Academic Integrity Appeal at USF

What happens if you are a college student accused of violating academic integrity regulations? Academic integrity allegations involve cheating, plagiarism, providing multiple submissions, complicity, improper use of teamwork credit, computer misuse, fabrication, forgery, or obstruction.

After the university takes action against you for violating academic integrity regulations, you are entitled to contest that action through an appeal.

This article discussed academic integrity appeals at the University of South Florida (USF) for violations found in USF3.027. Similar procedures apply for academic integrity investigations at other colleges and universities in the Tampa Bay area including:

  • University of Tampa;
  • Saint Leo University;
  • St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg;
  • Hillsborough Community College in Tampa;
  • Pasco-Hernando State College in New Port Richey;
  • Polk State College in Winter Haven;
  • State College of Florida in Bradenton; or
  • Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.

If you do not challenge the factual basis underlying the allegations and accept responsibility for the violation, you can only appeal the severity of the sanction imposed.

Keep in mind that you might receive a “FF” grade and a notation of “Academic Dishonesty” in your permanent record. Other sanctions can include being suspended or permanently dismissed from the university.

In some cases, going forward with the Academic Grievance Appeal will result in the Academic Integrity Review Board deciding not to uphold the FF grade. With the approval of the dean, the committee might agree that a grade of F should be recorded in the academic transcript.

Pursuing the appeal might result in giving the student the opportunity to retake the class and graduate on time.

The committee and Dean at USF might also require the student to attend an Ethics and Integrity training course. Other relief can be granted based on the facts of the case. For this reason, if you disagree with the determination and recommended sanction, an attorney can help you file the appeal showing the facts in dispute.

The appeal must be filed within ten (10) days of being notified of the sanction unless your university has a longer deadline for filing the appeal.

An attorney can also sit next to you during the Academic Integrity Review Board (AIRB) formal review hearing so that you can present your side of the story and ask that the board not uphold the FF grade or a suspension or dismissal from the University.

If the sanction is not reversed after the hearing, an attorney can help you file a Writ of Certiorari to a judge in Circuit Court in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Suppose you don’t file the Writ of Certiorari within thirty (30) days of the final determination. In that case, the court loses all jurisdiction to reverse the decision by the university and requires them to remove the FF grade.

The main issue for the writ of certiorari is whether the university followed its rules and complied with the minimum due process requirements imposed in these actions.

Lawyers for the Academic Integrity Appeal at USF

If you are falsely accused of violating a regulation related to academic integrity regulations in USF3.027, then contact an experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Our attorneys represent college and university students falsely accused of misconduct at the Univerity of South Florida (USF) or of violating the academic integrity regulations.

We help students after a determination that cheating occurred, including when the instructor gives an “FF” grade with Academic Dishonesty noted and/or dismisses the student USF. We represent students in an academic integrity appeal, including undergraduates, graduate students, or students in the College of Medicine or the College of Pharmacy.

Our offices are conveniently located in downtown Tampa. Call to schedule a consultation to speak with an attorney about your case or to schedule an office visit.

Call (813) 250-0500.

Requirements for the Integrity Appeal at USF

The appeal should be in writing and emailed to the Dean of College with a copy to the Instructor. The appeal should include the following information:

  • a concise statement of the student’s position;
  • an explanation of why factual support or basis is absent;
  • a showing of any USF Regulation or Policy violations that occurred in the case.

To protect your academic record against a false or exaggerated allegation, you should appeal any determination of an academic integrity violation or related grade assignment or sanction if either:

  • the determination had no factual basis or could not be reasonably inferred by the facts as presented;
  • the academic integrity violation or sanction violated a University Regulation or Policy (then explain the regulation or policy you are alleging has been violated);
  • the determination violated a University Regulation or Policy (this means the standards of procedural fairness were violated because the student was not given something promised in the regulation or policy).

Alternatively, you can accept responsibility for the academic integrity violation but appeal the severity of the sanction imposed.

Appeal Steps for Academic Integrity Issues

The student may appeal after notice of the final academic sanction(s), which is either:

  • the instructor’s grade determination; or
  • any additional academic sanctions.

1. Sending the Student Written Appeal

After notice of the academic sanction, the student may send a written appeal to the Dean, copying the instructor by email within ten (10) days of the grade determination or final academic sanction (additional time may be granted at the discretion of the Dean as necessary). If it is unclear who the designated Dean should be, the student may ask the instructor to identify the appropriate Dean.

The student’s written appeal may be an email request and must contain the following:

  • a concise statement of the student’s position, including an explanation of why the student thinks the determination by the instructor and/or Academic Officer (AO) was a mistake or wrong;
  • a description of the factual deficiency;
  • the specific Regulation or Policy violated, which made the process unfair; or
  • any documentation available that supports the student’s position.

2. Initial Review of Appeal

General complaints or disagreements with the instructor’s decision are not grounds for appeal, and students who have accepted responsibility at any time in the process may only appeal imposed sanctions.

The Dean makes an initial review of the appeal to identify the limits of the appeal and to verify that the student has identified no factual basis for the instructor’s determination and/or the specific Regulation or Policy violated.

If the Dean elects to complete an initial review, the Dean may clarify the parameters of the appeal (sanctions only) or dismiss the appeal as insufficient.

