Tighter policies for extensions

With the implementation of a new policy on academic responsibility, arts students at Wilfrid Laurier University should probably start to think twice about asking for that extension on a paper.

According to Jonathan Finn, associate dean of arts and a communication studies professor at WLU, there has been a recent hike in students requesting extensions and deferments for assignments and exams, most of the time retroactively. As a result, the faculty of arts released new guidelines and policies on when students can get legitimate extensions for assignments.

“We’ve always had these type of incidents but there has been a steady growth of them, so we thought what we’ll do is draft up a document that instructors can refer to,” explained Finn, adding that this was the first of its kind for the faculty.

“This is primarily directed at the kind of nuance cases and non-legitimate excuses.”

The policies, while still somewhat broad, outline for instructors what is not reasonable to give extensions out to. For example, extra-curricular activities, work and travel plans are not legitimate excuses for extensions.

However, the university-wide policy on medical and family emergencies are still considered reasonable excuses from academic work.

“It’s the student’s responsibility to balance the work requirements, so if you get two papers due at the same time, it’s your responsibility that you make sure you get them both done,” said Michael Carroll, dean of arts at Laurier.

“If you’re involved extra-curricular activity, that does not automatically relieve you of the need to make course deadlines.”

In the case of where it’s something that can’t be determined by medical notes, such as stress, a student can still try for an extension or deferment.

Carroll continued by saying that this policy by no means restricts instructions from making exemptions. “This in no way controls instructors, they’re still free to extend deadlines and give deferred exams that they did in the past,” he added.

The discussion revolving around this issue began with faculty coming to the dean addressing concerns about students.

The policy was eventually approved at the arts council meeting last week.
According to both Carroll and Finn, the new guidelines have been receiving a positive reaction.

“The most common reaction was that, ‘doesn’t this already exist’ and ‘do you actually have to say this?’” continued Finn.

“They [faculty and students] just assumed this was the case. But there is no policy beyond the very generic statement about medical illness in the university calendar, there is no statement about incidents like this.”

In addition to the policy on academic responsibility, the faculty of arts also expressed support for a university wide policy that was brought forth by Chris Walker, chair of the board at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU).

Essentially, students have addressed concerns to WLUSU about not receiving enough of their grade before the final drop date, which is typically the end of the second month of the term.

The proposed policy will enforce that instructors, from any faculty at WLU, must give their students at least 15 per cent of their grade in first and second-year classes before the final drop date.

“It’s not a significant part of a student’s grade, but it at least gives them a rough idea of where they stand,” said Walker, adding that this would be a good start for WLU.

While most professors still typically do this for first-and second-year students, Walker hopes that this becomes a guarantee for all students.

“There was a lot of faculty members definitely recognized the need to identify students early both from their perspective and from the student’s perspective, so they can gauge whether they need to drop or stay in the class, and find out how they’re doing according to their instructors expectations,” Walker added.

The final decision on this particular policy will have to be approved by all faculties and then eventually brought forth to Senate.

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