POLS 150: Current World Problems Fall 2011, Ohio University

Course Policies and FAQ

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation

This is quite a large course, and taking attendance or grading participation in class discussions is not practical.  This does not, however, provide you with an invitation to not attend, not prepare, and not participate. I expect that you will come to class having completed the day’s reading assignment, and that you will be prepared to: 1) ask questions about material you have not understood or want clarified, and 2) participate in the discussions that we will often engage in as a way of furthering our collective understanding.

But why? Politics is, by its very nature, a subject that requires participation and engagement with the ideas and criticisms of others. In taking this course, I assume that your interest in politics is not private, but comes from at least some desire to engage with other members of society in discussions about important events and issues, and from at least some desire to participate in making public policy (either by voting or by other, more active means). Preparing to do these things means practicing them. Puzzling through your assigned readings (and some, but not all, will be quite difficult), taking notes, thinking about what makes sense or doesn’t (and why) and what you agree or disagree with (and why) are all meant to help you get more out of lecture and discussions. They are also skills that will help you to make sense of, engage with, and discuss issues beyond the scope of this course. But if you require additional incentives, I have constructed a series of assignments that I hope will encourage you to prepare in advance. Also, and I do hope this goes without saying, please be respectful of me and everyone else in class, and turn off your cell phones, don’t check your email or surf the web during class, and try to stay awake.

Make-Up Exams and Late Work

If you need to miss an exam for any legitimate reason (official school-related travel and illness or injury being the most common) and inform me in advance, I will prepare a make-up exam, in a format of my choice to be administered in a time and place of my choice. If you miss an exam for any other reason without contacting me in advance of the exam time (slept in, family vacation, or got lost en route, for example), barring extraordinary circumstances, you will receive zero credit. You must take the final exam. The date of the final is fixed in advance, and no early or late exams will be offered, barring truly exceptional (and health-related) circumstances.

The same is generally true of late work. If I am not notified in advance of the due date that the work will be late (along with a reasonable excuse), I will not accept it, except in extraordinary circumstances. Work that is accepted late will be penalized 10% per day, again unless there are extraordinary circumstances. If you discover that it will not be possible to turn in an assignment on-time, it behooves you to contact me as early as possible to discuss your options.

What if I’m Not Happy with My Grade?

Sometimes, your professors make legitimate mistakes in grading exams and papers—often due to errors in totaling up points. If you should catch such an error, please bring it to my attention, and I’ll fix it immediately. Sometimes, however, students are concerned that they have not received as much credit as they should have for an answer or an essay. In recognition that the grading process is often opaque and difficult to understand, I will happily provide additional feedback during office hours about what I expect and how an answer might be improved.

If you are still not satisfied that you have been graded fairly, I ask that you come to my office hours (not over e-mail) with a request in writing for me to re-grade your assignment or test , containing an explanation of exactly what you believe deserve a second look, and why. Only then will I re-grade an answer, and I will re-grade it from scratch. This means that your grade may go up, but it also may go down or remain the same.

How to Get Help

I will be holding office hours (TBD) weekly, as well as by appointment. I cannot encourage you enough to come to see me early, rather than later, if you are having difficulties following or understanding the material. I am far more likely to be flexible, accommodating, and understanding towards someone who has shown initiative, responsibility, and effort by seeking my help early in the term than towards someone who comes to me three days before an exam and asks me “Can you explain (broad course concept)?” If you cannot attend my office hours but still wish to meet, please contact me by email, with a number (at least three) of times that you are available. I am also generally available for questions before and after class, and I encourage you to approach me at those times.

I also encourage you to seek out other students in the class with whom you may form study groups. The kind of material we’ll be covering in this course isn’t (with a few exceptions) particularly amenable to flashcard, memorizing-type studying. Rather, it’s often best engaged as it would be in the “real world”—by reading about the issue, and then discussing it with friends. Working out how to explain your views and defend your arguments in less stressful situations will undoubtedly help you to prepare for the essay portions of the exams, and will also help you to organize your thoughts and ideas for your memos. I also encourage you to show each other and comment on each other’s memos as you prepare your initial drafts.

