Report: March 28, 2006

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO AT MISSISSAUGA

Erindale College

Meeting of the ACADEMIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 3:10 p.m., in Room 3129, South Building.

Present: R. Beck (in the Chair), I. Orchard, C. Jones, A. Lange, R. Green, C. Evans, S. Munro, M. Lippincott, J. McCurdy-Myers, M. Rennie, G. Anderson, D. Crocker, R. Gerlai
Regrets: U. Krull, M.A. Mavrinac, A. Lange, D. Smith, D. Schulze, R. McMillan, E. Levy, A. Wensley, L. Seco, A. Bhatti, A. Mullin
In attendance: S. Wahid (AGSAE), L. Snowden (Assistant Dean)

  1. Adoption of Agenda

The agenda was approved. (I. Orchard/C. Jones)

2. Minutes of Previous Meeting (December 13, 2005 special and January 17, 2006)

The reports of the two previous meetings were approved. (S. Munro/R. Greene) (C. Jones/J. McCurdy-Myers)

3. Business Arising from the Minutes

There was no business arising from the minutes.

4. New Business:

a) Changes to the Academic Affairs Committee with respect to graduate governance – Charles Jones, Dean

Professor Jones directed members to the document entitled Changes to Governance Routing with Respect to Graduate Programs, attached hereto as Appendix A. Professor Jones reported that the School of Graduate Studies was making changes to its governance, moving curriculum changes in existing programs to the divisions. While the School of Graduate Studies will retain certain core functions, including the establishment of graduate departments, new programs and major initiatives, the setting of graduate policy, academic appeals, and the coordination of all initiatives that require OCGS approval, many functions currently undertaken by SGS committees will be devolved to the faculties. As part of this plan, each faculty was asked to make changes to its by-laws, which would enable its governance bodies to carry out governance functions with respect to graduate studies; in UofT Mississauga’s case, this would refer to campus based masters programs.

Professor Jones explained that the proposal entails the creation of the graduate curriculum subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Committee and referred members to the diagram in the accompanying cover document, which explained the progression of graduate program changes through the governance cycle. He noted that any proposals for changes to UTM’s campus based master’s programs, after due consultation with the program directors, faculty and graduate chairs, would be received by the Vice-Dean Graduate for vetting and then would be posted on a campus wide SGS web posting system for feedback before being brought to the newly created graduate curriculum subcommittee and other UTM governance committees. In the case of major changes or new programs, proposals would then go on to the SGS Council and eventually to OCGS; in the case of minor course or program changes, ECC or the Academic Affairs Committee would have final approval power as appropriate.

The creation of the new Graduate Curriculum Subcommittee would also entail some minor changes to the Bylaws of Erindale College Council as follows: (these changes would be approved by Erindale College Council at its next meeting)

· Change of the length of term of graduate student members of Council from two years to one year (same change for the Academic Affairs Committee)

· Addition of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and the Vice-Dean, Graduate, UTM to the membership of Council, the Academic Affairs Committee and the proposed Graduate Curriculum Subcommittee (CGS)

· Increase membership of graduate students to the Academic Affairs Committee from one to two and change their selection mode from appointed to elected (AAC)

· Create a new subcommittee of the AAC, the Graduate Curriculum Subcommittee (GCS) which would approve any academic changes related to UTM’s campus based master’s programs

It was duly moved and seconded,
THAT a new subcommittee of the Academic Affairs Committee, called, the Graduate Curriculum Subcommittee (GCS) be established as outlined in the document: Changes to Governance Routing with respect to Graduate Programs, dated March 21, 2006. (Attachment) (C. Jones/I. Orchard)

The Chair opened the floor to discussion.

In response to a member’s question, Professor Orchard explained that the administration of doctoral stream programs would now have the addition of a newly created tri-campus committee. The governance changes as described above would only apply to campus-based masters programs and all divisions have been asked to create similar groups in order to handle changes to these types of programs.

In reply to a member’s question about why the membership of the new subcommittee does not specify graduate students as being from campus based master’s programs, Mr. Wahid explained that the Constitutional Review Committee had discussed the matter and found that elected, general graduate student memberships would be more appropriate and did not see a benefit in such a specification. He added that graduate students would also be represented at the program advisory committee level.

The motion was approved.

b) Academic Petitions and Appeals:

i) Committee on Standing Report – Diane Crocker

As part of her annual report on the Committee On Standing, Ms. Crocker reported that academic petition statistics had not significantly changed from the previous year. She referred members to the document on petitions data (attached hereto as Appendix B) and noted that the majority of petitions were related to specific courses. She added many of the one or three year suspension cases were due to marks received in summer courses. There are some problems in such cases because these students are suspended starting in the fall, while many have already registered for courses before being able to be notified of the suspension.

She explained that the Office of the Registrar was very active in working to improve the quality of petitions that are received by communicating the university’s medical documentation requirements to local health practitioners. She added that the office was also working with Health Services on a new medical form.

