Attendance in this course is not required, but don't let that fool you. This is a seminar. Therefore, 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 reasoning. Attendance is more important in this class than some others because of two facts. First, there is no textbook that covers the material that will be covered in class. When it comes time to do the work for the class, you are dependent on class discussion. Even though you are asked to read some material, it is the class discussion that will develop that material in the direction of our understanding of Obama's speaking. So, there is no real good alternative to being in class, awake, and participating.
Second, as you have the opportunity to discuss your understandings, to discuss readings, you are preparing for the exams. Fail to prepare for those discussions and you simply will not do as well on the exam. Practice, practice, practice is one of the dimensions of our class discussion.
If I did not reach you with the reasons participation is important, let me address your metaphors for education. The culture that values non-attendance at Maryland is based on the consumer metaphor: "I paid for it, so I can go or not, as I choose!" This is dumb "consumerism." If you insist on a business metaphor for your education, the following variation governs: you have not paid for my performance; you have instead entered into a contract with me that says I will teach you about the power of speaking if you will seek to learn. Part of your obligation in that contract is to attend. Of course, you may opt not to enter such a contract. You do so, by dropping this course today.
I spoke of participation, not just attendance. Being involved in the class, asking questions, and trying out your ideas is what participation in a seminar is all 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 I do.
I follow university policies on excused absences. You need not provide me excuses on ordinary class days.
Exams are another matter. Make-up examinations will be available only for those granted an "excused absence." They will be a different exam and may have a different format than that described above. 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 for the midterm or the final. (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 time-stamped 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 (see University of Maryland Undergraduate Catalog, http://www.umd.edu/catalog/index.cfm/show/content.section/c/27/ss/1584/s/1540) and these are the 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. Medical excuses must be from licensed medical personnel, must contain contact information for that personnel, and must indicate a condition requiring absence not simply that you were seen by medical personnel. Please note that it is now the policy of the University Health Center to no longer provide documentation of illness. Thus, if you are ill enough that you need to miss an exam or assignment you will need to find medical personnel that will provide such documentation.
Group assignments provide a particular problem when it comes to absences. If you are absent on the day your group presents, there is no way of making up the work. I will require that you follow the rules to obtain an excused absence if this occurs and you and I will negotiate a substitute assignment. That assignment will obviously not be the equivalent of the performance dimension of the group assignment.
The University of Maryland accommodates students with disabilities 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 manner of completing assignments. Proper documentation of will be required to complete our arrangements.
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 (see http://www.studenthonorcouncil.umd.edu/code.html). 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 as journal entries 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 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 is group projects. 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.
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.
This is a large class dependent on discussion. But such classes can too easily get out of hand. I am concerned that everyone assume responsibility for enhancing the learning in the classroom. I will, therefore, insist on consideration for the learning of others. 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:
No talking or whispering to other students. If you have something
to say, say it aloud and we will talk about it.
The University of Maryland subscribes to policies requiring respect for other students, including policies pertaining to nondiscrimination, sexual harassment and disruption of the class. Those disrupting the class in any way will be asked to leave the class after a first offense and to drop the course after subsequent problems. Disruptive behavior is defined as any behavior that distracts students concentrating on the normal operation of the class.
Please observe the following with regard to electronics:
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).