Statements to be included in syllabi - updated August 2013

Syllabus Statement, Rhetoric and Language . . . updated August, 2013

Sample Syllabi and Course Descriptions for most of the program’s courses can be found online at our website:

Please note that sample syllabi on that page are intended primarily to provide a sense as to how other faculty have crafted their course around the standard learning outcomes and requirements. But they are not the best source for course descriptions, contact info for services such as the Speaking Center, or basic course requirements as they are not updated frequently. So . . . please refer to this document to make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date required information for your syllabus.

The syllabus for your course should be fairly detailed and should include as a minimum the following information:
• the official (catalogue) course description and statement of university-approved course learning outcomes;
• the three verbatim statements required by the university (see below);
• a week-by-week or daily course calendar that identifies readings, assignments andtopics to be covered (this part, of course, is subject to change and can be listed as such, but try to err in the direction of providing a preview);
• a description of and due dates for the major assignments;
• the dates and times of major exams, if applicable;
• your grading and attendance policies (see details below)
• important resource information, including Writing Center and Speaking Center;
• your office hours, office location, USF email address, and your USF telephone extension. Do not give students your home or cell phone numbers.

Syllabi may be distributed to students as hard copies, or they may be placed on Blackboard or Canvas so that all your students have access. For the sake of the trees, consider providing all or parts of your syllabus electronically, rather than printing the entire thing.

Part-time faculty must submit their syllabi to Crystal by August 13 (one week before classes begin); full-time faculty must submit their syllabi to the Program Assistant, Crystal Chissell, by August 23 (end of first week of classes). Send them to Earlier submissions will be very welcome. Starting this year, a faculty review team will look at your syllabus for compliance with accuracy and basic course requirements.

Do not print your syllabi until they have been approved by the appropriate reviewer; better yet, you can tell us how many copies you are requesting when you submit it. Please watch your email after turning in your syllabus so that you can get word whether any changes are made or that it’s ready to go. Sometimes a few minor issues hold up printing of a syllabus for several days.

The Provost’s office and College of Arts & Sciences requires that the following three statements be included verbatim in your syllabus:

Time Management and Planning: Students are expected to spend 2 hours outside of class in study and preparation of assignments for each hour in class. In a 4 unit class, assignments have been created with the expectation that students will engage in approximately 8 hours of out-of-class work per week; in a 2 unit class, students should expect to spend approximately 4 hours per week outside of class in study and preparation. Intensive classes may count the 2 hours of lab time as part of the out-of-class work.

Academic Integrity:
USF Honor Code: As a Jesuit institution committed to cura personalis- the care and education of the whole person- USF has an obligation to embody and foster the values of honesty and integrity. USF upholds the standards of honesty and integrity from all members of the academic community. All students are expected to know and adhere to the University’s Honor Code. You can find the full text of the code online at As it particularly pertains to the Department of Rhetoric and Language, the policy covers:
• Plagiarism—intentionally or unintentionally representing the words or ideas of another person as your own; failure to properly cite references; manufacturing references Working with another person when independent work is required
• Submission of the same paper in more than one course without the specific permission of each instructor
• Submitting a paper written by another person or obtained from the internet.
The penalties for violation of the policy may include a failing grade on the assignment, a failing grade in the course, and/or a referral to the Dean and the Committee on Student Academic Honesty. In addition, a letter will be sent to the Associate Dean for Student Academic Services; the letter will remain in your file for two years after you graduate, after which you may petition for its removal.

Students with Disabilities:
If you are a student with a disability or disabling condition, or if you think you may have a disability, please contact USF Student Disability Services (SDS) at 415 422-2613 within the first week of class, or immediately upon onset of disability, to speak with a disability specialist. If you are determined eligible for reasonable accommodations, please meet with your disability specialist so they can arrange to have your accommodation letter sent to me, and we will discuss your needs for this course. For more information, please visit:

In addition, the following item should be included verbatim with your attendance policy:

Exception: When representing the University of San Francisco in intercollegiate competition (e.g., athletics, debate), students shall be excused from classes on the hours or days such competition takes them away from classes. However, such students shall be responsible for advising their professors regarding anticipated absences and for arranging to complete course work for classes, laboratories, and/or examinations missed.

Student Resources should also be included in your syllabus. At a minimum, please list the following:

The Writing Center is located in 215 Cowell, and they are open 10:00-8:00 Monday through Thursday and until 5:00 on Friday. Please call 422-6713 to make an appointment with a Writing Center Consultant to talk over your paper. They can be extremely helpful in providing additional reader feedback at any stage of your writing process. The Writing Center also has drop-in consultant to help you from 1:00-4:00 Monday through Thursday in Gleeson Library. The Writing Center table is located in the computer room on the main floor, accessible through the Thatcher Art Gallery. Remember, the best time to bring your paper in for feedback is well before it is due.

