Course Policies

Grading Policy

Graded Course Activities

The following are the graded course for this course:

  • Weekly blog posts and comments — 50%
  • Semester project (including all stages) — 40%
  • Final presentation — 10%.

This course calls upon you to read and analyze the selected texts through blog posts, class discussions, and your semester project. Note that blog posts and comments will not receive individual grades, but will rather a holistic grade taking into account their development over the course of the semester. (Feel free to check in with me during the course of the semester if you want to know how you’re doing.)

The following description of my grading criteria is adapted from my colleague, Ellen McCallum:

Blog posts and semester projects will be graded according to the criteria of clarity, persuasiveness, and originality. This is a matrix of criteria whose combination contributes to the overall grade. A project could be perfectly clear, for instance, but neither original nor particularly persuasive and thus would merit a low grade. Similarly, a project could offer startling insight but be muddled or unpersuasive.

Clarity means that ideas should be expressed in lucid, complete sentences and the reader should have a sense of where the writer is headed from paragraph to paragraph. Accurate spelling, good grammar, logic, and a sure grasp of style all contribute to clarity. Blog posts may be more informal than traditional papers, but they must still adhere to these principles. Projects or blog posts that lack any of one or two these elements are likely to score below a 3; project or posts that lack more than two of these elements are likely to earn a 2 or below.

Persuasiveness means that I expect your writing to state a thesis or raise a coherent set of intellectual/interpretive questions and make an argument that is supported by evidence from the texts. I am open to any interpretation you can support. Projects or blog posts without a thesis or with an inchoate set of questions will likely score no higher than a 2; projects or blog posts offering a thesis or question but one that is not fully supported by evidence, not argued well, and/or not developed in its implications or consequences are likely to score between 2.5 and 3.5.

Originality consists of showing the reader something new about the text, an insight that would not be evident or obvious at first glance. It is not summary of a text, but it need not be earth- shattering or obscure. If you focus on how the text works, rather than what it is saying, it is much easier to be original. The more an essay relies on textual summary, the lower the grade. The stronger the analysis and supportable speculation about a text, the higher the grade. The highest grades are reserved for work that offers new insight into the text, a perspective that the typical reader would not have perceived without benefit of your essay.


Because discussion is central to this seminar, attendance is required; because this class meets only once a week, missing more than one class drops your final grade down 0.25 for each incident. If you miss class, be sure to contact a classmate for notes and any instructions. There are no excused and unexcused absences in this class; there are only absences. Religious holidays (as defined by University policy) are not factored into absences, but you need to let me know me about your missing class in advance of the holiday.


To be adequately prepared for discussion be sure to stay on top of the readings and class blog. Come to class with specific passages in mind to engage others in discussion, and with thoughtful questions for us to deliberate; you may consider other issues than those you include in your blog post. If you stress out about talking in class, try to work out some thoughts in advance using the blog, or plan some questions to raise in class based on others’ posts.

Late Work Policy

Blog posts are due at 6:00 pm the evening before each class; comments on your colleagues’ posts are due at the beginning of each class. Of the 12 total blog posts and comments over the course of the semester, I will accept no more than 2 posted after the deadline, since your lateness inconveniences not just me but also your colleagues.

The semester project has several stages, the deadlines for each of which are listed in the schedule above. I will only accept late work by prior arrangement. If the nature of your project changes between stages, you must come talk with me about the change. I will not accept any final project for which I have not approved each prior stage.

University Policies

Commit to Integrity: Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site:

Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work you completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Also, you are not authorized to use the Web site to complete any course work in this course. Students who violate MSU academic integrity rules may receive a penalty grade, including a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also the Academic Integrity webpage.)

Limits to Confidentiality

Essays, journals, and other materials submitted for this class are generally considered confidential pursuant to the University’s student record policies.  However, students should be aware that University employees, including instructors, may not be able to maintain confidentiality when it conflicts with their responsibility to report certain issues to protect the health and safety of MSU community members and others.  As the instructor, I must report the following information to other University offices (including the Department of Police and Public Safety) if you share it with me:

  • Suspected child abuse/neglect, even if this maltreatment happened when you were a child,
  • Allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment when they involve MSU students, faculty, or staff, and
  • Credible threats of harm to oneself or to others.

These reports may trigger contact from a campus official who will want to talk with you about the incident that you have shared.  In almost all cases, it will be your decision whether you wish to speak with that individual.  If you would like to talk about these events in a more confidential setting you are encouraged to make an appointment with the MSU Counseling Center.

Inform Your Instructor of Any Accommodations Needed

From the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD): Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Requests for accommodations by persons with disabilities may be made by contacting the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities at 517-884-RCPD or on the web at Once your eligibility for an accommodation has been determined, you will be issued a Verified Individual Services Accommodation (“VISA”) form. Please present this form to me at the start of the term and/or two weeks prior to the accommodation date (test, project, etc.). Requests received after this date may not be honored.