Constructing a Syllabus

University Recommendations

While the following recommendations are not required to be included in your syllabus, they are recommended and in some cases include sample language from legal affairs and university policies.

  • Fall 2021 COVID-19 Syllabus Statements
    • Supplemental Information for Attendance Policies
      • Students who want to do well in this course will attend class following the class attendance policy. You will need an excused absence due to illness. GSU has a new process for students seeking excused absences through the Dean of Students Office. Please submit documentation to https://deanofstudents.gsu.edu/student-assistance/professor-absence-notification/. I will then be notified by the Dean of Students of any excused absences.
      • Should a student test COVID positive, any accommodations to the class attendance policy will be informed by evolving guidance from the CDC on quarantine. In most cases there will be no major change to mode of course delivery, so students will be responsible for collecting notes for missed in-person classes and making up any work they miss during quarantine. Anyone who has a positive COVID test is encouraged to alert the university so that appropriate contact tracing can be conducted.
    • Wearing Masks in Class
    • Short version:
      You probably have an opinion on the effectiveness and use of masks to limit the spread of COVID-19 but wearing a face mask is not required in Georgia State classrooms. I will be wearing my face mask, and you are encouraged to wear yours. If you choose not to wear a face mask there is no penalty, and students should not engage an any type of disruptive behavior towards those who have made a different choice about wearing a mask.

      Longer version:
      You are encouraged to wear a face covering in all class meetings. I know that face masks may make some aspects of class more difficult. It will be harder for us all to project our voices and read each other’s facial expressions. However, I am willing to sacrifice these elements since wearing a mask is one thing I can control to support the health and safety of our community. Be aware that wearing face mask is not required by GSU, so there is no penalty if you choose to not wear a mask. Our university community has a strong tradition of upholding the value of mutual respect, we therefore ask students to not engage in behavior that would be disruptive if your fellow students make a different choice about wearing masks. If you have concerns, please discuss them with me and I will work to the best of my ability to provide a comfortable environment conducive to student learning.

  • Campus Carry Statement (recommended by Legal Affairs)
    The Campus Carry legislation allows anyone properly licensed in the state of Georgia to carry a handgun in a concealed manner on university property with noted exceptions. It is the responsibility of the license holder to know the law. Failure to do so may result in a misdemeanor charge and may violate the Georgia State Student Code of Conduct.”
  • Sharing of Instructor-generated Materials
    Consider including information about the prohibition of sharing instructor-generated materials. This information can be included as part of the syllabus information on academic honesty. The policy prohibits students from posting instructor-generated materials on external sites.Sample language:
    The selling, sharing, publishing, presenting, or distributing of instructor-prepared course lecture notes, videos, audio recordings, or any other instructor-produced materials from any course for any commercial purpose is strictly prohibited unless explicit written permission is granted in advance by the course instructor. This includes posting any materials on websites such as Chegg, Course Hero, OneClass, Stuvia, StuDocu and other similar sites. Unauthorized sale or commercial distribution of such material is a violation of the instructor’s intellectual property and the privacy rights of students attending the class and is prohibited.
  • Sexual Harassment Statement
    Some faculty like to include a statement that directly addresses that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. This statement can be important if you are teaching a course in which there might be class discussions on sensitive topics.
    Here is an example statement that was developed by the GSU Office of Legal Affairs:In instances of sexual misconduct, the present instructor(s) and teaching assistants, are designated as Responsible Employees who are required to share with administrative officials all reports of sexual misconduct for university review. If you wish to disclose an incident of sexual misconduct confidentially, there are options on campus for you do so. For more information on this policy, please refer to the Sexual Misconduct Policy which is included in the Georgia State University Student Code of Conduct (http://codeofconduct.gsu.edu/).
  • Diversity, Inclusivity, and Respect Statement
    Teaching inclusively means embracing student diversity in all forms — race, ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic background, ideology, using preferred student names, and even including personality traits like introversion — as an asset. All of the statements below are suggestions and be edited or revised to meet the needs of your class.
    The following questions are useful to consider as you develop your own statement, or you can adopt or revise one of the statements below:

