Student petition seeks earlier course syllabuses

Students read the document for the proposed petition, which has gotten over 50 thumbs up on SoapBox. (Arti Panday/Ryersonian staff)

Students read the document for the proposed petition, which has gotten over 50 thumbs up on SoapBox. (Arti Panday/Ryersonian staff)

Two Ryerson students are petitioning to the senate to impose earlier deadlines for professors to post course outlines. First year students, Stephanie Cheung and Kristy Milland, say the intent of the petition is to enforce stricter policies to ensure course outlines are posted at least one week before the semester begins.

Both students say they need adequate time to know what is expected of them throughout the semester, prepare for readings and purchase textbooks through the most economical means.

The students used SoapBox, a Ryerson forum, to share the proposed petition and get the word out to the community.

The current policy states that students will be provided with a course outline “by or at the first meeting of every course.”

Milland, a psychology student, says the issue at hand is that some professors expect students to have readings complete before class, but it is impossible to do so without the course material.

“As a freshman who was taking initiative to be proactive with staying on top of course updates and readings, it made me anxious being unable to see what was asked of me until the night before,” says Cheung, a criminal justice student.

Rochelle Lawrence, the Ryerson Student Union vice-president of education, says she can understand why the students want to move forward with this petition. Lawrence says tuition fees continue to rise and students have to manage their time while taking on more employment responsibilities.

The proposed petition argues that students need to search for more affordable textbook options. Having multiple options help to ease the strain on student’s wallets, but these options take time.

Milland says the issue goes further: “If Professor A posts the syllabus a week in advance, but Professor B posts it only hours before the first class, and yet both are using the same textbook, the early bird not only gets the worm, they get all of the used textbooks,” Milland explains. She says if both professors were held to publish their syllabus on the same day, students would all have a fair shake at affordable textbooks.

The Soapbox post has received more than 50 likes and has sparked a debate with a person who identifies himself as Filippo Salustri, a Ryerson professor from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

“I’m not a fan at all of micromanaging people by burdening them with useless piles of policies designed only prevent a tiny fraction of people from doing ‘bad’ things,” Salustri writes. He says that in his 14 years at Ryerson he has yet to meet an instructor who was unable to provide a course outline in a timely manner unless there were truly extenuating circumstances.

Milland says if she were to hand in an assignment late for any of the reasons Salustri suggested (computer or Internet issues) she would be penalized regardless of those circumstances. She says “the same standards held by profs for students should be held by profs for profs.”

“I’m afraid you’re assuming that professors and students are equals. They are not,” Salustri replies online. “If you don’t bother finding out precisely how the system operates, there’s zero chance of a superficial change—like a change in policy.”

Lawrence says that once the initiative grows, all perspectives need to be accounted for, such as professors who are hired last minute to fill positions.

She says this isn’t an excuse for every single professor, but due to the shift in funding for education there are fewer resources to support tenure positions. And universities may opt to procure contractual agreements with instructors later than expected.

The petition has yet to be formally submitted, but Cheung says she has contacted the senate and will continue to update the progress of the initiative on SoapBox.

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