Chapter 9: Instruction-Related Policies
Assignments of teaching load and academic advising are the responsibility of the department head or chair and may vary from one term to the next depending on the departmental requirements. Assignments should involve consultation with the faculty member, and in cases involving non-routine assignments—such as those requiring extensive travel—consultation is required. Ultimately, authority rests with the department head or chair to make the final assignment. Although the usual load for those engaged only in teaching is 12 didactic hours, the loads vary widely and are usually adjusted to permit time for other scholarly activities—for outreach which is related to the mission of the university and the faculty member’s disciplinary expertise, and for faculty development related to the quality of instruction. A didactic hour is defined here as one contact hour in a lecture course or 0.60 hour for each contact hour in a course designated as a laboratory course.
Faculty members are expected to be available two weeks prior to the first day of classes and two weeks following commencement. The discretion of the department head or chair is recognized in assigning duties during periods when the university is not in session. Faculty members are expected to inform their department heads or chairs of their whereabouts during such periods.
Instructors with distinctive assignments and work schedules will have these responsibilities conveyed in the terms of faculty offer letter at the time of appointment.
Special, time-limited authority, as delegated with Presidential Policy Memorandum No. 312, may be granted to the university registrar during periods when the university is operating under a state of emergency declared by the president of the University. This authority enables the university registrar to evaluate and implement impartial standards and guidelines related to grading.
Teaching loads during the summer and winter sessions are tightly controlled. Summer and winter teaching appointments are the responsibility of the department head or chair. (See chapter two, “Summer and Winter Appointments.”)
The courses designated as Undergraduate Independent Study and Undergraduate Research are generally unique educational experiences between an instructor and a student. The student, by way of the faculty member, is required to receive prior approval for such studies by the instructor’s department head or chair and by the dean. Undergraduate students are limited to 12 hours of combined Independent Study and Undergraduate Research to be counted toward completion of the degree (unless specifically required by the program check sheet). Courses designated as Graduate Independent Study/Special Study require approval of the instructor’s department head or chair only. The student, by way of the faculty member, is required to receive prior approval for such studies. Approval forms are available in the colleges. Usually, these courses do not count in the teaching load of a faculty member.
The instructor of record for each Independent Study and/or Undergraduate Research course is required to provide a significant amount of supervision to the student via appropriate contact hours as defined by Policy 6901 – Definition of a Credit Hour. A contract between the student and faculty member should be developed and must include reference to specific contact hours with the faculty member as well individualized work. Additional information can be found on the Office of the University Registrar’s website.
Each graduate and professional degree-granting program in the university is responsible for the conduct of the program and designates a faculty member to serve as liaison with the appropriate college dean(s) and the vice president and dean for graduate education. Additional information can be found on the Graduate School website. Further, each graduate degree-granting program formulates and retains a current policy statement that spells out criteria governing its program. Copies are filed with the appropriate college dean(s) and the vice president and dean for graduate education. Policy statements address faculty participation on graduate student advisory committees (thesis and dissertation advisors; advisory committee membership); admissions procedures and requirements; and management of graduate students (orientation/advising; manuals, guides, handbooks; assistantships—selection procedures, obligations; evaluation of satisfactory progress towards the degree).
The Office of the University Registrar coordinates the preparation of the timetable of classes and disseminates this information. The department head or chair or a designated scheduler prepares proposed class schedules in response to a call from the university registrar. The university registrar reconciles the material provided with the approved catalog of university courses, established scheduling patterns and allocations, and requests of other departments. Individual professors address scheduling issues through the department head or chair or the designated scheduler. The timetable of classes is available via Hokie SPA.
The university registrar assigns classrooms. Moving the location of courses is possible only with approval of the department scheduler and the university registrar. Enrollments may not exceed the posted room capacity. Commonwealth of Virginia fire code specifications do not allow students to be seated in the aisles or on the floor.
The registration period for each term occurs during the regular preceding term. New and transfer students register for the fall semester during summer orientation. Students who enter the university for the first time in the spring semester or a summer term register in the usual manner.
The university registrar works with each department to amend course offerings by increasing the capacity of the section within limits for the assigned classroom; creating new sections with times subject to availability of suitable classrooms; and canceling sections for which the demand is too small to justify keeping the section.
Undergraduate classes with fewer than 15 students and graduate classes with fewer than six are reviewed by the department head or chair and the academic dean and canceled unless there are compelling reasons for keeping the class. In the summer and winter terms, the department head or chair and the director of summer and winter sessions review undergraduate classes with an enrollment of fewer than 10 and graduate classes with fewer than eight. Unless there are compelling reasons to offer the course, it is canceled. The registrar’s office requires that departments notify enrolled students of any change or cancelation of a course section. This notification should be as timely as possible in order for students to make alternate plans.
Students register via Hokie SPA during the published pre-registration period. After departments make adjustments based on course requests, completed schedules are available to students via Hokie SPA. Students may adjust their schedules before the end of the preceding term and in the first five days of the term of the registration.
At the beginning of the term, students may add courses through the end of the fifth day of classes and drop courses through the 30th day of classes. During the summer, students may add courses through the end of the third day of classes and drop courses through the end of the fifth for each part of the term. During the winter term, students may add courses through the first day and drop classes through the first day of the term.
Dropping or adding courses becomes necessary if a student has an incomplete schedule, changes curriculum, fails a course in the previous term, or fails to pay fees on time, which removes the student from all classes.
A professor may require a student who processes changes during the drop/add period to show a printed copy of the class schedule from Hokie SPA before being admitted to the class. The names of students who have properly added the course immediately appear on the instructor’s class listing available via Hokie SPA. Faculty should not add (register) students in Canvas (Learning Management System). Students who are properly registered will automatically be added to the learning management system daily during the add period.
