Academic Policies

The following policies are intended to clarify students' rights and responsibilities and to serve as a reliable guide to the expectations of the faculty the institution on academic matters.  The academic policies and procedures outlined below complement the "Rights and Responsiblities" listed on the Univeristy of St. Thomas Graduate Student Policies site.

For further information about your rights and responsibilities as a graduate student of the University of St. Thomas, please consult the following website http://www.stthomas.edu/policies/graduate/

Degree Selection and Candidacy

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity offers the following degrees: Master of Divinity (M.Div.); Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.T.); Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry (M.A.P.M.); and Master of Arts in Religious Education (M.A.R.E). Students entering the school typically declare their intended program of study at the time of application.  Acceptance into a degree program is based on fulfillment of the admission requirements specified in the school catalogs.  Those who are undecided about a program may apply to take graduate courses as non-degree seeking students.

Candidates for Ordination
Students preparing for priesthood are required to complete the Master of Divinity degree.   Candidates proceed through the program as a cohort taking courses in sequence with their class.

Seminarians pursuing the M.Div. degree also may wish to enroll in the Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.T.) degree program during their four years of residency.  Application to the M.A.T. program must be initiated in the first year of seminary study.  Students must make formal application to the program and meet all admissions requirements as specified in the school catalogs.

 

Academic Advising

Students benefit significantly from the regular counsel of their faculty adviser in reaching decisions regarding their program of study and the integration of their learning.  Students are assigned an academic adviser upon entering the program.  Students confer with their academic adviser prior to registration each term and are required to have their adviser’s approval for course registration and for all matters related to program requirements. 

Students wishing to change academic advisers must inform the registrar and the former and new academic advisers, and obtain permission from the dean or program director.  Students enrolled simultaneously in both the M.Div. and M.A.T. degrees may have one adviser for both programs or a different adviser for each program.

While academic advisers are provided with all necessary information related to student progress, students have the primary responsibility for ensuring that they are meeting degree requirements.

Course Load

Degree-seeking students are expected to be enrolled each semester.  The normal course load for full-time Master of Divinity students, including priesthood candidates, is between 12 and 15 graduate credit hours per semester.   Full-time M.Div. students are required to take a minimum of 12 credits each semester.   M.Div. students may take more than 15 credits with the approval of their academic adviser.

In light of the research requirements of the Master of Arts in Theology, full-time students typically take nine graduate credit hours per semester. Six graduate credit hours are considered full-time. 

Class Attendance and Absences

Students enrolled either for academic credit or for audit are expected to attend all class sessions. 

If a student must be absent from class due to illness, family emergency, or a school-sponsored event, the student must notify his or her instructor(s) in advance of the class meeting, if at all possible.  The student must comply with any verification requests/requirements of the instructor.  Students are expected to make up the missed coursework and, with the instructor’s approval, may do so without grade penalty for late submission.  If a student must miss an examination, the student must contact the instructor in advance to discuss alternate arrangements.  Instructors are not obliged to administer examinations for students who have absented themselves without prior notification and reasonable cause.

In the case of excessive absences, students must inform their instructor(s) of the reason for the absences and comply with verification requests/requirements of the instructor(s).  Students must also notify the academic dean.  Instructors will use their own discretion to determine whether the absence(s) warrant a grade penalty, an incomplete status, a recommendation of withdrawal from the course, or a specific arrangement for the completion of course requirements.

Transfer Credits and Waivers

Transfer Credits

In order for students to transfer coursework from another institution for credit toward a degree program, the sending institution must be accredited and the coursework must fulfill requirements of the graduate program the student is entering.  Students must present petitions for transfer of credit at the time of admission to a degree program.  The dean and program director will evaluate official transcripts of prior work and determine transfer of credit within the guidelines set by accrediting standards. The courses accepted for transfer must be at or above the minimum grade point average (G.P.A.) required for the program.  Students already enrolled in the program who wish to take a course(s) at another institution should verify the transferability of credit in advance and obtain approval of their academic adviser and the dean.

 

Waivers

Waivers of degree requirements are granted only in exceptional circumstances.  Students seeking to waive degree requirements must complete the appropriate form from the registrar.  The Academic Dean and program director will consider the student’s request and, if approved, will sign the waiver form.  A waiver exempts the student from a specific program requirement and enables the student to use the credits for alternative graduate work.

Grades and Standards of Achievement

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity uses letter grades in its evaluation of students’ academic progress and accords grade points, which are used to calculate the student’s grade point average (G.P.A.) as follows:

A (4 points) excellent work of exceptional quality
A– (3.7 points)
B+ (3.3 points)
B (3 points) very good work
B– (2.7 points)
C+ (2.3 points)
C (2 points) satisfactory work
C– (1.7 points)
D+ (1.3 points)
D (1 point) less than satisfactory work
D- (0.7 points)
F (0 points) failing work
I (0 points) incomplete coursework
IP (0 points) incomplete with work in progress

Grade Point Average Requirements

Master of Divinity students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of C+ (2.3 G.P.A.) in their coursework each semester. They must satisfactorily meet all expectations for supervised ministry and be approved by the Spiritual Formation Department.

