COMM 461
Spring 2015


Course Policies

Participation and Attendance

Participation in this course, and therefore attendance, are important. Let me convince you of this with multiple approaches.

Let me start by appealing to your intelligence. Attendance is more important in this class than some others because of three facts. First, material on the exams will not all come from the readings. You are responsible for material from lecture. Second, exams require understanding beyond information, and notes only record information. Although some portion of the exams will test your mastery of information, a large portion of the exam will go beyond information to require that you are able to talk intelligently about the speeches you have studied. To do this, you must acquire an ear and a voice for speeches in historical moments. Written notes cannot capture nor communicate that. Third, the only way to master the analysis of discourse is to articulate your analysis and the class will provide you that opportunity. You will need to aggressively take advantage of it. So, if you are in the "attendance optional" school of studenting, drop this course for another.

Statistically, they are correct. Over the last three times this course has been taught the GPA in the course for those with 3 or fewer absences was 3.42; for those with > 9 absences was 2.00. That is, of course, the difference between an "A" and a "C." Fully 94% of students with 3 or fewer absences received an A or B in course. If you need further proof attendance matters consider the following: average absences for those receiving an “A” in the course is 1.47; “B” is 3.94; “C” is 6.44. Nothing correlates with the grade in this course as much as attendance. So, there is a fairly simple way to improve your chances for a good grade. Your attendance does not assure an "A" but it will help you learn the material for the course more thoroughly because of the repetition that is a part of class discussion.

I will be taking attendance. My major purpose in doing so is to collect data that – along with test responses – help me identify problems mastering the class.

Of course, I spoke of participation, not just attendance. Being involved in the class, asking questions, and trying out your ideas is what participation in the class is about. You will master those aspects of the course that go beyond the acquisition of information with participation.

If I sound like your attendance is important to me, it is. I will put a great deal of effort into teaching this class and expect your effort in return. Other instructors may not care as much and may have developed methods of teaching that do not depend on attendance. Find those instructors if they fit your lifestyle better than mine.

Remember, you are not graded on attendance, but attendance does affect what you learn and therefore your grade for the course. So, if you are in the "attendance optional" school of studenting, drop this course for another.

Requesting an "excused absence"

The university has a set of defined procedures for obtaining an excused absence designed to ensure fairness to all students. I abide by these procedures as adapted for the special circumstances of this course.

  • On normal class days. No excused absences are required.

  • Days abstracts are due. Since the abstracts are primarily designed to assist in your preparation for discussion that by its nature cannot be made up after an absence, and since documenting absences as the University requires for make-up of these abstracts is too complicated for the value of the assignment, I will use an alternative: I will collect abstracts seven times during the semester (grading your best five). Abstracts not handed in when I collect them cannot be made up. If you prefer the documentation requirement to this method of make-up (with only five collected), please notify me within the first week of class.

  • For "Major Scheduled Grading Events." On days when exams are given, papers due, or you are responsible for an undergraduate unit assignment, you will need to request an excused absence. University policy requires that you do so in writing and "provide documentary support for [your] assertion that absence resulted from one of the [approved] causes" (emphasis added). There are thus several obligations if you are going to be absent. (1) Notify me as soon as feasible of your upcoming or recent absence and provide documentation for the reason. I am serious about prompt notification. In general you should notify me before your absence. When that is not possible, you need to notify me as soon as you are near a telephone or email. I have voice mail and email that provides a timestamped documentation of your notification. (2) You need to request the make-up (an excused absence) in writing specifying the reason for your absence. The university has a limited number of legitimate reasons for absence and these are the only ones I accept. (3) You must document the validity of the reason you have provided for the absence. Such documentation must be signed by a person who testifies to the reason, and should contain information on contacting (phone or email) someone who can verify the reason.

  • On days your group is responsible for discussion. On these days, there is no way to compensate for an absence since that is the day you have prepared to be a lead participant in discussion. If you receive an excused absence on such days (all procedures described under examination for documenting the reason for your absence are required), there are potentially two options: you may hand in your bibliography on the unit and take an "F" on the portion of the assignment requiring your contribution to class discussion, or we may be able to negotiate your participation on another unit requiring you to do a bibliography on the alternative unit.

Disabilities and Religious Observances

The University of Maryland accommodates students whose academic work would be facilitated by disability support services and recognizes the rights of students to exercise their religious rites. I ask only that you notify me during the first week of classes if you have concerns in either of these areas and require that I accommodate your needs in any way including alteration in the due date or manor of completing assignments.