Force-add transactions are final solutions for critical scheduling problems in required courses. The force-add request requires approval by the course instructor or designated departmental representative. (Students may check with the department for departmental policy.). If a force-add request is approved, the student must retain the approval form copy to verify enrollment with the instructor. An “add” processed through the force-add process overrides all other courses on a student’s schedule and may create schedule conflicts. Do not process force-adds above the physical capacity of the scheduled room; doing so will not guarantee relocation of the course. Enrollments may not exceed the posted room capacity. Commonwealth of Virginia fire code specifications do not allow students to be seated in the aisles or on the floor.
Up-to-date class rolls are available to instructors via Hokie SPA. To obtain access to the class roll and Google Group capability, a faculty member must be the instructor of record in Banner. The instructor of record is expected to inform students whose names do not appear on the displayed class roll. A student should contact the academic dean for assistance to correct inconsistencies. Graded work should not be returned to these students until their names are officially added to the class roll.
The University Bookstore is responsible for providing textbooks and related teaching supplies to the university community. Each department has a person designated as the departmental bookstore representative. This person serves as the main contact between the bookstore and the instructor. Pursuant to the federal Higher Education Authorization Act, Public Law 110-315 (HEOA 2008), the Code of Virginia §23 1-1308 amended in 2018, and Policy 6400, “Policy on University Textbook Sales”, administrators, faculty, university bookstores, and publishers are “to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials by decreasing costs to students and enhancing transparency and disclosure with respect to the selection, purchase, sale, and use of course materials.” Provisions of the law require publication of textbook requirements prior to registration. Requests to the bookstore for textbooks and other instructional materials are routed through the department’s bookstore representative.
By law, university “guidelines shall ensure that faculty textbook adoptions are made with sufficient lead time to university-managed or contract-managed bookstores so as to confirm availability of the requested materials and, when possible, ensure maximum availability of used textbooks.” To this end, the University Bookstore must be notified of the selection of textbooks and other materials for any fall semester class no later than April 15. The deadline for spring semester is October 15 of the year immediately preceding the spring semester.
Before a textbook may be adopted, the faculty member must confirm whether the faculty member intends to use all items ordered—particularly individual items sold as a part of a bundled package. If the faculty member does not intend to use each item in the bundled package, the faculty member is required to notify the bookstore. The bookstore then orders the individualized items if the publisher makes them available and if their procurement is cost effective for both the institution and the students. In addition, the faculty member affirmatively acknowledges the bookstore’s quoted retail price of textbooks selected for use in each course.
Faculty members are encouraged to limit their use of new edition textbooks when previous editions do not differ in a substantive way as determined by the appropriate faculty member. Publishers are to document the substantive differences in any revised publication of texts.
Before adoption of a particular textbook, the respective department determines that a copy of the textbook is on reserve in the University Libraries during any period that the textbook is to be used. Additional information on the federal textbook requirements and guidelines may be found on the University Registrar’s website.
In accordance Section 23.1–1308 Code of Virginia the University has adopted guidelines for the use of low-cost and no-cost open educational resources in courses offered at the university. Such guidelines may include provisions for low-cost commercially published materials. These guidelines are available on the University Libraries Open Education Resources webpage.
Faculty members should not engage in direct sale of instructional materials to students. The Code of Virginia §23 1-1308 states that, “No employee of a public institution of higher education shall demand or receive any payment, load, subscription, advance, deposit of money, services or anything, present or promised, as an inducement for requiring students to purchase a specific textbook required for course work or instruction. However, such employee may receive (i) sample copies, instructor’s copies, or instructional material, not to be sold; and (ii) royalties or other compensation from sales of textbooks that include such instructor’s own writing or work.” See also Policy 13010, “Individual Conflicts of Interest and Commitment, and Policy 6400, “Policy on University Textbook Sales.”
A faculty member teaching a course may not receive a royalty and/or other fees beyond direct cost of production and sales for any material used as part of class activity, except for material that has received an independent external review, that has been copyrighted, and a portion of the copyright is owned by a publisher other than the author. Faculty accused of abusing the distribution of classroom material for personal financial gain are subject to review by the Committee on Faculty Ethics.
“A” to “F” system (undergraduate students): The majority of course enrollments by undergraduate students at the university are graded on the traditional A-F basis, with a 12-point plus/minus grading scale. The grades “A” through “D-” represent passing grades and “F” is a failing grade. The grade of “A” should be assigned to students who meet the learning objectives outlined for the course at a level of comprehension and performance deemed excellent. The grade of “F” should be used for those students who have not demonstrated acceptable achievement with regard to the learning objectives of the course of study. An instructor may choose not to use the plus/minus system in the assignment of grades.
“A” to “F” system (graduate students): The grading system for graduate students is similar to the A-F system with “D” as the lowest passing grade.
Pass/Fail system (undergraduate students): A pass/fail grading system is available to encourage students to enrich their academic programs and explore more challenging courses outside their major without the pressures and demands of the regular grading system. The pass/fail grading option is available to all undergraduates who have completed a minimum of 30 credit hours at Virginia Tech and have a cumulative Virginia Tech grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or above.
The following restrictions apply:
for students in a four-year program, the total maximum allowable credits for pass/fail shall not exceed 12 semester hours, exclusive of courses offered only pass/fail
for students in a five-year program, the total maximum allowable credits for pass/fail shall not exceed 12 semester hours, exclusive of courses offered only pass/fail, or 10 percent of the required hours for graduation completed at Virginia Tech—whichever is greater
a student may not enroll for more than two courses per semester on a pass/fail basis—excluding physical education activity courses and required courses offered on a P/F basis only
courses may not be changed from A-F to the P/F basis beyond the last day to drop classes without penalty
courses may not be changed from P/F to A-F beyond the last day to resign without penalty.
