling program allows students seven (7) years to complete the 60-credit program. Students who participate in the Foundation Curriculum of the M.S. in Accounting are also given seven (7) years to complete.
Comprehensive exams for the master’s degree candidates are administered on Saturday mornings in March and November. The exact date of the examination is announced early in the semester it is to be given. It is your responsibility to identify the date of the comprehensive exam and to apply to take it before the deadline. Students will be notified in writing of their eligibility to take the exam. Other guidelines follow:
- A candidate’s eligibility to take the comprehensive examination is approved by the Dean on recommendation by the candidate’s advisor after review and evaluation of the candidate’s Program of Study, completed course work and other program requirements.
- All candidates must take the exam at the time and place designated by CGCE. Any exception to this guideline is the decision of the Dean. Students with documented special needs or needing accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act should make their needs known at the time of application to take the examination. Students whose religious observations require an alternate scheduling of the exam should make their request known to the office as early as possible.
- Any written and/or oral comprehensive examination must be evaluated by at least three faculty members. A grade of Pass or Fail must be submitted in writing to the College for each candidate.
- Written communication of exam results is the responsibility of CGCE.
- Successful outcomes of the Comprehensive Exam will be noted on student transcripts.
Graduate courses are funded solely by student fees and tuition. Unfortunately, each semester there are courses in which enrollments are not sufficient to compensate faculty. These courses are canceled at the discretion of the Dean. To allow students time to enroll in other courses, decisions to cancel are made on the basis of the number of enrollments prior to the start of classes. Therefore, students are urged to register early in order to give an accurate assessment of the number of students who want to enroll in each course. Students affected by course cancellations will be notified by phone, email, or mail. Students not wishing to enroll in an alternative course will receive a full refund as soon as it can be processed.
Should you need copies of course descriptions, you may send a written request or complete the transcript/course description request form, noting the specific course descriptions needed and dates the courses were taken, if applicable. Please allow five working days for processing.
Graduate students are encouraged to meet with their advisors for assistance in evaluating the most appropriate course load. Students who will be receiving benefits from the Veterans Administration, state or federal financial aid or aid from other sources should check with the funding source to be sure a sufficient number of credit hours are taken for funding eligibility.
Course Withdrawal Policy
Enrollment in a course implies a serious intention to complete the work of that course. You may drop a course by withdrawing before the first scheduled class meeting without notation on your permanent record. After the second class meeting, you will receive a grade of “W”, if you properly withdraw in writing before the deadline. The withdrawal form (available in the office and online) requires both the student’s and the faculty member’s signatures. The deadline is published in each semester’s schedule of courses and is set close to mid-term. Verbal messages of intent to withdraw given to the instructor or staff do not constitute withdrawal. Unless a withdrawal form has been completed, signed by you and the instructor, and submitted to the Graduate and Continuing Education Office, you have not officially withdrawn.
Students who can document an “extenuating circumstance” may be allowed to drop a course with a “W” notation on their transcript prior to the final exam. They should contact the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education to discuss their situation. Students who enroll for a course and fail to attend the first two classes may be withdrawn at the discretion of the professor. Professors are asked to justify such a decision at the time of the recommended withdrawal. Beginning with the third week of classes (or with the third class meeting in summer sessions), faculty may not submit a “W.”
Refunds of tuition and appropriate fees, if any, are made on the basis of the date and time of receipt of a student’s withdrawal notification in the CGCE Office, and in accordance with the refund schedule in force during the session within which the refund is requested.
Master’s degrees are conferred during the months of August, December, January, May and July. The Commencement ceremony is held in May. Applications are available online or in CGCE office, and should be submitted to the CGCE office no later than March 1st to ensure the student’s name appears in the commencement program.
Students shall have the right to inspect their own complete final examination papers in a course within one semester following the end of the course. However, the course instructor shall have the right to retain permanent possession of the original examination papers and each student’s submitted answer sheet.
The purpose of the Graduate Grade Appeal Policy is to provide graduate and post-baccalaureate students with a safeguard against receiving an unfair final grade while also respecting the academic judgment of the instructor.
This grade appeal procedure applies only when a student initiates a grade appeal and not when the instructor decides to change a grade on his or her own initiative. This procedure does not cover instances in which students have been assigned grades based on academic dishonesty, which is addressed in Westfield State’s Graduate Academic Integrity Policy. Grade appeals alleging discrimination, harassment or retaliation in violation of Westfield State’s Sexual Harassment Policy should concurrently be referred to the appropriate office at Westfield State as required by law and by Westfield State policy.
