posted on March 26: An Open Letter to the McMaster Community


Students have raised questions about their courses and final examinations in light of the MUSA strike. These students are concerned that they will not complete their courses or academic years. We provide the following commentary on frequently-expressed concerns and questions.

Some students indicate that their instructors are refusing to accept or grade assignments due in the course. We know of no interpretation of practice, policy or protocol to support these actions. We trust, therefore, that these are misunderstandings. This points, though, to the need for instructors to communicate clearly with students, especially at a time when students are feeling particularly anxious. We are directing students to their instructors and respective Chairs/Directors for answers to many of their questions pertaining to the completion of their course work.

Many students ask why some instructors will not prepare or submit their final exams. It is not for us to speak for instructors who are inclined to behave in this manner. When questioned further concerning our views about faculty members who may refuse to submit final exams, we say the following:

  • Consistent with our agreement with the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA), faculty are not obligated to perform the work of employees engaged in a work stoppage.
  • It has always been, and continues to be, the duty of instructors to prepare examinations and to submit them to the Registrar's Office. This is the direct responsibility of instructors, even though they may have chosen to obtain some assistance from MUSA employees in the discharge of this obligation in the past. In fact, according to the Senate and Board approved Terms of Reference for Department Chairs, it is the responsibility of the Chair/Director to ensure that “…the Faculty and University deadlines for the submission of examination copy and…for evaluation of students is met.”
  • The obligation of instructors to submit examination copy, particularly when they have indicated in their course outline that there will be a final examination, is reinforced also by the 1995 Senate Resolution on Course Outlines and the Senate and Board-approved 1998 Code of Conduct for Faculty.

We consulted with the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) about our interpretation of faculty obligations regarding the submission of final examinations. The MUFA Executive indicates to us that faculty who fail to submit their course-required final examinations should be subject to disciplinary action.

The primary concerns of many students, and the sources of their greatest anxiety, are the hardships they will experience if they cannot complete their courses, graduate, or fulfill employment or other obligations as a result of an unfinished or delayed year. At this stage, we are contacting the small number of instructors who have indicated that they may not submit their final examinations. In the event that they do not submit their examinations to permit students to take their exam at the scheduled time (thus jeopardizing students' completion of their year), we will inform students of the exam cancellation and work with Senate Executive to find solutions to allow students to complete their academic year.

Students and Faculty who continue to have questions or concerns should contact Fred A. Hall ( or Mary Keyes (

Harvey P. Weingarten,
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Mary Keyes,
Associate Vice-President (Student Affairs)

Fred A. Hall,
Associate Vice President (Academic)

March 26, 2001

Editor's note:

See also: Philosophy professor David Hitchcock's reply to this open letter by clicking here