Policy development and approval

Purpose

To provide direction and guidance on the development, review and revision of Seneca policies. 

Scope

This policy applies to all areas of Seneca.

Key Definitions

Guidelines

A set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) approved by designated leads within each department to inform Seneca’s business operations, as appropriate. 

Policy

Approved formal documents that regulate, guide and inform Seneca’s activities and governance, providing the operational framework within which the institution functions.

Policy owner

The area within Seneca responsible for content development of a specific policy. 

Procedure

Documents that support policies, as required, with details about implementation and processes. 

Standard operating procedures

The step-by-step processes developed by departments and followed by Seneca employees to perform required day-to-day operations with consistency and efficiency. 

Sunset

When, after review, a policy is determined to be obsolete and is no longer referenced to inform Seneca’s governance or operations. 

 

1. Seneca policies

1.1 Seneca policies are used by the following stakeholders to assign responsibility to oversee and perform Seneca’s governance, operations and service provision:

  • Students
  • Board of Governors (BOG)
  • Administrators
  • Faculty and
  • Support staff

1.2 Seneca policies are informed by, and comply with, applicable legislation and Ministry of Colleges and Universities binding policy directives.

1.3 Seneca policies reflect the institution’s mission, values, strategic plan and best practice within the Canadian postsecondary sector.

1.4 Seneca policies are categorized by topics related to academics, student services, human resources, operations, finance and board governance.

1.5 Seneca policies are available and publicly accessible online via the policy hub and Board policies and supporting documents webpage. 

 

2. Policy development 

2.1 The requirement to develop a new policy is generally identified by a Seneca department or area, in response to:

  • new or revised legislation
  • new or revised binding policy directives from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities
  • an identified gap in academic, operational or governance oversight.

2.2 The development of a new policy requires consultation with affected areas and approval by Seneca’s Senior Executive Committee prior to writing content.

2.3 Policy development is overseen and informed by the policy owner in collaboration with Seneca’s Communications department, which ensures style and formatting consistent within Seneca’s policy template.

2.4 Policy owners will develop a plan for policy development with a timeline for analysis, research, consultation, writing, policy owner review and approval, final approval and implementation.

2.5 In cases where internal Seneca committees are involved in informing policy development, endorsement and/or approval, these committees will be consulted as the policy is developed, prior to the policy owner bringing the policy forward for final approval by Seneca’s Senior Executive Committee.

2.6 If a legal review is required, the policy, and, as needed, any related procedures, will be sent to legal counsel prior to approval. Approval to seek legal council must be obtained in accordance with Seneca’s Signing Authority policy.

2.7 Each policy and procedure developed at Seneca is assigned a time frame for initial implementation and review; both time frames are suggested by policy owners and approvers and approved by either the Senior Executive Committee or the Board of Governors, depending on which is the final approval body.

2.8 Seneca’s Communications department will be responsible for developing and maintaining a master policy review schedule, informing policy owners when implementation periods are ending and re-evaluations are required, and following up to ensure that the review cycle is closed, signalled by the posting of the reviewed policy, with any edits, and updating the review schedule to reflect the next review date.

2.9 Upon review, if it is determined that a policy should be updated or dissolved, this determination will require approval from the Senior Executive Committee before the policy in question is altered or ended. 

 

3. Policy approval

3.1 The Board of Governors approves policies mandated for its review by government and those specific to its roles and responsibilities.

3.2 The Senior Executive Committee approves policies related to Seneca’s operations, academics, human resources and finances.

 

4. Procedures 

4.1 Procedures will be produced to explain and guide the implementation and appropriate use of policies, as required. 

4.2 Procedures are approved by policy owners. 

 

5. Guidelines

5.1 To ensure consistency and efficiency in operations, guidelines will be identified, researched, produced, approved and implemented by departments to provide standard operating procedures to guide business activities and obligations.

5.2 Guidelines are approved departmentally, as appropriate.

5.3 Guidelines can be stand-alone documents and do not need to be connected to a Seneca-wide policy or procedure. 

Supporting Documentation

  • Seneca Policy template
  • Seneca policy writing guidelines 

Related Seneca Policies

  • N/A

 

Seneca policy writing procedures

1. Consultation

1.1 An administration, academic or service area identifies the need for a policy to be developed and first confirms with their leadership that the new policy is required.

1.2 The head of the area will obtain approval from the Senior Executive Committee for a new policy to be developed.

2. Content development

2.1 If the Senior Executive Committee approves the development of a new policy, the department in question will work with the Communications team to develop content and any related procedures.

