Faculty Senate Mandates Online Syllabi, Graded Feedback Before Late Drop

Yesterday was a big day for students as well as UPUA assemblies of the past and present. The Faculty Senate passed two policy revisions that deal with students being more informed about both their classes and their standing in them. This continues a lineage of UPUA advocating for big wins for students on the Faculty Senate front, with things like being able to use a job interview as university-approved absence and the removal of late-drop credit limit coming first from UPUA assembly meetings and initiatives.

Thanks to three years of hard work from your undergraduate student government, professors will now be required to provide a syllabus online throughout the entirety of the semester and offer feedback on your performance in a class before the late drop deadline so you know whether or not dropping a class is necessary.

The first revision was to Senate Policy 43-00, Syllabus. The revision mandates that all professors provide a course syllabus online for the duration of the course. While the majority of professors already do this, some refuse for one reason or another — during yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting one senator said he does not provide a syllabus online because he thinks it “instills responsibility” in students to have to keep track of things on their own. Despite this friction, the revision passed.

The second revision was to Senate Policy 47-20, Basis for Grades, which was a much tougher amendment to make than the first according to former UPUA Speaker Emily Miller, who’s worked arduously with Faculty Senate during her time at Penn State.

“Over my four years in UPUA I have constantly heard people talk about not receiving any graded feedback on their assignments. The late drop deadline comes along,and they are making a decision to stay in or drop a class based on nothing,” Miller said.

The university maintains that students should only late drop a class as a last resort, but some students report their professors don’t give them any kind of feedback or indication of what their grade is by the late-drop deadline. Though this revision to the policy can’t mandate that teachers put grades on ANGEL or whatever course-management system Penn State is using (it’s ridiculous that Faculty Senate doesn’t force teachers to do that, but that’s a story for another day), it makes it so professors must offer feedback or an evaluation of some sort before the late drop deadline so a student knows where they stand in the class and is able to calculate their grade.

While you might be thinking a majority or all of your own professors already do these things, part of UPUA’s advocacy in getting them approved and mandated by the senate is that it allows students to assure they are treated fairly and equally by all professors. Additionally, it gives students a tool to be able to go to their professors and have legislated support from Faculty Senate.

Miller said too that, while it may seem like the senate is eager or receptive to pushing through such changes — many faculty members consider it “common sense” to provide the syllabus online or provide feedback to students on their performance — the senate, contrarily, still fought UPUA for years of trying to get the policy amended. It wanted to keep the wording of the revision broad as to allow for flexibility in the future, but despite all of this, the revision passed by a decent margin.

Though UPUA isn’t done fighting for students in Faculty Senate (and elsewhere), Miller is proud of the progress and hopes it will inspire further conversation.

“I am really excited about these revisions because they help students, but I think it also shows how far UPUA has come with Faculty Senate in a few years,” she said. “We have gotten multiple revisions through and now these two today. It took three years, but I am really happy with how our relationship with the senate has grown.”

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Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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