As teachers, we must abide by the policies of the institution where we teach. At the University of Toronto, there are four key policy areas: 1) respecting confidentiality, 2) avoiding conflict of interest, 3) safeguarding the learning environment, and 4) upholding academic integrity. You can learn more about these essential policies by checking out the simple guides for each area and through the TATP’s Teaching Toolkit on Policies.

Respecting Confidentiality: What are your responsibilities as a CI regarding students’ personal information? How can you ensure reasonable privacy while still collecting the information you need to do your job?

To answer these questions, start by looking at the TATP’s Teaching at U of T: Policies and Resources for information on respecting confidentiality. All student personal information is protected under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act, commonly known as FIPPA. This Act governs student confidentiality when taking attendance, handling student assignments, posting grades, assigning group work, emailing, and handling accommodations. In all these situations, you should take care not to reveal students’ personal information to other students.

  • For attendance, this means not passing around a sign up sheet with students’ full name or student number. Instead, consider asking students to sign up with the last four digits of their student number.
  • For handling student assignments: avoid writing grades on the cover sheet of assignments where it is clearly visible to others and do not leave assignments in a box outside your office or a pile at the front of the room where they can be perused by others. Handing back assignments to individual students is best practice. When posting students’ grades, only provide grade information directly to the student unless they give express written permission for you to release them to someone else. Posting grades on Quercus is convenient and confidential.
  • For email, use the email function in Quercus, which keeps recipients’ information protected. The University Policy on Official Correspondence with Students requires students, instructors, and administrators to use their University of Toronto email addresses for all academic correspondence and expects students to check utoronto email regularly.
    Please note: In small classes, it may not be possible or practical to follow these guidelines to the letter. Use your best judgment while doing your best to protect student confidentiality. Speak to someone in your department if you have any questions or concerns about confidentiality in the classroom.

Avoiding Conflict of Interest: What if you’ve hit it off with one of your students? Is it OK to start a relationship while the term is still in session? You realize that your niece is in your class. Is this a conflict of interest?

To answer these questions, start by looking at the TATP’s Teaching at U of T: Policies and Resources, under “Avoiding Conflict of Interest”. While the Provost’s statement on Conflict of Interest and Close Personal Relations does not prohibit these close personal relationships, it does stipulate that you must disclose a conflict of interest immediately and that you cannot be responsible for grading the work of a student with whom you are in a close personal relationship; this includes romantic, familial, and social relationships. TAs should disclose these relationships to you, their Course Instructor, immediately. As a Course Instructor, if you find yourself in this situation you should disclose it to your Undergraduate or Department Chair immediately. Be aware, however, that course instructors have authority over students and pursuing romantic or sexual involvement with students can be interpreted as coercive. Thus, although it is not forbidden, the University discourages these relationships while your course is in session as it leaves you open to allegations of sexual harassment.

Safeguarding the Learning Environment: Equity and Safety: A student in your class got angry and threatened to punch another student. How do you handle this? One of your students regularly emails unwanted advances. How can you make this stop?

In its Statement of Institutional Purpose, the University of Toronto affirms its dedication “to fostering an academic community in which the learning and scholarship of every member may flourish, with vigilant protection for individual human rights, and a resolute commitment to the principle of equal opportunity, equity and justice.” In addition, the University is bound to the Ontario Human Rights Code which specifies that “every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability.” For this purpose, the University has several institutional policies in place, such as the Code of Student Conduct, the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, the Statement on Prohibited Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment, and guidelines for the appropriate use of information and communication technology.

We do recognize that these are policies and that they are not practical for a crisis situation. If you are in a crisis situation (for example, you or your students feel threatened or in situations of acute discrimination, violence, or harassment), call Campus Police at (416) 978-2222; for non-emergencies contact your department’s Faculty Undergraduate Administrator. There are also several equity offices on campus to support you and your students, such as Accessibility Services, Centre for International Experience, Campus Chaplains’ Association at the Multi-Faith Centre, First Nations House, and Sexual & Gender Diversity Office.