Each semester, the Office of Academic Affairs and Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience host the Intra-University Transfer (IUT) Fair to help students learn more about transferring to another school or college at Syracuse University. The fair also provides…
Important Syllabus Reminders
I sincerely hope that you had time this summer to do many of the things you love and to be with people you care about. Whether that was vacation, stay-cation, research, professional development or get-togethers with family and friends, it was much deserved and well-earned.
Now it’s time to start thinking about the fall semester. This message highlights the most important things you need to be aware of as you plan your classes. These include:
- Classroom instruction, including public health matters;
- Instructional approaches;
- Academic integrity;
- Student mental health;
- Two cohorts experiencing college for the first time; and
- Additional policies and resources.
As always, the Important Syllabus Reminders page contains details on the topics covered in this message, as well as many other topics. It also includes suggested language for several parts of your syllabi.
This fall we are returning to predominantly in-person instruction, using our classrooms at their normal capacities. We can do this safely because of the University’s vaccination requirement and a very high level of compliance among students, faculty and staff. While the vaccination policy accommodates exemptions for religious and medical reasons, the number of faculty, staff and students who have requested exemptions is very small. In addition, more than 75% of people aged 18 and over in Onondaga County have been fully vaccinated.
That said, there remain concerns about new variants of the coronavirus, and the University’s public health team is monitoring the spread of those variants closely. They are tracking key indicators, including close attention to infection rates, vaccination rates, research findings and new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The University will continue to work closely with state and county officials to ensure that we follow the most up-to-date public health guidelines.
On Aug. 2, 2021, the Syracuse University Public Health Team issued temporary guidance asking that members of the campus community wear masks while indoors. This guidance is subject to change based on ongoing discussions with city, county and state authorities. Whatever the outcome of those deliberations, members of the campus community who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 must wear masks while on campus and be tested every week. Isolation, quarantine and contact tracing policies and procedures remain in effect for any members of our community who test positive or who have been a close contact of someone who tests positive. While the University cannot tell faculty about the vaccination or exemption status of individual students, you will be able to know which students in your classes are required to wear masks while on campus through a notation in Orange Success. Any student or instructor may choose to wear a mask in class if they wish.
Teaching your classes “in person” again does not mean you have to discard pedagogies that worked well during the pandemic. It simply means that you are expected to gather your students together during class time for learning activities. For some of you, this could be a return to traditional lectures. Others may wish to use a mix of traditional lectures and active learning approaches. Some of you may be ready to completely “flip” your classrooms, perhaps using materials you developed during the pandemic. We want you to be creative and innovative in your pedagogy. Martha Diede and her team in the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence stand ready to assist you with best practices and ideas for using active learning and other approaches that promote student engagement and learning. Information Technology Services (ITS) can help with technological answers and support in developing new materials for your courses. As always, it is entirely up to faculty to make decisions about how their courses should be structured, including assignments and pedagogical approaches.
The past three semesters have seen record numbers of reported academic integrity violations. This trend is not limited to Syracuse University but is also the experience of our peer schools. The growth in cases has seriously strained our system for managing and adjudicating academic integrity violations. We lack staffing to keep the large workflow moving efficiently, and we are short of faculty to serve as faculty interviewers and hearing panelists. To address this, the Academic Integrity Policy was updated last year. These updates do not change the definitions of violation types, nor do they change the reporting process for faculty. They do, however, change the adjudication process somewhat. You may wish to take a few minutes to review the revised policy. If you are interested in getting involved as a faculty interviewer or as a hearing panel member, please contact the Academic Integrity Office at email@example.com.
It is clear from the case reports of the past three semesters that online resources and paid websites have played a major role in the academic integrity violations that have been reported. For those of you using online assessments, the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence and the Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS) have developed a set of quick steps that faculty and instructors can take to review your syllabus for effective online assessment. Promoting academic integrity does not require a large investment of time.
Additional recommendations for promoting academic integrity in the classroom during the semester are available on the CLASS website. The Promoting Academic Integrity page of the website includes materials you can tailor to your course and use in the classroom to convey your expectations and promote student engagement and learning.
Student Mental Health
During the pandemic, students across the country have reported elevated levels of stress, anxiety and depression. In some cases, students bring these concerns directly to their instructors, perhaps in the context of a missed assignment or poor performance in the course. The Barnes Center wellness team has developed a toolkit for faculty to help navigate this challenging situation. The following text has been provided by the Barnes Center and may be included in your syllabus at your discretion:
“Mental health and overall well-being are significant predictors of academic success. As such it is essential that during your college experience you develop the skills and resources effectively to navigate stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. Please familiarize yourself with the range of resources the Barnes Center provides and seek out support for mental health concerns as needed. Counseling services are available 24/7, 365 days, at 315.443.8000. I encourage you to explore the resources available through the Wellness Leadership Institute.”
Two Cohorts Experiencing College for the First Time
It’s worth taking a moment to note that our returning sophomores did not have anything like a “normal” first year. This fall, like the incoming first-year students, they will be experiencing the full breadth of college life for the first time. They will also be taking a full schedule of in-person classes for the first time. They may not yet have mastered note-taking strategies in lecture classes and other important academic skills. Those of you who teach our sophomores may wish to bear this in mind as you begin your classes.
As mentioned above, please consult the Important Syllabus Reminders webpage for more detailed information and suggested syllabus language on a wide range of topics. I note only a few below:
- The Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE) invites faculty to a week of virtual “reentry” sessions Aug. 9-13, which will look at ways to promote deep learning for all students. Each session features small, researched steps faculty can take and provides brief periods of time for hands-on course planning. Sessions are being held on Zoom to accommodate travel schedules. Each morning session will be followed by drop-in office hours held by team members from CTLE. Additionally, the first 20 people to register for Session One and to complete the three requirements will earn a stipend of $250. More information about reentry week can be found on the CTLE Events page.
- All faculty are required to follow the University’s policies and federal law related to serving students with disabilities; the Center for Disability Resources (CDR) is your partner in these processes. The Disability Faculty Portal, located in the Faculty Services field in MySlice, can be used to view accommodation letters for your students, upload exams and assignments, and provide feedback to CDR.
- Our Religious Observances Policy recognizes the right of students to be absent from class for faith-based observances. Students must register their expected absences on MySlice (Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances/Add a Notification). The deadline for notification is Sept. 17, coinciding with the drop deadline. Faculty are encouraged to plan proactively the dates of exams, group presentations and other significant class events to avoid major religious holidays. Hendricks Chapel maintains a list of holy days and holidays for many world religions. In addition, many Indigenous students participate in important religious observances on dates that are only determined by their community leaders a few weeks or days in advance. This frequently makes it impossible for the student to enter the observance in MySlice by the specified deadline. I ask that you work with these students to help them participate in these observances while continuing to make academic progress in your classes.
- Starting this semester, there is a new system for reporting incomplete grades. Incomplete grades must be accompanied by a letter grade that reflects the final grade to be assigned if the student does not resolve the incomplete. More information and guidance on how to record incomplete grades will be forthcoming from the University Registrar later in the semester.
- Please consider using some form of mid-semester assessment in your classes. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment (IEA) can help you design and implement a brief survey of your students to gather feedback. This sort of interim assessment can be very informative and students really appreciate the opportunity to provide their instructors with their thoughts on how the course is going. If you would like some help to do this, please contact IEA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you the best for this semester, and I thank you for your efforts to help our students reach their academic goals.
Associate Provost for Academic Affairs