For courses offered only on a pass/fail basis, the 30-hour and 2.0 GPA requirement does not apply. Any courses taken beyond the number of hours required for graduation also may be taken pass/fail, except that no more than two courses may be taken on the P/F option per semester.
Under the pass/fail grading system for undergraduate students, a “P” is granted for earning a “D” or better in the course; otherwise an “F” is given. The “P” or “F” is recorded on the student’s transcript and credit given if the course is passed; if the course is failed, the “F” is considered as equivalent to an “F” received under the A-F grading system and is included in calculation of the GPA. The GPA is unaffected by a “P.” Once credit is received for a course taken on pass/fail, the course cannot be repeated under the A-F grading system.
Pass/Fail system (graduate and veterinary medicine students): A limited pass/fail grading system is available to encourage graduate students to explore courses outside their major. Subject to approval of the major professor, graduate students may take an unlimited number of hours of graduate course work (5000-and 6000-level) on a pass/fail basis, if outside the department and not on the plan of study. These courses may not be used to satisfy minimum degree requirements. All courses on the plan of study, including supporting courses, must be taken on a letter grade (A-F) basis except for those courses offered on a pass/fail basis only.
Under the pass/fail grading system for graduate students, a “P” is granted for earning a “C-” or better in the course; otherwise an “F” is given. The GPA is unaffected by a “P.” Grades of “F” are counted in the calculation of the GPA.
Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory system (school of medicine students): All Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine courses have a grade mode of “S” for Satisfactory or “U” for Unsatisfactory.
Audit grade (undergraduate students): A student may choose to audit a course, without the necessary prerequisites, to enhance one’s educational experience. Permission of the course instructor is required, in accordance with Policy 6360, “Auditing Courses,” and Policy Memorandum 250, “Assignment of an Audit Grade for Undergraduate Courses.” An audit is a mechanism for a student to reserve a seat in a course, with no performance evaluation required. If the student or the instructor expects evaluation of course work, then the student must enroll either for the P/F option or for a letter grade. If the instructor of record wishes to restrict the participation of auditing students in selected activities, then that is stated in the syllabus. Students are assessed the same rate of tuition and fees for audited courses as for courses taken for credit. Audited courses do not count toward full-time enrollment.
Unsatisfactory audit should be left blank in grade column. In the case of graduate students, an e-mail should be forwarded to the graduate school requesting deletion of the course from the student's record.
The “I” grade (Incomplete): The “I” grade signifies incomplete work, but does not affect a student’s GPA. It is assigned at the discretion of the instructor only. The “I” may be used when a student is unable to take the final examination during examination week, but the instructor may wish to confirm the legitimacy of the request with the Schiffert Health Center or the student’s academic dean. Except for certain laboratory courses, “I” grades must be removed by the end of the student’s first subsequent semester of enrollment or one calendar year from the date of the original “I” grade. An official change-of-grade must be made in Hokie SPA by the instructor to remove an “I” grade and submitted to the department of the course. Incompletes not removed during the designated time are changed to “F” and calculated in the student’s GPA.
The "NG" grade (No Grade): The "NG" grade is given when a student's name appears on the class roll, but the student has never attended class or submitted work for grading.
The “X” grade (Continuing Course): The “X” mark shows that pursuit of the project begun in the course will be continued. The “X” does not compute in the student’s GPA. The “X” may be assigned only for courses pre-established as eligible for this treatment. Changes from the “X” to the final grade must be submitted on change-of-grade cards; the regular grade marked on a grade sheet for an “X”-eligible course will process to that term’s enrollment only.
The “EQ” grade: The “EQ” grade is reserved for graduate students enrolled in research and thesis (5994), or research and dissertation (7994). The awarding of this grade shows that the enrollment has been reviewed and the credits are to be sent to the grade report system. Failure to assign an “EQ” grade will result in the computation of the credits as failing.
The “NR” grade (Not Reported): The “NR” (not reported) grade is automatically entered when an instructor fails to award a grade to a student. The “NR” grade computes as an “F.”
The “W” grade (Course Withdrawn): The “W” (withdrawn) grade is given to an undergraduate or graduate student who has applied the course withdrawal policy to a course. The “W” grade is automatically awarded based on the course option of “W.” A regular grade cannot be awarded if a student has applied the withdrawal policy or “W” option to the course.
Mid-term grade reports: Mid-term grade reports are issued for first-term undergraduates and first semester transfer students for the purpose of informing them about their progress early in their first academic year. Courses that are oriented toward freshmen should be designed to include at least one substantial graded assignment in time for the mid-term grade report.
Projected grades for the graduating students, spring term: Projected grades for graduating students—all levels—must be submitted by the published tentative grade entry deadline in the spring semester. All students are completed for spring term based on the projected (tentative) grades received. Failure to submit tentative grades results in the student’s non-completion and non-receipt of diploma at the college or department ceremony. Entry of tentative grades follows the same process as the end of term entry via Hokie Spa.
The instructor of record has sole responsibility for assigning final course grades and may not delegate the task to other colleagues or teaching assistants. Department heads or chairs may ask instructors in their department to explain unusual profiles of grades or schemes of evaluation.
Faculty are expected to adhere to principles of professionalism, fairness, and clear communication when assigning grades. This includes consistent treatment of all students in the class; clear criteria—communicated directly to the class—about the basis on which course work is evaluated and grades are assigned; timely return of graded work to the student; sufficient feedback through the grading process for the student to improve performance on future assignments; and attention to fair and reasonable measures of course content and student performance.
