Changes coming to university syllabi

Washington State University logo.

Beginning Fall 2023, course syllabi at WSU will look noticeably shorter.

This change is the result of several semesters’ worth of work conducted by members of the Faculty Senate Syllabus subcommittee.

Under the leadership of former chair Mark Stephan (School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, WSU Vancouver), the subcommittee began to explore ways to curtail the growing length of course syllabi and to alleviate faculty of the task of ensuring that university-wide statements remain current from year to year.

The result of these efforts is the university syllabus, which is now available on WSU’s Syllabus website and was approved for implementation systemwide by the Faculty Senate on Feb. 2.

The university syllabus provides the following policies and resources to anyone involved in an academic course:

  • Lauren’s Promise: WSU’s Commitment to Address Discrimination and Harassment
  • Reasonable Accommodations
  • Arrangements for Religious Reasons
  • Emergencies on Campus
  • Student Support Resources

“Rather than continue to ask faculty to keep up with what are often minor changes to existing university-level statements, we wanted to centralize this work to ensure that everyone — faculty, staff, and students — have continuous access to the most current information,” said current syllabus subcommittee chair Clif Stratton (Department of History, WSU Pullman).

Any future revisions to the university syllabus will be reviewed by the Faculty Senate and announced to the university community once approved.

While faculty will continue to curate required course syllabus statements and descriptions for things like assignments, grades, and academic integrity, they can now send students to the university syllabus with the following provision in their course syllabus and accompanying link:

“Students are responsible for reading and understanding all university-wide policies and resources pertaining to all courses (for instance: accommodations, care resources, policies on discrimination or harassment), which can be found in the university syllabus.”

As part of Faculty Senate’s approval process, this statement is now a required component of course syllabi.

The syllabus subcommittee chair will work with the Office of the Provost each Spring to ensure that all university syllabus statements comply with current academic policy. The Provost’s Office will release a memorandum discussing syllabus development and expectations in early May.

Canvas will also provide an access point for the university syllabus.

“We are also excited to partner with Information Technology Services to provide a direct pathway to the university syllabus in Canvas,” said Stratton. Starting in May 2023, users of Canvas will notice the addition of a university syllabus menu item in each course space. The existing syllabus menu item will automatically provide the statement directing students to the university syllabus.

The Faculty Senate is hopeful that the university syllabus will ensure wider access and consistent messaging about university-wide course policies and resources so that faculty can focus their syllabus preparation efforts on how to best design and deliver courses that support student learning.

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