Office of the Provost
Office of the Provost
The intent of this Policy is to help preserve the highest standards of teaching and learning; maximize the sharing, construction, and creation of knowledge; protect academic freedom; and advance the mission of the University as an institution of higher learning.
The University recognizes that a positive instructional environment is essential to student learning. Reflecting our commitment to freedom of thought and expression, the classroom requires an atmosphere of mutual respect among diverse persons, groups, and ideas. Whether in a traditional classroom setting, online, in lab sessions, study abroad, or wherever else student learning takes place, creating an optimal educational experience is a shared responsibility between instructor and students. The University thus encourages an environment that is conducive to sharing, extending, and critically examining knowledge and values in the search for wisdom. To provide this environment, the University endorses in full the concept of academic freedom, and thus supports the principle that instructors must be free within their respective fields to teach in accordance with appropriate standards of scholarly inquiry.
Students and faculty both have responsibilities for maintaining an appropriate learning environment based on mutual respect, in which academic freedom for both is protected. Classroom disruptions interfere with the academic mission of the university. Students have the responsibility to treat their fellow students, their instructors, and class material with respect. According to “The Creed at Southern Miss” in the Student Handbook, students are accountable for “exhibiting civil behavior, demonstrating responsible citizenry, and doing [their] part to achieve a positive and secure living and learning environment for all.” All members of the university community have an affirmative obligation to protect student’s constitutional rights, especially the right to due process. Faculty members have the professional responsibility to treat students with understanding, dignity and fairness. Instructors also have the responsibility to promote free intellectual inquiry and freedom of expression and to refrain from improper disclosure of student views, beliefs, and political associations, and from violating any of the restrictions listed in the University nondiscrimination policy. Faculty members are asked to establish clear and reasonable norms for the manner in which students express opinions. Instructors are expected to serve as role models for appropriate conduct and comportment in any learning environment.
Note: For the purposes of this policy, the terms “instructor” and “faculty member” are used interchangeably and are inclusive of all members of the university community with teaching responsibilities, including but not limited to: regular members of the Core of Instruction (see the Faculty Handbook for a definition), librarians, adjunct faculty, and graduate teaching assistants.
Students have rights and responsibilities for maintaining an appropriate learning environment based on mutual respect, in which academic freedom is protected. Any student’s respectful expression of academic disagreement with the course instructor or other students, during times when the instructor permits discussion, is a normal and valuable part of the learning process. Disagreement per se should not be construed as disruptive behavior, nor should the provisions of these guidelines be used to punish classroom dissent. Instructors should consider that cultural differences, situational frustration, and documented special needs can play a part in perceived student misconduct. Students are permitted to ask relevant questions and voice opinions in class, but not in such a manner as to insult the instructor or other members of the class.
When appropriate, students are encouraged to engage with others in the classroom, but should avoid disturbing normal classroom actions with distracting or disruptive behavior. According to the Southern Miss Student Handbook, under “Prohibited Conduct,” a violation has occurred if there is any “Disruption of University-Sanctioned Events and Activities,” defined as “obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary action, or any other activity or of any other authorized activities on university-controlled property.”
* This policy, especially the sections on classroom disruptions, is based on examples from several other universities, particularly the policies of Rutgers University, Kansas State University, and Penn State University.
The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) has delegated the power and authority to the USM President to maintain standards of academic achievement and student conduct. The University has the authority to protect its own educational purposes and community by taking suitable action against any student under university regulations.
Good manners provide the foundation for proper classroom behavior. Stated another way, USM students, regardless of the many perspectives they may bring to a given class, are expected to be courteous while in the classroom. Notably, students must be open to and respectful of the learning process in the classroom, even if, at times, their own beliefs or views about the material being presented are different. Although all students are expected to exhibit appropriate conduct, some simply do not know what constitutes proper classroom behavior. Some unacceptable classroom behaviors occur regularly on campus. Misconduct— which instructors are asked to bring to a halt— includes, but is not limited to, the following:
More serious classroom transgressions include, but are not limited to:
* Physical threats or violence are a violation of the University’s Code of Student Conduct (put forth in the Student Handbook). Such incidents must be referred to the University Police, the appropriate Campus Security Authority (see Clery Act), and the Dean of Students immediately. Please consult the University Police for further information.
Faculty members should set clear standards of behavior at the start of a course to deter an inappropriate behavior.
Example: “All student activities in the University, including this course, are governed by the University’s “Policy on Classroom Responsibilities of Faculty and Students,” as outlined in the Student Handbook. Students who engage in behavior that disrupts the learning environment may be asked to leave the class.”
In the circumstance that a student engages in disruptive behavior, the following responses should be considered. In all cases of classroom misconduct (traditional classroom setting, online, in lab sessions, study abroad, or wherever else student learning takes place) instructors must keep records of inappropriate student behavior and their response to it, as well as keeping the names and contact information of any witnesses to the behavior.
A faculty member may issue a written warning to a student, via email or letter. The correspondence should be retained by the faculty member and a copy sent to the Department Chair. Such a warning should include some or all of the following:
Note: A written warning is not required as a prerequisite to other disciplinary action.