Students enrolled in the Master of Arts in Theology, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, and Master of Arts in Religious Education programs must maintain a cumulative grade point average of B (3.0 G.P.A.) in their coursework each semester.

Withdrawal from Courses

A “W” (withdrawal) grade is given when a student has decided to forfeit the course after the deadline for formal withdrawal has passed. This deadline occurs near the midpoint of the course, and the date is announced each semester. Students intending to withdraw from a course must notify the instructor and their academic adviser and complete the form available in the registrar’s office.

Pass/Fail

In some degree programs, certain practica and independent study courses may be graded “S” for satisfactory (pass) and “R” for unsatisfactory (fail). An “S” grade counts for credit and may fulfill a program requirement, but it is not included in calculating the grade point average.

Required courses in which students receive an “F” or “R” evaluation must be repeated before the student can graduate. For priesthood candidates, such courses must be repeated before the student can be recommended for ordination.

Incomplete Coursework

Two notations of incomplete coursework, an “I” and “IP,” are used in different circumstances and governed by different rules. 

Incomplete

If serious, unexpected factors warrant, students who are unable to complete course requirements within an academic term may request an Incomplete (“I”) from the instructor.  The student is responsible for obtaining written approval from the instructor and academic adviser on the form available from the registrar.  Approval must be obtained before the end of the term in which the student is taking the course.  The form requires a description of the work to be completed and the date it will be submitted to the instructor for evaluation.  The additional time allowed to complete coursework will not exceed the maximum periods established by University policy:

The deadline for completion of work for a course in which a mark of “I” has been assigned is the last day of the following full semester (fall or spring) or by an earlier date specified by the instructor.

Extensions beyond the dates specified above are granted only in grave and exceptional circumstances and require the written approval of the instructor, the academic adviser and the academic dean.  If a student does not submit overdue coursework to the instructor by the agreed upon date, the incomplete (“I”) automatically becomes a failure (“F”).

This policy applies to standard coursework.  It does not apply to theses, projects, and internships.

In Progress

Faculty may give a notation of “IP” for work in progress at the end of the term of registration, when it is normal and acceptable for the work of the course to extend beyond one term (e.g., theses, projects).  When giving an “IP,” the instructor must file with the registrar a written statement of the date by which all requirements will be completed.  This statement, signed by the instructor and the student, must be submitted at the end of the term in which the student is registered for the course.  Any extension of the deadline for completion of work must be approved by the academic dean.  The grade and credit earned for the course will be assigned when requirements are completed and will be recorded in the term of original registration.

Grade Reports

Grade reports are issued to students and, in the case of priesthood candidates, to their bishops and/or vocation directors.  A grade reflects the instructor’s evaluation of the student’s achievement in a course.  Once a grade is recorded with the registrar, it cannot be changed unless the instructor can demonstrate to the dean that he/she made an error in calculating the original grade.  After the grade is issued, students may not do additional work to receive a higher grade.

Probation Related to the Pastoral Requirements for the Master of Divinity Degree
Successful completion of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and a supervised ministry placement are critical in the overall pastoral development of students in the Master of Divinity program.  Failure to meet the objectives and standards of these pastoral requirements will place the student on probation.  In consultation with the director of field education, the pastoral supervisor, and the student’s academic adviser, the student will submit a proposal to the dean indicating the steps to be taken to resolve unsatisfactory performance.  Failure to meet those requirements may be cause for dismissal from the program.

Academic Probation

A student is placed on academic probation when the cumulative grade point average falls below the minimum required for the degree program or if a student receives two or more unsatisfactory evaluations (“R”) in any one term.

Upon receiving notification of academic probation, the student must meet with his or her academic adviser and draft a plan for improved performance.  The dean and director of the program must approve the plan.  Full-time students must demonstrate improved performance in the next semester, and part-time students are granted two semesters or nine credits of coursework to resolve their probationary status.  Inability to maintain the minimum grade point average required for the program may be cause for dismissal.

Appeal Processes

Grade Changes

A student wishing to render a formal complaint or to challenge a final course grade has recourse to an appeal process. The petition will be reviewed and resolved as follows:

In most cases, the student consults with the instructor of the course to achieve a resolution.If the matter is determined to require further examination, the student brings it to the attention of the dean. The dean consults with both the student and the instructor in an attempt to reach a resolution.If these processes still do not result in a satisfactory outcome, the student may submit a written request to the Graduate Studies Committee to review the matter. Such a request must be submitted to the committee chairperson no later than mid-term following the term in which the problem arose. Ordinarily the appeal is received by the members of the Graduate Studies Committee and by the dean as an ex officio member. If either the student or the instructor involved in the dispute is a member of the committee, the dean will appoint an alternate for purposes of the appeal. If the dean is the course instructor, the Rector/Vice-President will appoint an alternate.

