General Course Policies

Please read these general course policies. They apply to all courses that I teach, unless I specifically tell you otherwise. 

1. Revising Major Project Submissions

Almost nobody (including me!) nails a challenging writing problem on the first try. Revision helps you learn. These are the “revision protocols,” as I call them.


  • You don’t have to revise a project that is eligible for revision; it’s optional. If you choose not to revise a project, the submission grade stands as your final grade for that project.
  • Eligible projects may be revised once after I grade them.
  • We’ll figure out a reasonable revision deadline when I return the graded submissions. The deadline will be posted to the course calendar.
  • Read my feedback on your submission, then download and read this handout on levels of revision. I strongly suggest that you meet with me to make a revision plan and to make sure that you understand what your revision priorities are.

Revision Memo and “Compare” Document Required

  • Upload your revision where I indicate  (on Canvas), along with two other important items:
    • a revision memo and
    • a “compare” document of the original submission versus the revised submission (assuming that the particular assignment is primarily text-based and not, say, a visual or audiovisual remix).
  • So, it’s three items to upload:
    1. revised project,
    2. revision memo, and
    3. “compare” document (if the assignment is primarily textual).

Revision Memo

  • This is a reasonably detailed one-page memo explaining
    • what you revised,
    • how you revised it,
    • the rhetorical or argumentative purpose of each revision, with causation markers (“because,” “thus,” “so,” “as a result,” etc.) and details, and
    • how you addressed or used my comments on the original graded submission.
  • Examples:
    • “You pointed out that I did not provide evidence for my claims that X, Y, and Z. I added the following evidence after meeting with you and asking a librarian for help: ……Adding this evidence improves my argument because [specifics]….”
    • “After reading your comment #12, I made a chart showing all the evidence I used in my analysis and where I used specific rhetorical concepts. I found that there was not as much of a match as I thought there was and my argument was only partially developed. So, I went back to the textbook and to my artifact and…..This process improved my analysis because it…..”
    • “You pointed out that I did not hyphenate phrasal adjectives correctly. I found six of them to fix and did so after reading the link you sent. This fix improved my sentences for clarity because….”
  • You may group similar items; use your common sense and brainpower. 
  • There’s no particular format: bullet points are fine if they are substantive.
  • No memo (or superficial memo), no revision accepted. 
    • I put a lot of time and effort into my comments on submitted work and want you to consider them carefully. In return, I expect a detailed revision memo if you revise and resubmit.

“Compare” Document

  • This is an easy, comprehensive way to see exactly what is different between the original submission and the revision of a primarily text-based assignment. If you are unsure whether a revision of a particular assignment, such as a not-primarily-textual assignment, requires a “compare “document, please ask
  • If you revise a project, the first thing to do is to make a copy of the original submission, change the filename to show that it is revised, and work on that revised file.
    • You want separate files with separate, useful, clear file names, e.g., Smith-WRIT-2325-Proj1-Original and Smith-WRIT-2325-Proj1-Revised. That way, you will have a clear separation between the project as you submitted it originally and the revision.
    • NB: If you forget to do this step, the “compare” document won’t show accurate information. You can download your original submission from Canvas if you need to.
    • You have several options for making a “compare” document: 

Desktop Version of Word

Other: Aspose

    • Navigate to Aspose.
    • Change granularity setting to “char.”
    • Upload original submission on left side.
    • Upload revise submission on right side.
    • Click “compare now” and wait (may take a few minutes).
    • Download the file that’s generated–that is a “compare “file. 

Online Version of Word

    • If you are using Word’s online version, it apparently does not have the same level of function that the desktop version has in terms of making it easy to do a comparison between two versions of a file.  Sigh. Here is what to do to track changes if you have Word in the online version.
    • Set to Reviewing and allow tracking for every user, then share that document.

Libre Office

Adobe Acrobat Pro

2. Revision of Other Submissions

  • Some of your other submissions, e.g., in-process activities such as research proposals, rough outlines, synthesis activities. etc., may require resubmissions if I ask for them. You don’t need to do the whole “memo and compare document” process for those kinds of submissions. 
  • Some items are one-shot points-graded activities. In a few classes, I might use exams. Such items are not eligible for revision because of their timing and purpose.
  • I will clearly label revision-eligible work.

3. Meeting with Me Outside of Class


a) Posted Student Visiting Hours Online

(Hat tip: Denise Maduli-Williams for the term “student visiting hours,” a nice emphasis.)

