Policy on Mutual Responsibilities and Classroom Etiquette
Our commitments to a strong learning community are expressed in many ways. Respectful professors convey their commitment to the discipline of history and their desire to share its delights and challenges. They are well prepared for class, provide students with clear goals and expectations, listen carefully to student questions and comments, and conscientiously evaluate their students' work. Respectful students bring a strong work ethic to the history courses that they select. They expect to attend the scheduled classes, to be on time, to be prepared for class, and to be attentive during class.A shared respect for the discipline of history and for one another as teachers and students of history is essential to the academic integrity of our program. We must all do our part to maintain an environment of openness and civility that encourages and honors the intellectual achievement represented by the discipline of history.
The common interests of the history community are reflected in the following policies and standards:
A good syllabus serves as a guide to the mutual responsibilities of the instructor and the students and makes clear to students the instructor's expectations of them. It will provide a calendar of course events that will help students to plan their semester's work. It might include:
- Who is teaching and how the instructor can be contacted
- Which texts are used and where they can be purchased or consulted
- Anything additional that is recommended to purchase for the course
- Course structure; a schedule of topics or lectures
- Where to get help
- Assignments for the entire semester
- Dates and times of all exams (including finals) and review sessions
- Goals of the course
- Tardiness and Leaving Early
- Makeup exams/dates
- T grade deadline
- Exam protocol
- Grievance procedures
Students have a right to an adequate syllabus in any course and may appeal to the Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education if they think that a course lacks one.
By registering in a history course, a student incurs the obligation to attend class and to complete assignments (just as the instructor has a comparable responsibility to attend, to be prepared for class, to meet with students when appropriate, and to grade examinations promptly).These mutual responsibilities in part define the nature of education, and they are binding on students and faculty alike.
The syllabus for each History course should provide an attendance policy. Students need to know how many absences will be permitted.Instructors may impose penalties for unexcused absences, including grade reductions that might lead to failure in a course.
Falsification of an attendance record by signing another student's name or signing one's own name and then leaving class is a serious breach of academic integrity, for which an offender may be punished by the instructor.If a student cannot attend a class or must leave early, the ethical solution is to inform the instructor of the situation and to ask to be excused.
Our university is geographically challenged. Students must commute considerable distances between classes, and the university's transportation systems sometimes fail us. Instructors should be aware of the difficulties that conscientious students encounter both in scheduling courses and in commuting. Students should schedule their courses wisely so that their normal expectation of being seated before the beginning of class can be met. When possible, they should anticipate late arrival and inform the instructor. Instructors may exclude students who are habitually tardy because late arrivals can disrupt classes in a way that is unfair to other class members, especially the instructor, whose attention should be focused on leading a challenging and successful meeting. Instructors may count tardy students as absent and impose penalties as outlined in the course syllabus.
Leaving Class before Conclusion
All class members should expect to remain in class and attentive until the instructor indicates that the class session is over. Instructors should recognize that compelling personal needs might force a student to leave the room during class. If possible, students should inform instructors of any personal difficulties that might lead them to leave the room during class. Students who need to leave the room should make every effort to leave and return with as little disruption as possible. Habitual and unexcused movement during class sessions may be prohibited by the instructor.
Cell Phones and Beepers
Students should deactivate signals from cell phones and beepers that can be heard by others during class. Instructors may forbid cell phone use during class.
It is rude and disruptive to engage in personal conversation during class. Students who persist in this disruptive behavior may be asked to leave the class and may be penalized by the instructor, who might, for example, count them as absent. Reading newspapers, doing crossword puzzles, or engaging in other personal diversions unrelated to class activity is equivalent to "personal conversation."
Students have an obligation to be informed of university and college policies on academic integrity. Instructors should give clear guidelines concerning the kind of sources that may be used in examinations and papers and the proper way to cite sources. Instructors may penalize students for failing to cite sources or for improperly citing sources. Plagiarism or other blatant violations of academic integrity policies may be referred to the college deans who are authorized to handle student judicial cases.
The Department of History makes every effort to insure that teaching assistants and graders are well qualified and properly trained. They deserve the same respect and good will as other members of the academic community and are protected from harassment and abusive behavior by university policies that provide for judicial procedures and strong penalties whenever members of the university community are abused or harassed.
Appeal of Grade
Instructors have an obligation to provide clear standards of evaluation and to review their evaluations of examinations and papers with students who seek them. Students have the right to appeal a course grade. The Department of History has a procedure for reviewing appeals of course grades that may lead to the grade being changed if the student's appeal is successful. The student may contact the Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education, who will review the procedure with the student. The first stage in the appeal procedure is a meeting with the instructor in which a mutual effort should be made to resolve conflicting opinions concerning the merit of the student's work. If the conference between the instructor and student does not resolve the conflict, then the student may pursue the next step in the appeal process with the assistance of the Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education.
Codes of conduct and declarations of mutual responsibilities can never serve as adequate substitutes for mutual respect and good will. Learning, like teaching, is an active rather than a passive process. At Rutgers, a class is not a commodity to be "taken" but a productive process with a highly desirable end result, namely a better informed, educated person. To the degree that the policies and standards outlined above enhance the active process of learning, they are consistent with the highest purposes of university education and should be honored as such.
Accepted as Departmental Policy by Unanimous Vote on May 3, 2000, Department of History, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
1The university has strong policies that prohibit verbal assault, defamation, and harassment. See University Policies and Procedures in the New Brunswick Undergraduate Catalog and The University's Policy Prohibiting Harassment .