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Student Responsibilities

You are responsible for learning the rules and regulations that govern your life at the university. Re-read that sentence. It's important. These include your rights and responsibilities, your degree requirements and university graduation requirements.

Where do you find this information? Start with the Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide. Pay particular attention to the student rights and responsibilites documents for undergraduate and graduate students (they're different) and to the Code of Teaching Responsibilities for faculty.

Then go to your academic advising office and get a copy of the requirements for your degree, which should include the university graduation requirements. You also should ask your adviser for a handbook that outlines the specific policies governing your degree program. This is especially helpful for graduate students in forming thesis and dissertation committees.

You also will want to read the MSU Academic Programs catalog. In addition to describing each academic program, the catalog represents a treasury of policies on such essentials as academic status, refunds, tuition, and dropping courses in "General Information General Procedures and Regulations".

You also are responsible for knowing the contents of your course syllabi. Read them carefully to avoid misunderstandings.

At MSU, the Code of Teaching Responsibility sets down various items that instructors should include in their syllabi. These include course objectives, office hours, a system for determining final course grades and an attendance policy,  if it effects grades.

Several other items are recommended--but not required by the teaching code--to help clarify course procedures. (See Syllabi Suggestions on the Ombudsperson's Web site.)

If after reading a syllabus, you find that one or more of the required items citied above are excluded, ask your instructor to explain her or his procedures regarding the missing information. Remember, instructors are required to provide this information to their students at the beginning of the semester.

What's important here is that you can avoid conflicts with instructors by carefully reading your course syllabi on the first day of classes. For example, the stated penalties for missing a given number of classes should alert you to the possibility of doing poorly in a course, when you know from day one you're going to miss several class sessions.

Should that be true, meet with your instructors, explain your situation and determine if an exception to the attendance policy is possible. Faculty practice here varies. Some instructors will make no exceptions. Others will grant exceptions for documented cause. If the instructor's response leads you to conclude you'll do poorly in the course, drop it immediately and pick it up when your schedule allows.

Other issues arise when the required course work listed in the syllabus appears greater than you can endure, when coupled with your other classes, your job and personal obligations.

Simply put, a course syllabus serves as your personal warning system as well as an explanation of the course. When you hear "beep beep,beep beep" sounding all around you, make the proper adjustments before it's too late. Again, that might include dropping the course.

Warning: If trouble arises because you failed to adhere to program requirements, missed deadlines for refunds, course policies, etc., don't blame anyone but yourself (unless you can verify that you were given wrong information). You simply can't use the excuse "no one ever told me that" to inoculate yourself from accountability. It's your responsibility to arm yourself with critical information that might keep you on the "bridge over troubled waters."

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