Faculty members have ultimate charge over classroom behavior. A student who persists in being disruptive may be asked by the instructor to leave the class for the remainder of the class period or longer, (students may appeal that decision to the appropriate Department Chair). In some instances, an instructor and Department Chair may choose to prohibit a student from attending classes while allegations of serious misconduct are being adjudicated.
If a disruptive student appears to be on the verge of violent behavior, instructors should avoid directly confronting the student and may choose to cancel class that day. The University Police may be summoned, if necessary, to remove the disruptive student from the classroom safely. Faculty members should not attempt to use force or threats of force, except for immediate self-defense. Instructors must immediately write down facts, identify possible witnesses, and notify the Department Chair and the University Police.
Note: Strategies described in these guidelines also apply to disruptive online behaviors. Removal of a student's online access should be discussed in advance with the Department Chair, the Dean of Students, and the University Attorney's Office.
“Under the laws of the state of Mississippi, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning shall have general supervision of the affairs of The University of Southern Mississippi. This board has delegated the power and authority to the president of the university to maintain standards of academic achievement and student conduct. The Division of Student Affairs has the basic responsibility to administer those regulations governing conduct at the university.
“Students who register at the university agree to conform to its regulations and policies. Students are defined as all persons enrolled at the university, both full-time and part-time or a person seeking admission or accepted to the university for admission. A student is subject to the laws of the community and state, and enrollment as a student in no way relieves him/her of this responsibility. The fact that civil authorities have imposed punishment will not prevent the university from protecting its own educational purposes and community by taking suitable action against the student under university regulations.
“The University of Southern Mississippi recognizes that students are adults with full federal rights and responsibilities who are expected to take personal responsibility for their conduct. The university will not police students’ private lives on or off campus nor violate their privacy rights in any way. These regulations derive their authority both from the students (as an article of the SGA constitution) and the administration of the university (as the Code of Student Conduct.)
Section 1. The Judicial Authority
A. In all organizational and individual discipline cases, the judicial authority of the SGA shall be vested in the Dean of Students, the Student Judicial Council, the University Appeals Committee, the University President, and the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.
B. In all cases solely concerning violations and interpretation of the SGA code and constitution, the SGA judicial authority shall be vested in the necessary lower courts and one Student Supreme Court.
Section 5. Disciplinary Proceedings
A. The Dean of Students shall give in writing the options available to the accused student or organization for adjudication along with the hearing procedures.
B. The Dean of Students shall have the power to take any reasonable action to ensure the safety of the university community and university property and to preserve an academic atmosphere prior to full judicial hearing. These actions are subject to approval by the Vice President for Student Affairs or his/her designated representative.
C. The Dean of Students shall assist the SGA attorney general with the presentation of the case.
D. The Dean of Students Office or judicial body may postpone disciplinary proceedings. Any rescheduling of disciplinary proceeding must meet the requirements set forth in Section 7A of the Code of Student Conduct.
Section 6. A majority of the membership of each judicial body must be present to hear a case, unless a lesser number is approved by both parties to the case.
Section 7. In all judicial proceedings, the accused shall have the right to the following:
A. To written notification of the charges of sufficient particularity to prepare a defense, to a summary of written evidence that is to be presented, to the names of adverse witnesses, to the date of the alleged violation, and to the time and place of the hearing, at least 72 hours prior notice to the hearing.
B. To be assisted by any adviser he/she chooses at his/her own expense. The adviser may be a parent or attorney who will be allowed to make closing remarks during the hearing but may not participate otherwise.
C. To present information and to have an opportunity for reasonable testimony or discussion.
D. To call witnesses.
E. To a speedy and closed hearing unless all parties concerned agree upon an open hearing.
Section 8. Each judicial body shall have the following powers and duties:
A. To issue requests for witnesses to appear on behalf of either party.
B. To issue requests for relevant university documents on behalf of either party.
C. To authorize depositions in lieu of oral testimony when deemed necessary.
D. To adjudicate violations of the SGA code, constitution or university regulations within their respective jurisdictions.
E. To keep an adequate record, as determined by the Dean of Students, of the proceedings and to make this record available to the accused after the hearing upon request.
Section 9. Rules of Evidence
A. All decisions of responsibility or non-responsibility shall be decided on the basis of the preponderance of evidence.
B. Information can be considered by a disciplinary body only if it is introduced before that body in the presence of the accused. If the accused is unavailable for a hearing, then every effort must be undertaken to inform the accused of the existence of the information, and the accused must be given every opportunity to respond before that body reaches a decision.
C. Each judicial body shall have the opportunity to adopt its own rules of information in addition to those specified in the SGA constitution and code.
Section 10. Appeals
A. In all judicial decisions either party shall have and be notified of the right to appeal the decision of the judicial body entering judgment. If the decision is appealed, no action shall be taken–except those measures necessary to ensure the safety of the university community, to protect university property, and to ensure an academic atmosphere–until the appellate process has been exhausted.
B. The request for appeal shall be filed within 72 hours of the written notification of the decision. The request shall be filed with the Dean of Students office.
