2011-2012 University Catalog 
2011-2012 University Catalog

Student Rights and Responsibilities



Policies and Procedures Affecting All Students


Knowledge of University Policies

Each student is responsible for knowing Mason’s rules, regulations, requirements, administrative policies and Academic Policies . This catalog is the normal repository of academic policy statements, but corrections, changes, or interpretations can be promulgated by other means, including electronic publication.

When the university or one of its academic units changes course requirements, grading procedures, or criteria for acceptance into particular programs, academic standing, or graduation, the changes apply to all students enrolled at the time of implementation of the change and thereafter.

Students have certain choices regarding the set of degree requirements under which they graduate, as detailed in the Catalog Requirements for Degrees in the Degree Application, Conferral and Commencement  section. The Special Collections and Archives section of the Fenwick Library has copies of all previous catalogs. They may not be checked out, but may be photocopied. Any student in doubt about an academic matter should consult a faculty advisor or dean.

Students are subject to the university’s stated policies regarding patents and copyrights. These policies are available at www.gmu.edu/research/OSP/Policies.html.

Catalog Requirements for Degrees

Catalog year refers to the setting of course and non-course requirements within academic programs as stated in the school and college section of a specific catalog. Catalog year does not set academic policies other than program requirements in place, however. Not all programs and degree components are available in all catalogs. For any one degree, all requirements must be met as stated in a single catalog. The only exception is that Bachelor’s degree students may select a minor from another catalog year for which they are eligible, as noted below.

Bachelor’s degree candidates may choose to graduate under the terms of any catalog in effect during their enrollment in degree status. Students who have been inactive for five or more years or who have attended another institution without prior approval from their academic dean or director must graduate under a catalog in effect at or after their re-admission and during their enrollment in degree status.

Master’s and doctoral degree candidates who have been continuously enrolled may choose to graduate under the terms of any catalog in effect during their enrollment in degree status. Students who have been inactive more than one year, however, may be required by their program to graduate under a catalog in effect after they have been granted permission to re-enroll. In no case may a student choose the requirements of a future catalog year that take effect after the student’s degree is anticipated.

Official Communication with Students


Web: masonlive.gmu.edu

Mason uses electronic mail to provide official information to students. Examples include notices from the library, notices about academic standing, financial aid information, class materials, assignments, questions, and instructor feedback. Students are responsible for the content of university communication sent to their Mason e-mail account and are required to activate that account and check it regularly. Students are also expected to maintain an active and accurate mailing address in order to receive communications sent through the United States Postal Service.

Student Requests for Academic Actions


All requests for academic actions, such as special permissions or exceptions to published academic regulations, must be submitted to the head of the unit in which the student’s program is housed, for example, the department chair, institute  director, or school or college dean. Forms and instructions on how to initiate an academic action are available in the academic unit and on the unit’s web site. For students who have not yet declared a major, the academic actions process is executed in the Office of Student Academic Affairs, Advising & Retention, SUB I, Room 3500. Students will be informed of the average wait time for decisions on academic actions undertaken within their units. Those who need assistance with the academic actions process may consult their academic advisor, or they may be directed to the university ombudsman.

Appeals of Academic Procedures

Students have the right to appeal decisions regarding requests for academic actions. The appeals process begins in the academic unit. Each college, school, and institute at Mason has a written statement of that unit’s appeal process on file in the dean or director’s office. Students who feel the appeals process was conducted unfairly by a college or school may appeal to the Provost’s Office. All appeals must be in writing, and they must demonstrate that the student has exhausted all options within the academic unit. Undergraduate students initiate appeals of unit decisions with the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education. Graduate students initiate appeals of unit decisions with the Associate Provost for Graduate Education. The Provost’s Office does not consider grade appeals or appeals of Honor Committee decisions.

The Provost’s Office may refer cases to the University Academic Appeals Committee. The committee consists of five faculty members, including at least one member of the Faculty Senate and the provost (or designee), who serves ex officio, in a nonvoting capacity. The committee hears only those cases where procedural irregularities or a questionable application of university policies is demonstrable, or when the provost or the committee deems the case relevant to the application of university-wide policies. The burden of proof rests with the student, who must provide clear and convincing documentation to support the contention that the decision was unfair based on the criteria stated above. The committee’s decision is final. The University Academic Appeals Committee is not charged to hear grade appeals or appeals of Honor Committee decisions.

