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DSW Policies

Academic Advisement

DSW students will be assigned a faculty advisor in the first semester who will provide professional guidance and mentoring, helping you understand academic policies and procedures and how to navigate programs of study, as well as monitoring your progress to ensure completion of required coursework and counseling you on how to improve any performance issues.

Registration

Though information may be provided by the university regarding the registration process, students must follow the registration guidelines and timelines established and distributed by the social work registrar. Registration information is provided each semester via email and the school’s website under Student Affairs.

Withdrawal from the University

Continuous Enrollment
The DSW Program requires that all graduate students remain in continuous enrollment each fall, spring and summer semesters until degree requirements are met. In certain circumstances, an anticipated break in enrollment may be covered by a time-limited (one or two semesters) leave of absence. (The university allows a maximum of four semesters for leaves of absence.) Such leaves of absence must be applied for and approved, in advance, by the associate dean of the DSW Program.

Leave of Absence
Students who are in good standing with a minimum 3.0 GPA and making satisfactory progress toward the DSW degree, and have a compelling reason to do so, may request a leave of absence for a stated period, usually not to exceed one year at a time. (The university will permit a maximum of four semesters for leaves of absence.) The request for a leave of absence must be made no later than the last day to drop or add courses. A leave of absence form requesting a leave along with a letter requesting a leave must be submitted to your student support advisor and the associate dean of the DSW Program. The form must indicate the reason for the leave and the proposed semester to return. An academic plan will be developed to prepare for your re-entry into the program. Students gone longer than two years will need to reapply for admission.

Readmission
If you were granted a leave as a student in good standing and making satisfactory progress toward the DSW degree, you must contact the social work registrar’s office, your student support advisor and associate dean of the DSW Program at least one semester prior to your approved re-entry semester. The plan for re-entry will be discussed, along with readjustment to program expectations.

A student who leaves the program without notifying the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work has taken an unofficial leave and failed to abide by the continuous enrollment requirement. If it has been longer than four or more semesters and you wish to apply for readmission to the program, you must contact your student support advisor and the associate dean of the DSW Program to assist in the planning of your return. You also will need to submit an application for readmission to the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, addressed to the associate dean of the DSW Program, along with an updated statement of purpose and at two letters of reference. The associate dean of the DSW Program may request an interview and will make a determination regarding your request to be readmitted. If the decision is in favor of your readmission, your application will be submitted to the Graduate School, indicating the school’s recommendation and approval of your request.

Dismissal
Dismissal occurs rarely and only when all other appropriate alternatives have been exhausted. Circumstances resulting in this decision may include: grade point average falling below 3.0 at the end of the first semester and/or failure to attend classes or failure to complete assignments. The student may reapply to the DSW Program if he or she wishes. In conjunction with a reapplication, there should be some demonstration that professional and personal growth has occurred.

Attendance

Students are expected to attend every class and remain in class for the duration of the session. Failure to attend class or arriving late may impact your ability to achieve course objectives which could affect your course grade. Students are expected to notify the instructor by telephone or email of any anticipated absence or reason for tardiness.

University of Southern California policy permits students to be excused from class without penalty for the observance of religious holy days. This policy also covers scheduled final examinations that conflict with students’ observance of a holy day. Students must make arrangements in advance to complete class work that will be missed or to reschedule an examination due to observance of a holy day.

Grading

Final course grades shall be A, B, C, D or F, including designations of +’s or –’s. The university will not record an A+ on your transcript as a final grade. A grade of C- or below is equivalent to failure in all graduate courses, and the course must be repeated.

Within the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, grades are determined in each class based on the following:

1. Grades of A- or A are reserved for student work that not only demonstrates mastery of content but also shows the student has undertaken a complex task, has applied critical thinking skills to the assignment and/or has demonstrated creativity in their approach to the assignment.
2. A grade of B+ denotes work that has demonstrated a more-than-competent understanding of the material being tested in the assignment.
3. A grade of B signifies the student has done adequate work on the assignment and meets basic course expectations.
4. A grade of B- indicates a moderate grasp of content and/or expectations.
5. A grade of C or C+ would suggest a minimal grasp of the assignments, poor organization of ideas and/or several significant areas requiring improvement.
6. Grades between C- and F denote a failure to meet minimum standards, reflecting serious deficiencies in all aspects of a student’s performance on the assignment.

It is expected that students will attend class regularly, participate in class discussions and submit work promptly. Failure to meet these expectations may result in reduction in grades. Grade reports will not be automatically mailed to you at the end of each semester. You may access an electronic report of your grades on OASIS.

Grades of Incomplete

A grade of Incomplete (IN) should only be assigned in the case where work cannot be completed because of documented illness or some other emergency occurring after the 12th week of the semester.

