Faculty Senate Passes Policy Amendment Requiring Professors to Provide Syllabi Before Classes Start

On Monday, March 18, the NDSU Faculty Senate met to discuss an amendment to policy for faculty members that has been in the works for the last two years. The change proposed was to require faculty to provide syllabi for their students before their classes started. Originally, the Student Senate requested that the policy require syllabi to be available five business days before the first day of class, but this was met with broad opposition last month, and the amendment did not pass.

A policy requiring syllabi to be available five business days early was inspired by a similar policy at UND, where all of their classes publish their syllabi during a preview week, or the week before the semester starts. After the five-day window amendment failed to pass, the Student Senate discussed the issue and agreed to request a three-day window instead, hoping that the compromise would be less strict for faculty members while still giving students time to prepare. Meanwhile, the Faculty Senate proposed that the syllabi be required by the first day of class only.

The meeting opened with the usual formalities and updates from different members of the Senate, and then they began their discussion of proposed amendments with a statement from Student Body President Kaylee Weigel. “The vast majority of faculty at NDSU do not post their syllabi in a timely manner…this is a significant cause of anxiety,” she said. “This is akin to asking all to apply to a job and show up on the first day without knowing what the job entails.”

Weigel stressed how students’ mental health and well-being could be positively impacted by releasing class syllabi early enough to give students time to prepare, and she expressed her disappointment that faculty were showing a lack of support and care for students by resisting the policy change. Her statement seemed to resonate with many of the faculty members present.

After Weigel spoke the floor was opened for faculty to discuss the proposed changes. Some were in support of the amendment after hearing from their students, while some expressed the concern that a professor might experience an emergency before class started and be unable to complete the syllabus on time, while others cited concerns that having more requirements for class preparedness might be weaponized by school administration and cause them to be unduly penalized. “I think it speaks to a broader [workplace] climate rather than faculty resisting student requests,” said one faculty member.

The faculty voted on the proposed amendment—that the syllabi have to be available on the first day of class—and it didn’t pass, with 77% voting nay, returning the discussion to whether the policy should be three business days before class started. One faculty member then suggested that the policy be amended to require syllabi to be available the Friday before classes start instead. President Weigel was called upon to share the student viewpoint on this and indicated that the Student Senate had discussed the possibility this would be suggested and was willing to compromise. This amendment was more broadly supported, and when the time came to vote, it passed with 95% voting aye.

Though it was a bigger compromise than the Student Senate had hoped for, getting the policy on the books leaves the door open for further student-faculty collaboration to maximize mental health and well-being for both groups. “This has been two years in the making, and it’s a small step on the long way we have to go to support students, but I’m extremely pleased with the outcome,” said Weigel after the amendment had been passed. “In the fall we’ll poll students, and if they want more days to prepare…that’s a task for the next administration to take up.”

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