Both leading a minicourse, as well as participating in a minicourse requires effort, respect and commitment. This is especially true for online minicourses. Here are our policies and expectations for minicourse leaders and TAs, and minicourse participants:

SMC Collegiality Statement1:

SMC strives to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all. We ask you to help us by including new people from all backgrounds in your circles as much as possible. SMC is committed to fostering a community of respect, collegiality, and sensitivity. The study of mathematics is challenging, often emotionally as well as intellectually; even mildly uncollegial behavior can have highly detrimental effects on another’s ability to focus. In most situations, simple common sense and good judgment should suffice as guidance, but we appreciate that some questions of appropriate behavior can be more complex and subtle.

Here are some ways you can help foster collegiality at SMC:

  • Reach out to people you do not know and actively build new connections;
  • Understand and respect that different people may bring differences in background, expertise, and interest;
  • Welcome diversity and encourage diverse opinions;
  • Avoid demeaning others or aggressively challenging their competence or mathematical abilities;
  • Refrain from promoting bias and stereotypes about race, nationality, religion, gender and sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics;
  • Understand that behavior can have an adverse impact on others, even in the absence of malicious intent by the actor.

1 This is based in large part on the MSRI Collegiality Statement.

Conflict Policy:

It is the responsibility of the SMC organizers to deal with unprofessional and uncollegial behavior from participants. Discriminatory, harassing, or bullying behavior will not be tolerated. If you think you have experienced or witnessed such behavior or if you do not feel comfortable with the way you are being treated, we urge you to contact the SMC organizers at Participants found to be responsible for unprofessional or non-collegial behavior will be issued a warning. Repeat violators will be barred from participating in the relevant course and, in severe cases, may be completely barred from all SMC activities.

Most minicourses will have a TA on duty to help moderate lectures and problem sessions. Though the TA’s primary concern is with academic and logistical matters, the TA will be monitoring chat and so should report any questionable conduct to the SMC organizers. If a course is taking place via Zoom and a participant is excessively cutting others off or otherwise not being respectful, the course instructor and TA should know that call hosts can mute participants.

Minicourse Leader and TA Expectations:

SMC 2023 course leaders have been strongly advised to find TAs to help with their courses, particularly for hybrid/Zoom courses. The primary role of the TA is to assist course leaders with academic and logistical matters during lectures and problem sessions. Most of this deals with courses taught via Zoom.

Moderating Hybrid or Zoom Lectures

During virtual lectures, the course leader will likely be preoccupied with teaching and have a harder time interacting with the audience virtually. As such, the TA is there to help streamline communication between the course leader and the audience by:

  • Skimming chat for comments and questions and then flagging relevant information;
  • Passing flagged information to the course leader when appropriate (possibly after lecture depending on time constraints);
  • Stopping audience speakers who are taking up too much time;
  • Putting participants into break-out groups and moderating said groups as above.

Moderating Problem Sessions

During problem sessions, the course leader will mainly be focused on interacting with the audience and discussing provided problems as well as lecture content. The TA’s role in this is similar to the above but includes some extra points.

There will likely not be enough time during problem sessions for the course leader to talk with everyone in the audience. The TA can help with this by addressing comments and questions in the chat. This of course requires that the TA have some familiarity with the course content, so course leaders should clearly spell out what they expect their TAs to know prior to the start of the course. If the TA’s discussion with the audience bears interesting fruit or if the TA finds they are unable to answer a question, then the TA should relay the relevant information to the course leader.

A note on conduct

In the event that course participants are not courteous to others, the TA is responsible for recording and reporting questionable conduct to the course leader, or even to the SMC organizers if the problem is sufficiently serious. TAs also have the authority to mute/remove audience speakers whose conduct is out of line.

Minicourse Participant Expectations:

Participants should respect the privacy of others. The classroom should be treated as a confidential environment in which individuals are putting themselves out there and making themselves vulnerable in order to learn and grow. This applies to speakers as well as audience members, who may feel self-conscious about speaking, making mistakes, etc. If a speaker has consented to having their lectures recorded then a link will appear on the SMC website. Please refrain from privately recording lectures, even if they are being live-streamed.

Here are a few other good online meeting practices that you should follow:

  • Be on time.
  • Mute your mic when you are not speaking or asking a question.
  • Identify yourself before asking a question: “This is so-and-so (from X university)...”
  • Your background should be undistracting and work-appropriate – if you cannot achieve this then you should mute your video.
  • Avoid multi-tasking.

We strongly encourage participants to engage with courses in as many ways as possible. Possibilities include:

  • Asking questions, both out loud and in the chat;
  • Attending problem-solving sessions;
  • For courses using Zoom, participating in break-out sessions;
  • For courses using Discord, participating in the relevant Discord channel.