Academic Rights and Responsibilities of Students

Students have the right to learn and to inquire. They have a right to examine and discuss questions of interest, to take stands on issues of interest to them, and to support causes, by orderly means, which do not impede the collegial process of learning.

Recognized student organizations shall be allowed to invite and to hear any person of their own choosing for the purpose of hearing that person's ideas and opinions. However, the university president has final responsibility for campus events and activities and may affirm or cancel a speaker's registration.  In cases of cancellation the president shall provide the organization with a written explanation for the decision.

Students shall have the right of protection against prejudiced academic evaluation. At the same time, students are responsible for maintaining the standards of academic performance established by the faculty for each course in which they are enrolled. Any student who believes that individual academic rights have been violated may seek redress by contacting the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for direction in filing a formal grievance.

Individual students and recognized campus organizations have the right to publish and distribute written materials provided the material is identified by the name of the student or organization, in accordance with university regulations, and follows the guidelines established by the publications committee. Student publications shall be guaranteed the rights inherent in the concept of "freedom of the press."

In all academic matters, students at Georgia Southwestern State University have a right to be governed by justified regulations. They shall be free to take reasoned exception to data and views offered in the classroom and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, without fear of penalty. Students have a right to grades that represent the instructor's professional judgment of their performance in courses, a right to professional relationships with each instructor, and a right to protection against improper disclosure of personal information. Students also have a right to clearly stated information that would enable them to determine:

  1. The general requirements for establishing and maintaining an acceptable academic standing;
  2. Their own academic relationship with the University and any special conditions which apply;
  3. The graduation requirements for any particular curriculum and major.

Students are responsible for classroom behavior that is conducive to the teaching-learning process for all concerned, and for meeting the requirements of a course of study according to standards of performance established by the faculty. Students who engage in any prohibited or unlawful acts that result in disruption of a class may be directed by the faculty member to leave the class for the remainder of the class period. Longer suspensions from a class, or dismissal or disciplinary grounds, shall be administered through the campus student conduct proceedings. The Vice President for Student Affairs, or his or her appointee, has the right to impose temporary sanctions pending hearings.

Students are expected to attend all classes. If an absence is necessary, the student is responsible for reporting this fact to the instructor. Each instructor will take whatever action he or she deems necessary. Faculty members are to have made their expectations concerning absences clear to the students enrolled in their classes, preferably in writing and within the first week of class.

STATEMENT ON ACADEMIC RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES from the American Council on Education

The university and the Board of Regents have also adopted the following Statement on Academic Rights and Responsibilities from the American Council on Education:

Intellectual pluralism and academic freedom are central principles of American higher education. Recently, these issues have captured the attention of the media, political leaders and those in the academy. This is not the first time in the nation's history that these issues have become public controversies, but the current interest in intellectual discourse on campus suggests that the meaning of these terms, and the rights and responsibilities of individual members of the campus community, should be reiterated.

Without question, academic freedom and intellectual pluralism are complex topics with multiple dimensions that affect both students and faculty. Moreover, America's colleges and universities vary enormously, making it impossible to create a single definition or set of standards that will work equally well for all fields of academic study and all institutions in all circumstances. Individual campuses must give meaning and definition to these concepts within the context of disciplinary standards and institutional mission.

Despite the difficulty of prescribing a universal definition, we believe that there are some central, overarching principles that are widely shared within the academic community and deserve to be stated affirmatively as a basis for discussion of these issues on campuses and elsewhere.

-- American higher education is characterized by a great diversity of institutions, each with its own mission and purpose. This diversity is a central feature and strength of our colleges and universities and must be valued and protected. The particular purpose of each school, as defined by the institution itself, should set the tone for the academic activities undertaken on campus.

-- Colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas. Such a commitment will inevitably encourage debate over complex and difficult issues about which individuals will disagree. Such discussions should be held in an environment characterized by openness, tolerance and civility.

-- Academic decisions including grades should be based solely on considerations that are intellectually relevant to the subject matter under consideration. Neither students nor faculty should be disadvantaged or evaluated on the basis of their political opinions. Any member of the campus community who believes he or she has been treated unfairly on academic matters must have access to a clear institutional process by which his or her grievance can be addressed.

