- 12: ACADEMIC INTEGRITY
- 13: ACCESSIBILITY/DISABILITY ISSUES
- 14: STUDENTS IN DIFFICULTY
- 15: TEACHING SUPPORT
The primary set of rules in this regard is the University’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. The most common offences are plagiarism, cheating on tests and exams, fraudulent medical documentation and improper collaboration on marked work. The primary criterion is that a student is seeking unfair academic advantage in the behaviour.
12.2 Information & Help
Instructors have two wonderful resources to assist with these issues: OSAI, the Faculty’s Office of Student Academic Integrity which is part of the Dean’s Office, and CTSI, the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation. CTSI provides many helpful suggestions on how to use preventative strategies when designing your course materials, and OSAI is available for individual instructor or departmental workshops on methods of prevention. It also has an extensive Academic Integrity website for instructors that address prevention, enforcement, and the process for resolving allegations. The office phone number is (416) 946-0428. Kristi Gourlay, Manager of OSAI, and her staff are available to provide information, help and advice.
12.3 Promulgation of the Rules
While some students are simply hard-core cheaters, most fall into difficulty through ignorance or bad choices made under pressure. The standard of enforcement for the rules is that “students ought reasonably to have known” what they were doing was against the rules. This is much easier if you have been explicit in your syllabus and lectures about the rules, including putting text and links on Blackboard. You should not rely on “the obvious” or a student’s prior educational experiences to have taught them these principles. Many in the university work hard to introduce new students to the culture of integrity specific to universities, but initial cultural assumptions vary and so it is best to be explicit about your expectations and requirements in your class.
As mentioned, the preferred approach is prevention. Course and assignment design, careful handling of assignments, and perhaps use of ‘turnitin.com” are all techniques one can use to lead students toward good outcomes. See the two resources cited above in Section 12.2 for specific suggestions.
If you suspect that a student has committed an offence, you should look into it and not let it slide. It is no kindness to students to let them proceed as though there was nothing wrong with something they may repeat later. Also, it is unfair to all those students who sacrifice marks or work diligently rather than taking improper short-cuts. And what may seem a minor misdemeanor may in fact be the latest in a string of repeated offences. No one likes to get bogged down in these kinds of proceedings, but following through is the best way to ensure consistency in applying our principles, and fairness to all the students who behave responsibly.
The process for dealing with allegations is meant to enforce responsibility, but it is also meant to be educative in its essence. It is designed to resolve matters at the lowest possible level, with allegations only moving up to the next level when they are not resolved or when offences are sufficiently serious to deserve a penalty only available at the higher level, or when the assignment is valued at more than 10% of the course mark.
The whole process is described fully in the Academic Integrity website, but the first step is for the instructor to interview the student. Your second step is to inform your academic unit of the matter so the UG Coordinator can record that it has taken place. This is crucial to identify repeat offenders.
Matters may only be resolved at the academic unit level if the assignment in question is worth 10% or less. In such cases, sanctions may be applied only by the Chair or head of the unit. Under the Code, instructors are not permitted to apply sanctions for integrity offences.
Offences on assignments worth more than 10% must be dealt with at the divisional level, i.e. referred to OSAI, but the instructor-student interview must take place in all instances. Before conducting an interview of this sort, all instructors are advised to refresh their understanding of the process by reading the section of the Academic Integrity Handbook on “The Instructor/Student Interview.”
As mentioned, the process is designed to enforce responsibility but also to educate. Under the Code, a sanction may be imposed below the level of the University Tribunal only if the student admits responsibility for the offence. Sanctions tend to be serious but not onerous for first offences. The sanctions escalate steeply if the offence is truly egregious or part of a pattern of repeated offences. At the departmental level, the maximum penalty is a ‘0%’ for the assignment; at the divisional level, the maximum is a one-year suspension (rare) but more commonly ‘0%’ for the assignment and a further reduction in course mark leading to a failed course; at the Tribunal level, longer suspensions or expulsions are applied to sufficiently serious offences.
The University provides academic accommodations for students with disabilities in accordance with the terms of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA legislation (Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). Under the legislation, responsibility for ensuring accessibility is shared among all the players in the University: Accessibility Services, instructors, academic units and staff. Beyond our legislative obligations, the UofT takes pride in its serious commitment to those with disabilities. Our objective is an accessible learning environment that both meets the needs of students and preserves the essential academic integrity of the University’s courses and programs.
13.2 Resources Available & Required
Accessibility Services staff are mandated to review medical documentation, and to authorize and determine the nature of accommodations for students with disabilities. The staff are happy to work with instructors to ensure that students with disabilities have an equal and a fair chance to learn and demonstrate their learning. If you have questions, you should feel free to contact them directly. If you don’t know the student’s advisor at Accessibility Services, you can call (416) 978-8060.
13.3 Registration with Accessibility Services
To receive accommodations, students must register with Accessibility Services. If students approach you regarding a disability, you should ask if they are registered with the Service and refer them there immediately if they are not.
Accessibility Services is permitted to disclose the impact of the disability on the student’s learning and is happy to discuss with you how specific accommodations may relate to the requirements in your course. Faculty members and their academic units determine what students must demonstrate in a course; Accessibility Services acts as a resource on alternate ways by which students might demonstrate their knowledge. Note that most students registered with Accessibility Services have invisible disabilities. Confidentiality guidelines prevent Accessibility Services from disclosing the student’s diagnosis or specifics of the disability without the student’s permission.
In all your interactions, please keep a student’s registration with Accessibility Services confidential. This is especially important when interacting in class.