During the term (i.e., before final grades are assigned), the grading process is not only a record of evaluation for work completed, it is also an important device for providing information to the student about potential work improvements in the future. Grading is a teaching tool that provides specific feedback to students. Faculty should keep this in mind when designing assignments and course work.
Students have the right to see their grades for a course and to lodge a grade appeal if they believe a grade was assigned unfairly. (See chapter nine, “Undergraduate Student Appeals” and “Graduate Student Appeals.”)
The U.S. Department of Education stipulates that posting of grades using even a portion of the student identification number, is considered a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA protects the confidentiality of educational records and prohibits distribution of that record unless with the student’s written consent. Faculty may not post any grades as a class listing using any portion of the student identification number, either via paper or electronically (This policy applies whether the student identification is the Social Security number or a generated identification number).
Each semester on the first day of classes, faculty are expected to provide students with a course syllabus that includes course objectives, topical outlines, expected performance for which grades will be assigned, and the instructor’s attendance policy, if any. The syllabus should also include a statement on the honor system and its application to the course, reference to accommodations for students with disabilities, and information regarding office hours and how the instructor can be reached directly or through the departmental office during normal working hours. Further information regarding the undergraduate honor system and the graduate honor system is located later in this chapter. Further information regarding accommodations for students with disabilities is available on the Services for Students with Disabilities website.
An explicit statement concerning prerequisites for the course must be included on the course syllabus or assignment sheet. The instructor should call attention to the prerequisites during the first week of classes. Before the official drop-add deadline, the instructor may require specific students without prerequisites to drop the course. The student who is granted permission to enroll without prerequisites should be informed that course expectations and grading practices are the same for all students regardless of whether prerequisites were satisfied or waived.
The syllabus is a very important document because it provides explicit information to the student about course content, schedule, grading scale, and expectations of the instructor. The instructor should design the syllabus as a useful means for setting the tone of the course. Substantial changes in the syllabus constitute modifications in the structure or content of the course, which should be communicated clearly and in writing to students in a revised syllabus. These might include changes in the grading scale, significant departures from the schedule, or modifications of assignments.
All written work, with the exceptions noted below, should be given at such time that it may be graded and then returned during a regularly scheduled class meeting. To the extent feasible, instructors should not schedule major assignments or tests for the last three calendar days of scheduled classes or reading day. Students should be allowed time to prepare for their final exams and benefit from feedback on material relevant to exams.
Common exceptions include: due dates for term papers and project reports may be set at the instructor’s discretion, if the student will not be held responsible for the subject matter therein on the final examination; if a lab course or other course does not warrant a final examination during the exam period, but if the department and/or instructor requires that there be a final examination, the exam should be given during the last regularly scheduled laboratory or class period; final examinations for master’s and doctoral candidates, if approved by the vice president and dean for graduate education.
Class meetings are an integral part of most courses and the central component of many. Therefore, both faculty and students are expected to meet at all regularly scheduled times, except for cancellations announced on a university-wide basis by appropriate authority.
If a faculty member cannot meet a class, departmental procedures should be followed so that appropriate measures are taken to provide for the missed class.
If a student cannot attend a class, they may notify their instructor(s) directly or contact the Office of the Dean of Students, whose staff can provide advocacy through its absence verification process. The Office of the Dean of Students considers absence verification for any of the following reasons: illness or death of a family member or friend; off-campus medical appointments or hospital admission; court subpoenas; military orders; and observances of religious, cultural, ethnic, meaning-making, or faith-based beliefs. Staff members send an absence verification notice to the college dean, who then forwards the verification to the instructor(s). If upon a good faith evaluation an instructor believes that accommodating an absence negatively affects the course of study, students can contact the Office of the Dean of Students for continued advocacy and guidance. Students are responsible for making arrangements with the instructor as soon as possible to complete any work missed due to absence. If this work differs from the original exam or assignment, it must be appropriately related to course objectives and no more difficult than the original.
Faculty determine their attendance policy, including whether they will accommodate absences and how they will do so. However, in accordance with the Virginia Tech Principles of Community, faculty are encouraged to accommodate students when the observance of religious, cultural, ethnic, meaning-making, or faith-based beliefs conflict with academic requirements. Students who choose to request an excused absence directly from their instructor(s) due to a religious observance should do so during the first two weeks of classes or as soon as they become aware of the need for an accommodation.
Policy 5600, “Authorized Closings,” defines the process followed with the university is affected by inclement weather, natural disasters, emergencies and other conditions that may cause operations to be suspended or curtailed. University employees should consult Policy 4305, “Policy on Compensation. During Authorized Closings,” for specific expectations in the event of a closure and information about supervisor/employee responsibilities, leave usage, and compensation.
Instructors must adopt an appropriate means for evaluating and measuring student performance relative to the course objectives. A final examination schedule is displayed on Hokie SPA in the timetable of classes and the student registration module for each academic term and final exams, if used, must follow this schedule unless the dean of the college has granted special permission. The method of evaluation must be made known to students in the course syllabus at the beginning of the term. (See chapter nine, “Syllabus and Performance Expectation.”) Faculty members will make available to students any final graded material at least through the following academic term. Faculty members are required by the Virginia Public Records Act, 42.1-82, et seq. of the Code of Virginia to retain all work completed by students for grades in a course (includes, but is not limited to: exams, quizzes, tests, and term papers) for one full year after the end of the semester.
A student with conflicting examinations or with three or more examinations within 23 hours may reschedule an examination with permission of the student’s college dean at least 10 days before the beginning of the examination period and by arrangement with the appropriate instructor.
