Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to frequently asked (or, more importantly, unasked) questions about individual policies and procedures for my courses.
Please note that these answers do not take the place of specific instructions listed in a given syllabus, or anything I may have advised in class or in person.
What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
The best way to get in touch with me is by email or in person. During the semester, I answer all student emails promptly between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. If you email me after 7:00 pm, you can usually expect a reply in your inbox by 7:30 am the next morning.
If you have a short question, don’t hesitate to speak with me before or after class. If it’s a longer one, or a private matter (including grades), please stop by my office hours or set up an appointment.
What are your office hours?
My office hours are posted on the syllabus, outside my office door, and here.
Do I need to make an appointment in order to visit you during office hours?
No! My office hours are open, meaning you’re free to stop by at any time during them. If I’m with someone else, please wait patiently. After 5 or 10 minutes, give a polite knock and let me know you’re there.
But I’m busy during your office hours.
Not a problem. Email me to set up an appointment, and I’m happy to meet with you at a time that’s convenient with your schedule and mine.
Why are you not available for an appointment on Fridays?
I set aside Fridays for writing and research. If you see me on campus that day, it is usually for a department meeting.
Attendance, Snow Days, Etc.
I was absent. What do I need to do for next class?
Please see the syllabus. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to keep up with the schedule of readings and to monitor your university email address and/or Blackboard Announcements for any additional instructions given in class. For material missed during lecture or discussion, you will need to catch up or, if you’re feeling diligent, arrange a time during office hours to go over what you missed.
Here is a doctor’s note.
I don’t need it. Except for religious observances and other university-approved exceptions, there are no excused or unexcused absences. Please see the syllabus regarding attendance policy. You are allotted, by university and department standards, a certain number of absences per term. It is your job to monitor your attendance and to make sound decisions accordingly, remembering that everybody needs to miss a class or two because of illness or family emergencies at a certain point.
If you are dealing with a chronic illness or long-term personal issue that will affect your attendance, please feel free to meet with me during office hours or by appointment, so we can discuss potential accomodations.
Is class canceled? I see snow / sleet / ice / cats-and-dogs listed in the forecast.
If campus is open, we will have class; if campus is closed, we will not. Please monitor your university email address both for official university announcements and, in the event of closure, any follow-up emails from me.
What should I prepare for next time if class is canceled?
If class is canceled, your job is to continue with the schedule as listed in the syllabus. For a TR class, for example, if the university is closed on a Tuesday, then you need to have completed by Thursday all assigned reading and writing for both Tuesday and Thursday. If modifications need to be made to our schedule, or if we miss two or more classes in a row, I will always email and post an update in Blackboard Announcements.
Papers and Writing Assignments
I’m having trouble understanding the assignment and/or getting started. What should I do?
Come and speak with me during my office hours or by appointment. In fact, the best stage to come and speak to a professor about a paper is during its conception.
When you come, please bring a list of at least three concrete questions, ideas, or passages you’d like to discuss in relation to your paper.
Can you read over a draft of my paper?
My policies regarding drafts differ for writing classes and literature classes. For a first-year writing class, please see the syllabus for instructions about feedback on drafts.
For literature classes, I’m willing to look over one draft of any formal essay assignment so long as (a) you bring it to me in person, and (b) you do so more than 48 hours before the paper is due. I will offer three major suggestions, rather than comment on the paper directly. I will not read over a paper for spelling errors or grammar.
If you are unable to bring the paper to me directly or the paper is due within 48 hours, you may email me with a list of three specific questions you have about the paper draft.
For help with your writing, including organization and argumentation, you are highly encouraged (and, in some classes, required) to visit the Writing Center.
I have fallen behind on the weekly assignments (Working Paragraphs, Working Papers, Blackboard Posts, etc.). Should I just give up?
No. In virtually all instances, I double-grade weekly, informal assignments, meaning I give you credit both (a) for completing the assignment in full, and (b) for the overall quality of your progress throughout the semester. This means that you should immediately pick up where you left off; the worst thing for your final grade is to continue not to try. It also means you should come and speak with me as soon as possible about what’s keeping you from completing the assignments. Don’t hide. Be pro-active.
My printer isn’t working, so I don’t have my paper. Can I email it to you?
Unless you’ve already cleared this with me in advance, no. Hard copies of all papers or written assignments should be handed in at the beginning of class on the day they’re due. Blackboard submissions are due by the time listed in Blackboard Assignments. Any papers received after this, by email or otherwise, will be considered late (see the syllabus for policies regarding late work).
Make sure you have ample time before the deadline to print off the paper, and, if your printer isn’t working, to find another one. Unless the syllabus specifically asks for an electronic copy of the paper (usually via Blackboard), I will not accept a paper or formal written assignment over email.
But I emailed the paper to you anyway. You didn’t get it?
No, I didn’t get it, and this is the reason for the policy above. Problems with email are legion, and the verbs of my students’ emails get surprisingly passive (“The paper must not have attached,” “It must not have sent,” etc.) when they try to send late papers.
What’s your policy regarding spelling and grammatical errors?
All final drafts of written essays should be polished, meaning they should be free of spelling and basic grammatical errors and should be properly formatted (this includes typographic layout and MLA citation).
Excessive grammatical, spelling, or typographic errors in a paper may lead to a grade reduction or even an F. Controlling errors and producing a polished final draft is simply your responsibility as a student.
Grading, Quizzes, Participation
What constitutes good class participation?
Participating in good faith in class and group assignments (group work, presentations, etc.) is a sine qua non for a positive participation grade.
In terms of verbal participation, I think the following is a nice rule of thumb for all college-level courses, particularly discussion-based humanities classes or seminars: come prepared, for every class session, to raise one solid textually based question or observation. “Textually based” means rooting your claims in a specific passage of the day's assigned reading, and then drawing our attention to some problem or question that emerges from it. “Solid” does not mean you have to have the right answer; it means you’ve come prepared to think about what you’ve read and to show that you’ve read carefully.
I’m afraid to speak in class because some class members dominate discussion.
I feel very strongly about this and work hard, as a discussion leader and lecturer, to create an open forum not only for all views but for different styles of learning, participating, and sharing ideas. If you feel class discussion, however, has become lop-sided or, most importantly, threatening, please speak to me as soon as possible privately during office hours. I do not look kindly on those who dominate discussion (indeed, their participation grade may suffer if I have spoken to them and they do not amend their ways).
Is extra credit possible?
Often, yes. I’ll mention extra credit opportunities in class as they arise.