Here’s everything you need to know about the new MSAF policy
McMaster introduced updates to the MSAF policy for the 2023/2024 school year, including clarification on the types of requests for relief and timelines associated with requests
The McMaster Student Absence Form allows McMaster University students to request relief from coursework due to medical or personal reasons.
McMaster recently updated their MSAF policy to clarify some terms and add more definitive timelines to the process. This new policy came into effect on Sept. 1.
“[MSAF]'s recognizing that absence has happened. It's also honoring that when an absence happens, that it creates a lot of anxiety for students. So we want to make sure that there is appropriate relief provided so that they're able to keep up with their work, not fall behind not face any academic repercussions, you know, great loss or falling behind in the work” said Kim Dej, vice provost (teaching and learning).
These updates include the renaming the forms for each type MSAF available to students.
Previously titled Type A and B forms, under they new policy they are now referred to as self report and administrative report, respectively. Dej explained that the previous titles were vague and hoped the renaming would make it easier for students to understand where to find them and when to use them. The self report form can be completed through Mosaic, while the administrative report must be filed by an academic advisor.
Dej also explained many of the newly implemented changes were in order to provide greater clarity for students and instructors.
Under the previous policy, there was no time frame by which students were required to have informed their professors about their request for relief. This ambiguity often caused miscommunication between students and instructors and hindered the instructor's ability to offer proper support, in turn harming the student's ability to catch up.
“The things that we've done to change the policy are really trying to tighten all of those timelines to make sure that students can catch up properly and that institute instructors are able to provide prompt support and relief as well,” said Dej.
Previously, what is now known as the self report MSAF indicated that when you utilize it, you can request relief for any work that falls into the three days of absences that is under 25 per cent. This remains the same in the new policy, but the new policy also requires that within 24 hours following the third day of relief, you must contact all instructors whose coursework was impacted by the absence.
The administrative report MSAF is primarily utilized when a student finds that their absence exceeded three days or if the cumulative coursework they’re seeking relief for will exceed 25per cent per course.
The new policy indicates that if the coursework exceeds 35 per cent, students must speak to an academic advisor in their department. Dej explained that this requirement is so that students receive proper support and that they are able to catch up when missing such a large portion of their coursework.
“If you've deferred different pieces throughout the course and now the cumulative value of those is more than 35 per cent we ask that students go through the administrative report, not because they've done anything wrong, [but because] we just want to make sure that they're okay. That's a lot to miss in a course [and] we want to make sure that they're able to keep up and catch up,” said Dej.
The conversations about these updates to the MSAF policy have been in the works since Fall 2022 and involved many levels of governance at McMaster, including the Undergraduate Council and the McMaster Students Union.
Dej emphasized that there is always room for improvement for these policies and as the year progresses Dej’s team will be investigating the use of MSAF between previous years and this current year, to find what is or isn’t working.
Dej also encouraged students to send her emails to firstname.lastname@example.org to voice their opinions about the MSAF.
“I'm always here to listen, I would love to find more forums for students to have a voice in these kinds of policy discussions. We have spectacular undergraduate student representation on [the] Undergraduate Council, but in the end, it's seven voices representing over 30,000 students,” said Dej.
The new MSAF policies have been implemented to encourage students to request relief and to aid instructors to better support students when they do need help. Ways to improve the policy will continue to be explored and shaped by student experience.