  • FA20: Set an appointment with me by following this link to my Google Calendar
  • At the appointed time, meet in Zoom (link for visiting hours is on the home page of our Canvas site)

b) Other Hours

  • If you can’t make it to my posted hours, please send me an email with a clear subject line asking for an appointment, describing in one sentence what you want the subject of the appointment to be, and proposing three dates and times that you are available for the appointment.
    • Don’t send an email asking if I have any time to meet with you, because all I can write in reply is something like “Maybe. When are you available?” so we’ll have two emails with zero action.
    • Please start what I hope is a two-email thread by proposing three dates and times that you are available for the appointment.
    • We can almost certainly meet somehow. Don’t think that you can never talk to me outside of class if you can’t make my regular posted hours! 

In Normal Times: Posted Office Student Visiting Hours in Sorin 102

(Hat tip: Denise Maduli-Williams for the term “student visiting hours,” a nice emphasis.)

  • Posted office student visiting hours are not the hours I set aside to be in my office, hiding from students, and doing my “real work.” Teaching is my real work. 
  • Student visiting hours are the hours I have set aside to be available to students. They are your time. Don’t be shy. Stop in/log in and talk to me.
  • Student visiting hours are drop-in, first-come, first-served, no appointment needed.
    • You don’t need to email me to ask if I will be there during posted hours: I will be there unless I have emailed everyone to notify them of some emergency that prevents me from being there. If I have not done so, assume that I will be there and drop in.
  • Important: From where my desk is and with the way that the building is laid out, I will not know whether you are waiting in the hallway to see me. If I’m with someone, please poke your head in the door and let me know that you are waiting so that I can budget my time with each student. If you don’t let me know that you are there, I won’t know.

4. Email 

  • Please do not use the Canvas message feature that looks like email (it’s not real email) because it buries messages–I often don’t see them until considerable time has passed.
  • Use your regular St. Edward’s email and email me at
  • Emails to me should have a clear, specific subject line related to the topic of that particular email or message.
    • If your current email or message concerns a different subject than a previous conversation between us, please use a new subject line rather than just hitting “reply.”
  • I will strive to respond to your emails and messages within 24 hours and am usually well under that target. Please note that I usually don’t read emails after 5 pm. 

5. Peer Review

  • Drafts are just that–drafts. Everyone acknowledges that a draft is not going to be as polished as a project you turn in for a grade, but peer review fizzles if you offer only a  paragraph and a list of bullet points.
  • Peer review is about reviewing reasonably full (albeit in-process) drafts, not about trying to make sense of skeletal outlines or notes that the writer has not yet tried to develop and refine.
  • Peer review is timed carefully to be reasonably close to the submission deadline and assumes that you have been working on the draft continuously.
    • To participate in peer review, you must attempt all of the project and bring/submit your best, most complete work at that time. That’s what I call a “good-faith draft.”
    • In F2F classes, you also have to show up on time so I can set the groups.
    • In online classes, you have to log in to Canvas and see who your partner is. 
  • I grade you on your peer review of others’ work.
    • My peer review grading specifications are deliberately simple and focus on encouraging students to give useful feedback to one another. Overwhelmingly, students take peer review seriously and do a great job of helping each other develop drafts.

6. Late Work: (Almost) Never

I try to give you ample time to do your best work. Major projects often have 11:59 pm deadlines to give you maximum flexibility. Late work is strongly discouraged, except in two cases:

  • Freebie-one free late major project per semester.
    • Submit the project no later than 48 hours after the posted deadline.
    • You may use this free extension as a matter of right-no questions asked, no explanation or request needed.
  • Emergencies where you contact me, ideally before the deadline passes.
    • Sometimes, “life happens.” Unforeseeable, disruptive events that are out of your control happen to all of us–including me. I have kids, elderly parents, a dog that sometimes eats things that he shouldn’t, etc. We are also in a pandemic right now.
    • It’s best to handle emergencies on a case-by-case basis rather than to try to lay down some all-purpose rule.
    • If you think that you have a genuine emergency, don’t assume a yes or no from me on whether we can work something out. Just contact me right away and explain what the situation is, so we can put our heads together. We can likely work out a reasonable response to an emergency.

7. Grades

  • Responding to student work is a joy; grading much less so. But I have to grade you (at least at the end of the semester) if I want to stay employed. So I use grades in part to signal to you how you are doing within the expectations of the course and the assignments.
  • My philosophy on grading is this: “I don’t give grades; I just report the news.”
    • While that pithy saying cannot capture all that goes into evaluating your projects, I try to explain the criteria I will use and give you chances to ask questions. I evaluate your performance on the assignment within criteria that (I hope) we both understand.
  • I do not assign grades based on whether I like you, on your potential, your worth as a person, your politics, your GPA, your need or desire for a certain grade, your plans after college, your aid or scholarships, or other extraneous factors. I just evaluate your work.
  • There won’t be a round of extra credit chances at the end of the semester. Please do not ask. We both have plenty to do with all the regular work of the course.

