Biology Graduate Program Student Handbook 5. Policies & Procedures

5.1 Academic Integrity

The University of North Florida operates on the principle that all members of its community should be treated fairly in regard to their rights and responsibilities.  In order to protect the integrity of the teaching and learning process, the University of North Florida expects all members of the academic community to respect the principle of academic freedom and to behave with academic integrity.

Academic Integrity Code  

Briefly stated, academic misconduct consists of any attempt to misrepresent one’s performance on any exercise submitted for evaluation.  The primary responsibility of ensuring adherence to the principle of academic integrity rests with students and faculty.  Any infraction that comes to the attention of any person should be brought to the attention of the faculty member to whose course it pertains. A violation of the Academic Integrity Policy is also considered a violation of the Student Conduct Code.


Violations of the principle of academic integrity include, but are not limited to:


CHEATING: Intentionally using, providing, obtaining, or attempting to use, provide, or obtain unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids or other devices in any academic exercise.  This definition includes unauthorized communication of information during an academic exercise.


FABRICATION & FALSIFICATION: Intentional and unauthorized alteration or invention of any information or citation in an academic exercise.  Falsification is a matter of altering information, while fabrication is a matter of inventing or counterfeiting information for use in an academic exercise.


MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS: The submission of substantial portions of the same academic work, including oral reports, electronic files, or hard-copy form, for credit more than once without authorization.


PLAGIARISM: Intentionally or knowingly presenting the work of another as one's own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the source).  The sole exception to the requirement of acknowledging sources is when the ideas, information, etc. are common knowledge.


ABUSE OF ACADEMIC MATERIALS: Intentionally or knowingly destroying, stealing, or making inaccessible library or other academic resource material.


COMPLICITY IN ACADEMIC DISHONESTY: Providing assistance in any form to help another to commit an act of academic dishonesty. 

Violations of the Academic Integrity Code  

All correspondence referred to herein shall be made through the students’ official University email address and the faculty or administrators’ official University email address.


When a faculty member determines that a violation of the Academic Integrity Code should result in a penalty, the faculty member will notify the student of the offense by sending an Academic Misconduct Reporting Form (Appendix C) to the student and a copy to the appropriate departmental Chairperson within twenty (20) calendar days after the date in which the faculty member identifies the violation.  The Academic Misconduct Reporting Form documents the circumstances surrounding the accusation and any adjustment to a grade or other action taken or recommended by the faculty member.  No proceedings or hearings may be held, except as outlined in the appeals process.  If an unforgivable “F” is given or a grade is to be changed after the end of a semester, the finalized reporting form is to be sent to the registrar.

Possible Actions in a Case of Alleged Academic Misconduct  

  1. Referral to the appropriate support service
  2. Assignment of a grade reduction on an academic exercise
  3. Assignment of a final letter grade/reduction for the course
  4. Assignment of an unforgivable “F” for the course
  5. Referral of the charges to the Dean/Chairperson/Director of the academic unit in which the student is enrolled with a recommendation for one of the following: temporary or permanent loss of use of a University facility, suspension from a College, Department, or program, expulsion from the University, or referral to Student Affairs for a violation of the Student Conduct Code.

5.2 Good Academic Standing in Biology

All graduate students are expected to maintain “good standing”. This rather nebulous phrase means that you are making satisfactory progress towards your degree, are fulfilling teaching responsibilities (if appropriate), are making course progress (see grades below) and are a productive member of the departmental community. In order to assess these various components, each GTA will have a semester meeting with the GC (see below). If a student is not performing in a satisfactory manner, then the GC and/or major professor will draft a letter and discuss the situation with the student. The outcome may be placement on probation, during which time additional problems occurring in subsequent semesters (e.g., poor class grades, failure to attend meetings, etc.) may result in dismissal from the department.

5.3 Biology GPA Minimums

As developing scientists, it is imperative that certain academic standards be maintained. Students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA in all classes (please note, this is a B and not a B-). Any grade below a B will place the student on academic probation, during which time a subsequent unsatisfactory grade may lead to the removal of the student from the program.

5.4 Probation/Suspension/Removal

Graduate students in biology are held to high and consistent academic standards.  Grades of C+ or below are considered failing.  Any student that earns a grade of less than a B in a course, or who’s cumulative GPA falls below a 3.0 will be placed on academic probation.  A student on academic probation may be in danger of losing their GTA (if applicable) and may be dismissed from the program if significant improvement is not shown.  Students that earn a grade of C or below in courses in two consecutive semesters will be dismissed from the program.  Similarly, students that earn a grade of C or below in a total of three courses will be dismissed from the program, regardless of when they occurred.  It should be noted that a C+ counts as a C in this regard, whereas a B- counts as a B.  Since students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in order to graduate, any student that has below a 3.0 after 30 hours of graded coursework in the M.S. program, or 36 hours of graded coursework in the M.A. program will be dismissed from the program unless it is deemed likely by the graduate coordinator that they will be able to increase their GPA sufficiently to graduate by taking an additional course.  Students that have shown a consistent lack of progress and have been previously warned during meetings with their committee and the graduate coordinator can also be removed from the program.  Any students that have behaved in an illegal or unethical manner may similarly be removed.

