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3 March 2013

Faculty, students discuss syllabi preview

Students register for courses hoping to have a certain experience, but realize that the course was different from their expectations. With the integration of the CaneLink system, the question of having syllabi available during registration time has been raised.

“Sometimes the class sounds really cool, but when you get to it, the content doesn’t really reflect what you were expecting, and vice-versa,” freshman Daniela Lorenzo said.

Most students share Lorenzo’s sentiments.

Richard L. Williamson, the chair of the Faculty Senate, thinks that asking professors to upload their syllabi would be more burdensome than helpful.

“Some people, me included for example, don’t have a syllabus the way some other people do,” he said. “So I have a document I call the ‘course requirements’ document, and I have a separate document called syllabus … a listing of what we’re going to do when.”

Trying to straighten out all of those differences can be a problem, according to Williamson. He explained that since some professors don’t have a conventional syllabus, the work that would go into fixing those extra details would outweigh the benefits.

“Ideally [syllabi] should be available before classes ever start,” Williamson said. “But there are some problems with making that a requirement.”

Because faculty members are often away doing research or projects, it may be hard for them to get their syllabus in before they return, Williamson said. And in smaller classes where the focus is on interactive processes between the professor and the students, a syllabus wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

“I think it’d be beneficial,” he said. “The real question is whether you can deal with all of these complexities.”

 

In his post as Faculty Senate chair, Williamson saw the implementation of the Holy Day Policy. He discussed how the decision would affect students.

“There’s also always the question about do these rules apply only to undergraduates,” Williamson said. “Basically, the final decision was that these rules only apply to undergraduates, although the professional and graduate schools were strongly encouraged to follow comparable policy.”

Williamson also spoke about extra credit policies. He said it was up to the professor to decide what goes on in his or her classroom in regards to grading. Because not all professors grade on a point system, he said having a centralized extra credit policy across the board would be a disadvantage.

Traci Ardren, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explained that extra credit could be more hurtful than helpful.

“We are reluctant to give extra credit because we feel that it acknowledges that you don’t have to do the work that is part of the course,” she said. “If you do the work … then you shouldn’t need extra credit.”

She also said that extra credit is something that she offers to students in her introductory courses that perhaps don’t know how to take her exams.

“There’s very few people here who really need that kind of help,” Ardren said. “I think students expect extra credit these days, and from a faculty perspective, it’s become commonplace, when really it should only be something that’s used in relatively rare or extraordinary cases because there’s no reason that you can’t earn a good grade just doing the regular work of the class.”

Sophomore Stephanie Vazquez sees extra credit as a valuable opportunity to make up for an exam.

“I think extra credit should be offered more,” she said. “There is always a test that you don’t perform to the best of your ability, so the extra credit really helps alleviate the stress.”

Lorenzo feels that extra credit work is also useful for getting her GPA up to where she wants it to be.

“I love being challenged in class, but there are times where stupid mistakes are made or you’re having a bad day … and you can’t perform up to standard,” she said. “Extra credit allows you to have more of an impact on your grade and ensure that it’s as high as you can make it … [I] know if I mess up, there’s a way to fix my mistakes.”

Ardren also spoke about student’s habits during class registration.

“I don’t think people should shop for classes based on whether or not there’s extra credit offered,” she said. “In college, extra credit should be a rare thing … I want the students here to know that faculty in the college at least … are willing to work with people on revising drafts of writing or in study sessions or in one-on-one meetings …  those are all better solutions than extra credit.”