Every month, the Student Misconduct Committee (SMC) meets to decide the academic fate of QUT students accused of misconduct. The Committee’s function is threefold– to determine whether misconduct has occurred, to make a recommendation to the registrar as to how this misconduct should be punished, and to inform students where to go for support in the future so that they do not end up in front of the Committee again.
For the last six months I have sat as one of the two student representatives on the SMC, and have been required to make judgments based on the matrix provided by the University. Difficult to find on any of QUT’s online services, this matrix ties the hands of Committee members to specific penalties for most cases of misconduct, including non-academic fraud.
Nearly 90% of cases in the past year have centred fraudulent documentation – usually a doctor’s certificate – attached to applications for extensions. Fraud of this nature necessitates a failure of the unit and a six month ban from the University, which is sad given that most people who edit documents to apply for an extension would have actually been eligible for an extension but didn’t know how to apply.
Whether you’re starting in semester one or you’re entering your final semester, it is worth knowing about the Access Equity Plan offered by QUT.
What is the Access Equity Plan?
The Access Equity Plan is a service offered to QUT students with an illness or disability in need of academic assistance and concessions. This usually includes deadline extensions, and is available to anyone who is experiencing a physical or mental, short-term or long-term, health condition (including pregnancy). All that is required is a diagnosis from a doctor.
I got in touch with QUT Student Guild Advocacy Officer Anna Wilson, who said the plan is adjusted to suit the student.
‘An Access Equity Plan is designed to best support the student with whatever health condition they may be experiencing,’ Wilson said.
‘If mental health and time management are problems (like for me), they can receive automatic extensions, additional time in exams or altered exam conditions (like completing it alone if you have performance anxiety).’
‘You need to get an AEP at the start of every semester, they do not transfer over, as health conditions can change and they like to meet with you to ensure your AEP best supports you.’
‘Students simply need to contact the Disability Advisors within QUT Equity – and there are advisors specific to each faculty – so they can design a plan that best supports your degree.’
Students can get in contact with this service by emailing email@example.com, or at the on-campus locations below.
Phone: (07) 3138 5601
Gardens Point: Student Support Services, X Block, Level 3
Kelvin Grove: Equity Services, C Block, Level 4, Room C301
To contact the Student Guild Advocacy officers, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, you’ve been accused of misconduct
Every student should remember that fraud of any kind is a serious crime outside of University, and QUT tends to come down hard. This means you should not under any circumstances alter a legal document, like a medical certificate, in the hopes of being granted an extension.
That being said, if you are called before the Student Misconduct Committee, there are some things to remember.
- Get in contact with the Student Guild’s advocacy team.
It’s like lawyering up. Advocates know the system well and are your best friend. The Student Guild doesn’t charge for their services, and they can even join you in your hearing if you prefer.
- The penalty matrix requires evidence to overturn the accusation.
If you have been accused of misconduct by the University, it means they believe they have sufficient evidence to prove it. If you have not committed the misconduct outlined, you should ensure you have some kind of evidence to refute the University’s claim.
- Doubling down is not going to help.
As mentioned, the Committee has already received the University’s evidence of your misconduct. If you have committed this misconduct, it is important to acknowledge your actions and be honest with the Committee. Playing dumb is also a bad tactic, and won’t endow you with sympathy.
- If you believe there are extenuating circumstances behind your case, get evidence.
It’s possible you’ll be able to sway the Committee by explaining some of your circumstances, but this won’t cut it alone. Get documentation. If you have been battling a mental illness at the time of the alleged misconduct, get a doctor’s note signed. If someone else has submitted a document on your behalf, get a statement from them (or better yet, bring them to your hearing). Anyone can say anything, and words alone are not going to convince the Committee.
- Any additional material should be provided BEFORE your hearing.
If you have documentation that could impact your penalty, the time to share it with the Committee is before your hearing. This means responding to the emails from the Committee secretary, and forwarding relevant documents before you meet with the Committee. This gives the Committee members time to consider your case, and will give you the best chance.
- Show up to your hearing. Even if it’s via Zoom, showing up is key to presenting your case.
If you don’t show up, you have no control over the Committee’s feelings and discussion surrounding your case, and likely won’t receive any additional leniency. In my observations on the SMC, many students would have been eligible for some kind of special consideration or extension legitimately, but didn’t know about the services offered by QUT. If you in any way think you may be eligible for the Access Equity Plan, you should consider inquiring today.
If in doubt, never edit any documents. Even if you believe there was a clerical error on your doctor’s end. The fraud itself is misconduct, not the circumstances of the fraud. Remember that the Committee members are academics, professors, and students, and any way you can help them help you is to your own advantage.
Penalty Matrix Used by the Student Misconduct Committee: