The Course Syllabus

Graduate School Orientation for New TAs
August, 2015
Dr. David Royse
College of Social Work
Former Academic Ombud
Today’s topics:
 Brief Overview of Academic Ombud Services
 Student Rights (These apply to you, too!)
 The Syllabus
 Academic Responsibilities and Academic Offenses
 Suggestions for a Less Stressful Year
What does the Academic Ombud Do?
 Provides a safe, neutral, and confidential setting for
raising questions, discussing problems & seeking
assistance with academic issues (faculty & students)
 Explains university policies and procedures and their
 Recommends changes in policies and procedures to
better ensure fairness in teaching and grading
 Investigates student grievances and complaints
Problems Handled by the Academic
Ombud Office:
 Grade Disputes (threshold=whole letter grade difference)
 Admission/Registration Problems
 Academic Disciplinary Matters (vs. General Behavior
=Dean of Students)
 Perceived Favoritism *
 Fear of Retaliation (e.g., a student complains about you)
 Charges of & Sanctions for Academic Offenses
Core Academic Rights of Students
Substantive Rights
Fair and just evaluation of student’s performance in UK
courses based on standards defined in the course syllabus
Notice of midterm performance for undergraduate students
Limits on dead week activities
Rules for excused absences
Procedural Rights
Notice and hearing rights in case of an academic offense
Right of appeal regarding grades and academic offenses
Academic Rights of Students
University Senate Rule 6.1.0
 6.1.1 Information about Course Content
 6.1.2 Contrary Opinion
 6.1.3 Academic Evaluation
 6.1.4 Academic Records
 6.1.7 Attendance and Participation During Appeal
 Excused Absences (S.R.
6.1.1 Information about Course Content etc.
(A foundational policy)
Students have the right to expect the course to correspond …to the
description in the official Bulletin …and the right to be informed in
writing (in the syllabus) at the first class meeting about the nature of the
course--the content, the activities to be evaluated, and the grading
practice to be followed. Whenever factors such as absences or late
papers will be weighed in determining grades, a student shall be
informed. Syllabi may be posted electronically; this must be done by
the first class meeting of the semester and the syllabus must remain
available there for the entire semester. All students officially enrolled in
a course shall, upon request, be provided a copy of the course syllabus
free of charge.
University Senate Rules Cont.
Contrary Opinion: A student has the right to take
reasoned exception to the data or views offered in the classroom
without being penalized. (Example)
Academic Evaluation: must inform undergraduate
students of their progress by established mid-term dates based on a
fair and just evaluation as stated in syllabus; irrelevant considerations
are defined; definition of sexual harassment
Academic Records: importance of confidentiality of
these records. Note FERPA (next slide)
Attendance & Participation During Appeal: Students
shall have the right to attend classes…and to participate in UK
functions during the consideration of any appeal—except in clinical
practicum courses (Appeals Board)
FERPA: Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act
 Can’t discuss student’s grades with parents etc. without
Consent for Release Form (See Registrar webpage)
Privacy Flag: can’t release any information (e.g. employer)
Don’t keep graded materials in open
Don’t discuss student’s performance with others unless
there is a shared legitimate educational interest
Student has right to access educational records, have them
amended when inaccurate, to control disclosure of info.
More info: Google “FERPA” in UK search box
Excused Absences
 Significant illness of the student or …member of the student's
household (permanent or campus) or immediate family. The
Instructor has the right to request appropriate verification
Death of a member of the student's household (permanent or
campus) or immediate family (steps, in-laws, halves & grands)
Major Religious Holidays. Students are responsible for notifying the
Instructor of Record in writing of anticipated absences
Official Trips (student organizations, athletics, etc.)
Any other circumstances which the Instructor finds reasonable cause
for absence. You have discretion but watch for favoritism!
Students missing any graded work due to an excused absence bear
the responsibility of informing the Instructor about their absence
within one week (except where prior notification is required), and of
making up the missed work.
Dead Week (Rule
 No quizzes, exams, make-up exams, quizzes, or labs
may be scheduled during Dead Week.
 If there is a final exam, no projects can be due in Dead
 Regularly assigned homework identified in the
syllabus may be assigned during dead week.
The intent is to avoid undue hardships on students before finals
University Senate Rules (USR) at:
(top link and bullet on that page)
University Senate Syllabi Guidelines (Checklist) can be found at:
See also the Academic Ombud website:
University Senate Syllabi Guidelines
Four (4) Core Areas:
 General Course Information
 Instructor Contact Information (no personal
phone #’s)
 Course Description
 Course Policies
You may be given a master syllabus to follow…
Instructor Information (Syllabus)
 Name
 Contact Information
 (Office, Office phone, E-mail)
 Instructors should be reasonably available for
consultation outside of class.
