Academic PoliciesThe Swarthmore College Bulletin (College Catalog) is the authoritative source of information on degree requirements, major requirements, and course descriptions.
Academic freedom and responsibility Swarthmore College has long subscribed to the fundamental tenets of academic freedom articulated in the 1940 “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure” by the American Association of University Professors. This doctrine has been reiterated and amplified in the association’s 1970 “Statement on Freedom and Responsibility.” Swarthmore College adheres to the 1970 Statement, relevant portions of which are reproduced below. The complete texts of the Association's 1940 and 1970 statements are available online.
Membership in the academic community imposes on students, faculty members, administrators, and trustees an obligation to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression on and off campus. The right of students to exercise free expression, including peaceful dissent, orderly demonstrations, protests, and picketing, will be respected. Swarthmore College honors the American Association of University Professors’ statements on freedom and responsibility, including the following: “The expression of dissent and the attempt to produce change, therefore, may not be carried out in ways that injure individuals or damage institutional facilities or disrupt the classes of one’s teachers or colleagues. Speakers on campus must not only be protected from violence, but also be given an opportunity to be heard. Those who seek to call attention to grievances must not do so in ways that significantly impede the functions of the institution.”
Expressions of dissent are expected in any living and learning community, but this expression must not interfere with normal College business. It is a violation of the norms of this academic community for anyone to prevent the conduct of College business, including lectures, meetings, events (such as admissions tours or job interviews), ceremonies, or other necessary business and community functions. Protests are permissible, except in the following locations: classrooms, offices, libraries, dining halls (including cafes), Worth Health Center, residence hall rooms, and lecture halls, ensuring that the normal work, residential experiences, and services of the College can continue. Students who disrupt the functions of the College, including violating the rights of community members and invited speakers to speak, may be subject to the judicial process.
Students are entitled to an atmosphere conducive to learning and to evenhanded treatment in all aspects of the teacher–student relationship. Faculty members may not refuse to enroll or teach students because of the student’s beliefs or the possible uses to which they may put the knowledge to be gained in a course. The student should not be forced by the authority inherent in the instructional role to make particular personal choices as to political action or her/his own part in society. Evaluation of students and the award of credit must be based on academic performance professionally judged and not on matters irrelevant to that performance, such as personality, race, religion, degree of political activism, or personal beliefs.
If a student has a grievance against a faculty member that cannot be resolved directly with the faculty member who is involved, then the student should take her or his concerns to the department chair. If the grievance remains unresolved, then the student should contact the provost. For an equal opportunity grievance, the student is encouraged to contact the Equal Opportunity Officer.
Academic misconduct is defined as a violation of the College’s standards of academic integrity whether these violations are intentional or unintentional. Academic misconduct consists of cheating on an exam, plagiarism on an academic assignment, or unauthorized collaborative work.
Evidence of academic misconduct may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Some of the student’s work coincides with or closely paraphrases a source that is not properly acknowledged.
- Glaring coincidences in the work of students on exams, papers, problem sets, etc., where cooperation in producing the work was not permitted.
- Submission of the same work in more than one course. When submitting any work to an instructor for a course, it is assumed that the work was produced specifically for that course. Submission of the same work in more than one course without prior approval is prohibited.
Sources that must be acknowledged include, but are not limited to, lab manuals, books, articles in books, journal articles, and web pages, along with graphs, charts, tables, data sets, etc., in any of the sources just mentioned. Proper acknowledgment must indicate both the source and how it served as a source for any specific portions of the student’s work.
The informal nature of some writing may obviate the necessity of rigorously formal citation, but still requires honest attribution to original authors of all borrowed materials. Students should feel free to consult with instructors whenever there is doubt as to proper documentation.
A faculty member who has good evidence to suspect a student or students of academic misconduct will, at the faculty member’s discretion, consult the department chair about the case. The faculty member will then meet with the student (or students) to present evidence. At the faculty member’s discretion, the department chair may be present. After this meeting, if the faculty member’s suspicions are not allayed, the faculty member will submit a report to the judicial affairs coordinator. The report will include a narrative of the incident and evidence supporting the charge. The College Judiciary Committee will adjudicate academic misconduct cases.
The Committee on Academic Requirements (CAR) is the standing committee of the faculty charged with regular review of students’ academic programs and the administration of faculty regulations concerning academic standards and requirements. The committee is also empowered to recommend to the faculty waivers of certain requirements (i.e., the “20 course rule,” the senior-year residency requirement, etc.). Requests for waivers are carefully evaluated by the committee and forwarded to the faculty only when a general educational advantage is perceived.
