The Center for Teaching and Learning

Syllabus Policy Blurbs

This page is a resource for designing the policy language for your syllabi.  Our syllabuses are our opportunities to welcome students to our classes, to make clear what expectations we have of our students and what they can expect from us, and to identify what and how they will learn over the course of the semester.  

The only information that is required to be on a Reed syllabus is a statement of the goals of the course, including course & distrbution requirement-related student learning outcomes. In addition, it is recommended that faculty members include the following: 

  • Contact information, including email and office hours. You may want to consider introducing yourself as well in a brief bio. 
  • Description of course, including explanation of the course’s scope and purpose.
  • List of learning resources (i..e, textbooks, software, etc), whether or not they are required and how to access them if financial insecurities arise.
  • Description of major assignments:  What will students need to do in order to be successful in the class?
  • Expected schedule of readings/assignments.
  • Policy Statements.  You can find examples of policy language from other faculty at Reed and/or other institutions below.  The CTL is also available as a resource as you develop your policies and syllabus language.   

This list is not meant to be prescriptive or exhaustive, but policy statements that you may want to consider include:

I. Attendance

Conferences are where most of our work as a community of learners happens, so it’s important that you attend regularly and arrive on time. That said, I understand that on occasion it is necessary to miss a conference due to illness, family emergency, or other obligations. If you must miss a class, your first task is to communicate with me as soon as possible about how to make up missed work.  (Typically this will require you to write a short response to the readings and a few questions you would have liked to discuss in class).  If you do not communicate with me, your absence will be counted as unexcused.  Everyone gets one ‘free’ unexcused absence, but after that your participation grade will be penalized; students who have more than three unexcused absences in a semester are at risk of failing the course. 

Flexibility. Unexpected things happen. I want to help and work with you so you can learn in this course. If there is something going on that’s impacting your engagement with this course, I expect you will email me so we can come up with a strategy for how to address it. We have more options when making arrangements in advance, so I strongly encourage reaching out to me as soon as you can, even if just to say, “Hey I wanted to let you know, [this thing] might be an issue, I won’t know until [timeframe].” While I am always here to listen, I don’t want you to feel that you have to share anything personal. For example, it’s okay to simply say you’ve had a family emergency. [Nicole James]

What should I do if I must miss a conference because of an emergency?

Everyone is afforded two absences in this course, which should hopefully cover any days that you must miss conference. Subsequent absences will affect your grade, as outlined in the Grade Scale.

Exceptions will be made for emergency leaves of absence, which are processed through the Student Life Office when a student needs to be away from conference for an extended period of time (up to two weeks) due to unexpected circumstances (click here for more information about emergency leaves of absence).

Students with DAR accommodations for absences will be afforded an extra two absences (up to four) before absences begin to affect their grade, but must submit four discussion generating questions and write 250-word responses to at least two of those questions as a make-up assignment for each absence beyond the second absence (maximum of two additional absences). I must receive notice of your accommodation from DAR in advance of your absences.

II. Participation

This course is structured to be largely discussion based. Due to this, we all— instructor and students— share in the responsibility of engaging with assigned texts as well as each other. The learning community we create as a class is greatly enhanced by everyone's active participation. This means you are expected to come to class ready to engage with your peers as well as the texts, assignments, myself, and any guest presenters we may invite to join our group. You are not required, nor encouraged, to make final pronouncements about the readings and discussions we have, but rather to use class as a forum for asking questions and developing deeper understandings of the issues raised throughout our shared time. Dissent within discussion is a part of the learning process—and it is especially important in a civil society for us to develop the skills necessary to speak across our differences in ways that foster understanding, justice, and dignity. You will be expected to engage with the course materials and with each other in a respectful and intellectually serious manner. However, there is no expectation that we will all agree with each other perfectly by the end of the day, or for that matter, at the end of the semester. Please note that the quality of your contributions is much more important than the quantity of your words. Listening attentively and responding thoughtfully to your peers is an important part of your contribution to the class.

This course takes as its highest principle the integrity of free intellectual inquiry. Criticism, exploration, and scrutiny of all topics and ideas are requirements for meaningful intellectual development. In this classroom, such criticism will be undertaken with the highest standards of intellectual integrity and respect for others in the class. Taking another person’s comments seriously enough to subject them to thoughtful critique should always be regarded as a sign of high intellectual respect for that person’s ideas. Respect, civility, and consideration should be given to each individual person in the classroom. Conference is a space where we will (and in fact must sometimes) make mistakes. Please be generous with yourself, with your classmates, and with me as we work through challenging material together; productive conversations are always based in language that is imperfect and wander through ideas that are not yet refined. It is of course always fair to ask people follow-up questions about points they’ve made, but please do so respectfully and generously (that is, extending to everyone the benefit of the doubt where appropriate). Everyone in the course is entitled to speak about any subject that comes before the class in discussion.