 Office Hours, Locations
 Policies regarding appointments
 Alternate contact options (department phone number)
Course Descriptions, etc.
 Should match the UK Bulletin
 Provide a “reasonably detailed overview” (week by
week or meeting by meeting schedule works well)
 Identify components of the final grade and their
relative weight; clarify expectations for assignments;
the relation of scores to letter grade
 Provide a timeline, including due dates for major
 Provide time, date and nature of final exam
Grading Policies:
 Letter Grades: Grading scales are not standardized
across UK…may be departmental standards e.g. 90100=A
 Curving Grades: How is the curve established? Will
you round up or not?
 Midterm evaluation
 What assignments are included?
 What percentage of the final grade is determined by
Policies Cont.
 Process for submitting assignments*
 Format, deadlines (by date of, by class period, by time
during class)…procrastination
 Academic Integrity reminders. Take it seriously!
 Group work and collaboration guidelines (labs)
 Disability Claims/Requests (Must show letter. Can’t
ask for accommodations retroactively)_
Course Policies Cont.
 Clarify policies and sanctions for violations
 Attendance, including late arrival or early departure
 Excused absence policy; refer to University policy and
specific course policy.
 Requirements for make-ups
 Requirements for proof of excuse (e.g., show obituary)
 Rules of Behavior (e.g., cell phone usage and laptops)
(See next slide)
Managing Policy Violations
 You might want to simply speak to a student after class
who is violating a policy (e.g., cell phone infatuation)
 Students who continue to violate the policy can be
asked to leave the room—count them absent or not
 Anyone who makes a scene or threatens you can be
reported to the Dean of Students’ Office
 Standing beside, calling on, pop quizzes
Syllabus as Contract
 Establishes expectations of students, instructor,
department, college & university
 Is explicit – no vague, ambiguous statements
 Should not be revised once distributed to students.
 However, no need to go overboard with rigidity in
unusual circumstances (floods, ice storms, power
 Don’t add additional exams, major readings, etc.
Syllabus Repair 101
 Oops! The final is not really on Sunday.
 The whole class wants a delay in the due date.
 Grading algorithm unintentionally guarantees A’s to
 Student says “The syllabus didn’t say I had to do that.”
 You are not at war with the student. Your goal is to
provide fair and just evaluation for all students.
 Remind them of their right to see the Ombud.
Avoiding Academic Headaches
 Clarify expectations! (e.g.,word length of
 Identify academic offenses & penalties
(e.g. late assignments)
If you remember nothing else about this
presentation, remember
The syllabus is a contract!
Academic Integrity
Essential to the University and to society
 Student rights, including most importantly the right to
a fair and just evaluation, impose the responsibilities
of academic integrity on all students.
 Educate them. Show/create examples of paraphrasing
vs. plagiarism. (See Ombud webpage)
 Share your perspective with your students
 Questions about processing a case of cheating or
plagiarism…check with your supervisor and/or Ombud
Procedures for Academic Offenses
 Discretely collect evidence. (What is evidence?)*
 Consult with course director or department chair.
 Consult rules, Office of Academic Ombud.
 Meet with student and the dept. chair.
 Hear the student’s perspective.
 Notify the student of her/his right to appeal.
 Notify the student that the Ombud will assist.
 Determine nature of offense and penalty, if any.
 Notify student of the penalty imposed with copies to
the Ombud.
Minimize Cheating & Plagiarism:
1. Remain vigilant and stay in the room during exams
2. Assign topics for papers that are creative… not used
semester after semester.
3. Ask to view drafts, monitor the progress of a paper’s
4. Explain the penalties for plagiarism & cheating.
Show students how to reference and paraphrase
5. Use Turnitin or SafeAssign; spot-check with
Google sentences and phrases that are too elegant.
Suggestions for a Less Stressful Year
Be fair, not punitive (No policy, no penalty!)
Be able to defend each grade you award
Use rubrics to grade short answers & essays (what is
needed for an “A” response, a “B” response, etc.)
Don’t break promises (e.g., you can take a make-up
quiz. No, it wouldn’t be fair to others.”)
Don’t evaluate a draft of a long paper (“It looks
good!”) during a 5 minute class break.
 Be open to unique student situations; get to know your
students if you can
e.g., student absence 3 weeks in future …
grandmother would be in hospital… mother)
e.g., mother with child (52 operations)
e.g., athlete example (D.A.)
 Some will be strongly motivated; others you might
have to find a way to motivate or help them find ways
to succeed.
Visit the Ombud in 109 Bradley Hall
Ask for help if you need it.
We’re all in the same boat!