Located in Malloy Hall, Room 106, The Speaking Center is available to help all USF students prepare for speeches--such as oral presentations, team presentations, and powerpoint demonstrations. The coaches are USF students, selected because of their skill and experience (and excellent grades) in public speaking, and they can help you with a variety of aspects of public speaking, including delivery and outlining. Tutors are available on a drop-in basis (hours announced in the second week of the semester) as well as for special appointments; please visit the tutoring center or email to make an appointment.

Various Workshops in Reading and Writing are available to assist students with academic writing, reading, and speaking: See the schedule of classes for times and days for RHET 100, 101, 105, 107.

Various Students Success Workhops are offered by CASA.

In addition to the verbatim items, your syllabus needs to provide several other important elements, including an attendance policy, a grading policy, and a list of important student resources.


You are free to have your own attendance policy, but there are three conditions that must be met:
1) It must include verbatim the Exception stated above. That is a direct quotation from the University catalogue and we are required to follow it.
2) Your policy must be clearly stated in your syllabus and must be explained to the students.
3) It must be reasonable. Though the department does not have a specific attendance policy, we prefer not to be excessively punitive, yet we also think faculty should create strong expectations for students to take advantage of classtime.

Examples of attendance policies may be found in the sample syllabi posted online, and course directors can help you craft an appropriate policy.


Grades are an important motivational tool, as well as a means for assessing student work. Our department strives to be fair and transparent in assigning grades, and your syllabus is an important means of establishing both of these. With that mind, be sure your syllabus includes:
• A list of major assignments and their value relative to the overall course grade
• Identification of any other element that figures into the overall grade (point or percentage values for attendance, quizzes, participation in in-class exercises, etc)
• The grade scale that will be applied in your class (note that the university does not have a standard scale)

(In short, students should have enough information about value of individual work to calculate their grade on their own)

The following examples provide just a few of the numerous ways this can be accomplished:

Assignments will be weighted as follows:

analysis argument 15%
rhetorical criticism
argument 25%
argument of value 25%
policy argument 25%
homework 5%
class participation 5%
Grade Scale:
A = 94-100% B =84-86.9 C =74-76.9
A- = 90-93.9 B- =80-83.9 C- =70-73.9
B+ = 87-89.9 C+ =77-79.9 D =60-69.9 F = less than 60%


A = 1851 to 2000 points
A- = 1800 to 1850 points
B+ = 1750 to 1759 points
B . . . . etc

Your syllabus should also be clear and transparent in helping students to understand how the quality of their work is measured (i.e., what criteria you use to determine As and Bs and Cs). This can be communicated through a rubric that combines the criteria and standards you will use to evaluate student work. In most cases, you are free to develop and work with your own rubrics on the syllabus and individual assignments (though you should check with your area director, as some courses have a standardized rubric). What’s important, though, is that whatever criteria you use:

• should relate to the course’s official learning outcomes, as well as any course-specific outcomes you add,
• should be written using outcomes-focused language, describing quality of student work (“A” papers make significant claims) rather than evaluative language (“A” papers are strong)

Many faculty provide a fairly general or global set of expectations on the syllabus and provide specifics on individual assignments. This is fine; the goal here is to start giving students a sense from day one as to expectations for quality work in your class.


A essays meet requirements of the assignment, exhibit structural coherence, make significant claims that are justified by appropriate support. They are responsive to audience and meet typical expectations of academic readers, including research, meaningful claims, sufficient organizational signals, and a writing style that is linguistically precise and grammatically complex.

B essays meet major requirements of the assignment: their major claims are justified in a reasonable way, and they are generally responsive to the audience. Essays that meet a significant, but not all, of the expectations, tend to fall into the "B" category. An otherwise "A" essay that argues an obvious claim, or offers insufficient support, or contains a number of stylistic or mechanical faults are the typical characteristics of a "B" level essay.
C essays meet at least some of the necessary requirements of the assignment, and are comprehensible, exhibiting enough structure, organizational signals, and appropriate style to shape meaning. When essays fall significantly short in one or more of the most significant areas described above, or fall short in most areas, they tend toward a "C." Failing to meet basic assignment requirements--such as summarizing and responding to particular readings, meeting page- or word- minimum limits, failing to use proper research--will also lead a paper to get a "C."

D and F essays are deficient in many ways.


A speeches go beyond merely providing information on a generic topic; they adopt interesting, audience-aware angles of vision; they are well supported with sound reasoning and a variety of well-researched evidence, are delivered extemporaneously and in an audience-centered manner, with clear organization revealed through main points, signposts, and transitions.

B speeches attend all the basic assignment requirements, and provide well-reasoned arguments in an audience-centered manner. They use transitional elements effectively, and possess an adequate amount of internal coherence and consistency.

C speeches follow the basic requirements of the assignment, but may be deficient in one or more ways in the areas described above. (e.g., a well-crafted speech that otherwise may be an "A" or "B" speech will probably get a "C" if it is delivered from a manuscript rather than extemporaneously).

D and F speeches are seriously deficient in meeting one or more basic requirements of the assignment. (e.g., an organized interesting speech may receive a "D" or "F" grade if it seriously violates time restraints).