The Academic Handbook has 19 sections that govern courses in the Faculty of Arts & Science. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Though professors enjoy a great deal of freedom in their teaching, an Academic Handbook exists for all instructors in the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) that many students may be unaware of.

The handbook consists of rules, regulations, mandatory expectations, and suggestions on best practices for all instructors teaching undergraduate courses in the FAS. Included in the handbook are explanations on syllabi, final examinations, student appeals, and more.

The Varsity looked into the first five of the 19 to see what rules govern FAS courses.

Syllabus

A syllabus must be distributed in class or posted on an instructor’s course website as it is their contract with students. Syllabi must also include anything that contributes to the students’ marks, such as the marking scheme and late penalties, and a copy of the instructor’s marking scheme must be submitted to their undergrad administrator or program adminstrator. The marking scheme and late policies must be advertised no later than the last date to add courses.

The marking scheme must refer to each marked test or assignment, its weight in the final course grade, and its due date.

Assignments & Assessments

No one essay, test, or exam can be worth more than 80 per cent of the grade. No term test or tests with a value greater than 25 per cent of the grade total may be assigned in the final two weeks of classes, regardless of the session.

At least one marked assignment must be returned before the last date to drop courses; this marked assignment should be worth at least 10 per cent for half-year courses, and 20 per cent for full year courses.

If an instructor cannot meet the deadline, they must notify their undergrad administrator. “In such cases,” the handbook reads, “the students are normally allowed to drop the course after they have received back the marked work even if it is beyond the deadline.”

Term work deadlines should not extend into final examination periods, though instructors can grant informal extensions within these periods.

Instructors are asked to make clear any specific directions for submitting assignments.

If they intend to use Turnitin, an online service that checks for plagiarism, they must inform their students of this. They must also advise their students that use of Turnitin is voluntary and provide them with alternate means of submitting assignments if they choose not to use the website.

Final Exams

All 100-level courses must have a faculty-run exam worth at least one-third but not more than two-thirds of the final grade. Any exemptions must be requested to the Dean’s Office via the Faculty Registrar. Exams for 200-level courses are expected, and any exemptions are requested within the instructor’s department. The instructor is suggested to consider whether the weight of the exam is worth the cost of administering it.

Exams for 300- and 400-level courses are normal, but an instructor can decide whether or not they are necessary.

All exams must be either two or three hours.

Enrolment in Courses

Instructors must not mark assignments for students not officially enrolled in their courses. Instructors can, however, request late enrolment on behalf of a student.

If the student petitions and is granted a late enrolment, however, it is the student’s responsibility to catch up on missed work.

The department may charge them a fee for issuing a letter recognizing a course audit.

Attendance & Participation Policies

The faculty does not have a policy requiring students to attend class. The handbook advises instructors requiring attendance to keep in mind that they would have to: take attendance each class, be prepared for the “bureaucratic business” of exceptions, illnesses, and documentation, and acknowledge that disability might affect some students’ participation.

Electronic Devices in Class

The handbook acknowledges that some instructors may limit the use of electronic devices in their classrooms but advises them to be wary of the challenges this prohibition might create.

For example, professors must accommodate students who require electronic devices for accessibility purposes without violating their privacy. Thus, professors cannot have a prohibition on electronic devices and grant an exemption to students with accessibility needs, as it “violates student privacy.”

Instead, the handbook recommends designating a section of the classroom to students using electronic devices.

Talking in Class, Dealing with Disruptive Students

The handbook states that “It is never a good idea to ‘dress down’ or humiliate a student, even an offending one, in front of classmates or to allow other students to do so.” Instead, U of T recommends that professors look at chattering students and wait for them to stop.

If the disruptive behaviour escalates, the instructor can end the class session early and consult their undergrad coordinator — usually their associate chair or program director. Instructors do not have the authority, however, to “evict” enrolled students from their course.

Term Work

If the instructor wishes to change their marking scheme after making it available, they must “hold a vote in a regularly scheduled class and obtain the consent of the majority of students attending the class.”

The instructor must announce the vote no later than the last class before the session in which the vote is scheduled.

Instructors must obtain an ethics clearance before assigning assignments that involve human participants.

Assignments are students’ property and thus must be returned in “an appropriately secure manner.”

Instructors are told that they should, under no circumstances, “leave work outside [their] office or in a stack in front of the classroom to be picked up by students.” Instructors are also advised to not put the students’ mark on the cover sheet of the assignment.

Adjustments to marks should be made on assignments rather than the entire term mark.

Requests to Re-mark Assignments & Term Tests

Students may ask the person who marked their work for a re-evaluation no later than two weeks after it was returned. If a teaching assistant (TA) marked the work, the request should first go to the TA before the instructor.

Students can appeal a re-mark beyond the instructor to the undergrad coordinator of the courses department or program for an assignment worth 20 per cent or more of their course mark, again, no later than two weeks after the work was returned. Students must also accept the new mark, regardless of whether any change occurs or not.

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