With the dean of students as chair, the committee regularly meets at the end of each semester to review records of students who are not making satisfactory progress or who are under advisement from previous CAR mandates. Student records may be reviewed at other times should information arise about academic difficulties that were not available at the time of the regular committee meetings.
The committee may take one of several actions including, but not limited to:
- Warnings: Students meet with the dean’s staff member as needed.
- Probation: Students may be placed on probation, continued on probation, or removed from probation. The student’s parents are informed, and the student meets regularly with a Dean’s Office staff member.
- Required to withdraw: The student must stay away for a semester or longer and engage in meaningful activity: classes, work, or volunteer activities. In order to return, the student must write a detailed letter to the dean of students requesting permission to return, explaining what happened, what was done while the student was away, and a plan for how the student will address these issues upon return. In some cases, the student will be required to bring back credits, pre-approved by departments, to catch up with the student’s class standing. Appeals may be made to the dean at the time of notification of the change of status. The student’s parents are notified since this is considered a change of status. Students who are granted permission to return will be placed on probation for at least one semester upon their return to campus.
Individuals with access to the Swarthmore College network have the following obligations and responsibilities:
- To respect other people and the College’s intellectual environment. Use of the network may not violate federal, state, or local law, including the laws of defamation, forgery, and harassment.
- To not engage in copyright/trademark infringement: The copying of copyrighted materials such as music, movies, and other multi-media via Internet peer-to-peer file sharing software or other means is strictly forbidden. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides an opportunity for online service providers (OSPs) to shield themselves from liability for the actions of their subscribers who infringe on the copyrights of others. All institutions of higher education that provide Internet access fall within the scope of the definition of an OSP, with subscribers being their students, faculty, and staff. Information about the DMCA and the College’s policy on copyright infringement isavailable at www.swarthmore.edu/its_copyright.xml.
- To protect each individual’s accounts from unauthorized use by others. Every account is provided for the use of a specific individual and may not be shared with nor loaned to others. Additionally, office computers are generally assigned to specific individuals for College-related work. All members of the community must obtain permission before using a computer not assigned to them.
- To respect the integrity of other users’ accounts. Individuals must not attempt to decode passwords or access information illegitimately. For example, sending electronic mail under another person’s name (forged email) is a violation of this policy.
- To avoid engaging in any activity that may reasonably be expected to be harmful to the systems operated by the College, including, but not limited to, attempting to disrupt, gain unauthorized access to, or damage computing and network systems (hardware and software) belonging to Swarthmore College, or to use the College’s computing resources to disrupt, infiltrate, or damage systems belonging to others on campus or around the world. When a system vulnerability is discovered, users are expected to report it to Information Technology Services (ITS).
- To avoid excessive use of shared resources, whether through monopolizing systems, overloading networks, misusing printers or other resources, or sending spam or unsolicited mass electronic mail.
Voluntary leaves of absence. Student leaves of absence are freely permitted. Some fines may occur if late notice is given. A student planning a leave of absence should seek permission from a Dean and complete the necessary form (available from the Registrar’s Office) prior to the deadline published each semester—usually Dec. 1 and April 1. The form asks the student to specify the date of expected return; the student need only notify the Dean of his/her return if the return date changes from that originally indicated on the completed form. Please note that some leaves may affect the student’s re-payment of loans.
Withdrawal. Withdrawal from the College may occur for academic, disciplinary, health, personal, or financial reasons and may be voluntary or required by the College. Students withdrawing from the College before the end of the semester normally receive the grade notation “W” (withdrawal) on their permanent record for all in-progress courses.
Involuntary withdrawals for health reasons. The College provides a wide range of services to support and address the mental and physical health needs of our students. We encourage all students to use these resources, and our first concern is the health and welfare of all members of our community. However, students whose psychiatric, psychological, or other medical condition causes them to pose a direct threat to the health, welfare, and safety of others on campus or interferes with the academic performance or educational endeavors of others, may be required to withdraw from the College. Under these circumstances, students will first be given the opportunity to take a voluntary leave or withdrawal through the process described above. In no case will a student’s mental or physical condition itself be the basis for a withdrawal required by the College.
