GTA HANDBOOK (English Department Edition)

by Carolyn Rude

Department policies that affect graduate students

Printing and copying

Photocopying and printing support teaching, not your own research or courses you take.

Use the printers in the hall closets to make one copy of a class handout and turn it in for copies to 323 (Administrative Assistant) 24 hours before you need the copies. Fill out the request form in 323. Or send by email to the Administrative Assistant with information on the number of copies you need, whether to print front and back, stapling. Include contact information for you and the name and section number (CRN) for the class.

The department will copy your syllabus and policy statement for the classes you teach. It may print the occasional handout or exam. It will not copy chapters of books or articles or stories for handouts.  Use Scholar or the library to make such materials available to students. In fact, distribute your syllabus through a Scholar site.

If you make copies for your personal use or for classes you are taking, you will be charged 10 cents per page for printing in the hall closets, 5 cents per page as a copy job. (Personal copies may require more than 24 hours and are subject to copyright restrictions.)

Travel to professional meetings or for research

The department will support up to $300 per person per year for participation in a professional conference (reading a paper, presenting a poster, chairing a session) or conducting research related to your thesis or dissertation, subject to available funds. Please see the reverse side for policies and procedures.

Technical support

The department will maintain one computer per GTA office but not your personal computers. Tech Support (Eve, Sabrina) will, however, help GTAs configure personal computers for printing from department printers. If you need technical support for your office computer, please go to Select “tech support,” and complete the support request.

Mailing, postage

All graduate students have mailboxes. Get your number and a key from the Administrative Assistant in 323. The department does not provide postage for mail other than that related to your teaching.

Financial obligations

Keep your department bills paid up (phone, printing) in order to be eligible for continued GTA appointment.

Safety procedures in offices

Do not use extension cords in your offices (surge protector strips are OK) or things that might burn, such as candles and fabric draped over ceilings.

Using public spaces

If you use a public room or classroom for a meeting, restore it to the order in which you found it.

Do not tape fliers to the walls in the halls or stairways.

Emergency procedures

Read the emergency poster in each classroom to become familiar with procedures for different types of emergencies. Also see information at

Travel Policies and Procedures for Graduate Students

First, apply to the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) for travel funds supported through the Graduate School. To receive department funds, you must show that you have applied for GSA funds. Submit the award letter with your travel request.

Submit requests for department travel support to the Graduate Committee through the Director of Graduate Studies (Exception: MFA students traveling to AWP or to other creative writing conferences will submit to Ed Falco)

Go to and then select “travel” to find the forms to apply for travel and reimbursement. It is a three-step process. You must complete two forms before you travel:

Request for travel funds (an internal form); submit this to the Graduate Committee via the Director of Graduate Studies at least three weeks before travel, preferably longer. The Graduate Committee uses this form to decide whether to grant your request and for how much.

Request for travel approval (a university and state form); must be completed before you travel.

Submit the request for reimbursement within 30 days of your return but never later than June 1. Submit all these forms to Judy Grady (office #315).

See links to other requirements about the use of state funds at

Some limits on reimbursement:

Driving: the university prefers that you use a car from Fleet Services (but you cannot take family members in a Fleet Services car)

The department will not fund multiple cars to the same conference. For group travel, plan to join a van that may be going or carpool.

Teaching  [adapted from the Department’s Procedures Manual for Faculty]

Timely responses to requests: book orders, mid-term grades, course descriptions, final grades

Please respond to and respect the announced due dates for course descriptions, book orders, office hours and such. Our department is too large to accommodate late responses to requests. Late posting of grades can jeopardize student academic standing.

Substitutes in emergencies, other absences

Anticipating the unexpected, please

  • Identify a teaching partner whom you could call to substitute in case of emergency. Give a copy of your syllabus to your teaching partner and put that person in your Scholar or Blackboard site in case the person needs to distribute messages.
  • Give a copy of your syllabi to the Administrative Assistant, and send her updates if you revise.
  • If you will miss more than one class, please notify the department. Notify the Director of Composition about composition classes, the Director of Undergraduate Studies about all other undergraduate classes, and the Director of Graduate Studies about graduate classes. We need this information to answer questions that may come from students or their advisors.
  • Please work with Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Assistant Director of Composition to identify a long-term substitute if you need one.
  • If you will miss class for professional travel, please arrange in advance for class coverage.

Student concerns

In an emergency, call 911 or the police (1-6411). For student concerns, please work first with your GTA advisor and the Coordinator of GTA Education. Your advisor and you will also consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who is the department’s primary resource for working with student concerns. The department is often the best place for connecting dots. The Director of Undergraduate Studies can also connect you to university resources to help with concerns for student wellbeing, classroom behavior, and grade challenges or complaints. Please see the document, Identifying and Referring the Distressed Student, from Cook Counseling Center, linked from

Grade changes / incompletes

Basic principle: All students must have the same opportunities as others in the class.

Incompletes are for medical or other emergencies at the end of the semester when the student has completed almost all the work during the term. It is unfair and inappropriate to allow some students more time than others to complete the semester’s work in the absence of such emergencies. Please see the section on academic relief if you feel pressed into making judgments about who warrants an incomplete for medical emergencies.

Each change of grade requires sign-offs + data entry by the Administrative Assistant, Assistant Director of Composition, Department Chair, and the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Grade changes cost time and department reputation. They should be rare and exceptional.

Student appeals for “academic relief”

The university maintains an application and review procedure to assist students who believe that extenuating circumstances beyond their control (family emergency, physical or psychological illness, accident) warrant an exception to standard academic policy. Students   initiate this review by submitting an Academic Relief request to Schiffert Health Center or Cook Counseling. The Academic Dean of the College works closely with this process. Knowing that a fair process is in place for all students can take the pressure off of faculty, who may not have any reasonable way of judging the various appeals made to them by distressed students.

Steps to Apply for Academic Relief (Cook Counseling):

Guidelines for Academic Relief (Schiffert Health Center):

Force adds

No faculty member is obligated to force add students to classes. Sometimes it is generous to do so when students are nearing graduation and have made good faith efforts to get the courses they need (such as requesting them during course request). Please check enrollments in comparable classes before you agree to add; force adds can compromise our ability to offer a full range of classes as students avoid some sections. A significant number of adds (more than one or two) makes it look as though we should be teaching bigger classes. See a fuller description of force add policies at

Classroom rearrangements

If you rearrange chairs and tables for your class, please place them back in their usual arrangement when class is over.

Locking Shanks classroom doors and printer closet doors

The CICs and Shanks seminar rooms are locked between classes and at the end of the day. Please lock and close the doors when you leave. If you are teaching in a seminar room, check out a key from the Administrative Assistant for the semester, and return it at the end of the semester. Also, please remember that printer closet doors should remain closed at all times.

Office hours

Faculty and GTAs are required to provide “several regularly scheduled office hours each week for consultation with students.” (Faculty Handbook, 4.7.1).

Student evaluations

All classes are evaluated every semester. The Administrative Assistant places the evaluation packets in faculty mailboxes. Please check before you go to class that you have enough forms, especially for the 16xx and other literature courses.

Distribute the evaluation forms in class, following the procedures on the sheet attached to the envelopes. Faculty leave the room during evaluations. A student returns completed evaluations to Shanks 323. If 323 is closed for the day, the student should be advised to slide the envelope under the door.

Minimum professional expectations for faculty and GTAs in English

Provide a syllabus for each course to the English Department when it is requested at the beginning of each semester. The syllabus should include “course objectives, topical outlines, expected performance on which grades will be assigned, as well as the instructor’s attendance policy, if any” (Faculty Handbook 4.6.1). The syllabus should also contain a detailed schedule of readings and assignments.

Honor regular office hours.

Teach the course as it has been approved by the curriculum committees. Consult the course bullets at for information about any requirements related to texts or number of papers, or check with a program director.

Return graded work in time for students to profit from commentary on the next assignment.

Maintain a professional relationship with students.

Use class time well.  Peer reviews should be scheduled on the syllabus with some structure and with participation required. It is reasonable to expect students to accomplish most of their work on group projects outside of class.

Provide a substitute if you will need to miss class for illness or professional travel. Identify a teaching partner who has an alternate schedule from yours as well as knowledge about the course you teach.

Turn in grades, including tentative grades, on time. (The failure to post grades on time may have serious consequences for the students involved, including the loss of earned honors.)

Let the department know when you need assistance. Everyone does, from time to time.

Share concerns about students with the department. Even if you think you can handle the situation by yourself, work with your GTA advisor and the Coordinator of GTA Education. With the advisor, notify the Director of Undergraduate Studies so that English can provide a perspective and “connect the dots” at the department level.

Faculty Directory

To identify the proper personnel to contact regarding any of these issues, consult the English Department faculty directory here.

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