Center for Teaching and Learning

Policies and professionalism

On this page you will find relevant resources for dealing with situations that may arise in your classroom, online or in your interactions with students and faculty.  Although the page has been designed for Teaching Assistants (TAs) the information may also be useful for instructors more broadly.

What would you do?

The following are a series of hypothetical scenarios that you may face in your interactions with students, faculty or colleagues.  Each scenario is accompanied by a list of helpful strategies and a video with recommendations from representatives of on-campus units and departments that are here to support you.

Scenario one: Dealing with an unexpected absence

Mid-quarter is quickly approaching and you are busy designing and writing a midterm exam for your students.  Two days prior to the exam, a student who has done relatively well thus far sends you the following email:

Dear TA,

My father has had a heart attack and I have to leave for Florida tonight.  He is having open-heart surgery in the morning.  I know that the midterm is in two days but I won’t be here to take it.  I would ask you to let me take a make-up exam when I come back but I won’t be in class for at least two weeks while my father gets better.  Will missing class for two weeks affect my participation grade?  Can you email me my grade average for the first part of the quarter so that I know what my grade is right now?  What can I do so that my absence won’t affect my final grade? 



Recommendations & resources

Scenario two: Supporting students with disabilities

While you are collecting your things after class a student approaches you and says:

“I have a learning disability and am going to need extra time to take the final exam.”

  • What do you need to know to respond appropriately?
  • What can you say to this student and where can you point them for support?

Recommendations & resources

Scenario three: Student code of conduct (plagiarism and academic misconduct)

While reading an end of quarter essay submitted by a senior in his final quarter, you discover that it has no relationship to a rough draft that was submitted two weeks ago. At that time, you provided the student with considerable feedback for improvement on the essays content, format and argumentation.  You become suspicious and do a brief Google search, using several key phrases.  Your Google search takes you to “ For a $25.00 registration fee, you too can have access to a million original essays.”

  • What do you need to know about UW’s policies on plagiarism?
  • If you are a TA how should you proceed?

Recommendations & resources

Scenario four and five: Violence prevention and student conduct

A student in your section has been very disrespectful and rude to you. The student argues about assignments and turns them in late.  On the most recent assignment you told the student their paper would receive fewer points because it was late.  The student was extremely dissatisfied.  They became red in the face and grew increasingly agitated. You are worried because you will be handing the assignment back tomorrow and you are unsure how the student will respond.

  • What can you do to protect yourself and your class in case the situation escalates?
  • Where can you turn if you suspect there is a threat of violence in your classroom?

Recommendations & resources

A student comes to you during office hours and tells you she recently filed a restraining order against her ex-partner. The student has recently moved residences but is worried that her ex-partner will try to find her.  She is also afraid that her ex-partner may try to find her at school and wants to make alternative class arrangements.

  • How can you accommodate the students request?
  • Where can you turn if you suspect there is a threat of violence in your classroom?

Recommendations & resources

Scenario six: Sexual violence and discrimination

Before class one of your students asks to speak with you privately after class.  In your office the student tells you that following a party a couple weeks ago, she had sex with another student in your department.  The two students had been drinking and your student feels as though she was forced into having sex without consent.  Although she is not currently in a course with the other student, she often sees him around the building which is very difficult. Your student says she “just needed someone to talk to” and does not want you to tell anyone else about the situation or do anything about it.

  • What are your responsibilities in reporting this type of incident?
  • How can you best support the student while maintaining her right to privacy?

Recommendations & resources

Scenario seven: Unwelcome conduct (sexual harassment)

You are grading papers in a conference room when the program coordinator appears in the doorway and asks if you’d like to go out and get something to eat. You have felt uncomfortable with this staff member recently because the person has repeatedly complimented you on your appearance and asks a lot of personal questions including whether you are dating someone. You say you are busy and need to finish grading but the staff member remains and persists. Finally, you collect your things and get up to go. For a moment the staff member blocks the doorway but then says “okay” and you leave the room.

  • Where can you go if you feel uncomfortable with a university’s employee’s behavior towards you?
  • How do you define sexual harassment?

Recommendations & resources

Scenario eight: Student/faculty relationships

Your advisor invites you to work on compelling research project. While flattered, you decline once you learn that you’d have to work on the project in the evenings, off campus, alone with your advisor. Soon after, your advisor withdraws promised funding for conference travel, giving it instead to the student who accepted the project invitation. Is the advisor mad at you? Another student tells you to let it go. You would bring it to the chair, but a trusted faculty member says that the chair and your advisor are long-time colleagues. Should you pursue the matter? What if your advisor is on the TA selection committee and you need a TA-ship?

  • Where can you go if you have an issue with your advisor or a faculty member on your committee?
  • Will your concerns be kept confidential?

Recommendations & resources