C. Student judicial council decisions and those made by the Dean of Students may be appealed to the University Appeals Committee, and the University Appeals Committee’s decisions may be appealed to the University President who may, in turn, appoint a hearing officer. Decisions of the University President may be appealed to the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning. In cases of expulsion, the Board of Trustees hears appeals of the University President’s decision.
Section 11. Interim Suspension
A. When the president of the university or a designated administrator determines that the presence of a student would reasonably constitute clear and present danger to the university community or property, he or she may take swift and immediate action to suspend such a student from university enrollment on an interim basis.
B. In such cases, the student will be afforded a preliminary hearing with the administrator designated in part A, unless this action is not possible due to circumstances at the time or to inaccessibility.
C. Whenever suspension occurs under the provisions of this section, the student shall be accorded review by the student judicial system at the earliest possible date following the suspension.
D. If, at any time of review, the judicial authority determines that the suspension of the student is inappropriate, it may recommend to the president that the student be reinstated to university enrollment and be allowed to complete any academic work missed as a result of this suspension.
Disciplinary Sanctions of Code of Student Conduct
If the Dean of Students or the Student Judicial Council, as the case may be, finds that the student has violated the Code of Student Conduct, then that forum will include in its official decision a prescribed punishment which may take any of the following forms:
A. Private Reprimand: The student may be merely reprimanded in writing and warned and admonished to refrain from future misconduct.
B. Restitution: The Dean of Students and Student Judicial Council both have authority to order that the student, as a condition of his/her continued presence in the university community, render monetary restitution for the damages or injuries caused by his/her misconduct.
C. Probation: The student may be placed on probation, with or without non-punitive sanctions, which may include counseling, appropriate community service or exclusion from residence halls, in which case no further sanctions will be assigned unless the student is subsequently responsible for further misconduct during the probationary period. The time frame and the conditions of a probationary sanction can be set at the discretion of the forum. Probation implies that a further code violation during the probationary period will be dealt with more severely than if it stood alone.
D. Campus/Community Service: The student may be assigned to a community service site located on or off campus, with his or her acceptance. A predetermined number of hours must be completed by a given date.
E. Suspension: The student may be suspended from the university for the remainder of any ongoing semester; for a longer, but definitely stated, period of time; for a future semester or semesters or indefinitely, with a date set forth in writing at which time the student will be given the privilege of applying for readmission, with such application to be reviewed and acted upon by the Student Judicial Council or Dean of Students, depending on which forum heard the original complaint.
F. Expulsion: A student may be immediately and permanently separated from the university.
G. Interim Suspension: When the president of the university or a designated administrator determines that the presence of a student would reasonably constitute a clear and present danger to the university community or property, he or she may take swift and immediate action to suspend such a student from university enrollment on an interim basis. Whenever suspension occurs under this provision, the student shall be accorded review by the student judicial system at the earliest possible date following the suspension. If, at any time of review, the judicial authority determines that the suspension of the student is inappropriate, it may recommend to the president that the student be reinstated to university enrollment and be allowed to complete any academic work missed as a result of this suspension.”
“As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning of their students. They hold before them the best scholarly standards of their discipline. Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to assure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit. They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students. They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them. They protect their academic freedom”  This statement comprises ethical prescriptions affirming the highest professional ideals. They are aspirational in character, and represent objectives toward which faculty members should strive. Behavior in accordance with these principles clearly precludes the application of a disciplinary sanction.
The integrity of the teacher-student relationship is the foundation of the University’s educational mission. This relationship vests considerable trust in the instructor, who, in turn, bears authority and accountability as mentor, educator, and evaluator. This pedagogical association must be protected from influences or activities that can interfere with the instructor’s academic freedom and the student’s learning.
A major responsibility of the University is to protect and encourage instructors in their teaching, and students in their learning. The faculty and administration both recognize that it is essential to foster and preserve conditions that maximize academic freedom and student learning. Such conditions, as they relate to professors, include but are not limited to:
The authority to discipline instructors in appropriate cases derives from a shared recognition by the faculty and administration that the purpose of discipline is to preserve conditions hospitable to effective teaching and learning. Discipline is warranted when instructors fail to meet teaching responsibilities. Types of unacceptable faculty conduct include but are not limited to:
Before formal disciplinary proceedings begin, every effort to resolve allegations of instructor misconduct in an informal manner should be made. This would normally result in a departmental level meeting that includes the student, instructor, and Department Chair. If desired, the instructor and student each have the right to bring a third party with them to the meeting. This meeting, if at all possible, should take place within two (2) business days of the alleged misconduct.
 An instructor, however, has the right and may for educational reasons seek to challenge or persuade a student to reconsider a judgment, stance, or position, particularly if the judgment, stance, or position is seen to be based on arbitrary or personal reasons such as (but not limited to) race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, national origin, ancestry, marital status, medical condition, disability, age or citizenship. In the process of learning something new or different, a student should expect to experience cognitive dissonance, which is a precursor to intellectual and moral growth. Any discomfort or disequilibrium that may accompany cognitive dissonance (and thus results in learning) should in no way be confused with causing harm to a student.
 Parts IV-VII of this document are adopted from the University of California’s policy.