The Course Syllabus
On the first day of class, professors generally distribute the COURSE SYLLABUS to students. The syllabus is a listing of topics the course will cover, any required and/or recommended textbooks, grading procedures, exam and research paper due dates, the professors office hours, and the professor’s contact information. Yet, as straighforward as a syllabus’ function seems to be, there is a major key to this document that students AND professors often overlook.
The syllabus is essentially a contract between a professor and her/his students. It’s a listing of what a professor expects from students and what the students can expect from the class. Once the drop-add period of the semester ends (the period during which students can drop a course without financial penalty), students and professors are bound by the syllabus and its policies. If the syllabus states there will be only three exams and no research papers, the professor can not add a research paper two weeks into the semester. Why? Students signed up for and stayed in the class expecting specific requirements (3 exams total) and should not have to worry they will be assigned additional work as the semester goes.
For this reason, students should keep their syllabi in save places and hold on to each syllabus until the final grade is received. If a professor does change requirements mid-semester, students should discuss the changes (and what the syllabus stated) with the professor immediately. If the professor still intends to make changes and the changes are not agreed to by every student, the issue should be brought up to the department chair or the respective Dean/Associate Dean.