Report: February 22, 2005

UNVERSITY OF TORONTO AT MISSISSAUGA

ACADEMIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

REPORT OF THE ACADEMIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 3:10 p.m., in Room 3129.

PRESENT: A. Wensley (in the Chair), D. Crocker, A. Lange, Y. Karshon, N. Copeland, S. Munro, M. Lord, Sadia Khan, B. Khan, D. Aldouri, A. Bhatti, Shoilee Khan, M. Rennie, D. Schulze
REGRETS: U. Krull, K. Blankstein, M. Kasturi, P. Franks, J. McCurdy-Myers, G. Anderson
In attendance: Ms. Lynn Snowden, Assistant Dean, Ms. Sandy Speller, Office of the Registrar

1. Adoption of the Agenda

The agenda was approved. (M. Rennie/A. Lange)

2. Minutes of the Previous Meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting (November 23, 2004) were approved. (D. Schulze/A. Lange)

3. Business Arising from the Minutes.

There was no business arising from the minutes.

4. New Business: Reports of Divisional Curriculum Committees

a) Sessional Dates for 2005-06 and Beyond – Diane Crocker, Registrar and Director of Enrolment Management

i) Background Report on Sessional Dates
ii) Sessional dates research
iii)Sessional dates 2005-06 

b) Alook at UTM Examsin the future– Diane Crocker

Ms. Crocker reported that the Office of the Registrar undertook a review of UTM’s sessional dates for 2005-06 in light of significant pressures from students and faculty to align the academic year with that of other Ontario universities. Resulting from the review process it was decided that during the 2006 winter session, UTM students would start classes on Wednesday, January 4, 2006, which is three days before the start of classes in the Faculty of Arts and Science. UTM’s sessional dates would be identical to those of the Faculty of Arts and Science in the fall of 2005 and the February Reading Week would also be during the same time. These changes in winter sessional dates result in UTM’s academic year ending its classes three days earlier than the Faculty of Arts and Science (on April 11, 2006), giving students 5 full days from the end of classes to the beginning of exams, including the long-weekend. UTM will then run two weeks of exams, including on Friday nights and Saturdays, beginning one week earlier than the Faculty of Arts and Science and ending on April 29th, 2006, two weeks earlier.

Ms. Crocker proceeded to discuss the many benefits of these changes, including:

▪ Students are available for summer research awards (i.e. NSERC USRA), and graduate/professional programs earlier making them competitive with other university students

▪ Students will have two more weeks of earning power, allowing them a better chance of competing for summer work placements with other university student applicants and also allowing them to earn closer to the OSAP expectations for summer wages saved (OSAP does not take into account length of earning time based on institutional sessional dates)

▪ Students will be able to begin summer exchange programs at other institutions at the same time as their counterparts at other Ontario universities

▪ Instructors are able to complete course obligations earlier, freeing them to attend conferences or begin field research

▪ Petitions & Examinations Office has more time to process petitions and prepare for the next deferred examination period

▪ Petitions & Examinations Office would be able to spend time in identifying students in academic difficulty at the end of term and work with the Academic Advisors to ensure the students receive adequate counselling

▪ Office of the Registrar staff would have a longer period of time to enter final marks, run academic audits, prepare for convocation and prepare for summer registration.

▪ The campus is available for two additional weeks for large scale recruitment and conference events at a time when there are no classes or exams running.

Ms. Crocker also explained that in the during the fall, exams start very close to the end of classes in contrast to spring exams, which start five days after classes end, offering a full week for a study period. Historically, most UTM courses were Y courses and this study week allowed all students the extra time to study for exams. Now with a significant proportion of courses being delivered in the fall as H courses, there is a need to allow study time in the fall as well. As a result, there will now be at least a two-day gap between the last day of classes and the beginning of exams in the fall. She commented that the University of Toronto is one of the few universities in the Province to offer a full study week in April. UTM is also one of the few universities running a 13 week semester.

With regards to the current proposed exam timetable, the Office of the Registrar has been researching best practices for exam administration at other Ontario Universities. Ms. Crocker sited the example of Brock University (an institution of comparable size to UTM) where during the December 2004 examination period they were able to shorten their exam period by two days by switching from three to four time slots per day. They had only 8 students with 2 exams at the same time and 22 students with 3 exams in a row out of a total of 48,853 exam papers to be written (arrangements were made to resolve all conflicts including religious accommodations where necessary). She noted that Brock had three times the number of exams written by comparison to UTM in December and they held them in 10 days compared to our 9 day exam period. It was concluded that an exam period that utilizes Saturdays and run with more time slots per day would result in a much shorter exam period.

Ms. Crocker outlined UTM’s plan for exams. UTM will commit to a minimum two day study period before each examination period, ensuring two days between the end of classes and the beginning of the examination period. Exam periods will be shortened by one week by holding examinations on Saturdays and using four time slots per day (8-11 am, 12-3 pm, 4-7 pm and 8-10 pm). She emphasized that the Office of the Registrar remains committed to resolving exam conflicts and making religious accommodations to those students in need and communicating these plans to the Transit commissions servicing students, faculty and staff.

UTM is also investigating the feasibility of having Chief Presiding Officers (CPO) to supervise exam rooms to enforce exam rules and regulations such as the proper collection of signatures, and the standardization of emergency procedures and the handling of suspected academic offences. Instructors would still be expected to attend their examination as a Presiding Officer, however, they would no longer be required to pick up their exam package at the Office of the Registrar prior to the start of the examination and the ultimate responsibility for the exam room would rest with the CPO.