-- The validity of academic ideas, theories, arguments and views should be measured against the intellectual standards of relevant academic and professional disciplines. Application of these intellectual standards does not mean that all ideas have equal merit. The responsibility to judge the merits of competing academic ideas rests with colleges and universities and is determined by reference to the standards of the academic profession as established by the community of scholars at each institution.

-- Government’s recognition and respect for the independence of colleges and universities is essential for academic and intellectual excellence. Because colleges and universities have great discretion and autonomy over academic affairs, they have a particular obligation to ensure that academic freedom is protected for all members of the campus community and that academic decisions are based on intellectual standards consistent with the mission of each institution.

Other university policies regarding academic rights can be found in this excerpt from the Faculty Handbook:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY POLICY

Purpose:

A)To define the rights of creators of intellectual property and of the university in relation to such property. 

B) By clearly defining and protecting the rights of creators of such property, to encourage its creation.

C) To define clearly the relative value of shared rights to such property, if such rights exist.

1. Definitions:

  • A) Intellectual Property (IP) is any creative work that is potentially protected by national and/or international patent or copyright law, whether such protection is sought or not.  Ownership of the IP carries the implied sole right of deciding whether or not a patent or copyright shall be sought.  Intellectual property should be understood to include, but no be limited to:
    • a. Written works of any sort, whether existing on paper or in digital form.
    • b. Computer programs or portions of programs, or other software, whether created for classroom, service, or scholarly purposes.  Ownership of software and programs carries with it ownership of any instructional materials and/or manuals or documentation, logos, artwork, and so on, developed to accompany it.
    • c. Artistic creations, whether visual, dramatic, or musical, as well as audio and/or video recordings (or digital equivalents) of existing works in the public domain, or for which rights to record have been acquired.
    • d. Recorded lectures or performances, whether recorded in audio, video, or both formats, and whether created for classroom, service, or scholarly purposes.
    • e. Filmstrips, overheads, charts, and any other visual aid, whether in tangible or digital form.
    • f. Mask work for the creation of electronic circuitry.
    • g. Novel organism varieties (such as plant varieties) that qualify for patent protection.
    • h. Inventions and other creations that qualify for patent protection.  Any trademarks and trade secrets that go along with such materials are part of the IP.
    • i. Archival and other material created or collected in the process of creating the IP.  These may include databases and other tabulations, specimens of fossil or living organisms, photographs, films, notebooks, rough sketches and drafts, voice recordings, and so on.  Digital versions of any of these things are to be regarded the same as hard copies.  In the case of materials that are required to be archived in a public institution (such as organism type specimens) the owner of the IP holds sole right to determine where they shall be archived.
  • b) A creator is an individual who conceives, develops, perfects, or makes some other substantial contribution to the existence of a piece of intellectual property.  Co-creators are individuals who all work on a single piece of IP.  Co-creators have the choice to retain individual rights to the IP, or to pool their rights and be considered an institutional creator collectively.  It is incumbent upon co-creators to have an agreed upon policy in place to outline the individual rights among themselves, or within their institution, before beginning work on the IP.  Such agreements can be modified as the work progresses if necessary and mutually agreeable.  The university as a whole, or any sub-unit of the university (such as a school or department) can be a plenary creator if and only if that institution conceives, funds, and hires labor specifically to bring the IP into existence ab initio.

2. Determining ownership of IP.

There exists a contractual agreement between the university and each of its employees and students that places certain responsibilities and rights on both.  The following is written specifically about the relationship between the university and a faculty member, but the same or similar arguments hold true for any staff member or for any student who creates a piece of IP while at the university.

The university is expected to provide a certain level of tangible support to a faculty member.  This level of customary or normal support includes, but is not necessarily limited to, office (and in appropriate cases) laboratory or studio space, office supplies, access to telecommunications and computer equipment, software, internet services, e-mail, disk memory for websites, laboratory supplies, photocopy machines and supplies, library (including e-library) access, interlibrary loan, computers, student assistants, access to secretarial services, and other such items that the faculty member is expected to use for normal teaching, service, and scholarly pursuits as part of her/his normal or customary duties.  In exchange, the university profits from the students the faculty member teaches, the alumni he/she has previously taught, the prestige (at least) of his/her scholarly achievements, and the administrative value of her/his committee work, service work, and so on.  Provision of these items does not entitle the university, or any part of the university, to any share in the ownership of IP created by the faculty member.  It should be noted that the notion of “customary” will evolve over time.  Today it is customary to provide a desktop computer for faculty.  In five years a tablet might be the norm.  The rule of thumb is that whatever is generally provided to most or all members of the faculty at the time a piece of IP is created is “normal and customary”.