A conference is only as good as its members!  As a result, you are expected to be an active participant in every class meeting.  Participation means preparing, thinking, speaking (or writing), and listening (or responding). That means that you should have done the reading, thought about it, and taken notes on it, and you should be prepared to discuss it and to listen to and respond to your classmates’ ideas.  If you are worried about speaking up in class, please set up a time to meet with me at the start of the semester to discuss strategies for making conference participation easier and more enjoyable. If you are already a confident speaker, you may want to make it a goal to  practice your listening or facilitation  (i.e., asking questions or summarizing previous responses) skills.

III. Deadlines

It is useful to both me and to you to try to get papers in on time; timely submission of papers helps me get you feedback promptly, and helps you learn to embrace imperfection and to work within deadlines. That said, I realize that life sometimes intervenes and that delays will sometimes happen.  Each student is granted two 24-hour extension, no questions asked, this semester, for assignments that are NOT due in class.  After you have exhausted your 48 hours of extensions, late papers will be penalized unless you have communicated with me more than three days in advance of the due date about scheduling conflicts. ** Assignments that are due in class may not be submitted late. These assignments are intended to be used in class discussion.

What should I do if I can’t turn in an assignment on time?

Anyone may request a 48-hour extension for any assignment due date EXCEPT for Discussion Generations, which must be submitted by 9am on the day you have been assigned. Please let me know that you will be taking an extension by filling out this Extension Request Form in advance of the assignment due date.

Students with DAR accommodations for late assignments who feel that they will need more than 48-hour extensions should make an office hours appointment with me to discuss their needs.

IV. Honor & Academic Integrity

As everywhere at Reed, the Honor Principle is at work in this course. Discourse will be respectful and geared toward everyone's intellectual growth. Disruptive students will be cautioned by the instructor or asked to leave if necessary. All work submitted must be original work by the student/group and credit must be given to the work of others (see APA Writing Workshop). If you have questions about these policies, please do not hesitate to speak to me in or out of class. It is better to ask a question about academic honesty than to make a mistake.

I am committed to adhering to the standards regarding academic honesty contained in the honor principle and the values of mutual trust, concern, and respect for oneself and for others upon which the Reed community depends. In class, give your undivided attention to others. If you don’t agree with what someone else has to say, you are encouraged to express your point of view, but do so respectfully, and support your claims with textual evidence. In your written work, follow the conventions of appropriate citation for the humanities/social sciences. I do not care which method of citation you use (e.g. Chicago Manual of Style vs. the Modern Language Association (MLA) in-text citations), but I do require that you use one and use it consistently. Please consult with me if you have questions about proper citation.


VI. Tutoring & Academic Support

I encourage you to reach out to the Academic Support if you feel you're struggling or feeling overwhelmed with academics. They can help with study habits, note-taking, or time and stress management strategies that are essential to success in this course and college life. You may also want to take advantage of the free tutoring available by appointment or drop-in. For more information, see or email

The Writing Center offers free appointments and experienced peer tutors who are there to help you at any stage of the writing process. I strongly encourage even experienced writers to take advantage of these services. For more information, start here:

VII. Diversity & Inclusion Statement

VIII. Resources for Health, Mental Health & Wellbeing

Physical and Mental Well-Being
Your physical and mental health and well-being are important. Reed offers financial, medical, and mental health resources, including resources for food and housing. The Student Support Office Care Team can help connect you with these resources – you can reach them at

If you feel your circumstances are impacting your ability to engage in our course, or if you are struggling or unsure of how to identify any resources you need, please reach out to me. I can help direct you to campus resources, and we can craft a plan together for how you can achieve your goals in our course. [Nicole James]

If you have difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or lack a safe and stable place to live at any point throughout our course, and you believe this may affect your performance in the course, I urge you to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify your instructor if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable me to provide any resources that I may possess. I would also encourage you to make use of the Reed Community Pantry ( as you need. If you’re struggling with housing or food issues, it can be difficult. As your professor, I’m here to help you succeed, and I want you to know that help is available.

