This Guide outlines how we at the ANU College of Law expect our students to interact with staff and each other in the LLBHons, JD, LLM, GDLP and MLP and Military Law programs.
The ANU College of Law is a community, in which all members are expected to treat each other with respect and courtesy. Further, your time at ANU CoL is preparing you for present and future professional lives. Professional careers (and in fact most workplaces) require us to behave with courtesy and punctuality, to conduct ourselves ethically and respectfully and to employ well-developed communication skills. All staff at ANU CoL will engage in and model this behaviour and we expect students to reciprocate with courtesy and respect.
This guide explains the expectations we have in relation to both face-to-face and online interactions between students and staff.
Many of your interactions with academic staff (outside of the classroom) and professional staff will take place via email. The advantages of email are its availability, flexibility, speed and efficiency. However, emails can also be the source of misunderstanding and miscommunication, if they are composed and sent without thought as to whether the email is actually necessary. Check whether the answer to your question has already been posted to the WATTLE course or program website and ensure there is sufficient consideration, reflection, and proofreading.
The efficiency and ubiquity of email can also lead to unrealistic expectations about response times. This part of the Guide sets out some pointers for email communications (including what to do before you write an email) and realistic timeframes within which to expect a response.
- Be courteous, respectful and ethical.
- Before sending an email to a staff member:
- Check to see whether your question or issue has been answered or addressed already. Check the WATTLE site, the Class Summary, the relevant WATTLE forum, or review your lecture notes/powerpoint slides/lecture recordings. Successful students and professionals are independent and resourceful: you need to become proficient at finding information yourself, rather than using your lecturer as a “shortcut” to information that has already been made available elsewhere.
- Ensure that the Convenor/lecturer has not indicated in the Class Summary, lectures or on WATTLE that they prefer other forms of communication to email. For example, a Convenor may have set up a forum on WATTLE as their preferred method of communication with students about a course. Following instructions is another hallmark of professional practice.
- Note that communication with lecturers who are examiners in a course is prohibited between the time of attempting the exam and the formal issue of results for that exam.
Writing an email
Email account: Use your ANU email account when sending emails to staff (as required under ANU policy). ANU staff will communicate with you via that account only. This is particularly important because Junk filters may intercept emails with descriptive names from hotmail and gmail accounts such as email@example.com.
Subject line: Clearly indicate the purpose of your email in the subject line. The recipient should be able to know, at a glance, what the email is about. In particular, remember that academic staff teach across multiple courses and professional staff deal with multiple students, so always indicate the course you are enquiring about in the subject line.
To/CC: Check the names in the To and CC boxes. Most email programs have an autocomplete function, which can occasionally insert the name of an unintended recipient. At best, this causes annoyance; at worst it can have quite disastrous consequences.
Beginning the message: Again, courtesy is the key here. Use the recipient’s name, rather than just ‘Hey’, with an appropriate salutation – eg ‘Dear, Hi or Hello Professor Smith ….’. If the staff member has indicated that it is okay, you can use their first name.
The content and tone of the email
Keep the message concise and to the point, but don't assume that the recipient knows the background to your email. Include enough background or contextual information to help the recipient understand what the email is about. If a long message is unavoidable because the matter has a long history or is complicated, it is good to indicate this at the beginning. For example, ‘I apologise that this is necessarily a long email’. Don’t delete other messages in the thread as this makes the history more difficult to understand.
Format your message so that it is easily readable. Remember, emails might be read on a small phone screen as well as on a desktop. Short sentences and short paragraphs assist readability.
Don’t use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. This is because capitalisation conveys yelling and may be interpreted as a threatening or angry tone.
Don’t use emoticons and the types of abbreviations/acronyms that are used in SMS messages or Tweets, for example, LOL.
Finalising and sending the email
Check the grammar, spelling and punctuation of the completed email.
Read over the email before you send it, including the Subject/To boxes.
Finishing the message: sign off at the end of an email with a phrase such as ‘Regards’, followed by your name, using the name that the staff member knows you by, including your family name. Always include your student ID number in all correspondence.
Attachments: if you are sending an email with an attachment, remember to attach it! Only send attachments when you are sure that this is acceptable to the staff member. For example, only send an essay by attachment, if this has been agreed to with the staff member. Most assignments should be submitted through WATTLE.
Sending the email: Don’t mark the email as High Priority or Urgent unless that really is the case.
Remember, emails are forever. Consider whether email is the best form of communication for your particular situation. Assume that any email you send can be read by anyone in the future, including pursuant to an FOI (Freedom of Information) request, even if the email has been deleted. Emails can be printed out. Similarly, do not send an email when you are feeling angry or upset about something. In such situations, it is always better to wait a while before considering whether an email is necessary and, if it is, composing it in a calm manner.
Reply times: Allow time for a reply, particularly if your email has been sent outside normal office hours, or to a staff member who is on a fractional appointment. Not all staff work at the university on a full-time basis. It is important to remember that staff typically receive dozens of emails from students each day. Aside from the sheer volume of email traffic, there can be many reasons why a staff member might not reply straight away: your email may be one of many on the same matter; you may have asked a question that requires some investigation before a reply can be sent; the staff member may simply be caught up with other business. Be patient: as a general rule, you should allow three working days for a reply to your email. Do not expect a staff member to read your email or to send a reply outside office hours.
Keeping expectations realistic: Sometimes it will be unrealistic for students to expect staff to respond to an email at all. A question about a final exam or assignment sent the night before the exam or due date is not something that staff could reasonably be expected to answer.
We expect you to work online in a courteous and professional manner. Your postings are permanent, so be careful with what you say. Be respectful of others in the way you write and in how you respond to others’ postings. Though you are students, others in your course may currently, or in the future, be your colleagues or competitors, so professionalism is paramount.