The Provost’s Office is responsible for maintaining appeals records, determining whether students have just cause, and ensuring that complete documentation is available for all committee members. The committee communicates its decision to the student, the relevant unit, and the provost.

Office of the Ombudsman  

Johnson Center, Room 245
Phone: 703-993-3006
E-mail: ombuds@gmu.edu
Web: ombudsman.gmu.edu

Dolores Gomez-Moran, University Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman is a neutral, independent, informal, and confidential resource to facilitate fair, equitable, and expeditious resolution of university-related concerns and problems raised by students. The ombudsman is an advocate for fairness and the equitable treatment of students, operates independently of all formal grievance processes at the university, and considers all sides of an issue in an impartial and objective manner. The ombudsman has no authority to make exceptions or to grant requests, but can perform informal investigations and, as a result, may recommend actions that lead to changes in processes and policies at the university. Meetings with the ombudsman are confidential. The ombudsman serves graduate and undergraduate students at the university.

Privacy of Student Records


Office of the University Registrar
Web: registrar.gmu.edu/privacy.html

Each year, Mason informs students of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974. The university intends to comply fully with this act, which protects the privacy of education records, establishes the right of students to inspect and review their education records, and provides guidelines for amending inaccurate or misleading data through informal and formal hearings. Students also have the right to file complaints with the Family Policy Compliance Office (U.S. Department of Education) concerning alleged failures by Mason to comply with the act.

The Notification of Rights under FERPA and the Public Notice Designating Directory Information detail students’ rights and the procedures implemented by the university to comply with FERPA.

FERPA is a federal law that affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. Specifically, it affords students the right to: (1) inspect and review their education record; (2) request the amendment of inaccurate or misleading records; (3) consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in their education record; and (4) file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures of the university to comply with the act. George Mason University strives to fully comply with this law by protecting the privacy of student records and judiciously evaluating requests for release of information from those records. FERPA authorizes the release of “directory information” without the student’s prior consent under certain conditions, which are set forth in the act. George Mason University has defined its “directory information” in accordance with the law. Please visit the Office of the University Registrar website at http://registrar.gmu.edu for additional information about student privacy and FERPA.

Public Notice Designating Directory Information

George Mason University designates the following as public or “directory information.” Such information may be disclosed by the university without the student’s prior consent under the conditions set forth in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

Directory Information: Student name, address, telephone numbers(s), e-mail address, date and place of birth, major, dates of attendance, enrollment status (full time, part time), class, previous institutions, major field of study, awards, honors (including Dean’s List), degrees conferred including dates, past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities, and physical factors (height and weight of athletes).

Note: Directory information is information that Mason may disclose, but it is not required to do so. It is Mason’s policy to refrain from actively disclosing addresses, telephone numbers, and dates of birth; however, the university routinely verifies this information. Mason does not disclose social security numbers, personal identification numbers, photographs, grades, grade point averages, class schedules, academic actions nor the number of credits enrolled in or earned unless the student has signed a consent form.

Currently enrolled students may withhold disclosure of directory information under FERPA. To withhold disclosure, students must present a photo ID in person at the Office of the University Registrar’s, Fairfax or Prince William campuses, and complete the Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information Form. The form may be submitted at any time throughout the year and will immediately affect prospective disclosures. George Mason University assumes that failure on the part of any student to specifically request the withholding of a category of directory information indicates individual approval for disclosure. Former students may not place a new request for nondisclosure of directory information on their education records; however, they may request its removal.

Confidential (Private) Hold: Prevents the disclosure of all directory information including name, address, telephone number(s), e-mail address, date and place of birth, photographs, major, dates of attendance, enrollment status (full time, part time), class, previous institutions, major field of study, awards, honors (including Dean’s List), degrees conferred (including dates), past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities, and physical factors (height and weight of athletes).

Note:  Confidential status does not convey a right to be anonymous in the classroom or to impede routine classroom communication and interactions. Students with confidential status should expect to be identified in class by name and to have their Mason email address used for class purposes.

Students who elect this category must conduct all university business either in person with a photo ID card or from a remote location with an original notarized request. Such students’ names will be published in the commencement program unless the students request exclusion in writing. Students in this category are eligible to use interactive web and other electronic systems, such as Patriot Web, for transactions (including registration) which are protected by a secured login.

Academic Assessment


All academic programs at Mason (including the University General Education  program) have student learning outcomes that are assessed periodically. Student work in various courses may be used for such an assessment. Student anonymity is assured and grades will not be affected. At any time, students may contact the Office of Institutional Assessment at assessment@gmu.edu with questions, concerns, and comments about the use of academic work in assessment activities. 

