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‘Freedom to teach and freedom to learn’ appears in revamped policy on syllabuses

When the Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities Policy took full effect at the beginning of the semester, students not only saw its effect in classrooms, but also in the university’s syllabuses policy. Amended earlier this year on Aug. 1, Temple’s syllabuses policy, which lists specific directions for instructors about what to include in… Read more »

When the Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities Policy took full effect at the beginning of the semester, students not only saw its effect in classrooms, but also in the university’s syllabuses policy.

Amended earlier this year on Aug. 1, Temple’s syllabuses policy, which lists specific directions for instructors about what to include in a course syllabus, now requires instructors to include the “freedom to teach and freedom to learn” statement, or a reference to this statement, in all syllabuses.

Not all professors agree with the policy.

“I am ambivalent about the academic freedom statement,” said Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department Andrew Isenberg. “It is ironic that faculty are compelled to proclaim their academic freedom to teach. I understand why Temple administrators want the statement in syllabi; they are concerned about negative publicity such as the hearings on academic freedom that the Pennsylvania legislature held earlier this year.” Regardless, the policy is just one of the many requirements that are mandated for inclusion in syllabuses.

Originally, Temple enacted a university-wide syllabus policy for all instructors to follow on Sept.1, 2003. The policy states that certain information, such as an instructor’s name and contact information, a complete list of required texts and supplies, a statement of course goals and the instructor’s expectations and attendance and grading policies should be included in all syllabi. The policy also states that an academic calendar and a disabilities accommodations statement that includes Disability Resources and Services contact information should also be included.

“I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years, and I have always put information such as office hours and grading policies into my [syllabuses],” Isenberg said. “I welcome the inclusion of the information about disability services in the [syllabuses]; this is helpful to both students and the professor.”

Academic planning is the reason most students said they feel the syllabus has been an essential tool for them.

“The syllabus really does help me,” said junior dance major Shaness Kemp. “I always write down important dates, like tests and papers for all of my classes in my own calendar so that I can remember when things are due.”

According to the policy, one of the goals of requiring an outline of academic information is to help students plan their lives outside of the academic setting accordingly and in cohesion with their semester workload.

“We believe that students are better able to plan their academic work when fully informed about classes,” Associate Vice Provost Stephanie G. Smith said. “It is the responsibility of the department or dean’s office to ensure [that] this requirement is followed.”

Although the university syllabus policy does not require professors to list information in a specific order, according to Smith, it does state that “full and reasonably detailed statement of the course goals – including the substantive knowledge to be learned in the class – must be included.”

Syllabuses may also be posted online.

“The policy requires that no later than the end of the first week of classes, each faculty member should provide two copies of each course syllabus to his/her department office,” Smith said. “One of the copies will be sent by the department office, no later than the third week of classes, [and one] to the library that serves the campus on which the course is being offered.”

According to the syllabus policy, the only exception to this rule is if the quality of the course will be affected by giving students a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. If this is the case, professors are still required to seek permission from the dean of their respective departments.

In conjunction with the university-wide policy, many interrelated colleges and departments require that professors include a statement on Temple’s Academic Dishonesty Policy and the consequences for students who violate that policy.

“I know that it definitely has helped me be more successful in class,” Kemp said. “If I didn’t have my assignments written down somewhere, I would forget all about them.”

Maya Davis can be reached at maya.davis@temple.edu.

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