Ms. Crocker reported that most of the petitions were regarding late withdrawals from courses. Students that are granted their “one time only” late withdrawal represent a significant number. These petitions are for times when students make a major error by mistakenly enrolling in a course via ROSI and then not attending, resulting in a mark of zero. She emphasized that these “one-time-only” grants for late withdrawal are only in cases where students make significant mistakes, most of them in their first year. The Office of the Registrar is developing a registration guide with the goal of educating students to these rules.

She noted that the petitions process was transferred to a web-based process, in order to save on communication costs.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

A member asked why there were such a large number of cases related to deferred exams (986). Ms. Crocker explained that these numbers were consistent with the number of exams per session and that those deferred exam petitions that are granted tend to be for students who were ill. She noted that petitions for further deferral of an exam were normally granted only for very serious or ongoing medical reasons.

ii) Academic Appeals Board Annual Report – Gordon Anderson, Chair

Professor Anderson referred members to the document containing statistics on the Academic Appeals Board (AAB) cases for both 2004 and 2005 (attached hereto as Appendix C). He noted that the Board hears appeals from the decision of the Committee On Standing on petitions. Cases vary from late withdrawals, deferred exams and suspensions to refused further registration appeals. Students have the option of appealing the decision of the AAB to the Academic Appeals Committee of Governing Council; in such cases, the Chair attends on behalf of the Board to defend the decision.

He reported that the membership of AAB consists of seven faculty members and three undergraduate students, and that at least one student member must be present at each meeting. The Board also invites two staff members of the Office of the Registrar, who attend in a non-voting capacity.

Professor Anderson reported that the board heard 52 cases in the course of 11 meetings in 2004 and 46 cases in the course of 10 meetings in 2005 (the salient statistics for the 2 years are appended). Of those cases 6 were subsequently appealed to Governing Council, of which only one was granted.

Professor Anderson ended his report by commending the membership of the Academic Appeals Board for their service, noting the more than 40 hours of meetings per year, and an additional approximately 20 hours per year spent in preparation of case materials for each appellant. This is work above and beyond their duties as faculty and students and renders the college a relatively unheralded service.

c) Academic Discipline Annual Report – Lynn Snowden, Assistant Dean

Ms. Snowden explained that departments can only impose sanctions for minor infractions of the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters for academic misconduct. The Office of the Dean handles all other offenses. In cases where students do not admit guilt or in complicated matters, Dean’s designates review the cases, meet with students, and determine sanctions.

Ms. Snowden referred members to the handout containing a summary of academic discipline data (attached hereto as Appendix D), and pointed out that the majority of the cases involved plagiarism from the World Wide Web. She noted that sanctions were more lenient in first offenses and for first or second year students.

She remarked that the use of technological devices to aid dishonest behaviour during exam or test taking was becoming a major problem, with students able to text message each other and access formulas that are not permitted. In addition, many students do not seem to realize that being copied is also an offense.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

Professor Beck, one of the Dean’s designates added that students sent to the university tribunal are normally students who do not admit guilt, are repeat offenders and in cases where sanctions at the divisional level are deemed to be insufficient. He noted that the maximum penalty is a one year suspension.

In answer to a member’s question about cases handled by departments, Ms. Snowden explained that if the sanction is less than 10% of the student’s mark, it is if handled within the department and the Chair can impose a penalty; if the sanction is more than 10% of the student’s mark, it is reported to the Dean’s office.

Also in response to a member’s question, Ms. Snowden noted that the use of Turnitin.com is not mandatory, but added that faculty using it have reported a dramatic drop in incidents of plagiarism.

A member suggested that in order to avoid the defense of not knowing the rules, the university require newly admitted students to sign a form confirming their understanding of what constitutes plagiarism. Ms. Snowden explained that this option was considered when the Code was reviewed, but was not adopted for fear of not being able to reach every student.

In reply to a member’s query, Ms. Snowden explained that the doubling of occurrences for offenses related to the use of unauthorized aids from the 2003-04 (33 cases) to the 2004-05 (60 cases) academic years, is attributable to a computer science project where students worked on projects in groups and to the use of MP3 players with recorded material.

5. Other Business

A member commented that the sessional date regulation of allowing students a two week period in which to add courses is providing students with too much time and suggested that one week after the start of classes was sufficient. The Registrar explained that the rationale behind this two-week period was to allow students to get into courses that are in many cases full because others are waiting to drop the course until the last date before they can still receive a 100% refund; there is an approximately 3-day window for those students waiting to add a course. If the two-week period would be reduced, many students would not be able to enroll in compulsory courses, which could in turn bar them from their planned graduation date. The two-week period is also in place in order to allow students to see if they like a particular course design or lecturer.

Due to the possible lengthy discussion of this topic, it was suggested that the Registrar report on this matter at a future meeting. Ms. Crocker noted that sessional dates are set each year in January and brought to this committee for feedback.

The meeting adjourned at 4:40 p.m. (D. Crocker/G. Anderson)

Secretary ________________________________Chair ________________________________