Policies and Guidelines

Policies and Guidelines

University Policies
Professional Guidelines
Safety Consideration

University Policies[back]

Below are several university policies that apply to the appointment of graduate teaching assistants.

Academic Status and Registration Requirements

TA appointments are awarded to full-time graduate students in regular status and in good academic standing. Full time means that the TA must register for at least 6 credits of graduate-level course, taken for credit (not as a listener) and must maintain this minimum registration throughout each semester that the student is on contract.  These credits may include thesis, research, or independent study.  In addition to the minimum requirement, other graduate courses or undergraduate courses may be taken for credit or as a listener, though the student is cautioned not to become over-committed.  Regular status means the student is a matriculated student with no academic or administrative conditions, in contrast to provisional, non-degree, or transient status.  Good academic standing means the student’s cumulative point average is 3.0 or above.  Students must sign the “Graduate Student Contractual Agreement” form. This form describes the work requirements of the appointment.

Work-load and Other Employment

Students under contract as TAs are expected to be committed full time to their studies and TA duties.  Departures from this policy must be reviewed and must be supported by the Department Chair or Graduate Program Director.  Any exceptions to the policy must be approved by the Office of Graduate and Professional Education.

Teaching Assistants (TAs) are normally expected to work 20 hours a week which includes the last day of the semester.  TAs are usually not required to perform services connected to Winter Term as part of their contract.  However, since Teaching Assistants are under contract to perform services for either the first or second semester, or both, they may be required to complete such services or prepare for such services during the Winter Term.  Students may have supplemental appointments to assist or to teach courses in Winter Term.  They are not required to register for course work during the Winter Term when holding such an appointment.  TAs may hold supplemental appointments during the Summer Sessions and are not required to register in the 7-1/2 week Summer Session.

Inclement Weather

In cases of inclement weather, please refer to University of Delaware’s Polices and Procedures manual.

Appointment

TA stipends are determined by the student’s Departmental guidelines.  Stipends are usually paid over the 9-month period of September 1st to May 30th.

Taxation

TA stipends are treated as wages paid for a service and are thus subject to federal and state income taxes.  Tuition scholarships are not subject to income taxes.

Accident and Sickness Insurance

Graduate students holding a TA contract are eligible to participate in the University’s major medical plans for student accident and sickness insurance.  The portion of the coverage paid for by the University is only for the student.  The student may purchase coverage for the student’s spouse and/or children at the regular price.  Insurance applications and information is available at the Office of Graduate and Professional Education, 234 Hullihen Hall, or at Student Health Services, Laurel Hall.

For students under contract for the full academic year coverage will extend from September 1 through the next August 31.  For students under contract for the fall semester only, coverage will extend from September 1 through January 31.  For students under contract for the spring semester only, coverage will extend from February 1 through August 31.  A brochure describing the coverage in detail is included in the registration package for September.  Additional copies of the brochure are available in the Office of Graduate and Professional Education or in Student Health Service. It is also on the Web on the Student Life home page.

Student Health Fee

A student health fee is automatically assessed to all full-time students each semester, entitling them to use the Health Service during the semester.  This health fee is not covered by the TA contract, but must be paid by the individual student.

Sexual Harassment

The University of Delaware officially defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that has the effect or purpose of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic environment, or of affecting an individual’s employment or academic status.”  Sexual harassment is not only a clear violation of University policy, it is illegal.

The University will carry out a thorough investigation of formal complaints to protect the rights of both the person complaining and the alleged harasser.  Informal complaints are also very successfully handled by the University.  Complaints may be reported to the following:

SOS (Sexual Offense Support Group) Hotline (Ask for an S.O.S. volunteer)  831-2226
Wellspring 231 S. College Ave  831-3457
Center for Counseling and Student Development 261 Student Center  831-2141
Public Safety 413 Academy Str. Investigation Division 831-2683
Evenings and Weekends 831-2222
Student Life 101 Hullihen Hall 831-3266

For more information, please consult the following resources available on the UD Website:
Faculty Handbook, Section 4.2.5 or UD Policy & Procedures Manual: Personnel

Policy on Academic Dishonesty

The University takes the position that the best way to handle cheating is first to attempt to prevent it, and second, if it occurs, to deal with it swiftly and decisively.