The Graduate Studies Committee will convene a panel of faculty to hear the testimony of both parties, review the course syllabus, and examine completed coursework. After this gathering, the panel will attempt to reach consensus on the proper disposition of the petition. If consensus cannot be achieved or if a decision is made in favor of the instructor, the panel will report its conclusion to the instructor and to the student. A copy of this report will be placed in the student’s academic file. If consensus is supportive of the student, the panel will report this to the student and to the instructor, with the recommendation that the instructor change the grade to one more consistent with the panel’s appraisal of the student’s performance. The instructor retains final authority for this decision. If the instructor decides to change the grade, the instructor and the dean complete the “Change of Semester Grade” form, which is retained in the registrar’s office. If the instructor declines to change the grade after it being so recommended, a summary of the panel’s deliberations and opinion will be placed in the permanent record of the student and of the instructor. The instructor will submit a statement in defense of his or her decision, and this also will be included in the record of both student and instructor.

Exemption from Program Requirements

A student who requests exemption from an academic policy or program requirement consults with his or her academic adviser, any instructor(s) involved, and the dean. Such requests normally are decided by agreement among these parties or, in the absence of agreement, by the academic dean. (For policies regarding course waivers, see Section 7 above.) If the student does not accept this decision, she or he may submit a written request for a hearing before the Graduate Studies Committee. The committee will deliberate on the merits of the request and will issue a written recommendation to the dean. A summary of the committee’s findings will be issued in written form and retained in the student’s permanent record. The dean has the final authority to allow or to decline requests for program variances or exemptions. If the dean’s decision differs from the committee’s recommendation, the dean will submit a written rationale for the final decision.

Other Issues

The Saint Paul Seminary Seminarian Handbook outlines grievance procedures for issues other than those noted above.

Independent Study

In exceptional circumstances, students may seek to complete certain course requirements on an independent study basis.  Independent studies are offered entirely at the discretion of the instructor.  In order to request an independent study, students should consult with their academic adviser and with the instructor.  Approval requires that the student obtain an independent study application form from the registrar and return it signed by the student, the instructor, the academic adviser, and the dean.  This form becomes part of the student’s academic file. 

In an independent study the instructor serves as a director for the student and not as a tutor.  Once the instructor and student agree on the plan for the independent study, it is the student’s primary responsibility to see that the plan is fulfilled.  Regular consultation with the professor during the term of study is expected.  The student will receive a grade for the course when all requirements are completed at the end of the term.

Students with Disabilities

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, through the University of St. Thomas, offers services to qualified students with disabilities and provides reasonable and appropriate accommodations necessary for physical, academic, and social accessibility.  Support services are provided to enrolled students and based on assessed needs.  These services may include counseling, identification and referral services, accommodation and academic assistance, integrity coordination and advocacy services.

For more information, students with learning disabilities may contact http://www.stthomas.edu/enhancementprog/.

Privacy Act

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity complies with all the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 as amended.  The text of the Privacy Act is published in the Student Handbooks and is available in the registrar’s office.  At the beginning of each academic year, students receive notification of their rights under the act.  More information on FERPA can be found at http://www.stthomas.edu/registrar/student/ferpa/default.html.

Directory Information

Each fall, The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity publishes a student/faculty/staff directory.  Directory information becomes public, unless a student specifically requests otherwise.  Categories published in the directory include the student’s name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and current degree program.  To be excluded from the directory, a student is required to fill out a form available from the registrar within one week of the beginning of the fall semester.  This request must be filed annually and will remain in effect for one academic year. 

Student Records

Students and alumni/ae have the right to review their educational records.  To do so, they must complete a Request for Inspection form available at the registrar’s office.  As required by the Privacy Act, this review will be scheduled within a maximum of 45 days of the request.  Students seeking to challenge the accuracy of their records are entitled to a hearing upon written request to the dean.

Information from records is released only with written permission of the student.

Transcript Requests

For a nominal fee, students may request an official transcript from the University of St. Thomas Registrar in Murray-Herrick, Room 126.  Information on requesting transcripts can also be found at http://www.stthomas.edu/registrar/student/forms/transcriptrequest.html.

Duration of Degree Completion

Students are expected to complete all degree requirements within the normal timeframe specified in the catalog for their academic program.  The maximum time allowed for completion of any graduate degree is eight years from the time of formal admission to the program.  Students who for serious reasons must exceed that time limit must either request a formal leave of absence from the program or submit a written request to their academic adviser, the program director, and the dean for an extension of the deadline.  Students must receive written permission from the dean to exceed the eight-year maximum for completion of degree requirements.

