Academic Standards and Achievement Committee Operating Procedures

The Academic Standards and Achievement Committee (ASAC) of the University of Virginia School of Medicine (UVA SOM) is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that each student in the School of Medicine masters the education program objectives.  These objectives include assuring that each student demonstrates the required level of academic accomplishment and the required level of professionalism as set forth in the Competencies Required of the Contemporary Physician (https://med.virginia.edu/ume-curriculum/curriculum/competencies-required-of-the-contemporary-physician/) in order to be promoted and to graduate with the degree of Doctor of Medicine.  As part of these competencies, students must develop the ability to understand the nature of and demonstrate professional and ethical behavior in the act of medical care. Among the attributes that go into making up these competencies are respect, responsibility and accountability, excellence and scholarship, honor and integrity, altruism, leadership, cultural competency, caring and compassion, and confidentiality. The UVA SOM Curriculum Committee establishes these educational and professionalism standards. The ASAC oversees, monitors and enforces these standards. Comprised of faculty in the School of Medicine, the majority of whom do not assign final grades to students, as well as student representatives, the role of ASAC is to promote students who meet the required standards, to recommend remedial action for those who do not meet the standards, and to suspend or to recommend dismissal of those students who are incapable or who choose not to meet the required standards of achievement within the time frame allotted for completion of the M.D. degree.

It is the policy of the School of Medicine to give every qualified and committed student the opportunity to graduate; however, the School reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to make judgments about who has or has not demonstrated the necessary qualifications to earn a degree and to practice medicine competently.

I. Name and Mission

This committee of the faculty and students shall be called the Academic Standards and Achievement Committee (ASAC).  The mission of ASAC is twofold. The first is to review the UVA SOM transcripts of students who have failed one or more educational program requirements. Depending on the circumstance, the committee can recommend review, remediation or repeating the activity.  The second is to review evidence of unprofessional, unethical or illegal activities or behaviors by students. Recommendations, based on the severity and persistence of these activities or behaviors, can result in a broad range of actions from remediation to dismissal from the University.  The committee shall follow the guidance of the Policy on Academic and Professional Advancement and the Policy on Technical Standards Required for Matriculation, Progression and Graduation.

ASAC will meet monthly, assuming an agenda to be discussed, or more often as necessary.

II. Composition

The committee shall consist of voting and non-voting members.

Voting members:

A minimum of 15 voting members is appointed with a maximum of 21 voting members.  Two fourth-year medical students shall serve as ex officio voting members of ASAC. These are the president of the Mulholland Society and the fourth-year class president. For faculty members, the senior associate dean for education solicits nominations from department chairs and self-nominations from the faculty at large and recommends voting members to the SOM dean for appointment. The faculty of the committee shall be diverse, ensuring a broad perspective. Basic scientists may constitute up to 20% of the committee membership. No more than 25% of the committee membership may be comprised of course and clerkship directors. Generally, the term will be three years with the possibility of one consecutive reappointment; former members may return for a new appointment after a two-year hiatus.  Student members will serve for one year. The ASAC chair is appointed by the dean of the School of Medicine. A vice-chair is elected by a majority vote of ASAC. The vice chair may call and chair an ASAC meeting in the event that the chair is unavailable.

Members who fail to attend at least 75% of meetings during a given calendar year without cause shall be excused from the committee. Members who cannot attend the majority of the meetings due to illness or sabbatical, etc. may request that the ASAC chair, in consultation with the senior associate dean and subject to the approval of the dean, provide a leave of absence for a specified period of time.

Non-voting members:

The associate dean for curriculum, the associate dean for admissions and student affairs, the associate dean for diversity and inclusion, the director of academic enhancement, and the assistant dean for medical education are non-voting ex officio members of ASAC.  The registrar shall staff the committee and keep minutes as described below.

III. General policies

A.  Official votes may be taken when a quorum (greater than 50% of voting members) is present. All motions, except for a motion for dismissal, are passed by majority of voting members present. A motion for dismissal requires a two-thirds majority of voting members present. ASAC members with a conflict of interest regarding a particular student shall recuse themselves from voting or participating in discussions or deliberations pertaining to the student, and shall absent themselves during any such discussions or deliberations.  Conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to, a family relationship; a coaching, mentorship or advisory relationship; a doctor-patient relationship; a business associate; a close personal or working relationship with a student’s family member; or any other relationship that might be construed as compromising the committee member’s objectivity in any manner. Any ASAC members who have assigned failing grades to a student shall recuse and absent themselves from votes surrounding that failure, and further shall recuse and absent themselves from any discussions and votes about future system, course or clerkship failures for that student, irrespective of whether those ASAC members are involved in the future assessment/grading.

B.  All members are required to sign and abide by a confidentiality agreement at the beginning of each academic year. All members are required to sign and abide by the Conflicts of Interest Policy at the beginning of each academic year.

C.  The registrar takes minutes of each meeting and records members present and absent, the existence of a quorum, and every official motion and its numerical vote. Neither committee members nor attendees, including students appearing in front of the committee, may record meeting proceedings by any electronic medium. Official letters sent to students also will constitute part of the minutes of each meeting. Minutes of all meetings are kept in the Office of Student Affairs and are made available to the dean. Letters from the chair to individual students are kept in the student’s academic files in the Office of Student Affairs.