Plagiarism is the most prevalent form of cheating on campus, and it is also the hardest to prevent.  Plagiarism in a term paper or other written assignment cannot be proven unless the original source is found.  An instructor who suspects that a student has plagiarized a source should compare the questionable material with other samples of the student’s writing, if possible.  Instructors should always feel free to contact any student they suspect of plagiarism and inquire about the student’s use of sources and methodology.  Some students cannot distinguish between paraphrasing and plagiarism, and many do not understand the implications of cheating and plagiarism.  Teachers can refer students who need to improve their writing skills to the Writing Center which specializes in such assistance.

Students of the University are expected to be honest and forthright in their academic endeavors.  To falsify the results of one’s research, to steal the words or ideas of another, or to cheat on an examination corrupts the essential process by which knowledge is advanced.

It is the official policy of the University of Delaware that all acts or attempted acts of alleged academic dishonesty be reported to the Dean of Students Office.  At the faculty member’s discretion and with the concurrence of the student or students involved, some cases, though reported to the Dean of Students Office, may be resolved within the confines of the course.  All others will be adjudicated within the Undergraduate Student Judicial System.  See “Rules” in the Official Student Handbook for definitions and preventative suggestions on the Web.

Promoting Academic Honesty

Academic honesty should not only be encouraged, but insisted upon by faculty and students who value quality in teaching and learning.  Prevention of dishonesty is one of the basic responsibilities of the University professor.  Singhal and Johnson[1] suggest the following steps in preventing academic dishonesty:

  1. At the beginning of the semester, clearly define the level of student interaction acceptable for work done out of class and submitted for grading.
  2. Define plagiarism.
  3. Ensure equal access to study materials such as old homework solutions, exam papers, etc.
  4. Carefully define course and exam requirements. (Unreasonably difficult and unrealistic demands, as well as trite, uninteresting activities invite cheating.)
  5.  Develop exams that are realistic and fair with respect to the material taught.  (Requiring memorization of a large number of dates, locations, and formulas may be resented.)
  6. Construct the testing situation so as to make copying and other forms of cheating difficult.
    • Keep exams secured.
    • Be sure of integrity of others involved in test reproduction.
    • Dispose of test waste materials carefully.
  7. Specific recommendations for the testing situations.
    • Spread students out when possible.  For crowded classrooms, use two or more different exam forms on two or more different colors of paper.
    • Proctor exams closely–both instructors and TAs should be present.  Have outside materials placed at front of room, check for desk etchings.  Assign seats alphabetically.  Require photo ID for entry and to be left on corner of desk during exam to avoid one student taking exam for another.
    • Student talking, asking of questions after the exam has started, and borrowing of calculators among students should be prohibited.
    • Exam papers may be left at seats, turned over to cover responses.  After students leave the room, faculty and/or TAs pick up exams in sequence by rows, preventing paper switching and providing a record of “neighbors.” Evidence of copying can be more easily obtained by scoring one question at a time.
    • Answer sheets and scratch paper may be bound together prior to handing them out, preventing students bringing their own scratch paper.
    • Collect an exam signature card the first week of class.  At each exam, have the students sign a different color card.  If “substitution” is suspected, exam signatures can be checked against originals.

The ideal situation is to establish an academic atmosphere that promotes honesty as the standard.  These tips provide the faculty member with methods for detecting deviations and documented evidence for cases to be carried through the Student Judicial System.

Proper Posting of Grades and Release of Student Information: FERPA (Family Regulations and Privacy Act, 1974) Regulations

  • Posting of Grades
    Under the FERPA regulations, instructors may not post grades by SS# under any circumstances. Having students sign a waiver at the beginning of the semester is not sufficient to avoid a FERPA violation. Also, grades cannot be given through the phone or via e-mail.
  • Call from Parents (and others)
    Parents often call instructors to inquire about their children’s academic progress, as well as to find out about admission to majors and programs, among other reasons. The release of such information usually violates the FERPA statute and could place instructors at risk legally. The best thing to do is to urge the parent (or other caller) to speak with the student, and have the student stop by, if possible, to make the inquiry in person. Alternatively, the instructor can refer the caller to the college advising office, the undergraduate ort graduate admissions office, or the Registrar’s office, where the procedures can be explained in more detail.

Professional Guidelines[back]

Teaching assistants responsible for classroom or laboratory instruction are expected to maintain standards of professional ethics appropriate for any member of a university faculty.

Maintain your integrity by establishing a strictly professional relationship with students inside and outside of the classroom.  For your students’ and your protection, be aware of the grievance procedures in the Student Guide to Policies and the Faculty Handbook as well as the resources to handle complaints informally.

