1. says

    Oh god yes. I put together a 5 page syllabus that was mostly boilerplate my university demanded I include, and they bounced it and told I have to include a couple more pages of PSLOs and other such gibberish, which the students won’t read, but it’s all for the bureaucrats at accreditation agencies. Oh, yeah? I’m teaching a standard undergrad genetics course. If they don’t already understand what’s taught in such a course, how can they judge me?

  2. rockwhisperer says

    I got my master’s degree from one of the California State University schools not quite a decade ago, so I’m remembering upper division and graduate classes from a single department, but…

    Every class had a syllabus, and the first five pages were required CSU boilerplate. But beyond that, the instructors in my department saw the syllabus as a promise to the students that these are the topics they intended to cover, and oh by the way, here are relevant reading assignments and dates for exams and papers. Because your average CSU student is not well-off and books are expensive, more than one professor would give reading assignment pages for the current and previous versions of a textbook, allowing students to buy their books used. If stuff happened and an instructor was too sick to teach a lecture without a backup assignment that another faculty member could oversee, they’d often have a conversation with the class that started with, okay, we have N-1 meetings left to cover N topics, we need to cut something from the syllabus, here are my ideas, what do you folks think? If the entire class bombed an exam, they’d have a conversation that started with, hey, you folks don’t seem to be getting this particular set of concepts, what can we do together to revisit the material most helpfully, and how should we best reschedule the rest of our meetings?

    By treating the syllabus as a living document of promises that might have to be edited to deal with life happening, it became a very useful communication tool instead of a hammer.

  3. says

    When I started teaching 40+ years ago, a syllabus included basic contact info, required materials for the course, a general course description, and the grading scheme. It easily fit on one sheet of paper. Then is started to grow. Part of this was due to the fact that apparently some people in admin (and faculty) did not understand the difference between a syllabus and a course outline, so people started demanding a lecture-by-lecture and lab-by-lab listing of content, along with all manner of other details. Then there was the boilerplate infection that just grew and grew. It was not enough to simply include a directive to see the appropriate pages on the college web site. In fact, by the mid 1990s I had an extensive set of faculty web pages that included course schedules, grading standards, etc. I would have preferred to simply hand out a single overview sheet which included a link to the web site for further details (I would show the class the site on the first day), but that was not considered sufficient. Eventually, I began to suspect that someone owned stock in a paper mill. In reality, I am sure that it had more to do with ass-covering. From the bureaucrats perspective, it is better to ask for more, in the odd case you might need it, than to be caught empty handed.

    It can all be filed under the heading of expanding non-useful work.

  4. dean56 says

    Our syllabi have a large amount of general university claptrap that nobody reads. The only decent part of it is that we can post them in Blackboard instead of printing them, so mine are posted in 3 parts: Cover page, with “here’s where you can find me and how you can contact me” stuff, the claptrap section, and what would be 1.5 page if printed with course specific information.

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