Office of the Academic Ombud -- A neutral, independent and confidential resource for UK students and faculty

109 Bradley Hall • 859-257-3737 • Confidential FAX 859-257-5346 • Email: ombud@uky.edu

Professor talking with student in a laboratory

Course Policies

The syllabus must provide information to participants about all policies to be enforced during the course. For each policy described, the student should know both the parameters of the policy and the sanctions for its violation. Instructors should explain course policies in effect on at least the following major issues:

1. Attendance: The instructor may want to include a clear and concise statement of the course policy on absences including tardiness (arrivals 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes after class begins or departure before the end of the class session), number of excused absences allowed before one's grade is affected; procedures for securing an excused absence and making up missed work, etc. Be as precise as possible in describing the penalties. This could include penalties for unexcused absences as well as for tardiness or leaving class early, if you choose to impose them. A lone-standing phrase in the syllabus indicating, "attendance is mandatory" will not provide the latitude to penalize the student for absences. A more specific sentence is better: "Attendance is mandatory. For the second and each subsequent unexcused absence, the final average will be lowered by X points."

2. Excused Absences: S.R. 5.2.4.2 defines the following as acceptable reasons for excused absences:

  1. serious illness;
  2. illness or death of family member;
  3. University-related trips;
  4. major religious holidays;
  5. other circumstances you find to be "reasonable cause for nonattendance".

3. Make-up opportunity: When there is an excused absence, students must be given the opportunity to make up missed work and/or exams. It is the student's responsibility to inform the instructor of the absence preferably in advance, but no later than one week after it.

4. Verification of Absences: Senate Rule 5.2.4.2 states that faculty have the right to request "appropriate verification" when students claim an excused absence because of illness or death in the family. The University Health Services (UHS) provides a printed statement that specifies that the University Health Services does not give excuses for absences from class due to illness or injury. It will be possible for these forms to be date stamped to show that students went to the trouble of visiting to University Health Services. It does not mean, however, that a student was actually seen by a physician or a nurse. If you would like further verification that a student kept an appointment with University Health Services (especially when there has been multiple or prolonged absences from class), the student will need to sign a release of information that will give permission for the staff to talk with you. This form is available on the University Health Services Web Page: http://www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/UHS/Students/.

Faculty need to be reasonable in accommodating claims of illness. To protect yourself from constantly having to create make-up exams, you might want to be creative. For example, in some departments the comprehensive final covers the content of tests earlier in the semester so that a student who misses, say, Exam #1 might have that portion of the final exam, which covers the same content count double. If you adopt such a policy in your course, you should disclose it in your syllabus.

5. Submission of Assignments: The syllabus should specify the accepted procedure for the submission of assignments completed out-of-class, including but not necessarily limited to issues such as format, paper or electronic/digital versions, mode of delivery (via email, course web site, on CD's or other disks), and the like. Any conditions under which students may submit assignments after their published due dates and the penalties, if any, to result from late submission need to be specified as well. This is particularly important in light of use of BlackBoard, and technical problems related to electronic assignments.

6. Academic Integrity, Cheating and Plagiarism: The course syllabus should include a clear statement of instructor (and departmental or college as well as university) expectations of academic honesty and of the absolute unacceptability of plagiarism and other forms of cheating. In addition to the formal statement in the syllabus, consider how to best teach your students that academic integrity is important to scholarship; define for your students what constitutes cheating and plagiarism in your course, and work with your class to diminish the temptation for students to choose to violate these ethical principles. In courses with significant writing requirements, a substantive discussion in the syllabus of what constitutes plagiarism, particularly in regard to cutting and pasting information from the Internet is a good idea as well. A link to a paper "Plagiarism: What is it?" may be found at the Ombud web site or can be accessed at http://www.uky.edu/Ombud/Plagiarism.pdf. The Ombud web site also includes a link to a Prentice Hall Companion Website "Understanding Plagiarism" http://wps.prenhall.com/hss_understand_plagiarism_1/0,6622,427064-,00.html. The site includes brief quizzes on related topics.

Please note that there have been substantial changes to the University Senate Rules regarding procedures and penalties for academic offenses. As noted above, these changes became effective in the Fall 2006 semester. Please familiarize yourself with these changes. (Information may be found at http://www.uky.edu/USC/New/SenateRulesMain.htm or the Ombud web site, http://www.uky.edu/Ombud.)

7. Classroom Behavior, Decorum and Civility: In addition to cheating and plagiarism, classroom demeanor is an increasingly significant problem on campus (and nationally), and in some instances, a statement outlining standards of classroom civility and decorum may be in order. Such a statement might reference university (and college/department) commitments to respect the dignity of all and to value differences among members of our academic community. It might highlight the role of discussion and debate in academic discovery and the right of all to respectfully disagree from time-to-time. Students clearly have the right to take reasoned exception and to voice opinions contrary to those offered by the instructor and/or other students (S.R. 6.1.2). Equally, a faculty member has the right – and the responsibility – to ensure that all academic discourse occurs in a context characterized by respect and civility. Obviously, the accepted level of civility would not include attacks of a personal nature or statements denigrating another on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, age, national/regional origin or other such irrelevant factors.

8. Professional Preparation: Instructors in professional preparation programs have a special responsibility to assist students learn what constitutes professionalism, ethical and professional behavior and conversely, what actions and forms of behavior would be deemed unprofessional, unethical or otherwise unacceptable within the profession for which they are preparing.

9. Group Work and Student Collaboration: The syllabi for courses within which students are expected to engage in group learning, team projects, or other collaborative, course-related activities must provide explicit explication of how individual student performance will be assessed in such shared learning activities. Requiring as part of the group assignment that the team must explain the involvement of each member in the project and/or actually assess the contribution of each other to the final product may encourage balanced and active participation and contribution by all group members. If student peer assessment is included, it should not be the only evaluation made of individual student performance.