Diversity Issues

Historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students often report being discouraged, angered, or confused by particular subtle or overt, verbal or nonverbal behaviors displayed by faculty, TAs and other students toward them. They are often discouraged from entering or persevering in “harder” curricula. They report finding themselves the victims of insulting jokes, remarks, and innuendoes both in class and out. These actions are often based on incorrect assumptions about historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students’ capabilities, attitudes, and backgrounds.

Historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students have reported that some faculty seem to expect them to be either academic failures or academic superstars who are “exceptions to the rule”. Either of these expectations places considerable unwarranted pressure on such students. Expectations should be conveyed in a manner that enables historically underrepresented students, foreign students or female students to feel that neither more nor less is expected of them than any other student. Historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students are often called upon to comment on issues from the perspective of their ethnic group. Individual students should neither be asked to offer nor defend their group’s perspective.

  • Pay particular attention to classroom interaction patterns during the first few weeks of class and make a special effort to draw historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students into discussion during that time.
  • Tell your class that you expect all students to participate in class discussion.
  • Notice whether historically underrepresented students, foreign students or female students are included in groups and take appropriate action to include them if they are not.
  • You should personally assign students to groups so that historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students are not left out. Do not automatically pair or group historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students with one another nor should you permit them to be excluded from a group. Random group assignments made by counting off or alphabetical distribution are impartial and inclusive.
  • Intervene in communication patterns that may exclude historically underrepresented students, foreign students or female students. For example, if other students respond to one another’s points but ignore an appropriate comment offered by a minority or female, take control of the discussion and include the comment that has been overlooked.
  • Note patterns of interruption to determine if historically underrepresented students, foreign students or female students are interrupted more than other students either by you or by other students. Make a special effort to ensure that all students have the opportunity to finish their comments.
  • Give historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students the same opportunity to ask for and receive detailed instructions about the requirements for an assignment that you give the rest of the class.
  • Use the same tone and body postures talking with historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students as with other students. For example, avoid a disinterested or impatient tone when speaking with African-American students, but a tone of interest and attention when talking with others. Avoid devoting more attention to male contributions than female ones.
  • Ensure that historically underrepresented students, foreign students and female students are not “squeezed out” by classmates from viewing laboratory demonstrations or engaging in other group assignments.
  • Do not assume that a historically underrepresented student, foreign student or female student needs to seek help at the Writing Center until you have read and appropriately analyzed a writing sample.
  • Do not convey to historically underrepresented students, foreign students or female students that they will “need help to succeed” in your class without good evidence of poor performance.
  • Convey the same expectations for all students.
  • Do not ask individual students to offer their group’s perspective nor to defend it.

Safety Consideration[2][back]

Whether you are teaching a laboratory session, a discussion section, or problem-solving section, there is certain safety information that you need to have at your fingertips. The following questions are most frequently asked by teaching assistants:

What do I do if one of my students has a medical emergency?

Know where the nearest emergency phone or regular phone is. Be sure you have access to the phone if it is normally locked. Dial 9-911 to reach University Police for help. Consider designating an individual to supervise the class if you are needed to summon help. Better yet practice doing this before it happens!

What is my responsibility in the event of a fire alarm?

Read University Policy 7-6. Supervise the immediate evacuation of your students at the sound of the alarm. Once outside account for all your students and report any emergency information to the command center established at the University Policy vehicle on the scene. Remain 200 feet from the building and do not re-enter until the emergency personnel have told you to.

How do I handle an accident or injury in class?

Know where your department keeps its first aid kit. Do not provide first aid treatment unless you are trained in first aid. Medical help can be obtained as indicated above. Report all accidents or injuries to your department office. Better yet, obtain copies of the First Report of Injury form and Accident/Loss Investigation Report form at the beginning of the semester to learn what would be required if an accident or injury occurs. Forms need to be completed for all incidents. Your department will forward them to the appropriate department such as Department of Environmental Health and Safety or Labor Relations.

The security of all members of the campus community is of vital concern to the University of Delaware. In compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act, information concerning campus security programs, recommended personal safety practices, the authority of the University Police, campus disciplinary procedures, and campus crime statistics for the most recent three year period can be found on-line at University of Delaware Department of Public Safety.

[1]: Singhal, A.C. and Johnson P. (1983). How to halt student dishonesty. College Student Journal,. 17(1), 13-19.
[2]: Composed by Robin Elliott, Department of Environmental Health and Safety

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