A re-examination in one course, in which the final grade is C-or below, may be authorized when the student was enrolled in the course during the senior year final term and a satisfactory re-examination in the course would qualify the student for graduation. A re-examination request must be made and the exam must be completed by the student as soon as possible, but no later than one academic term after the original examination in the course. Re-examination approval by the instructor, the student’s department head or chair, and the student’s college dean is required, with consideration given to class performance and completion of assigned work.
The university provides a process for student appeal of a grade. If a student feels that a grade was calculated incorrectly or was assigned in a prejudiced or capricious manner, the student must first discuss the matter with the instructor. If discussion between the instructor and the student does not resolve the issue, the student then has the option of requesting a formal appeal of the grade to the department head or chair who examines the student’s allegation, discusses the matter with the instructor, and makes every effort to resolve the matter at the department level. In the unusual circumstance that resolution does not occur at the departmental or divisional level, the student may appeal to the instructor’s college dean. The dean reconciles the matter by whatever mechanism is most appropriate for that college and that case. The decision of the college dean is final in undergraduate appeals.
A grade appeal must be made by the student as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the next academic term of the regular academic year (i.e., fall or spring).
Graduate education is a complex activity involving a high order of student-faculty interaction and collegial relationships.
It follows that the evaluation of the graduate student’s progress is, and must be, dependent in large part on the judgment of the graduate student’s major professor, augmented by the collective judgment of the members of their assigned committees. The university, through the agency of the graduate school, defines minimal entrance standards and prescribes general rules governing eligibility for continuation. But the crucial agency in student evaluation is the department in which the student’s work is centered, and the crucial evaluator is the faculty advisor.
It is important, therefore, that each graduate student be fully informed, not only of the university’s expectations, but of the department’s expectations as well. Each department shall prepare, in outline form, a statement for each of its graduate degrees. The statement should cover course requirements, the nature and timing of oral and written examinations, and the evaluation that is given to the thesis. A copy of each departmental statement should be on file in the graduate school and made available to each student at the time of matriculation.
Most disputes over evidence of unsatisfactory progress are informally discussed and reconciled at the departmental level. Discussions of this kind occur among the student, the major professor, and the other members of the advisory committee. Nonetheless, from time to time serious questions arise regarding both the status of a graduate student (whether in a given course or as a candidate for the degree) and the basis of the evaluation that placed the student’s status in jeopardy. On these occasions it is important that the university provides full opportunity for the student’s grievance to be reviewed in a judicious manner.
The procedures for a formal graduate student appeal are described in the Graduate Catalog or may be obtained from the graduate school.
Virginia Tech seeks to create a productive learning environment for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. The Statement of Principles of Ethical Behavior calls for faculty to “foster honest academic conduct and to assure that our evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit.” Thus, when an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student believes they have suffered negative consequences due to an unfair or capricious decision related to academic policy, the student should be empowered to raise concerns and to seek appropriate resolution.
A student who believes an academic decision violates university academic policies and procedures may file a complaint with the appropriate department or unit head. Academic decisions do not include decisions regarding admission to the university, scholarship or financial aid awards, undergraduate honor system, graduate, veterinary medicine or school of medicine honor codes, or any grading decision or allegations of professional misconduct unrelated to a student’s academic standing or performance.
The student academic complaint process is found in Policy 6125, “Administrative Policy Governing Student Academic Complaints.”
A change in grade is authorized only under unusual circumstances. Faculty submit a change of grade via Hokie SPA. The change of grade process requires the instructor’s signature and the electronic approval of the department head or chair and dean for all grade changes—including removal of “I” grades. Grade change requests should carry a statement regarding the circumstances necessitating the change, which includes a description of the circumstances for an original award of an “I” grade. It is improper to permit a student to improve a grade by doing extra work unless all students in the class are given the same opportunity.
Final grades are reported via Hokie SPA. Two methods of entry are available—direct entry or upload from an external data file. Grades must be submitted within 48 hours of the last final examination on the published schedule. Student grade reports are generated from these submissions and displayed via Hokie SPA.
Faculty may not post grades, either via paper or electronically, using even a portion of the student identification number. Pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), using a portion of the student identification number in conjunction with the course grade is not allowed without the written permission of the student. Faculty may wish to remind students that grades are available via Hokie Spa within 48 hours of the end of the term.
As a part of their teaching responsibilities, faculty members are expected to provide several regularly scheduled office hours each week for consultation with students. These hours should be reasonably spaced over the week at times mutually convenient to the instructor and students. Although a specific number of office hours is not stated in university policy, faculty members should ensure that they are readily available, both through office hours and by message at other times during the normal workweek. Information about office hours and how to contact the faculty member through the department office should be included on the course syllabus.
The instructor should encourage students in need of counsel to seek clarification about their work. Those in need of non-academic or personal counseling outside the purview of the faculty members’ professional capabilities may be referred to the Cook Counseling Center.
Faculty members and graduate teaching assistants do not accept fees for tutoring students enrolled in their classes, either on a group or single-student basis. They are free to tutor for payment otherwise under university consulting policies.
The university, as a federal aid recipient and state agency, is required to provide opportunities and reasonable accommodation to all identified students with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Virginians with Disabilities Act, and Policy 4075, “University Accommodations of Persons with Disabilities,” provide guidelines and requirements for colleges and universities in providing academic assistance. Accommodation means more than the removal of architectural barriers and the provision of auxiliary services such as note takers, readers, and interpreters for the deaf. It means reasonable accommodation must be made in the instructional process to ensure full educational opportunity. For faculty, this means that teaching strategies and methods, including web page design and distance learning, as well as instructional policies, must be sensitive to the laws and the needs of students with disabilities and responsive to the university’s legal obligations.
