Guidelines for Syllabi

2018-2019 Guidelines 

A comprehensive course syllabus sets expectations for students regarding requirements and important policies for the class. The syllabus will also set a tone for the course that can provide a foundation for students to be successful.

All faculty members at The University of Southern Mississippi should develop course syllabi that inform students of important course and University information. The particular format and content of the syllabi should be driven by instructor preference, school needs, and college standards.  Some syllabus content is required, and other elements are recommended as best practices. This document is thus intended to provide guidance to faculty as they develop syllabi each semester. For more information, please contact the Office of the Provost.

Download optional syllabus template

 

 Syllabus Requirements

 

Every class must include a written syllabus that is distributed within the first week of class, per the Faculty Handbook. The following elements must be on each course syllabus at the University.

 

  • Basic Elements

At minimum, the syllabus must contain: course goals; course objectives; and the “basis for assessing student performance” (Faculty Handbook 4.5.2). More specifically, faculty members should provide students with information regarding what the class requirements are, how each requirement will figure in to the final grade calculation, and what the grading scale for the final semester grade will be. If possible, faculty should provide details regarding how assignments will be evaluated (e.g., rubrics or general standards and expectations). 

Students who do not attend the first day must be given an “NA” grade in SOAR and those who continue not to attend should be given an “NA” at the end of the semester, which could impact financial aid. At the six-week point, all students must be given an Interim grade, which is designed to give them a general indication of how they are performing at that time.

Faculty members should also include their name and a method of contact on the syllabus. 

 

  • Disability Accommodations

The statement below must be included on each syllabus:

If a student has a disability that qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and requires accommodations, he/she should contact the Office for Disability Accommodations (ODA) for information on appropriate policies and procedures. Disabilities covered by ADA may include learning, psychiatric, physical disabilities, or chronic health disorders.  Students can contact ODA if they are not certain whether a medical condition/disability qualifies.

Address:

The University of Southern Mississippi
Office for Disability Accommodations
118 College Drive # 8586
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001

Voice Telephone: 601.266.5024 or 228.214.3232

Fax: 601.266.6035

Individuals with hearing impairments can contact ODA using the Mississippi Relay Service at 1.800.582.2233 (TTY) or emailing ODA at oda@usm.edu.

Note that faculty members must accommodate students with disabilities and must adhere to the excused absence policy of the University. Faculty members are required to excuse absences in which a student misses class in his or her capacity as an official representative of the University. In such cases, students must be given a reasonable opportunity to make up work. See Faculty Handbook 4.5.4.

Documentation in these two cases will come from ODA or from the official body for which the student serves as a representative.

 

  • Academic Integrity

All faculty members should discuss the Academic Integrity Policy of the University with their students. Additionally, the following statement must be included on all syllabi:

All students at the University of Southern Mississippi are expected to demonstrate the highest levels of academic integrity in all that they do. Forms of academic dishonesty include (but are not limited to):

  1. Cheating (including copying from others’ work)
  2. Plagiarism (representing another person’s words or ideas as your own; failure to properly cite the source of your information, argument, or concepts)
  3. Falsification of documents
  4. Disclosure of test or other assignment content to another student
  5. Submission of the same paper or other assignment to more than one class without the explicit approval of all faculty members involved
  6. Unauthorized academic collaboration with others
  7. Conspiracy to engage in academic misconduct 

Engaging in any of these behaviors or supporting others who do so will result in academic penalties and/or other sanctions. If a faculty member determines that a student has violated our Academic Integrity Policy, sanctions ranging from resubmission of work to course failure may occur, including the possibility of receiving a grade of “XF” for the course, which will be on the student’s transcript with the notation “Failure due to academic misconduct.”  For more details, please see the University’s Academic Integrity Policy. Note that repeated acts of academic misconduct will lead to expulsion from the University.

 

  • GEC Courses

For courses in the General Education Curriculum (GEC), syllabi must also include a statement or description of 

  1. GEC Student Learning Outcomes addressed in the course;
  2. course content and related activities;
  3. student reading and writing/speaking requirements, where appropriate;
  4. instructional methods and resources; and
  5. student performance standards (including rubric if applicable). Note: I do not interpret this to mean that rubric need to be included on the syllabus itself, only that the syllabus needs to mention that there is one. 