D.  When there are severe professional transgressions or the committee is to consider serious actions such as suspension or dismissal of a student, a final vote should be taken by the committee only after the student has been offered an opportunity to address the committee in person, and to respond to questions from members of the committee. The student should be notified by the committee in writing before the meeting as to what the major concerns of the committee are likely to be during the coming meeting. Assistant deans for student affairs (college deans) as well as relevant teaching faculty may be invited to attend committee meetings to provide information but otherwise may not influence the committee’s decisions, nor recommend committee actions.

E.  Consistent with the requirements of law, decisions made by the committee may be revealed to authorized university personnel, to the student, and in appropriate circumstances, to the student’s parents or guardians (especially when the personal safety of the student is a concern).  Other individuals may be notified as appropriate.

F.  Official notification of committee actions shall be made by the registrar as soon as possible after the action is taken by the ASAC (and after the student has been notified of the action, as in III.C above, III.I below). All individuals and departments with a need to know will be so notified.

G.  The official medical school transcript shall accurately reflect the actual academic record of the student, and important decisions reached by the committee about each student’s academic performance or misconduct (for example, reflecting change in student status, systems failed, grades changed through re-examination, suspensions, etc.).

H.  When a student addresses the committee, the student will act as his or her own advocate. In some sensitive situations, the student may be accompanied by a current member of the medical school community (e.g. classmate, faculty member, etc.) for support or advice. Such a guest must be approved by the committee chair prior to the meeting. Since these are not formal legal proceedings, but internal meetings of an official school committee, no counsel representing a student shall be allowed.

I.  The formal decisions of the ASAC shall be communicated by the chair to the student in a timely fashion, usually on the night of the meeting or the next day. Copies of this communication will be placed in the student’s academic record, and into the minutes of the ASAC. In some situations, such as when news of a decision is given verbally to the student, the chair may invite one of the college deans to be present.

J.  Guidelines and policies written in advance cannot cover all possible scenarios. When in doubt, the committee should be guided by several important general principles, including: fairness to students; following due process; promptness of action and notification; maintaining confidentiality when possible; and, balancing the best interests of each student with its obligations to the SOM and University community, patients and society to train graduates who demonstrate the highest standards of academic performance and conduct.

K.  Administrative support to the committee will be provided by the registrar who will work with the chair to set the agenda; inform members of meeting dates and times; take and maintain the minutes; maintain official student folders; maintain copies of all letters sent by the chair; invite guests, e.g. system or clerkship directors when necessary, etc.

L.  These policies concerning ASAC, and various types of student status changes, must be updated as needed. The updated version must be posted in the online Student Handbook. The incoming first year class must receive a URL link to the latest version at the time of matriculation.

M.  No student will be formally dismissed or suspended prior to an appropriate hearing by ASAC, as outlined in other sections. However, on rare occasions an emergency may arise in which the health of a student, faculty member, patient, or other member of the community is placed at risk by the presence of a student. In such an unusual situation, the chair of ASAC may recommend to the dean or senior associate dean for education that a student be suspended provisionally, pending formal consideration of the relevant issues by the full committee at the earliest possible opportunity. It is anticipated that this action will be required only under very rare circumstances.

N.  When a student wishes to contest a decision of the ASAC, the student must follow the process as outlined in the Policy on Academic and Professional Advancement.

  • If ASAC requires a dismissal from the School of Medicine or repetition of an academic period, the notification to the student will provide the option of an appeal and a description of the appeals process. This option will not be granted to those students failing to pass Steps 1, 2 CK or 2 CS of the USMLE within three attempts. The student may formally request that the Associate Dean for Student Affairs appoint an ad hoc Appeals Committee to review the decision of ASAC. The student must file their appeal no later than 14 days from receipt of notification or lose the right to appeal.
  • The three-person ad hoc Appeals Committee is drawn from a pool of 10 faculty members named by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, none of whom are current members of ASAC. The student selects one member, the Senior Associate Dean for Education selects one member, and the Dean selects the third member (who chairs the ad hoc Appeals Committee). The Assistant Dean for Medical Education serves as staff liaison, ex officio, without vote.
  • The student is permitted to inspect their entire medical school file, including any material upon which the decision of ASAC was based.
  • The student is permitted to have counsel, to submit affidavits and exhibits and to summon witnesses at the Appeals Committee hearing. Legal counsel may be present to provide advice, but legal counsel will not be permitted to participate actively in the presentation of testimony, examination/cross examination of witnesses or oral arguments.
  • The Appeals Committee is to conduct a hearing as soon as possible (ordinarily within 14 days). The Appeals Committee will provide the student with all the evidence against him or her, including the academic grades and written evaluations, and will base its decision upon the evidence presented at the hearing.  In its deliberations, the Appeals Committee must accord deference to the decision of ASAC. The Appeals Committee’s review shall be limited to: (a) compliance with the Policy on Academic and Professional Advancement and other applicable UME policies and procedures, and (b) whether there is sufficient evidence to support the decision of ASAC.  The Appeals Committee may uphold or reject the adverse action. However, before rejecting the adverse action, the Appeals Committee must conclude that: (a) there was a failure to follow the Policy on Academic and Professional Advancement and/or other applicable UME policies and procedures and that failure negatively affected ASAC’s decision, and/or (b) that there is not substantial evidence to support the decision.
  • The Appeals Committee’s  decision must be submitted to the student, the chair of ASAC, and to the Dean and/or the Dean’s designated chief academic officer within ten (10) calendar days of the close of the hearing and copied to the Office of Educational Affairs and the registrar. A written record of the proceedings will be sent to the Dean and/or the Dean’s designated chief academic officer.
  • The decision of the Appeals Committee will be final.

Updated July 2020 by UME Management Team.