If a student is exhibiting behaviors that may pose a direct threat to the health, welfare, and safety of others on campus, or if the student’s behavior interferes with the academic performance or the educational endeavors of other students, the dean of students may request a mental health evaluation to determine whether the student can safely remain on campus. The evaluation will be conducted by a health care professional who possesses competent medical expertise. The evaluation will involve an individualized assessment, based on the student’s conduct, actions, and statements, and current medical knowledge or the best available objective evidence, to ascertain the nature, duration, and severity of the risk and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures or the provision of auxiliary aids or services will mitigate the risk. A report of this evaluation is made to the dean of students, who will provide that report to the Evaluation Committee in advance of a hearing with the student.
The decision to require withdrawal for health-related reasons shall be made by the Evaluation Committee, consisting of the associate dean for academic affairs, who will serve as the chair, and two other deans appointed by the associate dean of academic affairs.
The dean of students will arrange for the Evaluation Committee to meet with the student and will notify the student in writing of his/her referral to a hearing and inform the student of the time, date, and location of the hearing. The Evaluation Committee will not be convened until the evaluation described above has been completed and the written psychological assessment has been submitted to the College.
Notice of the hearing will be considered adequate if it is sent to the student’s last known address registered with the College or is hand delivered to the student at least three (3) business days in advance of the meeting time.
The Evaluation Committee will conduct an informal hearing with the student in order to determine an appropriate course of action under this policy. The following guidelines will govern the hearing:
- The student will have the right to be present throughout the entire hearing, unless the student becomes disruptive.
- The hearing will be conducted even if the student fails to attend the hearing or if the student is removed during the hearing for disruptive behavior.
- A family member and/or a qualified mental health professional may accompany the student to the hearing. Legal counsel will not be permitted at this hearing. The student will be expected to speak on his/ her own behalf whenever possible.
- The student will have the right to review all case information before the hearing with the exception of personal or confidential notes of College administrators regarding the case. The information will be made available to the student in the Dean’s Office during normal business hours at least two (2) business days before the scheduled hearing.
- The hearing shall be conversational and non- adversarial whenever possible. Formal rules of evidence will not apply, except that the chair may exclude evidence that is not relevant or is cumulative.
- The student has the right to question any witnesses who may testify at the hearing and comment on all documents presented.
- The hearing will be closed to the public, and all testimony and evidence will be maintained in accordance with the College’s obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- The student shall have the right to submit his/ her own medical report or testimony.
The Evaluation Committee will review the evaluation report and other available information about the student and make a determination as to: 1) whether the student should be involuntarily withdrawn from the College or from on-campus housing; or 2) whether the student can remain in school and/or continue to live in on-campus housing under specified conditions. The findings by the Evaluation Committee will require the concurrence of any two of the three committee members. The Evaluation Committee will make its findings based on the student’s conduct, actions, and statements and the available medical and other evidence.
Upon completion of its hearing, the Evaluation Committee will submit its written findings to the dean of students within three (3) business days. This document will include the findings of the committee, the reason(s) for the finding, and:
- If the committee requires an involuntary withdrawal, whether the student is eligible to be considered for re-enrollment, including the conditions the student must meet to be considered and any length of time that must pass before the student can apply for reenrollment, OR
- If the team does not require an involuntary withdrawal, any conditions that the student must meet in order to remain enrolled in the College and/or remain in on-campus housing.
The dean of students will notify the student in writing within three (3) business days after receiving the committee’s written findings. If the recommendation is to allow the student to remain enrolled at the College and/or remain in on-campus housing, the student will meet with the dean of students to discuss any conditions that must be met for return to College or on-campus housing.
The provisions in this involuntary withdrawal policy shall not take the place of disciplinary actions that are in response to violations of the College’s policies and regulations, and they do not preclude the removal or dismissal of students from the College or campus housing as a result of violations of the College’s policies and regulations.
Return after health-related absences.Students who take a health-related leave of absence, are involuntarily withdrawn from the College for health reasons, or are hospitalized for a period of time during the semester are subject to readmission procedures before they may return to campus to resume their studies. The College applies its readmission procedures in a nondiscriminatory manner and may require any documentation or evaluation it deems appropriate. In all cases, a student returning to campus from the hospital must communicate with the Worth Health Center director or designee prior to returning to on-campus housing to ensure the student’s readiness to resume college life and so that follow-up care can be discussed.
Readmission following withdrawal. A student who has withdrawn from the College for any reason, voluntary or involuntary, may apply for readmission by writing to the dean of students. Normally, the College will not accept applications for readmission until a full semester, in addition to the semester in which the student has withdrawn, has passed. For a complete description of the readmission process, please refer to the Swarthmore College Bulletin.