  • A ) Sole ownership by an individual creator:
    Any creative work accomplished by an individual faculty member, or any IP that results from that work, is owned solely by the individual, even if that faculty member has used the customary support of the university in creating the IP.  In the event that the creative work is carried out under a grant from an outside agency (which ordinarily would be granted to the institution and not the individual), the creator is still the sole owner of the IP.  The university can claim no rights to it.  This is true whether the grant carries indirect costs (“overhead”) or not.  Acceptance of a grant on behalf of a faculty member implicitly agrees to these terms.  The university may not make acceptance of a grant contingent upon being granted ownership or co-ownership, but may insist that all required labor for the creation of the IP, beyond the customary and normal, be covered in the grant funds, either as overhead or as direct costs.

  • B) Co-ownership by co-creators:
    If the work leading to a piece of IP is collaborative among several individuals, those co-creators must have a clear, written agreement a priori about proportional sharing in the ownership, or agreement to function as an institutional owner.  Disagreements at this stage are to be arbitrated by the IP committee.  Of course any individual may enter into a priori agreement with the university to share her or his ownership with the university, but is under no obligation to do so.
    The university may be considered a co-creator, but only if it has actively and purposely agreed to provide (and does, in fact, actually provide) an unusual level of support, either by providing additional funds, support staff, student assistants, release time, specially purchased equipment or supplies, rare holdings of its library or museum which become a part of the IP (as in digital reproduction) or otherwise provides an unusual level of support specifically for the project.  The request for such support must be made by the individual creator or co-creators, and may not be offered or required by the university without such a request.  In this case the university cannot be the primary creator, nor can it hold a majority share in the ownership of the IP.
  • C) Sole or primary ownership by the university as plenary creator:
    There exists only one instance in which the university can be the plenary or the primary creator/owner of a piece of IP.  In this case, the university must conceive the idea of creating the IP, must instigate work on the IP, must supply all funding during development of the IP, and must hire labor ab initio whose entire function is to create the IP.  Furthermore, if any single new hire can be identified as the primary contributor of creative intellect to the work, that individual must be considered a co-creator and co-owner.  The proportional ownership in this case is to be agreed a priori by mutual consent or by decision of the IP committee.  Existing faculty, students, or staff may not be recruited unless they are offered creator and owner status commensurate with their contributions, and it would be expected that at least one of them would become the primary creator and owner.  If the university fully meets the definition of plenary creator it may be sole owner of the resulting IP.  At its discretion, the university (as plenary creator) may offer individuals hired to do the labor a share in the ownership of the IP, but is under no obligation to do so.  Any sharing of ownership in this case must have clear a priori written agreement about the proportional ownership of the IP.

3. Administration of the IP policy.

The university president shall appoint a committee (the IP committee) to oversee administration of this policy.  The chair of this committee shall be a faculty member whose primary responsibility is teaching.  Each college and division on campus shall be represented by a faculty member, again with a primarily teaching appointment.   One member shall come from the Business and Finance office.  Additional members may be appointed as applicable to individual cases from other areas – staff, students, the Library, additional specialists from certain departments or offices, etc. 
This committee should ordinarily meet only to review an agreement about proportional ownership of IP, to settle disputes about proper allocation in such an agreement, to settle other disputes over the use of the IP, or to assure that the university has sought and has received a proper co-ownership in any case where the university’s interest is a consideration.   All decisions made by the committee shall be made after formal consultation with the creators of the IP, and are binding.
The Faculty Handbook includes a section on Grants and Contracts that includes certain responsibilities of individuals that might be considered creators of IP.  Anyone intending to initiate a funded project that might lead to creation of IP should review this document and follow its requirements.

