Dean’s Discipline is the process used to investigate and respond to allegations of academic or behavioral misconduct of a graduate student in GSAS. The Dean’s Discipline process is not meant to be an adversarial or legal process; its aim is to educate students about the impact their behavior may have on their own lives as well as on the greater community.
Dean’s Discipline is a means of investigating and responding to complaints made about graduate students in GSAS. Dean’s Discipline is initiated when there has been an allegation—by student, administrator, faculty, or other member of the Columbia community—that a student has violated GSAS or University policies either on or off campus. It is expected students act in an honest manner and that they respect the rights of others at all times.
It is important to note that the Dean’s Discipline process is not used in cases where a student is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct. Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct is responsible for investigating and hearing all cases regarding sexual misconduct. Allegations of faculty misconduct must be brought to the Office of the Executive Vice President of Arts and Sciences for review.
The Dean’s Discipline process is used for both academic and behavioral violations. For a full description of GSAS and University policies, the violation of which may result in Dean's Discipline, please refer to GSAS definitions of good academic and administrative standing, the Essential Policies for the Columbia Community, and the Columbia University Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Student Policies on Discrimination and Harassment.
Behavioral violations of University policy include, but are not limited to, the following (please see Essential Policies for the Columbia Community)
- Knowingly or recklessly endangering the health or safety of others
- Violating Housing policy and/or terms of applicable leases
- Violating any state, federal, or local laws
- Threatening, harassing, or abusing others, whether directly or indirectly, in person or via electronic means.
- Failing to perform in a responsible manner pedagogical requirements
Academic dishonesty violates the principle of intellectual integrity that is the foundation of this institution. Violating that principle is one of the most serious offenses that a student can commit. Examples of academic dishonesty include but are not limited to:
- Plagiarism (the use of words, phrases, or ideas belonging to another without properly citing or acknowledging the source)
- Self-plagiarism (submitting work for one course that already has been used for another course)
- Cheating on examinations or tests
- Collaborating on assignments without the instructor’s permission
- Receiving unauthorized assistance on an assignment
- Copying computer programs
- Facilitating academic dishonesty (selling of notes, exams, papers, etc.)
- Lying to a faculty member, dean, adviser, or university officer
- Obtaining advanced knowledge of exams or other assignments without permission
Timeframe for Proceedings
A member of the Columbia community should ordinarily bring any concern or complaint within thirty (30) days of the end of the semester in which the offending conduct occurred or by the beginning of the following semester. The school process will ordinarily take thirty (30) days.
Filing of Allegations / Hearing Notification and Scheduling
When a complaint is received, the Office of the Dean will determine whether Dean’s Discipline is an appropriate response or if the complaint should be referred elsewhere. If a Dean’s Discipline hearing is to occur, the student is informed in writing of the complaint made against him/her and of the next steps in the process. The student is also informed of his/her ability to review the file information prior to the hearing. Disciplinary hearings are scheduled to avoid conflict with classes for all involved.
Accused students must prepare a written statement responding to the charges. This statement should outline the student’s perspective on the allegations and on the incident as a whole.
Students may speak with a GSAS student affairs staff member to learn more about the Dean’s Discipline process. The primary responsibility to prepare for the hearing, however, belongs to the student. Students are also encouraged to speak with staff members from Counseling and Psychological Services should they feel overwhelmed by the process. The University Ombuds Office, family, and friends may also serve as helpful points of contact.
The Disciplinary Hearing Process
A GSAS associate dean will chair the disciplinary committee, which will comprise a second GSAS student affairs staff member and, depending on the nature of the case, a faculty member included for expertise and present through the hearing until the point of deliberation.
With the exception of the student’s academic adviser—who is not required to attend—the student may not be accompanied by any other person to the hearing (including a family member, friend, or attorney). Electronic recordings or transmissions of the hearing proceedings are not permitted. One of the hearing administrators will take notes during the hearing and produce a summary of those notes soon after the conclusion of the hearing.
During the hearing, the student is presented with the information pertaining to the alleged violation of GSAS or University policies. The student will be made aware of the identity of the person(s) making the complaint against him/her and that of any witness to the incident. The hearing officers will consider requests for anonymity made by a complainant or witness and, in compelling circumstances, may decide to withhold the name of such person. Circumstances in which this request may be granted include a reasonably based fear of retribution, harassment, or other inappropriate response to the disclosure of the individual’s name.