    1. How do you recognize and value diversity in your classroom? How do you ensure that all student voices are heard, respected, and valued?
    2. Do you use a variety of examples to describe or illustrate concepts?
    3. Do you have guidelines for how to engage in respectful classroom discussions (for any teaching modality)? How might you include your students in the planning regarding standards for classroom discussions and class climate. Are they involve in determining how the class should demonstrate civility and respect?
    4. What kind of classroom environment would your students like to see (starting from when they first read the syllabus and/or on first day of class?
    5. How can diversity – as represented in your discipline, course content, and classroom – be an asset for learning?
    6. How will issues related to diversity arise in your course and classroom? And, how will you handle them (ideally) when they do? (For instance, does your discipline or course content explicitly or implicitly raise sensitive or controversial topics related to diversity and inclusion?

After drafting your statement, check whether the rest of your syllabus and course design matches your diversity statement in tone and spirit, that is to say, is also positive and inclusive.

– Example statements –
Sample 1:
In this class, we commit to supporting diversity and inclusion. We strive to construct a safe and inclusive environment by respecting each other’s dignity and privacy. We honor each class member’s experiences, beliefs, perspectives, and backgrounds, regardless of race, religion, language, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identification, ability status, socio-economic status, national identity, or any other identity markers.
Our virtual class meetings and on-line discussions are meant to provide safe spaces for free inquiry and open exchange of ideas. Difficult issues may be confronted, and controversial ideas exchanged. While at times it is appropriate to share our beliefs and opinions, we are committed to basing those beliefs on evidence-based thinking. We agree to act and communicate respectfully toward one another, both directly and indirectly, both inside and outside the boundaries of the class. All members of the class contribute to a caring, inclusive learning environment that promotes empathetic listening, encourages productive participation and sharing, and engenders growth among us all. As a classroom community, we share those values.
If you ever have any concerns about the (virtual) classroom climate, please let me know. Your suggestions about how to reinforce the values of diversity and inclusion are encouraged and appreciated. I hope that we will continuously reflect upon our class processes so that we can build an inclusive intellectual community where all feel valued and supported in our learning.

Sample 2:
It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of all diversity including gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your comments (in the discussion posts and in person) related to the class and content will be encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.

Sample 3:
Students in this class are encouraged to speak up and participate during class meetings and online class discussions. The students on our class represent a diversity of individual beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences, and therefore, every member of this class must show respect for every other member of this class.

Sample 4:
We will explore topics this semester that may be difficult for you both intellectually and emotionally. All discussions (both online and face to face) and comments should be respectful and follow the established class guidelines even when there are disagreements or diverging opinions. I ask that you engage in discussions with care and empathy for all of your classmates. Remember, you can disagree without becoming disagreeable. In this class we will not shy away from the uncomfortable. Critically examining and assessing our most basic assumptions and values is not just one of the tasks of philosophy but is an activity vital to living an authentic life. I urge you to have the courage to the uncomfortable in this class. In exchange for your courage, I will work to ensure a classroom environment that supports your taking these intellectual and emotional risks.

Sample 5:
As your teacher, I value human diversity in my classes whether expressed through race and ethnicity, culture, political and social views, religious and spiritual beliefs, language and geographic characteristics, gender, gender identities and sexual orientations, learning and physical abilities, age, and social or economic classes. I promise to respect the value of every student in this this class, and all of my students are encouraged to share his or her unique perspective as an individual, not as a representative of any category. Multicultural and intercultural awareness and competencies are key leadership skills, and we intend to present material and classroom activities that respect and celebrate diversity of thought, background, and experience. One part of your collegiate education is to challenge assumptions and to provide new and sometimes challenging ways of looking at issues, however if you ever feel uncomfortable regarding content or perspectives that are presented or discussed by myself, guest speakers, or other students I encourage you to contact me immediately so that we can discuss those feelings. I would like to use your preferred language when addressing you, so please let me know if your preferred name (or the pronunciation of that name) differ from what we are using and we ask that each of you let us know your preferred gender pronouns. Your suggestions on how to incorporate diversity in this course in a meaningful way are appreciated and encouraged.