Please see Academic Council's GEC Recourses (requires log-in) for specific requirements for various GEC courses. For any questions, please see the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.

 

 Syllabus Recommendations: Best Practices

 

Although these elements are not required by policy, faculty members are strongly encouraged to include them on syllabi, as research clearly indicates that a strong syllabus promotes student success and guards against misunderstandings regarding expectations and processes.  

 

  • Professor Information

  1. Brief description of the faculty member’s academic interest and professional background
  2. Office hours and location
 
  • Requirements and Support

  1. List of all required materials with ISBN and full citation
  2. List of required assignments and tests along with each element’s weight towards the final semester grade
  3. Link to the Student Success website: www.usm.edu/success
 
  • Important Dates

  1. Key dates from the academic calendar: Last day to drop; interim grades; last day to request a W.  Dates are available at www.usm.edu/registrar/calendars.
  2. Final exam date and time, or reference to the Registrar’s exam schedule page. All classes with final exams must administer those exams during the time scheduled by the University.
  3. Schedule of topics, assigned readings, and any required activities (e.g., group presentations, service learning)
 
  • Attendance Policy

  1. Faculty members can set the attendance policy that they believe is best within the context of their course, program, school, and college norms and policies, although compliance with ADA regulations is expected (see above).

    The Office of Student Ombudsman Services can verify student excuses and provide documentation to the faculty member regarding the validity of the excuse presented (e.g., a medical excuse). Documentation provided by this office does not require or imply that a faculty member should “excuse” the absences. The office solely provides the service of validation to give the faculty member information that he or she can use within the context of the class attendance policy.   

  • Syllabus Availability

  1. The syllabus must be distributed in the first week of class, and faculty members are strongly encouraged to post a copy of the syllabus on Canvas, whether the course is online, hybrid, or exclusively face-to-face. Enabling access to an electronic syllabus increases the chances that students will return to the syllabus throughout the term.
  

 Syllabus Recommendations: Optional Statements

 

Each of these statements may be included on course syllabi to aid students in understanding expectations of the course and services available to them.

 

  • Course Workload Statement

Students are expected to invest considerable time outside of class in learning the material for this course. The expectation of the University of Southern Mississippi is that each week students should spend approximately 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour in class working on reading, assignments, studying, and other work for the course. We realize that most students work and have family or other obligations. Time management is thus critical for student success. All students should assess their personal circumstances and talk with their advisors about the appropriate number of credit hours to take each term, keeping in mind that 30 credit hours each year are needed to graduate in four years. Resources for academic support can be found at www.usm.edu/success.

 

  • Mental Well-Being Statement

Southern Miss recognizes that students sometimes experience challenges that make learning difficult. If you find that life stressors such as anxiety, depression, relationship problems, difficulty concentrating, alcohol/drug problems, or other stressful experiences are interfering with your academic or personal success, consider contacting Student Counseling Services on campus at 601.266.4829. More information is also available at www.usm.edu/student-counseling- services. All students are eligible for free, confidential individual or group counseling services. In the event of emergency, please call 911 or contact the counselor on call at 601.606.HELP (4357).

 

  • Nondiscrimination Statement

The University of Southern Mississippi offers to all persons equal access to educational, programmatic and employment opportunities without regard to age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, gender identity, genetic information, religion, race, color, national origin, and/or veteran status pursuant to applicable state and federal law.

 

  • Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting

As an instructor, one of my responsibilities is to help create and maintain a safe learning environment on our campus.  I also have a mandatory reporting responsibility related to my role as a faculty member.  I am required to share information regarding sexual misconduct or information about a crime that may have occurred on USM’s campus with certain University officials responsible for the investigation and remediation of sexual misconduct. The information will remain private and will only be shared with those officials necessary to resolve the matter.  If you would like to speak in confidence, resources available to students include Confidential Advisors with the Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention, the Counseling Center, Student Health Services, and Clergy.  More information on these resources and University Policies is available at https://www.usm.edu/sexual-misconduct