The student will submit any prepared written statement and present information on his or her own behalf. The committee may ask questions of the accused student. In cases of plagiarism, students are often asked about their understanding of plagiarism, researching, note taking, and source citation. The student may direct questions to the hearing officers at any time. Students are invited to make a final statement.
At the conclusion of the hearing and the overall investigation, a determination based on the information available is made about the student’s responsibility for the violation. The standard of proof used to make this determination is the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which allows for a finding of responsibility if at the conclusion of the investigation the information shows it is more likely than not that a violation of Columbia policy occurred. If the student is found responsible, the degree of seriousness of the offense, and the student’s previous disciplinary record will determine the severity of the sanction to be issued. A student will be notified in writing about the outcome of the hearing within ten business days.
A student who has been subjected to a Dean’s Discipline hearing is permitted to review the hearing officer’s notes. To do so, the student should request a meeting. After reviewing the notes, the student may request that changes be made to them if he or she believes there is an inaccuracy or misrepresentation contained in them. The hearing administrator has the discretion to reject any requested changes, in which event a student may attach his or her own written statement as an addendum to the hearing notes. While the student may not make a copy of the hearing notes, her or she may take written notes from them.
When the complaint also involves student(s) in Columbia University schools outside of GSAS, efforts will be made to have the proceedings jointly adjudicated with representatives of all of the schools involved. If joint adjudication is not possible, every attempt will be made to have the proceedings occur simultaneously and to notify the officials of each school of the results.
The following sanctions may result for both academic and behavioral misconduct:
- Disciplinary Warning: The student is warned that any additional violations of Columbia policies may result in more serious disciplinary action. A disciplinary warning is the minimum sanction assigned to a student found responsible for violating University policy.
- Disciplinary Probation: The student’s behavior is deemed inappropriate for the community and the student is warned that further violation of University policies during the probation will likely result in more serious disciplinary action.
- Disciplinary Suspension: The student is removed temporarily from the University, usually for a period of a semester or a year, with any conditions for return made clear at the time of the suspension. Academic privileges are also suspended during this time.
- Expulsion: The student is removed permanently from the University and his or her student status is terminated.
- Additional Sanctions that may also be imposed are: restitution or restitution services, compensatory services, rehabilitation and/or educational activities, exclusion from community activities such as Commencement, or exclusion from entry into the residence halls, specific campus buildings, or campus in general.
The following additional sanction may result for academic misconduct:
- A notation on the student’s permanent academic record specifying the sanction and indicating that the sanction is a result of academic misconduct.
A student found responsible for violating GSAS or University policy has to right to request an appeal of the decision and the resulting sanctions within ten calendar days (or as indicated in the hearing outcome letter) after the student receives notice of the hearing outcome.
There are three grounds upon which an appeal of the decision may be made:
- The student has new relevant information that was unavailable at the time of the hearing.
- The student has concerns with the process that could potentially change or affect the outcome of the decision.
- The student feels that the sanction issued is too severe.
After carefully considering the appeal, the Dean of GSAS will determine if a change in the outcome of the original decision is warranted. The Dean may also change the sanction making it either less or more severe. Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, the Dean will notify the student of the final decision in writing within ten days after reaching it. Appeals will not be reviewed or considered beyond the Dean of GSAS.
In certain circumstances, during the investigative process student affairs staff may place restrictions on a student prior to the conclusion of the hearing. Restrictions that may be placed on students include, but are not limited to: restricting access to the residence halls or other buildings on campus or suspending a student from participation in classes or the campus community. Student affairs staff will only take these interim actions if it is determined that the student’s behavior may make his or her presence on campus a danger to the normal operations of the institution, the safety of himself or herself or others, or to the property of the University or others.
If an investigation is occurring outside of the university community (as with criminal investigations) the University may postpone the Dean’s Discipline process until the conclusion of those outside proceedings. However, interim measures may be taken immediately as indicated above. It should be noted that the results of the outside investigation are rarely considered within the context of the institutional investigation unless that investigation reveals behavior that is particularly egregious and damaging to the wellbeing of the University community. It is the responsibility of the student to notify the Office of the Dean when the outside proceedings have been completed.
In accordance with University policy and federal law, a student's record, including information about Dean's Discipline proceedings, is confidential; however, an important exception, provided for in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, allows Columbia to disclose the outcome of disciplinary proceedings for which the charge was a crime of violence. To read more about the exceptions that apply to the disclosure of student records information, please visit http://www.essential-policies.columbia.edu/policy-access-student-records-ferpa. If a student is found to have transgressed against community standards of academic integrity, the proceedings will be noted in any future dean’s certification form.