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Classroom Legal Issues


"The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made know. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary, in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined-not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts."

"...the rights of individual members of the faculty and of individual departments are never absolute, but are always to be defined in terms of functions performed, and these in turn are defined in terms of the ends for the sake of which the functions are carried on. This general principal [sic] may be applied to certain specific matters:

1. No individual or department has any absolute right to give any course he [she] or the department may wish to give. Courses are integral parts of curricula and are, as such, means to certain ends...
2. It follows that it is not an infringement upon academic freedom for the Committee on Courses or for the Colleges to ask each instructor to disclose the content of the courses which he [she] is offering, i.e., to supply a syllabus or outline of the ground covered by the course..."


What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual Harassment is a form of sex discrimination which is prohibited by Federal and State laws as well as the policies of this University. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature can constitute sexual harassment when:
1.A student feels pressured directly or indirectly by a TA to submit to sexual activity because he or she perceives that their grades or academic opportunities will be affected if they fail to comply; or
2.A student's grades or academic opportunities are directly affected by their submission or refusal to submit to sexual pleasure; or
3.A TA's conduct has the purpose or the effect of unreasonably interfering with a student's performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning environment; or
4.A student whose grades or academic opportunities are a result of his or her submission to requests for sexual favors and other students who were qualified to receive similar grades or opportunities were denied them.

As a teaching assistant, your personal relationships with undergraduate students are going to be much different than when you were an undergraduate yourself. This may be your first experience as an authority figure-someone who has power to make decisions which affect others and someone who others grant power. Recognizing and learning how to use this power appropriately may be a vital lesson for you as a TA.

Given your position of authority as a teaching assistant, primary responsibility for maintaining appropriate professional behavior resides with you, regardless of student behavior. Sexual Harassment policies and procedures are not to be taken lightly. Violating the policy can result in significant consequences for you and your professional academic career.

Teaching Assistants may be misusing their power if they:

  • make personal jokes or negative comments about students or about them as females or males (that's called gender harassment);
  • pressure a student to spend time with you outside the academic setting, urging him or her to get romantically involved with you, or asking personal questions which make him or her uncomfortable;
  • touch a student when and where he or she doesn't want to be touched (touching can include hugging or grabbing, casually brushing against him or her or requesting her or him to sit too close);
  • ask a student directly for sexual favors in exchange for a better or passing grade, assignment or a favorable recommendation.

Does this mean that I can't even date a student?

What could be the harm in dating a student who is equally interested in you? Even a voluntary and welcome relationship with a student in your class may constitute sexual harassment. A romantic relationship with a student over whom you have direct grading authority may have negative consequences that you can't foresee. If a student changes her or his mind but feels pressured to continue the relationship this may result in a sexual harassment claim. And, other students may file a claim if they believe they are put at a disadvantage when they hear that a fellow student is dating their teaching assistant.

What if a student or colleague comes to me for help with a sexual harassment problem?
If you are approached by a student who is experiencing something that may be sexual harassment, please refer her or him to a designated campus contact person (resource people for information and assistance) or the Sexual Harassment Complaint Resolution Officer (SHO). For more information, http://apps.sa.ucsb.edu/tasexualharassment/

How can I eliminate sexual discrimination and harassment in my classroom?*

*Adapted from "Avoiding sexual Discrimination in the classroom," UCLA Women's Resource Center.

As the authority figure in the classroom, what you say and how you say it conveys not only factual information but also attitudes and emotions. Comments that implicitly or explicitly devalue a student simply on the basis of his or her gender can diminish a student's confidence or enthusiasm and could create long-lasting impediments to academic, professional and personal growth. As a teacher, you know that even small, repeated acts can be significant because they could be part of a pervasive and cumulative pattern of social inequality.

A number of specific techniques are available for helping to eliminate sexual discrimination and harassment in the classroom:

  • When making general statements involving gender, be sure they are accurate and based on reliable information. Universal generalizations about any social group, such as "Women don't think geographically" are likely, at best, to represent uncritical oversimplifications of selected norms.
  • Avoid "humor" or gratuitous remarks that demean or belittle a student's gender, just as you would to avoid remarks that demean or belittle people because of their race, religion, or physical characteristics. Respect the dignity of all students.
  • Avoid as much as possible using the generic "he" or "man" to represent both men and women. Although the effort to do this may involve some initial discomfort, it may also result in more precise communication and understanding.

Try to monitor your behavior or get someone else to monitor you behavior toward men and women in the classroom. For example:

  • Do you call directly on men but not women?
  • Do you interrupt women students or allow them to be disproportionately interrupted by their peers?
  • Do you wait longer for men than for women to answer a question before going on to another student?

Much discriminatory behavior is not deliberate. Most teaching assistants wish to treat all students justly and fairly. You can effect change by carefully examining your own feelings and preconceptions about the roles of women and men in society and then by becoming alert to overt and subtle differences in your interactions with men and women in the classroom.

Why is this issue so important?

The University of California is firmly committed to creating and maintaining a learning environment which is free from all forms of harassment and intimidation. Students come here to learn, not to be coerced and mistreated. As an employee of the university, you must insure that every student has equal access to a quality education.

Some departments have explicit policies which prohibit dating between teaching assistants and their students. If you are considering dating a student in your class approach your graduate advisor, program assistant or departmental chair for advice.