2.2 Once content is finalized, it will be organized using the Seneca policies template. (See the Seneca policy writing guidelines for additional details.)

2.3 If needed, draft policies are shared with appropriate stakeholders by the Seneca department responsible for creating and overseeing the policy.  

3. Approval

3.1 Policy content must be approved by the area’s leadership team. Where necessary, legal counsel review follows the approval, in accordance with Seneca’s Signing Authority policy (link).

3.2 When departmental approval is confirmed, the draft policy is presented to the Senior Executive Committee or, if required, Seneca’s BOARD OF GOVERNORS for final approval. 

4. Distribution

4.1 Once content approval is received from the Senior Executive Committee, the final policy and related procedures are posted publicly on Seneca’s online policy hub.

 

Seneca policy writing guidelines

1. Structure

1.1 Present policies and procedures separately

Policies and procedures should be presented as separate documents to ensure the distinction between the two is maintained. (See the Definitions section of the Policy Development and Approval policy for the details that differentiate policies and procedures.)

1.2 Use the standard Seneca policy template

Policies should be prepared in the policy template to ensure consistency among, and readability of, Seneca’s policies. 

1.3 Present policies in the standard numbered list format

Policy text that goes beyond an initial policy statement (a formal, brief and high-level statement that presents the rule) to include standards (mandatory actions and/or rules that further define the policy and make it more effective) should be presented in the following numbered list format to make it easier to read:

1.        Section Heading

1.1       Section subheading

1.1.1                Text within headings  

1.4 Use headings, lists and tables

To provide clarity, comprehension and enable readers to easily find what they are looking for, use headings to logically separate text into smaller sections. For example:

1.        Policy Statement

2.        Roles and Responsibilities:

    2.1.1 Students

    2.1.2 Employees

3.         Complaints

4.         Sanctions

Use bulleted lists to break up items in a long paragraph. Items in bulleted lists should have parallel grammar structure in tense, verb usage, etc. As well, bullets should be kept short with punctuation and capitalization eliminated for readability. A numbered list may be used instead of a bulleted list to show order or priority of items. For example:

1.         Roles and Responsibilities

    1.1 Employees shall write policies using:

  • §  simple and concise language
  • §  third-person pronouns
  • §  an active voice
  • §  consistent sentence structure

Use simple tables to present data in an organized manner. For example:

Activity Accountable Party
Budgeting Budget holders
Approving Deans and directions
Reviewing Finance department

2. Language

2.1 Keep policies general

Write policies clearly and using general language to ensure they apply to a wider array of circumstances. As all situations cannot be anticipated, generalization will help keep a policy as broadly applicable as possible. 

2.2 Use simple and concise language

To keep policies accessible and understandable to all readers:

  • write policies assuming readers have a limited/basic knowledge of Seneca and its operations
  • use simple and common words that can be understood by everyone, avoiding jargon, idioms and technical terms where possible, for example:
    • write “use” instead of “utilize”
    • write “including” instead of “including but not limited to”
    • write “despite” instead of “notwithstanding”
  • use short and concise sentences that avoid redundancy and unnecessary complication; typically, sentences should be less than 20 words and focus on one idea

2.3 Use third-person pronouns and an active voice

Write policies in a third-person voice to help readers understand their responsibility. This also applies to policies written from the perspective of Seneca. For example:

Write: Employees must obtain prior approval.
Instead of: Prior approval must be obtained.

Write: Students may submit a completed form within two (2) weeks.
Instead of: You may submit a completed form within two (2) weeks.

Write: Seneca will be responsible for…
Instead of: We will be responsible for…

 

Use the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “their” for plural and singular pronouns respectively. For example:

Write: A student must submit their required coursework.
Instead of: A student must submit his/her require coursework.

 

Write policies using an active voice rather than a passive voice. Using an active voice ensures a sentence is clear because the subject does the action. The use of pronouns will help accomplish this. For example:

Write: Human Resources will notify candidates…
Instead of: Candidates will be notified…

2.4 Use “Seneca” to refer to Seneca College

Refer to Seneca College as “Seneca” rather than “the College,” “Seneca College” or “the institution.”

2.5 Use positive form

Where possible, write policies using a positive form rather than negative. This means telling an individual what to do rather than what not to do. For example:

Write: Employees must submit a claim for expenses within six (6) months of the expenditure.
Instead of: Employees may not submit a claim for expenses older than six (6) months.  