1. Underlying Principles
A. Students and faculty should make every effort to resolve questions about grades without seeking a grade appeal. A grade appeal is a last resort.
B. A grade appeal will be pursued only if there is a valid basis and substantial evidence. The responsibility for developing and presenting the case for changing a grade rests with the student making the appeal.
C. Instructors have the responsibility to provide careful evaluation and timely assignment of appropriate grades. Course and project grading methods should be explained to students at the beginning of the term and instructors should retain grading calculations for a minimum of one year after the conclusion of a course. Westfield State presumes that the judgment of the instructor of record is authoritative and that final grades assigned are correct, but also recognizes that grading errors may occur.
D. Grades will be changed only on clear evidence of error or manifest injustice in grading.
E. If the instructor no longer works at the University or is unavailable, the Department’s Graduate Program Chair may represent the instructor in this process.
F. Interpretation of this policy is the purview of the Dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) or designee.
2. The Basis for a Grade Appeal
A. Only final course grades may be appealed.
B. Grades may be appealed that are alleged to be caused by:
i. Unfair and unequal application of grading standards or applying grading criteria to one student or some students in a manner that treats them differently.
ii. Unfair or unannounced alteration of assignments, grading criteria, or computational processes from the instructor’s previously articulated standards.
iii. Computation dispute about calculation of a final grade or its transmission to the Registrar.
iv. Sanctions for academic dishonesty without an admission or finding of academic dishonesty.
3. Establishment of the Grade Appeal Sub-committee
At the hearing, at least five (5) Graduate Education Council members, including no less than three faculty members and the student member, must be present to establish a quorum of the Graduate Grade Appeal Sub-committee. In such circumstances in which the GEC student representative is in the same program or otherwise familiar with the student bringing forth the grade appeal, the CGCE Dean shall appoint another student representative. Likewise, any GEC member directly involved in the grade appeal case shall not serve on the Grade Appeal Sub-committee.
4. Process for Grade Appeal
A. Step One: Appeal to the instructor
i. To appeal a course grade, a student must discuss the grade with the course instructor within the first two (2) weeks of the following semester (the following Fall semester for Spring and Summer grades or the following Spring semester for Fall or Winter grades).
ii. If the student’s discussion with the course instructor does not lead to a satisfactory resolution for the student, the student has ten (10) business days to appeal to the Department’s Graduate Program Chair for mediation. If the course instructor is also the Department’s Graduate Program Chair, the Dean of CGCE or designee will serve as the mediator instead. The designated mediator has ten (10) business days to try to resolve the disagreement about the final course grade.
iii. If this process of mediation is unsuccessful, the designated mediator will, at the end of the ten (10) day mediation period, make a recommendation to the instructor about retaining or changing the student’s final grade. The instructor will have ten (10) business days to decide whether or not to accept the mediator’s recommendation and shall notify the mediator of the decision.
iv. The mediator shall notify the student and Graduate Program Chair in writing of the instructor’s decision.
B. Step Two: Appeal to the Graduate Grade Appeal Committee
i. If the student is unsatisfied with the instructor’s final decision they will have ten (10) days to submit a written appeal to the Dean of CGCE stating that the disagreement was not resolved at the departmental/program level, explaining the basis for the appeal and providing the evidence for a formal appeal. The Dean will then transmit copies to the faculty member and to the graduate program chair. Student should submit appeals through the following website: https://secure.blueoctane.net/forms/BPNDM84CF1BL
ii. If the Dean determines that there is sufficient basis for a formal grade appeal, the Dean will convene the sub-committee. The student, instructor, and grade program chair will be given at least ten (10) business days notice of the time and place of the hearing. A copy of the student’s written appeal and accompanying evidence must be available at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing for review by the instructor and the graduate program chair in the CGCE office. The instructor may also submit a statement or additional information but is not required to do so. No hearings will be held between June 1 and August 31, or between the Fall and Spring semesters.
iii. The student, course instructor, and graduate program chair will be encouraged to attend the meeting, but are not required to do so. The meeting will be closed to all other outside participation. The student and instructor may each be accompanied by one person, but that person may not be legal counsel and may not participate in the process in any way.
iv. At least five (5) members of the Graduate Education Council, including at least one student member and three faculty must be present in order for a hearing to be held.