Students with disabilities may self-identify and may qualify for accommodations through Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). Students must present medical or extensive psychoeducational documentation of physical, medical, psychological, or learning disabilities to SSD. Accommodations for students with disabilities are established by the SSD, in accordance with medical and professional information in the student’s record, legal precedent, and national standards for services for students with disabilities. Faculty are urged to include a syllabus statement that encourages the student with a disability to disclose their need for accommodation to the professor as early in the semester as possible. Examples of inclusive disability syllabi statements are found on the SSD website. Contact SSD for more information regarding accommodation and services.
The Virginia Tech honor code pledge for assignments is as follows: “On my honor as a Virginia Tech student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this assignment.”
The pledge is to be written out on all graded assignments at the university and signed by undergraduate graduate, and professional students. The honor pledge represents both an expression of the student’s support of the honor code and an unambiguous acknowledgment that the student has, on the assignment in question, abided by the obligation that the honor code entails. In the absence of a written honor pledge, the honor code still applies to an assignment.
The undergraduate honor code defines the expected standards of conduct in undergraduate academic affairs. The honor code cultivates a culture of academic honesty and integrity on campus. It embodies a spirit of mutual trust and intellectual honesty that is central to the very nature of the university and represents the highest possible expression of shared values among the members of the university community. Policy 6000, “Undergraduate Honor Code”, provides the framework for honor code maintenance, revisions, and procedures for resolution for alleged academic misconduct cases.
The fundamental beliefs and ideals underlying the honor code are: trust in a person is a positive force in making that person worthy of trust; every student has the right to an academic environment free from the injustices caused by any form of intellectual dishonesty; and the honesty and integrity of all members of the university community contribute to its academic and intellectual vitality.
Details of the undergraduate honor code are available on the undergraduate honor system website.
The support of faculty is essential to cultivating a culture of academic integrity. Faculty members are encouraged to support the undergraduate honor system and are expected to abide by the procedures designed for the effective implementation of the undergraduate honor code.
Faculty are expected to adhere to policy pertaining to the reporting and adjudication of violations of the honor code. Initiating formal procedures when academic misconduct is suspected is a necessary and obligatory component of a faculty member’s duties. Any suspected violations of the honor code should be reported promptly, in writing, to the director of the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity. Forms of this purpose are available from all department offices, the undergraduate honor system office, and the undergraduate honor system website. A faculty member involved in a case is also expected to cooperate with undergraduate honor system personnel, attend hearing panels, faculty-student resolution meetings, and to maintain confidentiality.
In addition, the undergraduate honor system offers the following guidelines to faculty:
Faculty are encouraged to describe the prohibited behavior and the consequences of such activity to students, as well as to openly discuss academic integrity with students in their courses early and throughout the semester.
When an alleged violation is detected, the suspected student(s)’ paper should not be collected until the test is completed. However, any evidence that would be necessary in an investigation should be collected immediately. The test should be graded without prejudice and the alleged violation should be reported to the undergraduate honor system. Please provide the original assignment in question in the submission of evidence. Grades should not be adjusted in a course to compensate for suspected dishonesty.
If a professor suspects that a student or students are cheating, it is permissible to speak with the suspected student(s)—after the test or other work has been completed—and indicate these suspicions. However, it is not permissible to penalize or berate the student(s) or to take any other action that might affect the student(s).
Faculty members are not required to proctor quizzes, tests, and examinations. Faculty are expected to personally administer the examination and to remain within reasonable proximity of the examination room to answer questions that may be raised by the students. However, it is not a compromise of the undergraduate honor system to stay in the room or visit frequently, when a test is being given. In fact, precautionary measures in the spirit of reducing the opportunity for academic misconduct are advisable, especially in large classes. Seats should be spaced in examination rooms whenever possible. Alternate test forms may be used. In rare cases, such extreme measures as requiring ID when a test is handed in may be necessary to prevent organized “paid substitutes” from taking tests for other students.
Faculty are encouraged to speak with the director of the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity to obtain information designed to prevent academic misconduct.
The faculty, along with the students and other university personnel, share the responsibility of cultivating a culture of academic integrity and honesty through upholding the undergraduate honor code.
All undergraduate course syllabi shall contain a section that states and refers students to the honor code procedures available on the undergraduate honor system website. The minimum required statement is, “As a Hokie I will conduct myself with honor and integrity at all times. I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I accept the actions of those who do.” Additional information about the expectation of academic integrity in a particular course may be appropriate.
Each student who enrolls at Virginia Tech is responsible for abiding by the honor code. A student who has doubt about how the honor code applies to any graded assignment is responsible for obtaining specific guidance from the instructor before submitting the assignment for evaluation. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the university community from the requirements and expectations of the honor code. For additional information, please see the undergraduate honor system website.
Commission of any of the following acts shall constitute a violation of the undergraduate honor code. The list is not, however, exclusive of other acts that may reasonably be said to constitute academic misconduct.
Cheating includes intentionally using unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids, or other devices or materials in any academic exercise, or attempts thereof.
Plagiarism includes the copying of the language, structure, programming, computer code, ideas, and/or thoughts of another and passing off the same as one’s own original work, or attempts thereof.
Falsification includes the statement of any untruth, either verbally or in writing, with respect to any circumstances relevant to one’s academic work, or attempts thereof.
Fabrication includes making up data and results, and recording or reporting them, or submitting fabricated documents, or attempts thereof.
Multiple submission includes the submission for credit—without authorization of the instructor receiving the work—of substantial portions of the same work (including oral reports) previously submitted for credit at any academic institution, or attempts thereof.