2.6 Use consistent language and sentence structure

Use the same word for a concept throughout a policy, and preferably, throughout all Seneca policies to increase clarity and comprehension. For example:

Write: either “suspected violation” or “alleged violation” exclusively
Instead of: “suspected violation” and “alleged violation” interchangeably 

Write sentences using consistent verb tense throughout a policy.

Express obligations and recommendations appropriately

Carefully select words used in the policy to express obligations or recommendations, considering the authority behind them. The following suggests which word to use to convey either an obligation or a recommendation:

  • “must” for an obligation
  • “must not” for a prohibition
  • “may” for a discretionary action

For example:

Obligatory action: Seneca must retain records for at least one (1) year from their last use.

Prohibitive action: Employees must not charge personal expenses to a purchasing card card…

Discretionary action: Students may opt out … 

2.7 Avoid information that becomes obsolete quickly

Use generic information (i.e., names, titles and contact details) that will not quickly become outdated and require revisions. For example:

Write: Employees must submit the form to the Human Resources Department.
Instead of: Employees shall submit the form to Jane Smith, Associate Director of Health and Safety, Human Resources Department.

Write: Forms shall be emailed to servicedesk@senecacollege.ca.
Instead of: Forms shall be emailed to jane.smith@senecacollege.ca

2.8 Appropriately reference legislation

When referencing a federal or provincial act within a policy, cite and italicize the short title of the act. For example:

Write: Under the Copyright Act, students must...
Instead of: In accordance with an Act respecting copyright, students must...

When referencing a federal or provincial act within the “Related Materials” section of the standard policy template, cite and italicize the short title of the act and cite, where applicable, the following basic elements: the statute volume, jurisdiction, year, chapter, schedules or appendices, session or supplement and amendments and repeals. Hyperlink the citation to the related act. For example: Copyright Act, R.S.C., 1985. c. C-42

3. Style

3.1 Use standard font and font size throughout the policy

Draft policies using Arial 12-point font.

3.2 Use capitalization and punctuation appropriately

Capitalize the main words in section headings and use sentence case (i.e. only capitalize the first letter of the sentence) for subheadings, text within headings/subheadings and lists. Do not capitalize the first letter of a bulleted list unless it is part of a formal name or title.

Do not use punctuation at the end of headings, subheadings and a bulleted list. For example:

1.        Roles and Responsibilities

1.1       Faculty and staff

1.1.1                Faculty and staff with a purchasing card must:

  • ensure supporting documentation is received
  • reconcile all purchases on a monthly basis

Capitalize “Campus” when using it as part of a name. Lowercase “campus” when referring to multiple campuses. For example:

Write: Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Newnham and King campuses and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at King Campus.
Instead of: Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Newnham and King Campuses and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at King campus.

Do not use employee names in policies, only job titles and ensure titles are capitalized. For example:

Write: Faculty must obtain approval from the President.
Instead of: Faculty must obtain approval from the president.

 

Write: Faculty must obtain approval from a chair, and dean prior to submitting a claim.
Instead of: Faculty must obtain approval from the Dean, Faculty of Applied Arts & Health Sciences prior to submitting a claim.

 

Capitalize words such as department, centre and program when they are part of a formal name. For example:

Write: Faculty of Communication, Art & Design
Instead of: faculty of Communication, Art & Design

Place commas before elements in a list or series, but not before the final “and”/”or.” For example:

Write: faculty, staff and employees
Instead of: faculty, staff, and employees

3.3 Use underlining, bold and italics appropriately

Use underlining for subheadings and for hyperlinks.

Use bold weighting for headings and to emphasize text throughout a policy. However, use bold sparingly as excessive use will make it less effective.

Use italics when noting supplementary information in a policy. Otherwise, avoid using italics as they can be difficult to read. 

3.4 Spell out whole numbers

Spell out whole numbers below 10 with the figure in parentheses and use figures only for 10 and above. For example:

Write: Students must be enrolled in at least four (4) programs to...
Instead of: Students must be enrolled in at least 4 programs to...

3.5 Spell out acronyms and abbreviations

If using an abbreviation or acronym, spell out the full name wherever it is first used within each section (i.e., Purpose, Scope, Definitions and Policy) of the standard policy template, and place the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses. For example:

First use: Faculty of Applied Arts & Health Sciences (FAAHS)
Subsequent uses: FAAHS