Course and Instructor Policies

Safe Space

Sometimes, in humanities courses, we have to discuss difficult, sensitive, or controversial topics. Our conversations will be governed by two rules aimed to ensure everyone feels comfortable contributing to the discussion:

  1. Do your best to speak respectfully, tactfully, and not to attack persons in or out of the class. Criticism should target texts and ideas, not persons or groups, and especially not people in the room. Be sensitive to how what you say can be heard.
  2. Assume that everyone else is doing their best. Be generous with others’ honest mistakes. We all make them occasionally. Assume that all contributions are made in good faith, and do your best to gently suggest ways of improvement.

These principles are not meant to preclude criticism, or convey the idea that everyone is equally right about such topics. Rather, they are meant to redirect discussion in order to foster a maximally inclusive, appropriately focused, critically rigorous investigation of our ideas about these topics, which is the best way we know to make progress in such areas.

Contacting the Instructor

Before you contact me, I suggest checking the syllabus, course website, and all handouts to see if the answer to your question is there. For more complex questions, you should see me in office hours or make an appointment. You can send me an email, but this is not a good way to get in touch with me about either trivial matters (which are almost certainly on the syllabus or best discussed in class) or difficult issues (which should be discussed in person). I will not accept work or provide feedback via email. Email has generated many unreasonable expectations in our lives that we should all think more critically about, and I encourage you to do so. Of course, you should feel free to email me to remind me about something, or if you need to contact me urgently (if, for instance, you will miss an assignment due to a dire medical issue). If I do not reply to your email within 48 hours, please send me a reminder.

Late Work, Make-Up, and Completion

No late work or make-up exams will be allowed without consent of the professor prior to the due/exam date, except in situations where University policy requires it, or in case of truly dire circumstances. All non-optional assignments must be completed in satisfactory manner in order to receive a passing grade in the course.

Cheating and Plagiarism

Don’t do it! If you incorporate any work that is not your own into any project that you do, and you do not cite the source properly, this counts as plagiarism. This includes somewhat doing the work for you, taking work done by another student, verbatim copying of published sources, and paraphrasing published work without citation. Re-using work created for another course also counts as plagiarism in most contexts. Unless group work is explicitly permitted or required, it is expected that all of the work that you turn in is original and your own, and that any sources that you make use of are correctly cited.

If you are caught cheating or plagiarizing, it is absolutely mandatory for the instructor to turn you in to the Dean of Students Office of Community Standards and Conduct.

Class Attendance

Missed classes, beyond your initial allowance, will count heavily against your participation grade, and egregious absenteeism will be grounds for an F in the course at the professor’s discretion. In-class assignments and activities likewise cannot be made up. Each tardy arrival or early departure will count as half an absence, unless they are disruptive or extreme,in which case they will be considered absences.

Laptops and Other Devices

You should not use a laptop or tablet computer in this course during lecture or discussion, including for note-taking or reading purposes, unless you can demonstrate a compelling need for it. Likewise, you may not use a music player or headphones, unless they are attached to a hearing-assistive device approved by the instructor or the Office of Student AccessAbility. If you are given such an exception, it will be immediately and permanently revoked if you abuse the technology for off-topic purposes.

The use of such devices can be a distraction to your classmates and instructor and a detriment to your own learning. Readings should be brought to class in the print version or printed out. Notes should be taken on paper and scanned or transcribed after class (transcribing handwritten notes has been shown to be a fairly effective study method). Given the nature of the course, you should not have to take such copious notes as to require any extra speed afforded by typing them. This strict and paternalistic policy is a result of both personal experience and a close look at the psychological and pedagogical research on the pros and cons of electronic devices in the classroom. Across every measure, the evidence speaks against indiscriminate use of laptops in class.

Failure to abide by this policy the first time will result in a warning. The second time, it will result in being marked “absent” for the day. For certain activities in-class, the instructor may request you to bring a laptop or to take it out and use it for that specific purpose. These will be specified by the instructor.

Classroom expectations

You are expected to have read the assignments before class, and it would be to your benefit to also read them again after class. You are expected to bring a copy of assigned readings for each day’s class, and have them available to refer to. I will occasionally ask to see your copy of the text, to see that you are so prepared. You are expected to listen respectfully to the professor and your fellow students, and participate in class discussions and activities.

Clear failure to abide by these expectations will result in you being asked to leave the classroom and being counted absent for the day.

Tips on Forms of Address

It is appropriate and courteous to refer to your professors by the title of “Professor” or “Doctor” as in “Professor Brown” or “Dr. Brown,” though in some circles the latter connotes someone with an MD rather than a PhD. Unless you write for the New York Times, it is generally inappropriate to refer to your professor as “Mr.” or “Ms./Mrs./Miss.” (And unless they have specifically stated a preference for it, it is never appropriate to call an adult woman “Miss or Mrs.”) Having been educated in part in the informal academic climate of California, it would also be fine if you call me “Matt.” (Please don’t call me “Matthew,” only my mother does that.) Having also been educated in the South, I am fine being referred to in a formal fashion as well (and would be happy to refer to you formally if you prefer).

Guns on Campus

There has been some confusion about the new guns on campus law that was passed last year. The new law does not go into effect until August 1, 2016. Prior to that time, no weapons, including concealed handguns, may be brought into any university buildings, including classrooms and office spaces. Even after August 1, open carry is not permitted on campus.

University Policies

The information contained in the following link constitutes the University’s policies and procedures segment of the course syllabus:

A syllabus is not a suicide pact. This descriptions, timelines, and policies contained in this syllabus are subject to change in the interest of improving the quality of the course, at the discretion of the professor. Adequate notice will be provided for any changes.

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