Suggested Syllabi Statements

A course syllabus is a vital part of any class as it provides a framework for the instructor and the student on what is expected from each party. All University faculty are encouraged to have a syllabus for the courses they teach. A syllabus is essentially the material that students receive on the first day of class which gives all members of the course clear information about what is expected. It is essential that a course syllabus contains information pertinent to the instructor(s), policies, and curriculum. The Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Delaware has a number of resources available for creating a syllabus that is comprehensive, understandable to students and highlights information important to you.

The Office of Student Conduct answers numerous calls each year from faculty regarding academic honesty, disruptive classroom behavior, and absenteeism. Staff members from the Office of Student Conduct are available to meet with faculty to discuss particular issues or situations. In some instances, the incident may result in student conduct charges
being filed against the student(s). Anticipating what may develop in your classroom and having a plan of action in place are two helpful approaches.
Discussing academic integrity, classroom rules, and course grading procedures with your students at the beginning of every semester will help to set the foundation for you and your students. Including this same information on your course syllabus reinforces your verbal messages and provides a tangible resource for students throughout the semester.

Several faculty members at the University of Delaware have given the Office of Student Conduct permission to use their syllabi as a model for creating a course syllabus. Listed below are some examples of how faculty have addressed the issues of academic honesty, disruptive classroom behavior and absenteeism.


ACADEMIC HONESTY STATEMENT

A generic statement about academic honesty that is commonly used among faculty is as follows: “All students must be honest and forthright in their academic studies. To falsify the results of one’s research, to steal the words or ideas of another, to cheat on an assignment, or to allow or assist another to commit these acts corrupts the educational process. Students are expected to do their own work and neither give nor receive unauthorized assistance. Any violation of this standard must be reported to the Office of Student Conduct.”

Faculty have included some more specific information. Examples of these include the following:

Dr. John F. Jebb, Department of English, writes:

Any work that you submit to me at any stage of the writing process -thesis and outline, draft, bibliography, etc., through final version -must be your own; in addition, any words ideas, or data that you borrow from other people and include in your work must be properly documented. Failure to do either of these things is plagiarism. The University of Delaware protects the rights of all students by insisting that individual students act with integrity. Accordingly, the University severely penalizes plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.

Dr. Clyde Moneyhun, formerly of the Department of English and currently Associate Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University, includes a statement similar to the one Dr. Jebb uses and also includes the following:

Every year, students who don’t think they will be caught are given failing grades for papers, given failing grades for courses, sometimes even suspended from the University. Even students who don’t intend to plagiarize but do it by mistake can suffer the consequences; the Office of Student Conduct doesn’t take ‘intent’ into account, only the fact of plagiarism. All this should convince you that UD takes plagiarism very seriously indeed.

Dr. Joseph A. Brady, Department of Business and Economics: Accounting and Management Information Systems, writes:

The Western world has had universities as we know them for at least a thousand years. In all that time, some things have stayed the same. Teachers still teach, students still come to school to learn, teachers still use assignments and tests to see if students actually have learned. The hallmarks of education are the creation of knowledge by researchers, and the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.Students accumulate academic credit by actually learning course content.University instructors are interested in your intellectual achievements. That means they try to measure what you can do intellectually on your own. What you can do is a function of what you have learned. So, the general rule is that students should not do things that cause them to take credit for the work of others, which shows what someone else has learned. Nor should they do things that let others take credit for their work. Accumulating academic credit by other means is a denial of the nature of higher education.A student who is academically dishonest is, by definition, not showing that the coursework has been learned. And that student is claiming an advantage not available to other students. The instructor is responsible for measuring each student’s individual achievements and also for ensuring that all students compete on a level playing field. Thus, in UD’s system, the instructor has teaching, grading, and enforcement roles.You are expected to be familiar with the University’s Policy on Academic Honesty, found in the Student Guide to University Policies. What that means is: If you are charged with an offense, pleading ignorance of the rules will not help you. The official UD reporting policy…requires that all alleged incidents of academic dishonesty be handled through the Office of Student Conduct.

Some faculty have found it beneficial to provide students with examples of what are acceptable and unacceptable practices in the particular course.

Dr. Brady includes the following information in his syllabus for ACCT 261, Introduction to Business Information Systems II.

Here are some practices that are acceptable:

  • Getting procedural advice from B&E lab consultants.
  • Discussing ideas about assignments with fellow students.
  • Showing a classmate how to do a computer procedure (or getting help with a procedure in this way).
  • Getting help from your instructor.
  • Modeling your code directly after examples I give you, or that are in course materials. Of course, doing all your work by yourself, without any help is acceptable.

Here are some practices that are not acceptable:

  • Copying (by whatever means) another student’s work or duplicating another student’s problem solving steps. This means it is not acceptable to do an assignment by having another student dictate the assignment’s keystrokes to you, or to let another student do things for you.
  • Submitting another student’s work, in whole or in part, as your own on an assignment or examination.
  • Copying (electronically or by hand) someone else’s computer file, modifying it, and handing it in as your own work.
  • Having someone load his/her assignment into the computer, then modifying it and handing it in as your own work.
  • Working with other students in unauthorized ways, in order to complete assignments; e.g., working in a team of 3, when teams of 2 are specified.
  • Working directly from someone else’s code or from their pseudocode.
  • Allowing another person to copy all or part of your work, to hand in as your own. Thus, you should not provide a paper or electronic copy of your work to classmates for them to use as a “reference” in doing their work. And you should not post your work to a web site or an electronic bulletin board, nor similar medium, for reference by others.

This list of unacceptable practices is not intended to be a complete enumeration of all the possible situations you could get yourself into; the list merely cites some examples of violations.

Including information about the University’s Writing Center is highly recommended and helpful for students who are not familiar with the center.