v. The Sub-committee is strongly encouraged to conclude its work no later than the end of the semester in which the appeal is filed. In the event that the student filing a formal grade appeal is graduating within the term in question, the sub-committee will make every effort to expedite the process.
vi. Through its inquiries and deliberations, the sub-committee is charged to determine whether clear and convincing evidence of unfair treatment, such as arbitrariness, prejudice, and/or error, might justify changing the grade. The Sub-committee will meet in closed session and make its decision based on a majority vote.
vii. If the Sub-committee determines that no compelling reason exists for changing the grade, the committee will report its conclusion in writing to the student, course instructor, graduate program chair and Dean within five (5) business days of the hearing, and the matter will be considered closed.
viii. If the Sub-committee determines that compelling reasons exist for changing the grade, within five (5) business days of the hearing the Sub-committee will request that the instructor make the change, providing the instructor with a written explanation of its reasons. Should the instructor decline, he or she must provide a written explanation to the Sub-committee for refusing within five (5) business days.
ix. The Sub-committee, after considering the instructor’s explanation and upon again concluding that it would be unjust to allow the original grade to stand, will then determine what grade is to be assigned (or recommend an administrative withdrawal from the course). In determining what grade is to be assigned, the Sub-Committee may obtain records from the course instructor, department chair, and student. A formal, written report of the Sub-Committee’s decision must be forwarded to the student, instructor, graduate program chair, Dean, and the CGCE Office within ten (10) business days of the receipt of the instructor’s written explanation. Under no circumstances may persons other than the original faculty member or the Sub-Committee change a grade.
x. Should the Sub-Committee determine that the instructor’s written explanation justifies the original grade, the committee will report this in writing to the student, instructor, department chair, and Dean within ten (10) business days of the receipt of the instructor’s written explanation, and the matter will be closed.
xi. The CGCE office will maintain official records of grade appeal hearings. Records will not be released to individuals outside the University except under the conditions specified in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Access to official records must be authorized by the CGCE Dean or designee.
Graduate Grading System
||(4.0) High Distinction
||(2.7) Marginal Pass.
||(2.0) Not Acceptable towards credits in a graduate program.
||Pass - No grade point equivalent. May be used toward program of study.
||Research - No grade point equivalent.
* These designations have no grade point equivalent and will not earn graduate credit.They are acceptable for Professional Development verification, however.
Grades below a B will not be accepted by WSU in transfer.
Graduate students must maintain a minimum overall average of 3.0 and meet all other degree requirements in order to be eligible for graduation. Graduate students in good academic standing are by definition honors students. The designation of Latin honors (Summa cum Laude, Magna cum Laude, Cum Laude) does not apply to graduate students..
Graduate Level Courses
All graduate courses are numbered above 400, generally at the 500 or 600 level. All courses with 600 level numbers carry graduate credit and are only open to graduate students. Courses at the 500 level may have a 300 matching number, which allows for the enrollment of upper-level undergraduate students. Professional development courses are assigned the number 595 and will not be included in Westfield’s graduate degree programs unless the program coordinator and the Dean grant an exception.
If you are nearing the completion of your graduate program requirements and plan to receive a Master’s degree, you should request the Application for Graduation in the Graduate Office or online. You should complete this form and submit it to the office no later than March 1st of the year you are plan on participating in commencement. If you are planning to take the comprehensive exam, file the application to graduate simultaneously with the application to take the comprehensive. A commencement fee is required at the time of filing the application for graduation, whether or not you wish to participate in the formal ceremony. There is no fee to take the comprehensive examination. No degree or certificate will be conferred and no graduate transcripts will be issued unless all tuition and fees have been paid in full. Information regarding the graduation and commencement ceremony is sent directly to all students who have applied for graduation and available on the university website.
A grade of Incomplete (I) is assigned by the instructor only if you have completed 80% of the course work and have offered a valid reason for your inability to complete the course work within the prescribed semester. You must request a grade of Incomplete before the end of the semester and arrangements for the completion of the work must be made in writing with the instructor. Once you have been granted the incomplete grade, you must complete the work within the first 30 days of the next scheduled semester. If the work is not completed within that time, or if an extension is not granted, the incomplete grade automatically becomes an “F”. In certain extraordinary circumstances, faculty may complete an Extension Form (available in the Office) and submit it to the College of Graduate Studies to permit a student additional time to satisfy the course requirements.