You may certainly be considerate in responding to students, but it is inadvisable “to just work something out on your own” with a student who discloses a disability. When the Final Examination Period arrives and the student is not registered with Accessibility Services, both of you may find your “kindness” was unhelpful and the student is disadvantaged.
13.4 Accommodated Tests & Exams
Some students with disabilities require accommodations to write tests and exams. On the St. George campus, this is done by Test & Exam Services, located in the Exam Centre on McCaul Street. You will be notified by Test & Exam Services if a student in your course will be writing with them. Be assured that, regarding the storage of tests and the training of their invigilators, the staff at Test & Exam Services follow the same procedures and maintain the same strict standards as the Office of the Faculty Registrar, which handles all other final exams.
Such accommodations may require that your test questions be formatted in a special way through adaptive technology, and will certainly require your test questions to be delivered to a location different from where the rest of the class is writing. For these reasons, it is important that you attend to the strict deadlines Test & Exam Services specifies for providing your test question papers. Each academic unit has a designated Liaison Person to deal with Test & Exam Services – usually the UG Administrator – who is responsible for contacting you, receiving your test questions for pick-up, and later notifying you that the completed student answer paper has arrived back at the unit for you to mark. Meeting our legal obligations to accommodate requires that test papers be prepared and delivered in a timely way. This may sometimes differ from your pedagogical preferences or personal way of working, but it is necessary.
13.5 Standard for Accommodations
Most accommodations can be managed through an adaptation to allow the student to undergo the same mode of assessment as other students in the class. It is worth noting, however, that while maintaining consistency of assessment method across all students is normally a pedagogical goal, achieving the necessary accommodation for a student may make it impossible to have perfect consistency of method in assessment, e.g. instructors may be asked to devise alternate means of assessment. The legal standard applied under the Act for accommodation is very high: as with Human Rights Code cases it is “undue hardship” to the organization, i.e. bankruptcy. The University is obliged to meet this standard, and instructors as employees of the University are likewise so obliged. Accessibility Services will communicate to you the recommended accommodation and cooperate with you to implement it. If you have specific questions or concerns, contact the student’s advisor at Accessibility Services at (416) 978-8060.
14.1 Academic Advising
Departmental advisors are ready to answer specific academic questions about that program’s or department’s courses and programs. General academic advising and problem-solving for our undergraduates happens at the College Registrar’s office in the student’s college.
Every student in the Faculty of Arts & Science belongs to one of the seven colleges affiliated with us. While the colleges provide a wonderful community environment that brings students and faculty together, one of their primary responsibilities is to provide holistic academic advising for their students through the College Registrars – advising that takes into account all the elements of a student’s life: academic, personal, financial, and more.
The message we give repeatedly to all students in the Faculty is:
“Consult your College Registrar – Your reliable first stop.”
If students have problems or just need some direction, send them to their College Registrar’s Office. Students sometimes face a real challenge finding the person with the authoritative answer to their questions, and often get bounced from office to office (affectionately known as “the UofT shuffle”), but we try hard to let them know they can always start at their college. There they will get a friendly welcome, and either the full answer or some useful information before being sent directly to the person with the full answer. (Contact information is listed in Section 16.2.)
14.2 Students’ Personal Problems etc.
When students approach you with difficulties – medical, personal, financial, familial – that may be interfering with their work in your course, your primary resource is the student’s College Registrar.
In these situations, College Registrars act as holistic student advisors, addressing the student’s whole experience including academic issues and all the personal or circumstantial problems that may interfere with academic work. For students with significant problems, they act as “case managers” to assess the nature and magnitude of the problem, connect the student with relevant resources, inform all the student’s instructors that a significant problem has arisen, and help the student come up with a plan to manage the situation responsibly. If you get a College Registrar’s Letter (see Section 7.3), treat it as sufficient documentation of a problem; they either have the documentation on file or have used their professional experience to determine that the problem is legitimate and serious.
In your role as an educator, you may want to engage with a student who approaches you. However, your primary role is as their course instructor responsible for their academic work, and so you should look to their College Registrar to address students with the holistic attention they need. You should also feel free to refer a student directly to one of the specialized Student Services if that seems most appropriate, but you can always refer him or her to the College Registrar. The names and contact information for these staff members is provided below in Section 17, “Who’s Who.”
14.3 Students in Crisis
You also have resources available to you if a student’s problems are more extreme and immediate. You may never encounter such a student, but if you are dealing with a student who is overwhelmed or may possibly harm him- or herself, or is in an acute crisis situation that can’t wait for a referral, or shouldn’t depend on the student following through, you can call Student Crisis Response at 946-7111 (This line is for faculty to call directly, not to give to students.) If the situation is truly an urgent emergency, call 911 or the Campus Police at 416-978-2222. For situations with students who have persistent difficulties with academic expectations or engagement in university life, you may call the Academic Student Progress office at 416-946-0424 for advice and assistance.
SECTION 15: TEACHING SUPPORT
The University values your effective teaching, as of course do your students. Your best day-to-day resource for teaching is your group of colleagues and the UG Coordinator in your academic unit. However, the University also provides you with a wonderfully supportive resource to help you maximize your teaching effectiveness, improve already effective teaching or overcome challenges or obstacles: CTSI, or the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation.
CTSI’s services are many, but include online materials and workshops addressing many teaching topics: course design, assessment, large class teaching, TA development and much more besides. They also offer individual consultations and confidential advising sessions on teaching problems or teaching dossiers. You should bookmark their site and consult it often, as they are always expanding the repertoire of materials, services and research available to you as a UofT instructor.