Syllabuses spell out everything for students

Published: Sunday, July 1, 2007 at 6:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 1, 2007 at 6:51 p.m.

The syllabus is as much a mainstay of college life as pizza and beer.

But like just about everything else on college campuses, the syllabus has evolved over time. When University of Florida freshmen begin the Summer B term Monday, they're likely to receive syllabuses that go well beyond a simple listing of homework assignments and required texts. Indeed, some UF faculty have spent their careers crafting rather lengthy treatises, covering subjects like the fundamentals of good manners, the perils of reading newspapers in the middle of a lecture, and even the intolerable injustice of falling just shy of that coveted "B+."

Diane Schaub, who has been teaching for 14 years, recently put together an eight-page syllabus that reminded students they are now "in college, not high school" and maturity is expected. She describes her class as a job, where students can take "sick leave," "annual leave," and, yes, be "fired at the end of the semester."

The first page of Schaub's "course rules" features a cartoon picture of a police officer writing a ticket. While the cartoon cop doesn't exactly look menacing, he does set the tone for a class where good attendance and mutual respect are requirements.

So why is the syllabus so long? More seasoned faculty, Schaub explains, have learned that some students will balk at any requirements not explicitly spelled out in that precious document handed out on Day 1.

"We live in a litigious society, so (students) sort of look at the syllabus as a contract," said Schaub, a senior lecturer in industrial and systems engineering. "If you don't have it in the contract, they say you (can't enforce it)."

"Some of (the lengthiness) comes from having students complain in the past and try to get by us," she added. "We try to plug the loopholes."

For more on this story, see Monday's edition of The Sun.

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