Grade Discussions During the Semester

  • If I make a clearly demonstrable math error, I will, of course, correct it!
  • If you believe that my substantive evaluation is wrong or unclear, please feel free to see me in person or to set up an appointment. I ask that you wait at least 24 hours after you receive a grade to discuss it with me. This gives you a chance to reread your work and my comments. We are both grownups; let’s talk. I would expect that grade discussions would focus on criteria, expectations, and evidence of performance, as well as the particular project and policies, such as revision. I expect you to ask questions if you don’t understand how I will evaluate your performance. 

Grade Discussions After the Semester

  • After the term is over, if you believe that your final grade is “in error or academically indefensible” to use the official wording, you will need to follow the formal university grade appeal process and deadlines set forth in the applicable university bulletin.

8. Attendance and Promptness

  • Come to course consistently and on time (F2F or synchronous online). Prompt, consistent attendance is essential to your success. Some activities take place in class: “must be present to win.”
  • I use a sign-in/check-in process called Qwickly (in Canvas). I’ll explain how it works.
    • If you arrive late, after I have submitted attendance and class has begun, please do not interrupt me or a class session in progress about your attendance.
      • Instead, just come see me after class and I can modify the attendance record easily.
      • You’ll have to remember to see me; I will soon forget who was there and who was not.
  • You may miss up to three class meetings without penalty and with no questions asked. However, you still must keep up with the course.
  • If you are not prepared for class, and cannot participate meaningfully, I may deem that lack of preparation an absence. Please keep up with the readings and other work. In synchronous online classes, please don’t do that thing that sometimes happens where people log on, then disappear.
  • Class starts (and ends) on time. If you have not marked yourself present by the time I begin the class meeting by saying “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” or some such to the class as a whole, you are late.
    • Late arrival or leaving early without excuse= half an absence
    • Of course, if you have some legitimate reason to be late or leave early on occasion, please tell me and I’ll be reasonable.
    • That thing where students sometimes start packing up to leave five minutes early is out of bounds in my classes. I don’t hold you over late, but sometimes we work right up to the last minute (and sometimes we don’t). I’ll end class on time.
  • SUSPENDED DURING FA20 f you are on an official university NCAA athletic team, please see me to discuss any absences for games or matches.
    • The athletics staff can assist you with providing evidence I’ll need (a letter filled out and signed by the coach with specific dates).
  • If you miss a class meeting due to illness, you still need to prepare for the next class meeting (if you recover in time) and to turn in your work on time (if able).
    • Don’t come back yet if you are contagious, though!
    • If your illness extends more than a day or a few days, then please do let me know when you are returning so I know that you are not “ghosting” the class.
      • This communication is especially important during the pandemic, when contact tracing is necessary. I will of course be flexible for any COVID-19 illnesses (yours, a family member, etc.) that affect you. Just contact me.
    • You may also visit me during student visiting hours set an appointment with me for help. I also suggest making friends with a reliable fellow student who can help you catch up.
  • If you miss five or more class meetings before the drop deadline and “ghost” the class (so, you’re missing, not responding to efforts to contact you, and have basically disappeared), I reserve the right to drop you from the course with a grade of “WA.”
    • If you remain on the roster after the drop deadline and  “ghost,” you will likely earn a course grade of “F.”

9. Participation

  • Participation is part of fulfilling the basic expectations of the course.
    • I expect all students to participate in the course activities, including keeping up with the readings, participating in discussions, activities, and chat, and engaging in writing and feedback processes.
    • Please be ready to be called on (in F2F or synchronous online classes) and to be responsive to questions, discussions, process work, and activities (in all classes).
  • Students consistently tell me that workshop days help them learn while working on major projects. If our class involves workshop activities, please use that time wisely and also feel free to ask me questions. 
  • Keep up with the weekly plans and be sure to work backward from deadlines to allow enough time to do your best work and to consult with me and with your classmates.
  • Do all the process work, activities, and discussion posts. It all counts–none of it is busywork.