Complicity includes intentionally helping another to engage in an act of academic misconduct, or attempts thereof. Violation of university, college, departmental, or faculty rules includes the violation of any course, departmental, college, or university rule relating to academic matters that may lead to an unfair academic advantage by the student violating the rule(s).
Instances of academic misconduct represent behavior of an especially serious nature. Sanctions assigned for academic misconduct are responses to student behavior that will often have an impact on a student’s course grade. Sanctions assigned in instances of academic misconduct should convey the message that the behavior serves as a destructive force within the academic community. However, a wide range of sanctions can be employed in order to strike an appropriate balance between sending a message of accountability and enhancing a student’s moral and cognitive development.
The undergraduate honor system is empowered with assigning and implementing sanctions for academic misconduct. A faculty member may recommend sanctions for academic misconduct to the undergraduate honor system. Most cases of academic misconduct should result in an F* as the student’s final course grade. An F* sanction indicates that a student failed the course due to an honor code violation. However, a faculty member may recommend more severe or less severe penalties to the undergraduate honor system if the circumstances warrant. Examples of other sanctions that may be assigned include: lowered final course grade, reduction of points on an individual assignment, zero on the assignment, and completion of the academic integrity education program. With the approval of an honor system hearing panel, the sanctions of suspension and expulsion may also be assigned. Faculty are strongly encouraged to consult the undergraduate honor system prior to making recommendations on the appropriate sanction.
Grades may not be adjusted in a course to compensate for suspected academic misconduct. When an alleged violation of the undergraduate code occurs, the incident should be reported to the honor system by submission of a violation report form. Sanctions for academic misconduct will be assigned through the Undergraduate Honor System.
Detailed information concerning the graduate honor system applicable to all graduate students is found in the graduate honor system constitution, published in the Graduate Catalog. The graduate honor system constitution describes the rights and responsibilities of students as well as faculty with regard to the honor code.
The honor system for students in the College of Veterinary Medicine is described in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine student honor code.
The honor code for students in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) is described in the VTCSOM Student Handbook.
Maintaining a good learning environment in the classroom is an important part of a faculty member’s responsibility as a teacher. The teacher should endeavor to create a classroom atmosphere that is comfortable and welcoming of all students, including women and members of minority groups. Disruptive classroom conduct on the part of some students may be distracting, annoying, or intimidating to other students and should not be tolerated by the teacher.
As much as possible, the teacher should endeavor to create a classroom environment in which there is an active participation on the part of most of the students, rather than the domination of the class by a few individual students. This may require different teaching strategies such as the use of small groups or teams, as well as different approaches to the structure of classroom presentations. Assistance for faculty who are trying to improve the learning environment of the classroom is available through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
Faculty have the prerogative of deciding the classroom conduct and the appropriate dress of their students as long as these actions do not infringe upon the students’ rights as guaranteed in principles underlying the section in the Student Code of Conduct. It is the faculty member’s obligation to ensure that the classes following find a clean and orderly space.
Good teaching evaluation processes are essential for maintaining the quality of academic programs, for reviewing the job performance of faculty members with respect to the instructional mission of the university, and for designing effective faculty development initiatives. All of the colleges have processes of teaching evaluation, which are used in promotion and tenure decisions and in annual performance evaluations.
The university expectation is that all faculty members will be evaluated in all courses taught each year. More information about this matter is available from departmental offices and from the academic deans. Student evaluation of courses and instructors is an integral component of a good teaching program. While specific procedures vary across the colleges, in general, committees in each college are responsible for designing appropriate evaluation procedures and for receiving such evaluations. Faculty members should ensure that their college’s procedures for conducting student teaching evaluations are followed in a way that is absolutely free of intimidation or influence by the teacher’s presence.
Student Perceptions of Teaching (SPOT) system was developed to provide a centrally supported, university-wide method for collecting student feedback regarding courses and instruction. The SPOT questionnaire is designed for use across all university departments; as such, it focuses on issues with broad pedagogical significance. It is not intended to stand-alone in providing evidence regarding teaching effectiveness. Rather, it provides one form of information regarding the quality of courses and instruction that may be integrated and interpreted with other forms—such as instructor-developed course-specific questionnaires, peer observation of teaching, and instructor self-assessment—for purposes of instructional development and/or evaluation.
Good teaching evaluation includes more than the student perception of instruction. The university expectation is that in-depth peer evaluation of teaching will be conducted periodically for all faculty members and at least twice during the probationary period for tenure-track faculty.
Colleges, departments, and individuals wishing assistance in devising evaluation forms may consult the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, where a variety of such forms are available. Faculty members may find such evaluations helpful in revealing information that leads to improvement of classroom presentation, evaluation of students, and student response to their classes.
In response to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a statement of policy on the maintenance and disclosure of student records was adopted by the university. This policy protects the privacy of student records; the specific policy document is available from the university registrar’s website.
Names of current and former students, that are not marked suppressed or confidential, may be selected and released to non-university entities only on the basis of class level (e.g., freshman, senior), major, or place of residence.
Pursuant to the Code of Virginia § 23.1-405, student and former student addresses (both physical and VT email) and phone numbers should not be released to non-university entities regardless if they are marked suppressed or confidential or not.
The protection of academic records, which exist in enrollment management and in the college and departmental files, is covered by this policy. This includes the student’s right to review these records.
Responses to telephone inquiries are limited to the following information: whether the student is currently enrolled; dates of enrollment; degree(s) earned if any, date, major, and honors received; address and telephone number. Official certification of these items can only be provided by the Office of the University Registrar. Special note: no information, including directory information, may be released if a student has marked all or part of their record suppressed or confidential.