Opportunities for independent study are provided in each department on an advanced graduate level for one to six semester hours’ credit. Course admission requires the permission of the faculty member and approval of the program advisor, department chair and dean. Written plans for independent study projects must be approved in advance before registering for the independent study course. A maximum of six (6) credits of Independent/Directed Study are allowed within a degree program.
You should make certain that you have the necessary prerequisites for each course. Failure to do so may result in being inadequately prepared to take and succeed in the chosen course. Prerequisites are indicated in each course description in the online catalog. A baccalaureate degree is an essential prerequisite for all of our graduate level courses.
Program of Study
Upon initial acceptance into a degree program, you will be assigned an advisor skilled in your area of specialization. Your individual program of study is worked out in consultation with your advisor and in accordance with the requirements for a degree in your major program. The planned degree program will include:
- prerequisites required by the department in your area of concentration,
- required courses,
- a planned program of courses necessary for competency in the field of concentration,
- in some cases, elective courses.
The program of study must have your signature and the signed approval of your advisor(s). The Coordinator of Graduate Records will circulate the program of study for the Graduate Dean’s signature. The original will then be placed in your file.
The signed Program of Study form must be on file within your first semester of study after acceptance. Failure to comply may result in a hold being placed on future registration. Any changes to the Program of Study must have advance written approval. These approved changes must be filed with the Graduate Office. The advisor is not responsible for his/her advisee’s meeting Graduate School regulations and deadlines. You are personally responsible for knowing all University rules and regulations, as well as your program requirements.
Registration for Courses
Current and accurate information about courses and enrollment is available on the college web site through http://www.westfield.ma.edu/academics/continuing-education-massachusetts/register-for-classes. An informational postcard is mailed to students who have taken classes within the last three semesters. If you have not taken classes at Westfield you will not receive the postcard, but may view the information online. The schedule of courses is available in catalog form several weeks prior to the start of a semester. If you wish to receive a catalog, please call the CGCE office at 572-8020 to request one be sent.
The registration form is included in each semester’s course catalog book and is also available in the office and on our website. Payment is expected at time of registration. The Office accepts MasterCard, VISA, Discover, American Express, personal check, money order, or traveler’s checks. Students may send the registration form to the CGCE office or register online. The dates for registration are available in each semester’s catalog and online.
It is your responsibility to become familiar with all requirements of the relevant graduate program. In no case should you expect a waiver or exception to published program requirements by pleading ignorance of the regulation or by asserting that an advisor or other authority did not directly present the information. All students should become familiar with all academic policies and specific university/departmental program requirements. Only the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education, supported by the Graduate Education Council, has the authority to waive the basic requirements stated in this catalog. No statements made by any person regarding waiver of admission or program requirement shall in any way bind the Graduate Dean or Graduate Education Council.
The Graduate School is an integral part of the summer program at Westfield State University, offering a variety of graduate offerings from May through August in the evening and with intensive day and evening sessions during the second summer session (July and August). The summer calendar is designed to allow students to accelerate their degree program or lighten their course load during the regular academic year. Program advisors ar avaliable throughout the year to assist students in selecting semester courses.
You are expected to complete your degree requirements within six (6) years (seven (7) in the Counseling M.A. and Foundation Curriculum of the M.S. Accounting programs) from the date of the first course credited toward your degree, including transfer credits from other accredited institutions. No credit will be given for a course older than six years at the time of graduation. If you fail to meet this time requirement, you must apply in writing for an extension, stating in detail the reasons for the request. The college does not guarantee that the extension will be granted, and the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education may impose additional requirements before the degree will be granted.
Official transcripts and course descriptions may be obtained from the Office of Graduate and Continuing Education by mailing in a written request or filling out a transcript request form, available in the office and on the university web site. The signature of the student is required on the form before a transcript can be released or sent and a fee nominal fee per transcript must be submitted with the transcript request form. Please allow five working days for our office to process the request. There will be an additional charge for processing of transcript requests within one business day ($5.00). Transcripts that include the final grades of the present semester will be available approximately three weeks after the close of the term.
An intensive January session has been added to the Westfield State University Academic year. Offered in response to requests for accelerated classes which could be completed during the January break, this comprehensive schedule offers undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and graduate students the opportunity to complete credit classes in an intensive academic format of three weeks or less. Please consult the Winter/Spring course catalog for winter offerings.