4. Guidelines for distributing the university’s income or share of income from a piece of IP.

In the event that IP is created by an individual or a set of individuals without the university holding any vested interest in the IP, the university also has no responsibility for the legal and/or administrative aspects of the project, beyond those that a granting agency (if one is involved) ordinarily requires.
If the university does hold any vested interest, then 20% of the annual gross income generated by that IP Is to be held by the university to cover any and all legal and administrative costs, which the university thus assumes.  If the university can demonstrate that its actual costs exceed this amount, the IP committee can allocate additional monies from the income to cover the additional costs.  The remaining income (ordinarily 80% of the gross) is referred to hereafter as the net income.

As a guideline, it is recommended that the university’s share of the interest in income from IP be 15% of the net, if there is an individual primary creator or set of individual co-creators.  If the university is the plenary creator, it is entitled to the entire net income unless it has agreed to share with co-creators recognized a priori, and has formally agreed upon the proportional ownership.

Because the university’s share in the income from a piece of IP results from the creative work of its employees, a substantial amount of the income should be employed stimulating additional creative work.  As a guideline, any university income up to $500,000 per year should be used to support research, innovation, or new teaching materials and initiatives instigated by faculty members.  Existing Faculty Development Grants or Faculty Instructional Grants, for example, might be enhanced, or new ways of supporting the creative work of faculty, students, and staff might be created.  Of the funds thus dedicated, 15% should be allotted to the creator’s department (or departments, if there is more than one creator, in proportion to their ownership of the IP.  An additional 15% should be allotted to the school(s) or division(s) of the creator(s) in the same way.  The remaining 70% should be administered at the university level.  Annual income above $500,000 reverts to the general budget of the university.

Variations from these guidelines are permissible upon review by the IP committee, which also mediates any disputes over the allocations from any piece of IP.

STUDENT EXPRESSION OF OPINION

The right of students to freedom of speech and to peaceable assembly shall not be infringed by the University or by any of its officials or committees. Expression of opinion may go beyond verbalization and may include dramatization of their beliefs to catch the attention of the academic community. Students who avail themselves of their right to free expression shall be limited, however, by the general principle that they may not invade the rights of other citizens; nor may they by word or deed disrupt the normal functioning of the institution. Examples of such invasions and disruptions are as follows: attempts to exclude other members of the university community or guests of the University from free movement on campus or in buildings; destruction of property; public use of speech which, by current community standards, is considered to be obscene or is so patently abusive that it would fall into the category of "fighting words".
Non-members of the University community shall not be permitted to engage in activities that disrupt, obstruct, or in any way interfere with the pursuits of teaching, learning, campus activities, or any other university process.

The Board of Regents Policy referencing the freedom of expression by members of the University community is found in the Regent's Policy Manual and is located in the Office of Student Life.

CHILDREN ON CAMPUS

Students should not bring children to campus on a regular or prolonged basis. While the University encourages students and their families to take advantage of opportunities on campus, the University cannot insure the safety of children. Children must not be in classrooms, laboratories, instructional support areas or student life areas except in the context of programs conducted specifically for children. The University campus is not
an appropriate environment for children, especially when there is no supervision.

POSTING OF INFORMATION

No signs or flyers are to be posted on building exteriors, glass or painted surfaces, wood or plaster walls, fixtures, or in any place or manner that defaces the surface used or makes the removal of the material difficult.

Notices may not be posted on stair rails or doors which block or obstruct one's view. Notices must carry the name of the organization or individual responsible for the removal of the notices. The University will allow no decorations within the circular drive in front of the Wheatley Administration Building or in front of the Education Center.

Signs must be properly placed and should not impair the safety of traffic or pedestrians.

Organizations and/or individuals should be careful not to harm any campus property (including trees, flower beds, sprinkler systems, etc.) when placing signs. Should rain, wind, or other forces render a sign unreadable, or cause disrepair, the sign should be removed by the
organization/individual that placed it within 24 hours following the damage.

Signs/Letters should be placed no more than seven days in advance of the advertised event and removed by the first weekday after the event has taken place.  Signs/Letters not removed by the designated time may be subject to removal by physical plant or another member of the University staff.  Offending individuals or organizations may be assessed a $25.00 fine per incident.

The University’s input regarding the relocation and timing of posting advertisements may be required in certain circumstances.

The University reserves the right to remove, or to request the removal of, any signs/ posters/advertisements.

FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF STUDENTS

As members of the University community, students are expected to act responsibly with regard to their financial obligations. Students that are delinquent in their financial obligations to the University, or to any other facet of the University community, shall not be allowed to register for the next semester, to reside in the university residence halls, to transfer their credits to another school, or to graduate from the university. Fulfillment of financial obligations shall restore students to their prior status as members of the university community, except that they shall suffer whatever academic losses that naturally result from their prior financial irresponsibility.

STUDENT MEDIA

Student media and the student press are valuable aids in establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of free and responsible discussion and of intellectual exploration on the campus. They are a means of bringing student concerns to the attention of the faculty and the institutional authorities, and of formulating student opinion on various issues on the campus and in the world at large.

The editorial freedom of student editors, managers, and directors entails corollary responsibilities to be governed by the canons of responsible journalism, such as the avoidance of libel, indecency, undocumented allegations, attacks on personal integrity and the techniques of harassment and innuendo.

All university-published, broadcast and financed student media should explicitly state on the editorial page that the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the university or the student body.

STUDENT NEWSPAPER AND GSW-TV16

The Sou'Wester and GSW-TV16 (Hurricane Watch) are the official Georgia Southwestern State University student newspaper and television station, respectively. The tone and content of the media are essentially determined by the student editorial and/or production staff, with the cooperation of the faculty advisors. Hurricane Watch does operate all on-air programming in compliance with its “Code of Conduct for Programming”. Faculty, students, and administrators may provide advice and criticism but shall not exercise powers of veto or censorship over news or editorial content, except as indicated below.  Should a member of the University community be aggrieved by material appearing in The Sou'Wester or on GSW-TV16, such person may file with the Vice President for Student Affairs a formal complaint indicating that the publication contains material which is obscene, immoral, indecent, lacking in good taste, or seriously detrimental to the University or to a member of the University community. The Vice President for Student Affairs may use his or her discretion in judging the merits of the complaint. Upon finding cause to believe that the complaint should be investigated further, he or she shall refer the matter to the Faculty Subcommittee on Student Publications. The subcommittee shall hold a hearing and recommend to the Vice President for Student Affairs (1) that the aggrieved member does not have a complaint of a serious enough nature that disciplinary action is warranted, or (2) that the aggrieved member does have a complaint of a serious enough nature and one or more of the following actions should be taken:

  1. Suspension of publication or broadcast
  2. Removal of the offending staff member(s)
  3. Prohibition of further contributions by the offender(s)
  4. An admonishment or reprimand
  5. Printed or broadcast retractions or apologies.

If the aggrieved member of the University community is a faculty member and is dissatisfied with the Vice President for Student Affairs’ decision, the Vice President for Student Affairs may appoint an ad hoc committee to act in an advisory capacity.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Students shall have maximum freedom to express opinions and communicate ideas by writing, publishing, and distributing materials. However, students involved with publications other than those authorized by the university shall be bound by the same rules of good taste cited for official university publications (and by other conditions as may be defined in disciplinary recommendations of the Faculty Subcommittee on Student Publications, or of some other appropriate college officials). The university shall not authorize such student publications, but the publications shall be properly registered with the Division of Student Affairs-Director of Campus Life. The responsibility for editorial or other content, finance, and distribution shall lie with the sponsoring individual, agency, group or organization. The name of the sponsoring individual, agency, group or organization shall be stated in each issue of the publication. Publications not in compliance with these specifications shall not be permitted to utilize any equipment or distribution facilities of the University.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF STUDENT EDITORS, DIRECTORS, AND CONTRIBUTORS TO STUDENT MEDIA

A. Editors/Directors shall strive to meet the standards of good journalism: sincerity, truthfulness, and accuracy are fundamental. News shall be printed/broadcast in a factual and unbiased manner.

B. Student media shall have the freedom to aim constructive criticism at organizations, procedures, and policies, but must refrain from criticizing individuals. The possible effect of any published/broadcast matter shall be carefully considered.

C. Student media shall refrain from using obscene language, pornographic pictures, or offensive slang.

D. Student media shall serve the interests of all students, not just isolated groups within the University community. Editors/Directors shall perform editorial duties with due concern for the ultimate welfare of all students and the institution.