Leave of Absence

Students in degree programs who find it impossible to continue their studies due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g., change in health, employment, or income) may petition for a leave of absence for a one year period.  While on leave, all program activity is suspended, and the time limitation for degree completion is extended by the length of the leave.  Within one month of the period for which the leave is requested, a student must submit a written petition for leave of absence status to the dean that includes the reason for the request, the time period of the leave, and the signature of both the student and the academic adviser.  The dean will notify the student in writing of the decision concerning his or her request.  Students who need to extend their leave of absence for an additional year must reapply according the procedure above.

Seminarians must consult The Saint Paul Seminary Student Handbook for procedures relating to their leave of absence from the formation program.

Inactive Status

Students in a degree program who are not enrolled for a course and/or thesis or project in a given semester and who have not been formally approved for a leave of absence must notify their adviser and the registrar of their inactive status by the registration deadline for that semester.  Students who wish to maintain their standing in the program will be assessed a continuation fee for each semester they are inactive, excluding summers.  This fee will be assessed by the registrar and will be payable by a deadline established for each semester.  Inactive status does not alter the time limitation requirements for degree completion.  Failure to comply with the terms of “inactive status” normally will result in termination from the program.

 

Standards for Assignments and Research

Students are expected to be competent in the English language and effective in their oral and written communications for course assignments and research requirements for all degree programs.  Expectations include:

  1. clarity of organization, accuracy in grammar, punctuation, and spelling;
  2. ability to gather, analyze, interpret, and synthesize data and to engage in critical reflection;
  3. ability to organize and present material coherently and to follow the rules for proper documentation of the work of others;
  4. ability to establish a thesis, to provide supportive evidence, to derive conclusions based on a thorough analysis of the issue; and
  5. ability to assess the relative merits of sources for theological research and to develop a bibliography relevant to the topic of study.

An introduction to theological research is offered through the Archbishop Ireland Library early in the fall semester.  Students enrolled at The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity are required to use themost recent edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers by Joseph Gibaldi.  Students in the M.A. in Theology program may be required to use the Turabian/Chicago Manual of Style or another style sheet appropriate to their subdiscipline of theology.

Research involving human subjects, including surveys and interviews, requires prior review and approval by the University of St. Thomas Institutional Review Board (IRB).  Students are required to complete and submit forms for IRB review before conducting their research.  The IRB website (http://www.stthomas.edu/irb/) has forms and additional information.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Policy

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas is committed to high standards of academic integrity.  Acts of academic dishonesty undermine the values the learning community holds in common and directly violate the goals of Christian education.

Any act of academic dishonesty is a serious offense.  Such acts include, but are not limited to, plagiarism, cheating, intentionally damaging the work of others, and assisting others in acts of dishonesty.  Students who commit acts of academic dishonesty are subject to suspension or dismissal. 

Plagiarism

Plagiarism occurs when a student uses the ideas or words of another without crediting the source.  This includes information obtained from print, oral, and electronic sources.  Plagiarism is defined as follows:  “Plagiarism is the dishonest act of presenting the words or thoughts of another writer (or person) as if they were your own . . . .  If you quote from anything at all . . . you must put quotation marks around it, or set if off from your text.  If you summarize or paraphrase another’s words, you must clearly indicate where the summary or paraphrase begins and ends.  In every instance you must formally acknowledge the written source from which you took the material.”  [From James A. W. Hefferman and John E. Lincoln, Writing:  A College Handbook (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982), p. 457.] 

The act of plagiarism is a form of theft and is morally wrong.  Ignorance of the standards for appropriately crediting the work of others is not an excuse for an occurrence of plagiarism.  Students are expected to know what plagiarism is and what is required for the full and proper citation of sources

If an incident of plagiarism is reported, the dean and faculty member(s) involved will investigate and determine appropriate disciplinary action.  The dean is charged with the enforcement of this policy.

Course Evaluation

The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity provides students the opportunity for regular, formal evaluation of all academic courses.  Written course evaluations usually are completed within the last two weeks of the course.  Results are collated and reviewed by the faculty member and the dean.  Course evaluations are used to enhance the quality of teaching and to provide information helpful in faculty promotion and tenure review.

Applying for Graduation

Students have the responsibility to monitor their completion of degree requirements and to follow the administrative policies and procedures for graduation.

Students must apply for graduation during the first month of the semester when the commencement will occur.  They must complete all degree requirements in order to participate in commencement.  Exceptions to this policy are rare and may be granted only with the written permission of the Academic Dean.  Students who register for graduation but are unable to complete all degree requirements in time for commencement must repeat the application process to graduate at a later date.

Students are expected to attend the St. Thomas commencement exercise at which their degree is conferred.  More information on graduation can be found here