Students may be called on from time to time to participate in focus groups, complete questionnaires, or contribute in some other way to the ongoing assessment process. At any time, students may contact the Office of Institutional Assessment with concerns, comments, and recommendations about their educational experiences at Mason. Assessment is vital to the continuous improvement of the university, and student input forms an important part of the process.

To find out more about the learning outcomes and assessment activities of a specific program, whether curricular or extracurricular, go to assessment.gmu.edu and click on Academic Program Review.

Student Identification Card

After registering, each student should obtain a university photo identification card. It must be presented to use library services and is required for admission to university events and when using facilities after normal operating hours. It is not transferable and is valid as long as the student has active status. For more information, call the Photo ID Office at 703-993-1004, or go to the Photo ID Office website.

Change of Status, Address

Each student is required to provide Mason with current contact and identifying information, including permanent and local addresses, telephone numbers, and legal name. Each student must also maintain the university e-mail account assigned at the time of admission. Students are responsible for official communications directed to Mason e-mail accounts. For more information, go to mail.gmu.edu.

Addresses should be updated over the Internet using Patriot Web. Name and Social Security number changes require official documentation and must be processed in person at the Office of the University Registrar or with the original copy of a notarized request.

Honor System and Code


Web: academicintegrity.gmu.edu

Mason shares in the tradition of an honor system that has existed in Virginia since 1842. The code is an integral part of university life. On the application for admission, students sign a statement agreeing to conform to and uphold the Honor Code. Students are responsible, therefore, for understanding the code’s provisions. In the spirit of the code, a student’s word is a declaration of good faith acceptable as truth in all academic matters. Cheating and attempted cheating, plagiarism, lying, and stealing of academic work and related materials constitute Honor Code violations. To maintain an academic community according to these standards, students and faculty members must report all alleged violations to the Honor Committee. Any student who has knowledge of, but does not report, a violation may be accused of lying under the Honor Code.

The Honor Committee is independent of the student government and the university administration. It is composed of students selected by the student body, and it has the primary duty of espousing the values of the Honor Code. Its secondary function is to sit as a hearing committee on all alleged violations of the code.

At the beginning of each semester, faculty members have the responsibility of explaining to their classes their policy regarding the Honor Code. They must also explain the extent to which aid, if any, is permitted on academic work.

The complete Honor Code is as follows:

To promote a stronger sense of mutual responsibility, respect, trust, and fairness among all members of the George Mason University community and with the desire for greater academic and personal achievement, we, the student members of the university community, have set forth this honor code: Student members of the George Mason University community pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal, or lie in matters related to academic work.

Honor Committee

The Honor Committee is a group of Mason students selected to promote academic integrity as a core value for our university community. Members of the committee also serve on hearing panels established to investigate and resolve alleged violations of the code.  Mason’s School of Law has an Honor Committee that is independent from the rest of the university’s Honor Committee.

Membership will be limited to 100 members who apply for membership and are confirmed at an election held each spring. Members appointed by the chair of the Honor Committee may serve provisionally pending the next election. Undergraduate members must have no Honor Code violations, maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.66, be in good academic standing, and successfully complete the training and orientation program. Graduate members must meet all of the requirements above with the exception of maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.00.  If more than 100 students apply for membership, a candidate list will be maintained according to the date of the application, and appointments will be made as vacancies occur. The term of office extends from initial appointment until final graduation, provided the member is not found responsible for an Honor Code violation, serves on at least two hearing panels each semester, remains in good academic standing, and maintains the required GPA.

A chair and vice chair will be elected in April of each year by the members of the committee. The term of office will be one year. A faculty advisor, chosen jointly by the chair of the committee and the vice president for university life, will provide administrative assistance for committee business.

Student Responsibilities

Students should request an explanation of any aspect of the professor’s policies regarding the Honor Code that they do not fully understand. They also have an obligation not only to follow the code themselves, but also to encourage respect among their fellow students for the provisions of the code. This includes an obligation to report violations by other students to the Honor Committee.

Faculty Responsibilities

Faculty members are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the learning and testing process. They should explain at the beginning of each semester what would be considered a violation of academic integrity in their courses. Special attention should be given to the subject of plagiarism. Faculty members may actively proctor exams in situations they believe warrant such action.