10. Keeping Class Productive

  • Your learning is important, so feel free to ask questions, probe assumptions, interrogate the assignments, and generally take charge of your learning experience. Don’t be shy.
  • Unless you are expecting a crucial call, put your phone on silent (not just vibrate).
    • If you are expecting a crucial call and might have to step out of class, that’s fine. Just tell me.
      • Sometimes I am in the same boat–I have kids who have to check in with me or who get sick, I have aging parents, etc.
    • When you are on our own, you probably use your computer and devices to combine work and play and to toggle back and forth between various activities. I often do the same. In the classroom context, though, please use devices for relevant work.
    • When we work on projects in class, you need to work on the project, not on assignments for other courses, or on recreational activities. You may be counted absent if you waste workshop days.
  • In online classes, you will have to exercise strong discipline to avoid the many distractions and temptations of computer-mediated and online environments.

11. The Writing Center and Tutoring

  • In this class: use the Writing Center. It’s available for all students. It’s a great resource for improving your writing on any writing task at any stage of completion. The Writing Center website has more details.
  • For many of your other classes: Academic support resources are available to students at no charge for the Fall 2020 semester. TutorME is a 24/7 online support platform that offers course-specific tutoring in a wide range of subjects. Visit myHilltop – TutorME to sign up and access more information.     TutorMe Request Form Link

12. Academic Honesty

  • The work you turn in for this course must be your own and you must acknowledge your intellectual debts.
    • Please read the current St. Edward’s University Bulletin (myHilltop>Academic Bulletins) for the university’s policies and procedures on academic dishonesty.
    • Here is what the university suggests, but does not require, that I do about different kinds of academic dishonesty. I retain discretion.
  • Most student plagiarism is the result of ignorance rather than fraud, but I won’t get involved in post facto mind reading. It’s always best to avoid the problem in the first place.
  • I encourage you to seek help from me and from the Writing Center often. I will also allow you to see “originality reports” if they are turned on for a particular assignment.
  • Nobody’s born knowing how to integrate source material into their own work. I will help you, but you have to ask questions. Be careful to keep the boundaries between your words and ideas and others’ words and ideas clear when the assignment calls for that.
  • Don’t turn in work that you submitted for a grade in another class without my approval first.
    • I don’t want to stop you from pursuing lines of research across your work, but you’ll have to revisit previous topics in a new, substantially different way to earn credit for continuing to work on them. The rule? See me first.

13. “504” Accommodations

  • Student Disability Services coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities (medical, learning, or psychological). I encourage any student who believes that they may need an accommodation for a disability, even temporarily, to follow the university’s accommodation procedure. Contact Student Disability Services (512-448-8561, Moody Hall 155, or through this website.)
  • I need the official “504 letter” to accommodate a disability. Share it with me in Box as soon as possible (ideally, in the first week of the semester) and also email me telling me to go look at the letter in Box. Box’s notification system is lousy, so just sharing it in Box without also emailing me is likely to cause delays. We should also discuss the letter in person or by chat, so I can understand how best to carry out the accommodations. 

14. Health and Counseling Center

  • The Health and Counseling Center is committed to ensuring that students receive the services that they need in order to be successful on the Hilltop. Its holistic approach emphasizes the importance of wellness for both body and mind.
  • The Health and Counseling Center’s is in Lady Bird Johnson Hall, Rm. 100. Its main number is (512) 448-8538; call during business hours. Please visit the HCC website for the latest on service offerings. 

15. Sex/Gender Harassment, Discrimination, and Misconduct

  • St. Edward’s University is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and productive learning environment. Title IX, state laws, and university policy prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity. Consequently, sexual misconduct —including harassment, relationship violence, sexual assault, and stalking —is also prohibited at the university. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can find the appropriate resources, both on and off campus, at the university’s Title IX webpage.
  • As a faculty member, I am a “mandatory reporter” required by the university—and by federal and state laws–to report incidents of sexual misconduct. Thus, I cannot guarantee confidentiality, even if you ask me to. I must provide our Title IX coordinator with relevant details, including the names of those involved in the incident.
  • You can seek confidential resources and advocates at the Health & Counseling Center in Johnson Hall, (512) 448-8538.
  • To make a formal report, you can contact the Dean of Students Office in Main Building, G 16, (512) 448-8408, or visit the c0mplaint process webpage. You can also make a police report to the St. Edward’s University Police by calling (512) 448-8444 or going to Operations Building, Room 219.

16. No Campus Carry

  • The Student Handbook specifies:

The carrying or possession of any type of weapon or firearm is strictly prohibited (a) on all university premises, including university parking lots and (b) at campus related activities, and (c) while conducting university business. This policy excludes law enforcement personnel and others who are storing such firearms in a locked vehicle in full compliance with Section 411.2032 of the Texas Government Code.

  • Please contact the campus police if you have questions or concerns and for updated information.
  • Don’t ask me because I’m not an authority on this other than to tell you that St. Edward’s has opted out of “campus carry.”