Where can I go for help with anything outside of this course that may be affecting my ability to achieve the learning objectives?

Reed offers different pathways for finding support depending on your needs. The Student Hub (click here) and your Academic Adviser can be good wayfinding resources to connect you with the appropriate office. Three offices under the student hub are the Health and Counselling Services (click here;, the Student Life Office (click here;, and the Sexual Health, Advocacy, and Relationship Education Office (click here;

IV. Communications

I will use email (often via Moodle) to post important announcements about the course. Please be sure to check your Reed email at least once a day so that you will see these messages. You can reach me via email for all sorts of questions, but I also strongly encourage you to come talk with me during office hours to discuss your work in progress; if you can’t make my posted office hours, just email me and suggest a few alternative times for an appointment. Doing political theory well is hard. If you find yourself frustrated or struggling, please don’t despair, and please don’t keep your struggles to yourself. A quick (or long) conversation can often be the best way out of a research quagmire, so please keep me informed of what you’re up to. (You are also welcome to drop by if you have made a particularly exciting discovery or lit upon an especially interesting idea that you just have to share with someone.) 

X. Names & Pronouns

Class rosters and College data systems are provided to faculty with the student's name and pronouns. You are able to change how your name shows up on class rosters. This option is helpful for various student populations, including but not limited to: students who abbreviate their first name; students who use their middle name; international students; and trans students. As a faculty member, I am committed to using your name and pronouns. We will take time during our first class together to do introductions, at which point you can share with all members of our learning community what name and pronouns you use, as you are comfortable. Additionally, if these change at any point during the semester, please let me know and we can develop a plan to share this information with others in a way that is safe and comfortable for you. Should you want to update your preferred/proper name, you can do so by looking at the following guidelines and frequently asked questions:

It goes without saying that everyone in the classroom should be addressed by the pronouns and name they introduce. If someone (including the professor) does make an honest mistake with a name or with pronouns, please assume good will and offer any corrections politely. In our discussions, we will refer to fictional characters by the same pronouns that are used within the texts themselves.

XI. Covid-Related Policies


When your health allows, you are expected to be present and engaged in class. At the same time, each community member has an individual responsibility to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other infectious diseases. Following public health guidance is part of living in an honorable community. 

The following recommendations should guide your decision about coming to class:

  • Self-isolation is the recommended course of action for anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms, whether due to possible coronavirus or to other illnesses.  Please stay at home if you feel sick, and contact the Health and Counseling Center (HCC) or your healthcare provider to discuss.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you should not attend class for five days.  Please contact the HCC and continue to isolate until you receive a negative antigen test, or until 10 days have passed since your positive test.  Find more information on Reed’s COVID policies here.
  • The CDC suggests that people with the following symptoms may have COVID: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.  As always, please consult a medical professional (members of the HCC or otherwise) if you have any questions about your health or health safety. 

If you need to miss a class, or series of classes, due to illness, self-isolation, and/or quarantine, you are responsible for emailing me to let me know as soon as possible. You are also responsible for coordinating with me to complete work that you might miss due to absences. I will always provide makeup options in cases of excused absence; this might include a written response, a Moodle post, or other check-in assignments. 

COVID PROTOCOLS (for classes that will require masks):  As a community of learners, we have obligations to protect one another’s health. Please wear your masks at all times in class.   If you have a medical issue that will make this challenging for you, please see me and/or Disability and Accessibility Resources to discuss accommodations.  It is also possible that we may have bigger disruptions due to COVID. We will navigate the situation together, and I promise to maintain open communication so that we all know what is going on.

COVID PROTOCOLS (for mask-optional classes): Masks are optional in this class, and I encourage everyone who prefers to wear a mask to do so. Please respect the choices of your classmates, even if they are different from your own. At any point in this semester, based on community health concerns, class preference,  and/or rising case numbers, we may change to requiring masks.  It is also possible that we may have bigger disruptions due to COVID. We will navigate the situation together, and I promise to maintain open communication so that we all know what is going on.

As you reflect on your policies and your syllabus, here are some questions to consider: 

  • Is my tone supportive and inviting? Do I convey that student knowledge is respected and invited?
  • What resources do I make visible to students who may not be aware of them?
  • What assumptions, rules, or values are important for the course but not stated in the syllabus?  Why not state them?
  • Is my syllabus accessible to all students, including those who may require accommodations?
  • To learn more about how to make your syllabus accessible to all, consider the recommendations from Accessible Syllabus