Procedures for Reporting Violations

Suspected violations should be reported to the Honor Committee in a timely manner using forms provided by the Honor Committee. The Honor Committee will promptly notify the involved students in writing. Those students will meet with a representative of the Honor Committee to review the information and arrange for resolution of the matter.

Hearing Panels

When a student disputes an allegation, a five-member panel of Honor Committee members, appointed by the chair of the Honor Committee, will meet with both the student and the person(s) reporting the alleged offense. Each side will present information, and the panel will determine whether clear and convincing evidence of a violation has been presented. At least four of the five panel members must judge that the evidence proves responsibility for the offense. If the student is found responsible, a sanction or sanctions will be determined by majority vote of the panel.


The hearing panel will have a faculty member present during the hearing to offer assistance when requested by the chair of the panel. All other parties may have an advisor present if that advisor is a member of the George Mason University student body, other than a student from the School of Law.


The hearing panel may impose oral and written reprimands and other such nonacademic sanctions as it deems proportionate to the offense. It can recommend sanctions to the course professor that involve reduced grades. Recommendations for nonacademic suspension and nonacademic dismissal are forwarded to the provost’s delegate. In determining sanctions, panel members should keep in mind the nonpunitive educational purpose of the Honor Code process.


Appeals of honor committee decisions must be submitted in writing within seven business days of the hearing. Appeals can be granted only on the basis of new evidence, procedural irregularity, or other grounds of sufficient gravity to call into serious doubt the original hearing panel’s decision. The decision to accept or deny the appeal will be made by three Honor Committee members who have had no prior contact with the case. In the event that a faculty member does not elect to follow the Honor Committee’s recommended sanction, students may appeal the faculty member’s action to the Academic Appeals Committee, via the Provost’s Office. The decision of this committee is final.


The Honor Committee, by majority vote, may approve proposed amendments to the Honor Code. The proposed amendments will be submitted to the student population at the next spring election, and they must be approved for implementation by a two-thirds majority of those voting.

Human Subjects Research


Please see the Research  Section.

Animal Use in Research


Please see the Research  Section.

Student Work, Intellectual Property


Generally, copyrightable and patentable works, including dissertations developed in connection with course work by students who are not Mason employees, are deemed to belong to the student. By policy, however, Mason does hold title to copyrightable software that implements a Mason patent. Mason may also claim copyright ownership of a work or ownership of a patentable invention when extraordinary use of university facilities, personnel, or resources is made in the development of the materials or invention, especially when unrelated to course work. Ownership and disposition of intellectual property developed by students while employed by the university, including undergraduates and graduate research and teaching assistants, is governed by university policies generally applicable to employees. Students with questions are encouraged to contact the Office of Technology Transfer, ott@gmu.edu or 703-993-8933.

Conduct within the University Community


Students enrolling in the university assume an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with the university’s function as an educational institution. The Code of Virginia (Section 23-9.2:3) confers on the university the responsibility for maintaining order within the university and the right to exclude those who are disruptive.

The Office of Judicial Affairs holds administrative responsibility for supervising student conduct of Mason students and their guests. Questions regarding student conduct should be directed to Judicial Affairs, SUB I, Room 4100, 703-993-6209, judicialaffairs.gmu.edu.

Student Health Services


Student Health Services provides high-quality health care to all currently enrolled students. There is no evaluation fee, but there are minimal charges for most tests and procedures. The staff includes physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, a medical technologist, and various levels of support personnel. Appointments are required for nonemergency services.

For more information, please visit shs.gmu.edu.

Student health offices are located on the Fairfax, Prince William, and Arlington Campuses. Contact information is as follows:

Fairfax Campus: SUB I, Room 2300, 703-993-2831

Prince William Campus: Occoquan Building, Room 229, 703-993-8374

Arlington Campus: Founders Hall, Suite B102, 703-993-4863

Immunization Requirements

Immunization policies are determined by legislation enacted by the Virginia General Assembly and recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American College Health Association. All students born after December 31, 1956, are required to provide documented evidence that they have been immunized against certain communicable diseases.