Dr. Moneyhun includes the following:

The writing center is an excellent resource. Expert writing tutors (faculty  and graduate students) will meet with you one-on-one, for free, for an hour, as often as you like. You can take assignments before you even start writing for help with brainstorming; you can take rough drafts; you can take later drafts. You can set the agenda, telling the tutor exactly what kind of help you want. (The only thing tutors won’t do is ‘proofread’ and edit papers for you.) Sharing your writing as youwork on it is the habit of a good writer. To make a free one-hour appointment with a Writing Center instructor, call 831-1168. Hours are M-F 9-12 and 1-5, M-W 6-9.


DISRUPTIVE CLASSROOM BEHAVIOR

Disruptive classroom behavior can negatively affect the classroom environment as well as the educational experience for students enrolled in the course. The Office of Student Affairs at the University of West Florida defines disruptive classroom behavior as “any behavior that a reasonable person would view as substantially or repeatedly interfering with the conduct of a class.” It is important that course instructors address these behaviors early on rather than allow them to linger all semester and attempt to change a pattern that has been occurring for quite some time. In some instances, faculty members may be able to change the disruptive student’s behavior by talking with the individual and identifying what is occurring for the student and what is contributing to or causing his/her disruptive behavior. Please refer to the Center for Teaching and Learning for more detailed information about how to handle disruptive classroom behavior. In some cases, students may benefit greatly from seeking help and services from offices on campus such as the counseling center; faculty members can be instrumental in making these referrals for students. When these interventions are not effective, the faculty member can involve the University judicial system

Research conducted by Gonzalez and Lopez on the issues of classroom incivility suggests that there are six categories of student behavior: “disengaged, disinterested, disrespectful, disruptive, defiant, and disturbed” (AAHE Bulletin, April 2001, p.3). Each type of behavior encompasses its own set of dilemmas, “but all [of these behaviors] affect the total classroom experience for the instructor and other students”
(Gonzalez & Lopez, AAHE Bulletin, April 2001, pp. 3-4). Disengaged and disinterested students can easily distract other students in the classroom while disrespectful students may engage in conversations with each other while impacting the ability of other students to clearly hear the instructor. Disruptive students tend to interrupt the flow of what is occurring in the classroom. Defiant students may resist classroom procedures and refuse to follow directions. Disturbed students may cause others in the classroom to feel anxiety or fear (Gonzalez & Lopez, AAHE Bulletin, April 2001, pp. 3-4).

When developing your expectations regarding appropriate classroom behavior, it is important to consider issues that have arisen in your classes and classes of your colleagues. Plan for and expect the unexpected. In addition to stating your academic expectations, it is also important to communicate “what type of environment you need/require to effectively teach and foster learning” (Office of Student Life, University of Oregon). Consider using the following classroom behavior statements from the University of Oregon on course syllabi:

  • Questions and comments must be relevant to the topic at hand
  • You should be in your seat and ready to begin class on time.
  • Packing up your belongings prior to the end of class is disruptive to others around you and to the instructor.
  • Classroom discussion should be civilized and respectful to everyone and relevant to the topic we are discussing.
  • Any discussion from class that continues on any listserv or class discussion list should adhere to these same rules and expectations.
  • Any continued disruption will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct.

(The above information was taken in part and re-ordered from the University of Oregon, Office of Student Life.)

Dr. Brady addresses appropriate classroom behavior in his syllabus as a common courtesy among the students and course instructor.

Normal day-to-day social relations break down quickly without common courtesy. Common courtesy is an extremely important trait in the business world, a minimum requirement for getting and keeping most jobs. Using common courtesy in college is good practice for the real world,surely.The most basic idea is to not disrupt your classmates, or your instructor,during class. So, please avoid behavior like: habitually coming to class late; continuing fraternity or sorority (or other  organizational) meetings during class times; passing around photos that document what you did on the weekend; maintaining steady conversation with neighbors during lecture or other class activities; taking (or making!) calls on your cell phone. My  concern for common courtesy during class is a practical one. If you are(for example) talking out loud while I am trying to run a class, I will not be able to hear myself think. I’ll be hearing you talk. That is disruptive for me,and it makes my job harder. I seek to change the behavior of people who make my job harder. I claim the right to impose a seating chart on the class, or on a subset of the class, in order to promote common courtesy.[In addition, I can refer students to the Office of Student Conduct for disruptive classroom behavior.]


ABSENTEEISM

It is important for faculty to have their class attendance policy in writing. “By action of the University Faculty, the responsibility for defining attendance expectations is left to the individual faculty member,…[within University guidelines]. Thus it is of great
importance that early in each course the instructor make clear to each student what the attendance expectations are, and how absences due to ‘relatively minor’ illnesses..are to be communicated” (UD Faculty Handbook, http://www.udel.edu/provost/fachb/II-II.html). Please consult the Faculty Handbook for detailed information about absences due to religious holidays, serious medical situations, and athletic participation or other extracurricular activities in which students are official representatives of the University.

Dr. Clyde Moneyhun writes:

You are expected to attend every class. If you must be absent, you are still responsible for the work due. If you know that you will be absent ahead of time, let me know, and make arrangements to get the work done ahead of time or to have it delivered to me on time.Consult the syllabus to see what is due to following the class, and call classmates to find out what went on during class. Excused absences must be confirmed in writing. For example, if serious illness, family emergencies, or other crises occur during the term, you should contact the Dean of your college (Arts and Sciences, Engineering, etc.) as soon as possible, [who] can assist you in notifying faculty and in validating for your [instructors] what has happened. If you have more than a few unexcused absences, I will meet with you to discus the situation. You should understand that your in-class grade will suffer as a result of unexcused absences, and of course your ability to do the work required in the course will also be impaired and grades on that work will naturally be lower.