The Dean must send the student and instructor notice of this determination within ten (10) days of receiving the student’s written appeal, copying the instructor’s supervisor or department chair. This will be the final University decision.

Remember that if you do NOT allege that facts are in dispute and explain why those facts are in dispute, your appeal might be dismissed.

3. Dean Appointment of Board

If the Dean does not dismiss the appeal, the Dean may move the appeal forward with or without the initial review or after the review set parameters for the appeal (if it is for sanctions only).

The Dean will appoint an Academic Integrity Review Board (AIRB) composed of students and instructors or administrators at the Dean’s discretion, provided that there are at least three (3) individuals, one (1) of which is an instructor or administrator and one (1) student.

4. Selection of AIRB members

Although the Dean may select any students to serve on the AIRB, if the university system member establishes a Student Academic Integrity Committee (SAIC) at that institution, and there are SAIC members available to serve, the Dean shall select the student board members from the SAIC to serve on the AIRB at that institution.

The students serving on the AIRB do not need to be from the college where the appeal was filed.

When possible, undergraduate students should serve on AIRB for undergraduate student appeals, graduate students for graduate student appeals, clinical students for clinical student appeals, and medical students for medical student appeals.

5. Meeting of the AIRB

Unless extended by a written notice of the Dean or other extenuating circumstances, the AIRB will meet within three (3) weeks from when the Dean receives the student’s written appeal. The Dean will email the student by email the date, time and place of the AIRB review.

If the student or instructor has a justifiable conflict, the student or instructor may make one (1) written request to reschedule the review emailed to the Dean with the reason for the request, noting any known foreseeable conflicts into the next three (3) weeks.

The one-time extension may be granted at the discretion of the Dean. (The timelines in this Regulation may be extended at the Dean’s discretion with written notice to the student and instructor).

6. AIRB Review Steps and Further Appeals:

At the Review, the student and instructor will each be allowed to present their position with reasonable time limits not to exceed fifteen (15) minutes per person.

The student may bring one (1) person to serve as an advisor; however, that person may not act as a legal representative, argue, present, or participate in any active way in the review, including through communications by verbal, written, or electronic promptings with the student.

Each party may be present during the other’s position statement. Neither party may ask questions of the other, argue, or respond to the other’s statement. The AIRB may question both parties at any time during the proceedings.

The AIRB will deliberate in private and render a decision within three (3) weeks of the AIRB review and offer its determination as a recommendation to the Dean (or equivalent depending on the organizational structure of the USF institution) with a copy to the student by email. The student and instructor’s concise written statements will be included with the AIRB’s recommendation.

The Dean will have three (3) weeks to accept or not accept the determination of the AIRB. If the Dean accepts the determination of the AIRB, that is a final university decision and there is no further review available at the university.

If the Dean does not accept the determination of the AIRB, the Dean must refer the matter to the university level (Deans of UGS/OGS for Undergraduate and Graduate reviews, respectively, or the Chief Academic Officer (See Section IV(C)).

The University Level officer will have three (3) weeks to make a final determination, request to review any additional information necessary, or limit the review to the initial statements provided by the student and instructor upon initiation of the Academic Integrity Appeal Review. The Dean’s Statement will issue a determination in writing by email to the student, instructor, and the Dean. This will be the final university decision.

If the determination and final university decision is an “FF” grade with Academic Dishonesty noted and/or a related dismissal from the College or University, the student may appeal that final university decision within thirty (30) days to the Circuit Court by way of Writ of Certiorari.

Additional Resources

30-053 USF Student Grievance Processes Index – Visit the USF website to find Number 30-053, administered by the Student Affairs and Student Services office. USF’s regulations and policies index is a comprehensive list of all university regulations and policies. Additionally, Policy 30-053 of the Student Concern Processes helps students find the regulations and policies that address specific student concerns.

Regulations on the Right to Appeal Integrity Grade Sanction at USF

USF’s Rules on Appealing Integrity Grade Sanction at USF

Attorneys for Accusation of Academic Dishonesty in Florida

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in representing students accused of misconduct or academic dishonesty. If a student in USF’s Undergraduate Studies or Graduate Studies receives a report of an academic integrity violation from an instructor, our attorneys can help the student fight a false or exaggerated accusation.

The grade sanction might include anything from a zero for one assignment to a FF grade for the semester. Any grade sanction for integrity reasons gives the student the right to appeal. Students should be aware that an appeals process can result in a harsher sanction than the one initially proposed by your instructor.

An appeal should be considered only if you believe that the evidence for the academic integrity violation is wrong or that the sanction deviates from the guidance in the regulation.

Strict time limits apply to pursuing an academic integrity appeal. If you intend to take action, you must do so relatively quickly by following the required steps. At USF, the appeals go to the College of the class in question at USF. The appeals do not come to Undergraduate Studies or Graduate Studies at USF.

Unless overturned on appeal, all sanctions are saved internally (and confidentially) within Undergraduate Studies or Graduate Studies, and any new reports are compared against stored records.

Anyone with a second offense risks a much harsher sanction.

To learn more, call (813) 250-0500.

This article was last updated on Thursday, April 27, 2023.