When an IN grade is given in lieu of a final grade, you and the instructor will negotiate and sign an agreement with regard to what work remains to be completed and within what time frame in order for the IN grade to be removed from the record with a final grade given. While the university permits a time limit of up to one year to complete work for which an IN grade has been entered, the contract between you and your faculty member will determine the terms for completion. If you are unable to meet the terms of the contract, you must renegotiate those terms directly with the faculty member. Failure to do so may result in a failing grade. Students will not be permitted to move forward until all outstanding IN grades have been resolved.

Disputing a Grade

When a student complains of prejudiced, capricious or unfair evaluation, a basis for appeal may exist. Faculty members are required to justify disputed grades. The student must meet with the faculty member to review the grade in question. Every effort should be taken to resolve the matter at this level. If the student is dissatisfied with the instructor’s response, the student may appeal in writing to the assistant dean of student affairs. Such an appeal must be received by the end of the following semester (excluding summer) after the student has received the disputed grade. The DSW Chair will review the matter, and a decision will be given to the student following the review process.

Academic Probation

If at any time your grade point average falls below a 3.0, you will be formally placed on academic probation until grade deficiencies have been corrected. Students must attain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) to continue in the program. Exceptions must be reviewed and approved by the associate dean of the DSW Program, who will conduct an academic review. All students must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 to qualify for the DSW degree.

Academic Progress Evaluation and Review
Academic Warning and Dismissal of Graduate Students


The DSW Program takes factors other than satisfactory grades and adequate GPAs into consideration in determining a student’s qualifications for an advanced degree. A student’s overall academic performance, specific skills and aptitudes, and faculty evaluations will be considered in decisions regarding a student’s continuation in the DSW Program. Procedures on disputed academic evaluations are described in SCampus.

Professional and Academic Standards

Graduates of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work must enter the profession meeting the highest professional and academic standards. Consequently, the school bears a responsibility to ensure students meet the standards for acceptable professional and academic performance. As defined by the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, five areas comprise satisfactory professional and academic progress:

• Abiding by the USC Student Conduct Code
• Abiding by the USC policies regarding academic integrity
• Maintaining an acceptable cumulative grade point average
• Acting in accordance with professional ethics
• Mastering professional competencies.

Violations of the Student Conduct Code and policies regarding academic integrity are governed by policies outlined in SCampus under University Governance and Academic Policies. A student’s ability to maintain an acceptable cumulative grade point average, act in accordance with professional ethics (in accordance with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics) and master professional competencies is initially governed by the school’s procedures for review. Students wishing to appeal must follow procedures the USC Graduate School has set forth and outlined in SCampus under University Governance and Academic Policies.

Students with Disabilities

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. You then must obtain a letter of verification for approved accommodations and deliver it to your instructor as early in the semester as possible. You can contact DSP counselors by phone at (213) 740-0776 or by email at ability@usc.edu.

Statement on Academic Conduct and Support Systems

Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s ideas as your own, either verbatim or recast in your own words – is a serious academic offense with serious consequences. Please familiarize yourself with the discussion of plagiarism in SCampus in Section 11, Behavior Violating University Standards. Other forms of academic dishonesty are equally unacceptable. See additional information in SCampus and university policies on scientific misconduct.

Discrimination, sexual assault, and harassment are not tolerated by the university. You are encouraged to report any incidents to the Office of Equity and Diversity or to the Department of Public Safety. This is important for the safety whole USC community. Another member of the university community – such as a friend, classmate, advisor, or faculty member – can help initiate the report, or can initiate the report on behalf of another person. The Center for Women and Men provides 24/7 confidential support, and the sexual assault resource center webpagesarc@usc.edu describes reporting options and other resources.

Support Systems: A number of USC’s schools provide support for students who need help with scholarly writing. Check with your advisor or program staff to find out more. Students whose primary language is not English should check with the American Language Institute, which sponsors courses and workshops specifically for international graduate students. The Office of Disability Services and Programs provides certification for students with disabilities and helps arrange the relevant accommodations. If an officially declared emergency makes travel to campus infeasible, USC Emergency Information will provide safety and other updates, including ways in which instruction will be continued by means of blackboard, teleconferencing, and other technology.

Social Media

Social media is an important part of communications between students in the USC School of Social Work. The school welcomes this form of active engagement and exchange, which helps us all build stronger connections with each other. The school has adopted some guidelines to ensure that we make the best possible use of these pages, accounts and groups.

Commencement

The university holds a main commencement ceremony each year in early May. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work hosts a more personalized ceremony following the university’s ceremony.

Once requirements have been met, degrees may be posted to your official transcript at the end of any semester. Final grades are typically not posted prior to the commencement ceremonies, and only students in good standing at the end of the previous semester with a grade point average of 3.0 or better will be permitted to participate in these ceremonies.

Students will not be permitted to participate in commencement if they:

• have failed a course in the final semester of the program
• must re-take a course during the next scheduled semester

Permission is granted only to students in good standing whose anticipated date of completion is within the same calendar year as that commencement ceremony. Graduation lists are confirmed by the DSW Program office.