Grade reports may not be released to parents, guardians, or any other person without prior written approval from the student. Students may not have access to financial aid information about their parents or guardians without written approval from the parent or guardian.
The university may withhold transcripts, certificates, registration materials, or any other information about a student’s record if financial obligations are unmet. The university also reserves the privilege of withholding materials if violations of university regulations have not been cleared.
Undergraduate advising at Virginia Tech is a collaborative process between student and advisor, leading to the exchange of information that encourages the individual student to make responsible academic and career decisions. The university is committed to effective advising by recognizing and supporting the needs of both students and advisors. Each undergraduate student is provided information and assistance to aid the student in making academic and career decisions. Each advisor is provided the necessary tools to respond to student needs and the opportunity to be recognized for exemplary advising.
Statement of university responsibility: The university shares responsibility for successful advising. Senior leaders will: review the advising process to assess the impact of recommendations implemented; provide information for students, advisors, parents, and other constituents that clearly explain responsibilities and expectations related to advising; make information available about advising for all new faculty and appropriate staff; collect and disseminate information that contributes to effective advising; assist students in clarification of academic and long term goals; support initiatives that enhance the use of technology in advising; support Web-based interactive advising support systems for students, advisors, parents, and other constituents; and support a Virginia Tech plan that effectively assesses, recognizes, and rewards advising in the annual professional evaluation.
Statement of student responsibility: The student shares responsibility for developing an advising partnership with the advisor. Over time, this partnership results in increased responsibility for the student. The student will: communicate goals, needs, wants, and concerns to the advisor in a respectful and sincere manner; keep abreast of their own academic progress and requirements related to their academic programs; make, keep, and be prepared for appointments with the advisor; inform the advisor of changes in plans and/or circumstances that might impact academic performance; know departmental procedures regarding changing advisors; and bring concerns regarding quality of advising to the attention of the advisor.
Statement of advisor responsibility: The advisor shares responsibility for developing an advising partnership with undergraduate students. The advisor will: communicate with students and delivering individualized and accurate information in a professional and sincere manner; be informed of, and provide accurate information about current academic policies and procedures; keep appointments and be available for assistance; provide appropriate referrals, contacts, and information; do appropriate follow-up with students; and seek out and take advantage of opportunities for professional development.
The college years can be very stressful for students. In the contemporary climate of competition and pressure, some students adequately cope with these stresses, but others find that stress becomes unmanageable and interferes with learning. In some cases, these students may even disrupt the learning of others.
Identifying the distressed student: Many students initially seek assistance from faculty. A student in distress may display: excessive procrastination and very poorly prepared work, especially if inconsistent with previous work; infrequent class attendance with little or no work completed; dependency (e.g., the student who hangs around or makes excessive appointments during office hours); listlessness, lack of energy, or frequently falling asleep in class; marked changes in personal hygiene; impaired speech and disjointed thoughts; repeated requests for special consideration; threats to others; expressed suicidal thoughts; excessive weight gain or loss; behavior that regularly interferes with effective class management; frequent or high levels of irritable, unruly, abrasive, or aggressive behavior; inability to make decisions despite repeated efforts to clarify or encourage; bizarre behavior that is obviously inappropriate for the situation; or may appear overly nervous, tense, or tearful.
Guidelines for interacting with the distressed student: Talk to the student in private. Express concern and be as specific as possible in stating your observations and reasons for concern. Listen carefully and repeat the essence of what the student has told you so that your attempts to understand are communicated. Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental. Consider the Cook Counseling Center as a resource and discuss referral with the student. If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, contact the Cook Counseling Center or the Office of the Dean of Students to discuss your concern.
Referring the distressed student to Cook Counseling Center: Suggest that the distressed student call or come in to make an appointment. Give him or her the Cook Counseling Center’s phone number (540-231-6557) and location (240 McComas Hall). It is usually more effective to assist the student by calling for an appointment with the student present. When you reach the center’s receptionist, identify yourself as a faculty member and ask for an appointment for the student. The student’s name and Tech ID number are required for the appointment. Write down the appointment time, date, and name of the counselor for the student. If you feel the situation is an emergency or urgent enough to require immediate attention, tell the receptionist that the student needs to see a counselor immediately. It may be necessary for you to walk the student to the center. If you are concerned about the student, but unsure about the appropriateness of a referral, call the center for a consultation.
Receiving the assistance of the Office of the Dean of Students: The dean of students offers several guides and videos that may be helpful in identifying and interacting with the distressed student.
Responding to Students in Distress, which is available online or a print copy may be requested by calling the Office of the Dean of Students at 540-231-3787 or by sending an email request to email@example.com.
Assisting Students: A Faculty and Staff Resource Guide may be obtained by calling the Office of the Dean of Students at 540-231-3787, or by sending an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org. The listing is available in two formats—a re-positional sticker, or a 4x6-inch card that includes contact information for student affairs departments able to assist with distressed students.
The Office of Dean of Students partners with faculty and staff members to support students for whom there may be concern. Concerns may be shared by phone at 540-231-3787, email email@example.com, or face-to-face contact with staff in the Dean of Students Office. After regular business hours, contact Virginia Tech Police at 540-231-6411 for connection to the dean of students’ on-call staff member.
The Office of Dean of Students also offers an additional tool for faculty members to use in sharing concerns about a student. This online reporting system should not be used for emergencies. The Dean of Students Reporting System is available through the Hokie SPA menu. This system closely parallels the academic advising system already used by faculty. As always, matters needing immediate attention should be directed to the Virginia Tech Police at 540-231-6411.