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

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Professor talking with student in a laboratory

Course Policies

The syllabus must provide information to students explaining the 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 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; number of unexcused absences allowed before the student's grade is affected; procedures for securing an excused absence and making up missed work, etc. If you choose to impose penalties for tardiness or leaving class early, the penalties should be explained (e.g. "Attendance is mandatory. For the third and each subsequent unexcused absence, the final average will be lowered by X points. Three tardies will equal one unexcused absence.")

2. Excused Absences: S.R. 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 quizzes and exams. For major religious holidays the syllabus should specify how far in advance notice is due (e.g. two weeks prior to the absence). For all other excused absences, it is the student's responsibility to inform the instructor of the absence no later than one week after the period of absence or, if feasible, in advance.

4. Verification of Absences: Senate Rule states that faculty have the right to request "appropriate verification" when students claim an excused absence because of illness or death in the family.

University Health Services (UHS) has prepared a statement about class attendance and student illnesses that is useful for students and faculty. That statement may be found here ( The statement discusses the important public health and policy reasons why a student with a significant illness ought to be absent from class, yet should not make a visit to UHS. UHS provides in this circumstance an "Explanatory Statement of Absence from Class" that students may complete and submit to the Instructor to document an excused absence from class. This form, which is completed and attested to by the student, may be reviewed here. UHS describes this form as the "Tier 1" document. Faculty should decide whether this Tier 1 document is acceptable as "appropriate verification" of the student’s illness. Faculty may decide that this documentation is adequate under all circumstances or only under some defined circumstances (for example, on two occasions during the semester). Faculty may, however, decide that a student’s use of the Tier 1 form is not "appropriate verification" of the illness. Please provide students with clear directions about whether a Tier 1 excuse is acceptable and include that direction in your syllabus. An instructor must, of course, apply any such rule consistently for all students in the class.
Tier 2 and Tier 3 documents are generated by UHS. The Tier 2 document is an email sent to the student, at the student’s request. The email confirms that the student made a medical visit to UHS. In order to provide the Instructor with verification of an illness, the student will forward the email received from UHS to the Instructor of Record, who may then email the original sender to verify the authenticity of the email sent to the student. The Tier 3 document is a form that UHS provides by either email or hardcopy to the student. This form "states any applicable restrictions [on the student] based on illness or injury." Such a restriction may be that the student must be absent from class for a defined number of days. Faculty should state in the syllabus that a Tier 2 or Tier 3 document provided by UHS is appropriate verification for an excused absence for illness.

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 versions, mode of delivery (via email, hardcopy, course website), 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 the use of Canvas, 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

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.