Here are some practical tips for working online:
- As stated above, don’t overuse capitalisation.
- Don't post personal information about other people. In particular, do not post any person’s contact information including email addresses and phone numbers, even if you know the other person, unless you have that person's explicit permission. If you do have that person's permission, state so in the post.
- Don't post inappropriate or illegal content. Note that this includes links to external websites that contain illegal, inappropriate, or offensive information such as pornography, criminal activities, discriminatory material, or websites that breach copyright laws.
- Don't post large photos or documents that take a long time to load.
You have 30 minutes to edit a post you have made to a WATTLE Forum - after that it is visible to your teachers and fellow students.
Contact your teacher if you want to delete or change an inappropriate post, but don't forget that this may take some time!
Please note that posts that harass, threaten, defame, libel or illegally discriminate against other individuals (staff or student) within the course, or which contain material that is offensive, disrespectful, discriminatory or commercial in nature (spam), will be removed and may lead to disciplinary action.
Interactions with Professional (Administrative and Support) Staff
The professional staff of the University and the College work alongside the academic staff to ensure the smooth running of the institution and to provide crucial support to the academic endeavours of both staff and students. You will have many dealings with professional staff both within the ANU CoL and across the University over the course of your studies. This is particularly the case when you make enquiries about courses or programs, whether in person, by phone or by email, make appointments with various members of staff, report or seek help for IT or WATTLE problems etc.
You are expected to treat the professional staff of the ANU with courtesy and respect at all times. This expectation relates to all communications with professional staff: online, telephone, email and face-to-face interactions.
Inappropriate interactions with, or demands made of, staff will be taken very seriously by the ANU CoL and can lead to disciplinary action.
Meetings and Phone Conversations with Staff
Academic staff will indicate on the course WATTLE site, the times at which they are available for consultation, either with or without appointment. Make use of the scheduling tool in WATTLE to book an appointment.
- Be on time for any appointment you make with staff, just as you would with your dentist, doctor, lawyer or accountant.
- When you enter an office, do not close the door unless invited to do so. Interactions with staff are normally confidential, but if you wish to ensure the privacy of your conversation with a staff member, explain this to them and ask them if you can close the door.
- Behave courteously and respectfully during any meeting with staff. Threatening or abusive conduct (including raised voices, accusations of bias etc) in meetings is highly inappropriate and may lead to disciplinary action. For certain meetings, an additional staff member may be present.
It is preferable to contact staff by email rather than by telephone. This allows for a trail of communication to be available so that everyone concerned can reference the exchange. If you are ringing staff, please introduce yourself clearly by telling them both your given and your family name and the issue you are ringing about.
Lectures/seminars/tutorials/other teaching and learning activities
- Arrive on time. Your teachers plan their classes carefully and need to cover a lot of ground, so please assume that all classes will start at five past the hour. Late arrivals are distracting for the teacher and other students. If it is a small cohort, apologise for your lateness.
- Find a spot quickly and quietly – this is especially important if you are late. Lecture rooms are often very full, so please ensure that you move to the middle of the row to allow easily accessible seating for those coming after you.
- Once you are at the class, stay until the end. If you must leave before the end of the class, as a matter of basic courtesy you should, if possible, forewarn the teacher before the beginning of the class. In large lecture rooms, pick a seat at the end of a row and leave by the back door (if there is one) to ensure minimum disruption.
- Bear in mind that the acoustics of most lecture theatres are designed for the person at the front to hear what is being said when people in the auditorium are asking questions. That means that what you think is a whisper is often audible to the lecturer. Conversations during a lecture, seminar or tutorial are distracting to others. It is particularly important that you are quiet and listen carefully when someone from the class is speaking in large classes, because their voice will not be picked up by the microphone in the lecture theatre.
- Come to class prepared, having done any required reading, and be ready to listen and engage. This is important for all your classes, but especially so for a flipped classroom approach. Listening is an important skill to develop: the art of listening is essential in the workplace, whether clients or colleagues are involved. Similarly, it is an important learning technique. Preparation of class work allows for deeper engagement with the material and with your colleagues.
(Preparing a tutorial or seminar problem requires you to review relevant material, break down the problem by isolating the issues, work through the applicable law and apply it to the facts of the problem so that you reach at least a tentative conclusion. Remember to record all of the above- in writing or electronically - even if only in dot point form).
- Show the teacher and your fellow students the respect of giving them your full attention in the class. This starts with turning your mobile phone to silent before the class begins. While there may be legitimate reasons for you to be online in a class, including online polls, or checking the cases that are being discussed, think about how this might be perceived in the work place.
- You are encouraged to ask questions . Use the function in Echo 360 or put your hand up to gain your teacher’s attention. Please do not call out or interject.
- If you disagree with what has been said by someone in your class, frame that disagreement constructively. In particular, avoid admonishing or belittling the views and contributions of others. Examples of how to frame your comments are: “That’s really interesting. I had a completely different response when I read the case” or “I came at it from another angle that I think works too” or “Have you considered, instead, that …”
Please complete evaluations of your courses and experience of teaching and learning. Your feedback is important; it informs the design of future courses, which benefits future students.
When you completing evaluations, please follow the same principles of courteous, respectful and ethical conduct as apply in the other contexts discussed in this document. In particular, you are expected to make helpful and constructive comments that can be actioned by the relevant Convenors and teachers.
This Guide sits alongside the ANU Code of Conduct (which applies to members of staff) and the ANU Law Staff Policy on Appropriate Relationships. Other relevant documents are:
- ANU Code of Conduct
- ANU Discipline Rules 2018
- ANU Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning note that this document has a section on expectations of students)
- ANU Procedure: prevention of discrimination, harassment and bullying
- ANU Guideline: Social Media participation by ANU students