This week, students register for classes. Many have spent the past few weeks talking to friends, reviewing Rate My Professor and scanning through the schedule of classes in hopes of crafting the perfect schedule, but students are not armed with all the information the University promised.
At the end of the spring semester, administrators created a useful tool for students: the syllabus bank. The compilation of syllabi would allow students to make informed decisions on the classes they choose to register for, but the current product is far from helpful. More than 4,000 classes will be offered in the upcoming spring semester, and yet only 49 syllabi have been uploaded, as of Sunday.
Even as the fall semester comes to an end, only 600 syllabi for the fall semester were uploaded, but thousands of classes are currently in session. Students have called for a syllabus bank and professors said they supported the system, but the current product isn’t useful. Students should be able to review syllabi ahead of course registration and it is especially disappointing that the system isn’t being used because it just requires the push of a button.
By not mandating that documents are uploaded to the syllabus bank, the University puts both students and professors at a disadvantage. For students, a useful syllabus bank equipped with a roadmap to each course offered on campus would allow them to register for classes they actually want to take. Course names can be vague, but if students had the opportunity to review the content of a course before registering, they would make more informed decisions instead of having to rely on the add and drop period to change their schedule when they realize a course wasn’t what they expected.
Beyond just ensuring students are informed when registering for courses, the lack of a robust syllabus bank can have real implications for some students.
Students with disabilities need access to many pieces of information that are included on syllabi. Information like attendance requirements, technology policies and large projects may impact whether a student with a disability is able to take a course, and they need that information before they register. While Disability Support Services works to ensure all students get the adjustments they need in the classroom, some students may opt to take a class that allows all students to use computers, for example, instead of getting special permission that would make them stand out throughout the semester – and they should be able to do that.
For other students, it is important that they have access to a syllabus so they are aware of external costs associated with the class. Required textbooks, online materials and any other requirements that have an added cost can add up, and students should be able to make class decisions based on that as well. With access to syllabi before course registration, students would also be aware of whether the courses they take are in the Top Textbooks program, which began last year, and that information would be crucial for students who struggle with affording their education.
Increasing participation in the syllabus bank doesn’t just benefit students – it can help professors as well. By providing a syllabus for their class ahead of time, professors will be greeted by a classroom full of eager and engaged students on the first day because students will have made educated decisions regarding their schedule. Instead of proceeding with caution during the first week or so of class – knowing that some students will add and drop courses after seeing the syllabus – professors will be able to dive into the course material and make better use of the limited time they have with students.
Mandating that professors upload their syllabi is not a hard task. Individual departments already approve syllabi, and the University already requires professors to include information about topics like resources on campus and the average time spent on course work outside of the classroom – so adding one additional requirement would not be difficult. With other requirements already in place, there is no excuse for why professors should not be required to add their syllabi to the bank and support students.
It is not hard for professors to upload their syllabi to the bank, but it is incredibly important. The creation of a syllabus bank is a good first step, but it needs to be a requirement for professors so it can be a great resource instead of just a collection of a few dozen syllabi that aren’t helpful to a majority of students.
Professors are failing students by not uploading course information that is vital to making registration decisions and the University has neglected to follow through on providing an accurate and full syllabus bank by not tracking which professors uploaded their syllabi. That needs to change.
Uploading a single document to a database for students is a simple task that has great benefits. The University must require professors to upload their syllabi prior to registration to ensure that all students have the ability to make class decisions that best fit their interests and ability to perform well in their classes.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Renee Pineda and contributing opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of managing editor Matt Cullen, design editor Zach Slotkin, managing director Elise Zaidi, sports editor Barbara Alberts and culture editor Margot Dynes.
This article appeared in the November 12, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.