Plagiarism, Academic Honesty, and Disability Accommodation

In all cases, my policies on these issues follow Ohio University directives. Per the official OU language for faculty on Academic misconduct:

Academic integrity and honesty are basic values of Ohio University. Students are expected to follow standards of academic integrity and honesty. Academic misconduct is a violation of the Ohio University Student Code of Conduct subject to a maximum sanction of disciplinary suspension or expulsion as well as a grade penalty in the course.

Please see the Student Code of Conduct for more information.

Students who require disability accommodations in test-taking (or other matters) are welcome to meet with me privately, so that you may provide me with your Letter of Notification (specifying the accommodations for which you are eligible), and so we may discuss how we will implement them.  If you are not yet registered as a student with a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 740-593-2620 or visit the office in 348 Baker University Center.  Space and proctoring services are scarce resources, and I cannot schedule a separate room or an exam proctor on short notice.  It is your responsibility to contact me early in the quarter so that I may make the necessary arrangements.

I take plagiarism and academic honesty quite seriously.  Students caught cheating on exams (copying from other students or using electronic devices to find answers) will automatically fail said exam, with no ability to "make-up" or "re-do" it.[1]

Plagiarism is a more complicated topic, as students in this course will have varying degrees of knowledge about how to avoid plagiarism and how to use proper citation techniques.  Following our class workshop on memo writing (which will include a formal discussion of plagiarism and how to avoid it), policy memos found to contain plagiarism will automatically receive a failing grade that applies to the WHOLE GROUP (just as in the lease agreement to an apartment, all group members are jointly and severally liable for the damages caused by any individual member).  This provides a strong incentive for all group members to review and comment on each other's writing and research (which is necessary for effective collaborative writing, in any case).  Students who have concerns that a group member is engaging in plagiarism should bring their concerns to me before they turn in their memo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you hand out a “study guide” before the exams? Are there review sessions?

  • To the first: No, I do not. Part of learning to be an effective student is figuring out what to study, and preparing your own study materials to suit your particular needs and the course content. If, after you have prepared your own study guide, you would like to meet with me during my office hours to look over it and make suggestions, I would be happy to do so. Also, bear in mind my suggestion about studying in groups. To the second: I will generally leave a portion of our class time during the session before an exam for questions about the material. But I do not offer “reviews,” in which I re-hash the material for you. This policy is meant to encourage you to begin preparing for exams early enough to know what you need help with before the last minute.

I missed class. Did I miss anything important? Can I have notes?

  • If, for whatever reason, you are unable to attend class, you should assume you missed something important (I will try as best I can to make every class meeting relevant both to your intellectual development and to the material to be covered on exams). You will need to find a classmate to copy notes from. My notes are designed to aid me in teaching, and will not be of much use for other ends (including studying for my tests). I do not distribute them to students. If, after procuring notes and reviewing them alongside your reading notes, you have questions, come see me in my office hours.

I’m unhappy with the grade I have received on an exam. What can I do? Is there extra credit?

  • There is no extra credit in this course. As I suggest above (What if I’m Not Happy with My Grade?), if you are not sure why you have not received an expected or hoped-for grade, your best bet is to come chat with me about it. I want you all to do well in this course. But mastering this material requires a different approach to studying than many of you are accustomed to. Rather than memorizing terms and definitions, you are expected to master abstract ideas, and to apply them to new information to make your own arguments. Learning these skills will help you go far after college, but if you are struggling now, please consider my suggestions for group study, and please come see me as soon as possible after the first exam. I am happy to work with you by looking at your notes, discussing your study strategies, and finding new ways to communicate the material, but you must seek me out in order to get help.

I have a question about the material, or about what will be on the exam, or about some other issue. Who can I get in touch with you? Will you answer my e-mail right away?

  • I will generally answer student e-mails the day I receive them, if I receive them before 6 PM. After that, I’ll probably be responding the next day. This means that if you anticipate “last-minute” questions, please begin your studying early enough to ensure I can get back to you. Also, time does not generally permit me to answer long, complicated questions about course material over email. If you anticipate that the response you need will take more than two or three sentences, please come to office hours or make an appointment to see me. You’ll get a better, more comprehensive question that way. Bear in mind that the earlier you begin preparing for exams and due dates, the easier it will be for me to answer your questions.

[1] Students are hereby notified that they are entitled to appeal any academic sanctions as a result of plagiarism or academic misconduct through the official grade appeals process.  Students are also hereby informed that University Judiciaries may impose additional sanctions above and beyond those applied by your instructor.