The required immunizations are as follows:

  • Two doses each of measles, mumps, rubella, after 1967 or the combination MMR, (after 1971, with first dose given after first birthday) or a laboratory report of a titer documenting positive immunity is acceptable.
  • Primary tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis series, with last tetanus and diphtheria booster within the past 10 years. Students requiring a decennial booster should receive Tdap.
  • All students living in the residence hall shall be immunized against meningococcal disease. Students not living in residence halls may choose to be vaccinated to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease. Students may sign a waiver stating that they have received and reviewed information on meningococcal disease and the availability and effectiveness of the vaccine but have chosen not to be vaccinated. If the student is younger than 18 years old, the waiver must also be signed by a parent or other legal representative.
  • Students shall be immunized against hepatitis B disease, or they must sign a waiver stating that they have received and reviewed information on hepatitis B disease and the availability and effectiveness of the vaccine but have chosen not to be vaccinated. If the student is younger than 18 years old, the waiver must also be signed by a parent or other legal representative.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) screening is required for all students as defined by the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health. TB screening must have been completed in the United States, within the past 12 months. For more information, please visit shs.gmu.edu/immunizations. 

Completed Immunization Records must be submitted to the Immunization Office by 5:00 p.m. the Monday immediately following the Registrar’s last day to drop classes. Late and incomplete immunization records will be assessed a LATE FEE and a hold will be placed on your Patriot Web Account. Records can be sent to George Mason University, SUB I, Room 214, 4400 University Drive, MS 2D3, Fairfax, Virginia 22030. Immunization records can also be faxed to 703-993-4053. The immunization record is included as a tear-out form in the orientation booklets that are mailed to all new undergraduate and transfer students when their application for admission to the university has been approved. If you would like to receive vaccinations at Student Health Services, please call 703-993-2135 to schedule your immunization appointment. For vaccine prices and more information visit shs.gmu.edu/immunizations or call 703-993-2135. E-mail questions to immunize@gmu.edu. Immunization records will not be accepted by email.

Drug and Alcohol Policy


The abuse of drugs and alcohol by members of the campus community is not compatible with the goals of the university. Mason attempts to prepare individuals to act responsibly by defining standards of behavior and providing educational programs to create an awareness of drug- and alcohol-related problems. Those in need of assistance in dealing with drug and alcohol-related problems are encouraged to seek the confidential help of the university’s Office of Alcohol, Drug, and Health Education, adhe.gmu.edu.


  • Use and/or possession of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia is prohibited on all campuses of George Mason University. Alleged violation of this community standard will be considered a serious offense.
  • The George Mason University Police Department will enforce all applicable local, state, and federal laws in accordance with established standing orders, procedures, and guidelines.
  • All reports of alleged drug offenses involving a Mason student, received by the Office of Judicial Affairs, are likely to be addressed through the case resolution process. Action under this process will neither prejudice nor be prejudiced by, action taken in the criminal justice system.
  • A student’s first on-campus violation involving possession/use of marijuana or possession of drug paraphernalia will likely be suspension from the University for a minimum of one academic semester. Further, a residential student’s first on-campus violation of this policy will likely result in eviction and trespass from all residential living facilities for a minimum of one year.
  • Students who are found responsible for use or possession of an illegal substance other than marijuana, including prescription drugs, can likely expect a sanction to include suspension for a minimum of one year and completion of a drug treatment program prior to reinstatement.
  • The student found responsible for a violation involving the sale of illegal substances, or possession with intent to distribute, will likely receive a permanent separation from the institution.
  • Any student found responsible for a violation of this policy may, at the discretion of the hearing officer, be required to complete a treatment program either as a condition of continued enrollment or as a prerequisite to reinstatement following separation from the institution.


  • The possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages is limited to those locations and circumstances authorized by university policy.
  • Alcohol possession or consumption is prohibited in any residence hall room or suite where all residents are under the age of 21. Students over the age of 21 may possess alcoholic beverages in accordance with established university policy.
  • No alcoholic beverages may be consumed in public areas of residence halls, which includes, but is not limited to, hallways, study rooms, and lounges.
  • Alleged violations to this policy will be resolved through the Office of Judicial Affairs. The majority of first time violations by residential students will likely be addressed with a hearing officer in the Office of Housing and Residential Life, as appointed by the Office of Judicial Affairs.
  • Discipline sanctions are intended to be educational and are likely to involve an evaluation by the Office of Alcohol, Drug, and Health Education. All cases involving severely intoxicated students and/or emergency medical response will include a mandatory evaluation as the first step to offer assistance in overcoming an identified problem.
  • Depending on the nature of the violation, sanctions may impact a student’s housing status and/or ability to engage within the university community.
  • Any student found responsible for a violation of this policy may, at the discretion of the hearing officer, be required to complete a treatment program either as a condition of continued enrollment.
  • The university will encourage parental involvement whenever there is a repeat offense or when the first offense indicates a potential problem. This involvement will be in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).