5.5 MS Students' Committee Formation

All students pursuing the MS degree are to form a thesis committee that meets the following requirements:

  • Minimum of three members, with at least two from within the Biology department
    • third committee member may be from within the Biology department or another department, however, this committee member must satisfy the terminal degree requirement of graduate faculty
  • Student's advisor must be from within the Biology department and will serve as the committee chair
  • There is no limit on the maximum number of committee members

External faculty (i.e. faculty outside of the Biology department) or non-graduate faculty serving on a thesis committee must complete the Request for External Thesis Committee Member form or Request for Non-Graduate Faculty Thesis form. Both forms can be found here.

5.6 MS Students' Committee Meetings

All M.S. students are required to have at least one committee meeting per year. These meetings can be coupled with Proposal Defenses, Qualifying Exams and Theses Defenses, but the disposition of these meetings must be clearly articulated in a letter from the major advisor and sent to the Graduate Chair.

5.7 MS Students' Graduate Chair Meetings

All students must meet with the GC at the end of each semester in order to assess progress. During these meetings, the GC will review in-class evaluations from Lead Lecture Professors and students (if on a GTA), class work completed that semester and progress towards degree. Thus, it is recommended that students keep careful track of their accomplishments and begin construction of a CV as soon as possible.


5.8 Progress towards Degree

To ensure students are making appropriate progress toward completion of their degree, the department of biology has set up a series of benchmarks that all M.S. students should attain. Note that the timeline below includes summers as semesters.


Semester 1:  Form and meet with thesis committee (semester 2 for part time)


Semester 3:  Write and defend thesis proposal (semester 4 for part time)


                         Pass written exam (semester 4 for part time)


Semester 4:  Pass oral exam (semester 5 for part time)


Semester 5:  Write and defend thesis (semester 6 for part time)


While the completion of the research for a thesis can sometimes take longer than two academic years, it is important to note that the first four benchmarks are completely under the student’s control.  Therefore, these benchmarks are expected to be met by all students, and failure to meet will result in the student being placed on academic probation and potential dismissal from the program.  Special consideration can be given to students that have changed mentors or thesis projects.   

5.9 Switching between Graduate Degree Programs

In the fullness of time, students sometimes find it necessary to switch between M.S. and M.A .degrees, and vice versa. While the two degrees are similar in many regards, there are several differences, such as the number and types of classes, an M.S. research component and general expectations that must be addressed before switching programs.

M.A. to M.S.

The switch from the M.A. to M.S. degree is relatively straightforward. The following steps will be necessary:

  1. Sponsorship of a faculty mentor. A faculty member needs to be willing to sponsor a student in their lab.
  2. Application for a GTA (if desired). A student switching to the M.S. degree is eligible for a GTA if one is available. The student will be considered with all other applicants for the given semester, based on the same criteria (see below).
  3. Approval of the graduate faculty committee. This step is necessary in order for the student to be eligible for a GTA and departmental funds.

M.S. to M.A.

There are times when it is necessary for a student to switch from the M.S. to M.A. degree. However, care must be taken as M.A. students have a greater credit hour requirement and often do not have research hours. Further, M.S. students are often supported by one of the limited departmental GTAs and represent a significant input of resources. Thus, the department has a vested interest in assuring that switching between programs is not an arbitrary decision, but rather reflects some sort of focused need. Therefore, the following conditions need to be addressed:

  1. Valid reason for wanting to switch. It is pointless to attempt a comprehensive list of reasons that a student may desire to switch between the two programs, and thus the department feels it is best to leave this open. However, at the very least the Graduate Coordinator (GC) and Departmental Chair both need to meet with the student to assess the reason for the switch. If both agree that there are grounds for switching then the GC will prepare and implement the appropriate degree change. In the event that it is the GC’s student who wishes to switch programs, then the Chair will appoint an independent faculty member to help assess the situation.
  2. Satisfactory progress toward degree. A thorough examination of the student’s productivity during their time as an MS student will be conducted. For students with a GTA this is essential as the department has invested significant resources in the student (see above), and thus seeks to make sure that this is undertaken only in rare instances. If the student is deemed to have not made sufficient progress (e.g., several semesters as a GTA but no clear research generated) then it is up to the GC and Chair to deny such a request if warranted.
  3. Completion of 24 hours of course work. In order to receive an MA degree, the student must have accumulated 36 hours of coursework of which a maximum can be from the pass/fail course, Biology Seminar.  All other courses must result in a letter grade.  This is a target number, and thus some degree of flexibility will be afforded the above-mentioned arbitrators