Sexual harassment violates Title IX of the Education Amendments, Title VII of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act, California State Law, and University of California Policies and Procedures.

For further information on sexual harassment including media material and workshop presentations, contact the Sexual Harassment Prevention Education Program, UCSB's Women's Center, Bldg 434, 893-3778. http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/women'scenter/


According to state and federal law and UCSB policy on privacy and confidentiality of student records, instructors cannot post grades by name, or leave exams or term papers out for pick up by students. Moreover, faculty and TAs are responsible for protecting the confidentiality of student grades and records. While you may regard the confidentiality issue as an added annoyance to the many problems of teaching, many students are really quite uncomfortable about public posting of grades and leaving exams and papers lying around. Also there is an increasing problem with theft of exams and papers left out.

To comply with legal and policy requirements, graded materials should only by returned by the following means.

1.Hand out the papers directly to students during class or office hours. If you can't recognize the students, you should check photo IDs.
2.You can arrange for someone in the department to hand out the graded materials to students who come to the office to collect them (in this case, it would be advisable for the department office staff to check the photo ID of every student). You are free to limit or restrict the hours of collection.

Note: So far as posting grades is concerned, you CANNOT get around the privacy issue by using student numbers or initials. These are considered 'personally identifiable" in Federal Privacy laws.


According to the California Health and Safety Codes, faculty and TAs may not release the name of a student or otherwise disclose the name of a student with HIV or AIDS without the written and specific permission of the student. Even if a student directly discloses his/her HIV or AIDS status to an instructor, that instructor is bound by law to keep the information completely confidential. Disclosing the information can carry a civil penalty of $1,000 - $5,000 along with possible imprisonment if bodily or psychological harm comes to the student as a result of the disclosure. For further information about the California Health and Safety Codes, call the Student Health Services, AIDS / STD information (893-3434). http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/studenthealth/ServicesAvailable/index.htm

AIDS is defined as a disability. Faculty must make reasonable accommodations for students with AIDS and HIV. It is unlawful to discriminate (explicitly or implicitly) against those with AIDS or HIV. Jokes about people with HIV and accompanying homophobic jokes may be considered examples of implicit AIDS / HIV discrimination.


The heart of UC's Guidelines for Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials is its section on determining "fair use" in the copying of copyrighted works. For "multiple copies for classroom use," the document specifies that UC copying must meet a "brevity" test and a "cumulative effect" test. Further, each copy must include a notice of copyright.

"Brevity" is defined as:

1.Poetry: A complete poem if less than 250 words or, from a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words.
2.Prose: Either a complete article, a story or essay of less than 2,500 words or an excerpt of not more than 2,500 words from any prose work.
3.Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or periodical issue.

"Cumulative effect" specifies that:

1.The copying of the material is for only one course per class term of the instructor for whom the copies are made.
2.Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than three from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term.
3.There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term. The guidelines stipulate, however, that brevity limitations (1) and (2) do not apply to "current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals."

The guidelines note that fair use "may permit reproduction of copyrighted works in excess of the word limit restriction specified in the UC Guidelines." Since this is an area "of unclear legal definition," the guidelines say that employees in such instances should "use caution and discretion in such copying and ...seek advice from the General Counsel's Office for a legal opinion, or request prior written permission directly from the copyright owner..."

The guidelines are silent on the issue of repeated copying-ordering the same copying in successive academic terms, for example. This presumably is one of the "Situations Not Specifically Covered by UC Guidelines" and as such would also be a matter to be referred to General Counsel.


Copyright laws and University copyright policies are being enforced with greater frequency and ferocity. Although it is legal to record programs from broadcast television for in-class use, there are accompanying rules.

TIME LIMITATIONS: Recorded programs may be used only during the first ten consecutive school days that fall within the first 45 calendar days after the date of the recording. Upon written permission before the 45 days have elapsed, the University may extend this time frame but only upon written request to the campus off-air policy implementation officer. Call Business Services (x4440) for further information. http://www.busserv.ucsb.edu

PARTIAL PROGRAMS: All programs or partial programs used under the fair use guidelines must include their copyright notice. Programs or parts of programs may not be combined to create a compilation, or segmented in a way that alters the original content or changes the essence or meaning of the original program.

RE-RECORDING: Recorded, copyrighted material may not be recorded on to another medium (e.g., laser disk, slide, computer).

OFFICIAL CLASSES ONLY: Recorded programs may only be used for official University classes listed in the Schedule of Classes and may only be shown in class. Showing the material as a one time showing to the community or others on campus would not be considered a class.

NUMBER OF SHOWINGS: The material can only be shown twice: once during normal teaching activities and once for instructional reinforcement.

NEWS PROGRAMS: Daily network news broadcasts may be copied and used freely.

PAY CHANNELS: Cable programs that are not broadcast free of charge can not be copied.

VIDEO RENTALS: Videos can be rented from video rental stores and shown in class, but the viewing must take place in the normally used classroom, must be shown only as part of a class listed in the Schedule of Classes, and must be exclusively shown by the instructor and the student in the course of face-to-face teaching activities. Of course, it is illegal to make copies of commercially produced videos.

consultation contacts

George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
lisa berrysenior instructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
Mary Lou Ramos database and ESCI administrator1130 Kerr Hall
TBD ESCI assistant1124 Kerr Hall


Laurel Shaddixoffice manager 1130 Kerr Hall
faxfax: 805-893-5915