The chair opened the floor to discussion.

A member commented that the above changes were positive and suggested that the new exam schedule be coordinated with the shuttle bus schedule.

In response to a member’s question about accommodating common exams for faculty, Ms. Crocker explained that this may not be possible, but added that UTM’s exam timetable will be published early to help with this coordination.

A member asked why a 12 week term had not been considered. Ms. Crocker reported that this issue is currently under discussion and the initiative will come from Departmental Chairs and the Dean.

A member suggested making the study periods following classes non-weekend days to allow students to accommodate their work responsibilities. Ms. Crocker explained that this will be done when possible, recognizing that the most difficulty in accomplishing this would be in the December study period.

A member commented that the University of Wisconsin finishes their exams in 7 days, starting at 7:45 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Ms. Crocker replied that UTM would continue to investigate other models for exam management.

In reply to a member’s question, Ms. Crocker explained that the Office of the Registrar is also investigating the possibility of graduate students acting as invigilators and will report back to this committee on this issue.

c) Report from the Dean's Office on Program Approvals and the Academic Discipline Process- Lynn Snowden

The Chair called on Ms. Lynn Snowden, Assistant Dean to proceed with her report.

Ms. Snowden reported that there were a significant number of program changes this year, including the conversion of almost all of the courses in the area of historical studies from full to half courses, the introduction of a specialist in Bioinformatics and the creation of the program in Health Communications. These major changes proceeded to the Committee on Academic Policy and Programs in January and were then reviewed by the Academic Board. She reported that the changes were well received and would go into effect this fall.

She also noted that because of the planning process, a number of departments were reviewing their undergraduate programs. Chairs anticipating major changes have also been encouraged to begin working on these changes this spring. She added that UTM’s environmental program is planning major changes and that Professor Brian Branfireun from the Department of Geography started work this fall on curricular reform within that program, bringing in guest speakers and consultants to help transform that program.

The Chair opened the floor to discussion.

In response to a member’s question, Ms. Snowden confirmed that curricular changes would follow the same schedule as in previous years.

Ms. Snowden continued her report with a discussion of the academic discipline process, which is the responsibility of the Office of the Dean. She explained that two conduct codes exist which govern students: the Code of Student Conduct for non-academic behaviour and the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters for academic misconduct.

She noted that the University views cases of academic misconduct seriously and can levy penalties ranging from an oral or written reprimand to expulsion from the University, which is permanent and carries with it a permanent notation on one’s transcript. She added that a typical sanction for a first offence could be a mark of zero for the piece of work, which in many cases results in a failure in the course and a significant drop in a student’s GPA.

Ms. Snowden reported that oversight of the academic discipline process is time-consuming and provided a summary of the number of cases, which is reported to the Academic Board each year. The summary showed the number of cases for each type of offence committed during the 2003-04 session and the number of cases in which sanctions had been imposed. There were a total of 127 cases, 97 of these receiving sanctions. She explained that the 30 remaining cases included cases that started in 2003-04, but had not been closed at the time that the report was written. She added that only a small fraction of the cases do not receive sanctions.

The role of the Dean’s Office consists of being a resource for instructors and departments and disposing of the vast majority of cases. Under the Code, departments can only impose sanctions in minor infractions. The Dean has appointed two Dean’s designates: Roger Beck, Professor Emeritus in Classics and Scott Graham, a professor in Mathematical and Computational Sciences, who review most of the cases, meet with students, and determine sanctions. She added that the most serious cases are referred to the University Tribunal. In the past year and a half, eight cases were sent there. These cases involved students who committed previous offences, or very serious offences such as forging a transcript in order to gain admission to a program.

Referring to the summary, she pointed out that the majority of the cases involved plagiarism, in most cases of text from the web. She explained that plagiarism has always been a prevalent offence, but the world wide web has allowed students to go on-line and download text easily. She reported that a number of faculty use a program called “Turnitin.com” which can detect plagiarism by matching submitted work with text found on the Internet and that a large number of plagiarism cases are detected in this way. She explained that one area that seems to cause confusion for students is ‘helping’ others to cheat. Under the Code, it is equally serious to help someone by letting them copy from a test paper, or lending them a paper one has written. She emphasized that as an institution, UTM tries to be proactive in educating students about what constitutes academic misconduct and its consequences and encourages faculty to provide students an explanation of appropriate use of sources and referencing techniques. The Office of the Dean will implement a plan to deter and prevent misconduct and to educate instructors about ways they can aid in this process.

The Chair opened the floor to discussion.

A member commented that perhaps the number of plagiarism cases has increased due to better detection techniques. Ms. Snowden acknowledged that “Turnitin.com” had been very helpful to faculty in detecting these cases, but added that only a small number of faculty use this service.

In reply to a member’s question about the efficiency of UTM in detecting offenders, Ms. Snowden explained that the presence of more invigilators would reduce the number of exam and test cheating.

A member commented on the importance of educating students about the consequences of plagiarism. The Registrar replied that these topics are emphasized in first year student advising sessions and future workshops and information sessions are planned.

5. Other Business

6. Next Meeting – Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The meeting was adjourned at 4:10 p.m. (M. Lord / N.Copeland)

Secretary of Council _______________________ Chair_______________________

March 12, 2005