On Academic Dishonesty

You should know and be familiar with what constitutes academic dishonesty: cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty or plagiarism. You are responsible for knowing the university's policy on academic integrity. The principles governing that policy are two-fold: (1) the work that I should mark as yours is material that you have authored, and (2) you have the responsibility to give recognition to others whose work you incorporate in your projects. You should review the university's policy and make certain that you implement these two principles.

In our society's unique mix of individuality and cooperation, learning how to walk the often fine line between work for which you have responsibility and work that is shared is vitally important. In our system of education you are graded on your own work, not that of others. At the same time, I encourage you to work with fellow students in studying the speeches and in reviewing for exams. A good study group can be invaluable in this course. So where do you draw the line?

Obviously things like handing in papers you have purchased from internet sources or "paper mills" violates principles of academic integrity. So does bringing information into exams in forms other than memories and judgments in your head. But there are other important things you need to know and develop a feel for such as when to cite the work of others in papers and when information can be used without being attributed. The guidelines of the university policy will assist with your mastering that. I will be more than happy to assist at any time during the semester. If any of these suggestions or the University's material is unclear, I urge you to ask me. The responsibility for understanding academic integrity is yours.

Another wrinkle in the principle of individual work in this class are group projects. Although you are not required to do a group project, it is an option for you on the bibliography portion of the undergraduate unit discussion assignment. You are authorized to work with others in your group on this assignment. In this case the grade assigned to the group's work is assigned to each student who has participated in the group. By signing the honors pledge on the bibliography you hand-in, you are accepting this sharing of the grading. The discussion portion of the assignment will be graded individually.

Please, please do not take this issue lightly. It is my obligation as a professor and my ethical obligation as an academic to report any cases directly to the Student Honor Council and I will not hesitate to do so.

A word on classroom etiquette

I am not by nature a strict disciplinarian. But where I will be strict is when it comes to the learning and fairness to your fellow students. Since the opportunity to work in the classroom is so central to this course, I am concerned that everyone assume responsibility for enhancing the learning in the classroom. I prefer that you think of the necessary behavior as common courtesy -- behaving so that if others do the same, the classroom will be an environment for learning. Just in case, let me be more stern, however. Following are some basic rules designed to make certain that discussions are not distracted by erratic behavior:

  1. No talking or whispering to other students. If you have something to say, say it aloud and we will talk about it. I will embarrass you if you do not.
  2. Be on time for class. If you are late, sit in a chair as close to the door as possible and avoid disruptive behavior. Parade to the front of the room and I will turn you around.
  3. Do not plan to leave class early. If you must, sit close to the door and leave with minimum disruption. If you have problems with physiological needs (often need to leave for the rest room in the middle of class), visit the rest room as your last duty before class.
  4. Keep your verbal and nonverbal comments about the ideas of other students considerate and be prepared to defend judgements that you make.

Electronics in the Classroom

Please observe the following with regard to electronics:

  • Audial electronics (watches, cell phones, computers, etc.) should be turned off or silenced before all classes.

  • Cell phones and text messaging devices are potentially disruptive and certainly inappropriate in the classroom. Those engaging them during class time may be asked to leave the classroom. Similarly, no ear phones may be worn during class. Your attention is important to mastery of the subject matter of the class.

  • No laptops or other computers will be permitted in class. The most successful students in this course have reproduced the notes available on the website and modified them to reflect the material of class. Those who find this too restrictive typically reserve time after class to compose notes on class. I do not mind students taking notes on things we discuss in class, but mastering facts and information is only the first dimension of the material you need to get from the class. So, do NOT let the taking of notes distract from a more basic understanding of the communities and speeches we study. It is for this reason, that I prohibit computers in class: I do not wish for the things said in class to pass from your ear to your fingertips without your brain engaged. I do understand that we are in a transition when computers may some day supplement your learning, even in this class. But at the moment in that transition computers seem to be more distractions than assistants. I asked my students last time I taught the course if computers should be permitted. Their overwhelming response was that they should not. So, I will maintain this policy and ask you to do your internet preparation before you come to class.

  • No disruptive audio or video recording will be allowed, and any recording at all can occur only with my permission. That permission will be granted only for extraordinary circumstances. Recording is no substitute for attendance.

  • No electronic devices of any kind will be permitted on test days.

Course Copyright Restrictions

The lectures that I deliver in this class and course materials I create and distribute for your learning, including power point presentations, tests, outlines, content of this website, and similar materials, are protected by federal copyright law as my original works. You are permitted to take notes of lectures and to use course materials for your use in this course. You are not authorized to reproduce or distribute notes of lectures or my course materials or make any commercial use of them without my express written consent. persons who sell or distribute copies or modified copies of instructors' course materials or assist another person or entity in selling or distributing those materials may be considered in violation of the University Code of Student Conduct, Part 9(k).