Office of the University Registrar

UW Syllabus Guidelines and Resources

The general principle behind providing a syllabus is to provide a clear statement of course content and performance expectations from the beginning of a class. This statement should be available in a durable and accessible form, whether on paper or online.

The guidelines below are intended to assist faculty in developing that statement for new and revised course proposals. The first two sections of this webpage address expectations that University Curriculum Committee reviewers will have concerning a syllabus that is a part of an application for a course.

In addition, this webpage provides faculty with language that may be included in syllabi. Providing this content in syllabi is voluntary, with the exception of the Religious Accommodations syllabus language.

Note: This webpage is maintained by the UW Curriculum Office in collaboration with the Faculty Council on Academic Standards (FCAS). Please contact the UW Curriculum Office at uwcr@uw.edu with any questions or suggested content.

Syllabus Guidelines

Purpose and Format

A syllabus is required as part of the documentation submitted for review of all new course applications and proposals to substantively change existing courses. In addition to forming an important aspect of the review of course proposals, the syllabus is kept by the Office of the University Registrar to aid in documenting the course content for students. Besides its administrative purpose, students depend on the information on a syllabus to understand what is expected of them in the course. While disciplines will vary in the format and specific content of the syllabus, certain components are important for most courses. A syllabus should provide the following information:

  1. Course description
    1. Logistics to obtain necessary materials and assistance
    2. Learning/intellectual content
    3. Learning objectives
    4. Characteristics of class meeting (online, lecture-based, seminar, etc.)
  2. Course assessment/expectations
    1. Explicit description of due dates and type of assessments, including method (points, percentages, etc.) and general criteria (participation, improvement, content correctness, etc.), for each assignment
    2. Strategies for success in the course
    3. Overall course grading system (absolute scale, curve, etc.)
  3. Course policies*
    1. Academic misconduct
    2. Accommodation
    3. Religious Accommodation
    4. Grading
    5. Inclusivity
    6. Medical notes
    7. Technology protocol

*These course policies are discussed in the Course Policies section of this webpage.

Policies

Course Policies

Academic Misconduct

The university’s policy on academic misconduct is a part of the Student Conduct Code, which cites the definition of academic misconduct in WAC 478-121. According to Student Governance Policy, Chapter 209 Section 7.C, academic misconduct includes but is not limited to acts such as cheating, plagiarism, and unauthorized collaboration. Refer to the Community Standards & Student Conduct – Academic Misconduct webpage for more information.

Students have a right to due process, particularly regarding academic misconduct. Thus, the syllabus is important in providing students with a clear statement of the instructor’s expectations. For further discussion of what is meant by the students’ right to due process, refer to the Faculty Resource on Grading – Students’ Right to Due Process webpage.

Optional syllabus language is provided in the Syllabus Language section of this webpage.

  • Academic Integrity
  • Conduct

Accommodation

Instructors are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for students who have disabilities. The university’s Disability Resources for Students (DRS) is the campus partner that provides services for students “with either temporary or permanent physical, health, learning, sensory or psychological disabilities.” The DRS website provides resources for students and faculty for making accommodations.

Optional campus-specific DRS syllabus statements are provided in the Syllabus Language section of this webpage.

Religious Accommodation

State law requires faculty to include language about religious accommodations in syllabi. The syllabus language provided in the Syllabus Language section of this webpage closely mirrors that of the law itself and was developed in close collaboration with Faculty Senate and the AGs office.

All syllabi must include the religious accommodations language as provided in the Syllabus Language section of this webpage and/or a link to the Religious Accommodations Policy webpage for students to read. The religious accommodations language should not be edited or altered.

Inclusivity

Among the core values of the university are inclusivity and diversity, regardless of race, gender, income, ability, beliefs, and other ways that people distinguish themselves and others. The Diversity webpage provides an overview of the ways the university addresses this value. Inclusivity applied to teaching a course means that assignments and activities should be accessible to all students, including class trips or research in the field. In such cases, alternative assignments should be available to those who need them.

Medical Notes

Instructors are prohibited from requiring or accepting medical documentation from a student for any absences. Requiring such documentation places burdens on all parties involved. For faculty, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) imposes legal requirements upon those who possess the medical information of others (in particular, identifiable health information falls under “The HIPAA Privacy Rule”). For health care providers, in particular Hall Health, requests for “medical excuse notes” consume valuable time that could be spent treating students. For students, requiring documentation discriminates against students who do not have access to medical providers.

In the cases of absences that result in a student missing a course requirement (class activity, assignment submission, exam, etc.) and of extended absences, accommodations are left to the discretion of the instructor. Accommodations might include makeup exams, alternate assignments, or alternate weighting of missed work, so long as the grades for other students in the class are not affected by the accommodation.

Optional syllabus language is provided in the Syllabus Language section of this webpage.

  • Medical Excuse Notes
  • Excused Absence from Class

Technology Protocol

There is no general policy on the use of technology (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) at the university. However, instructors can set expectations about how these devices may be used, including banning them (except in cases where a disability may require the use of a device). Any policy on the use of electronics should be included in the syllabus.

Grading Specific Course Policies

Participation

In general, students cannot be assessed for their behavior. Attendance is considered a behavior (refer to the Faculty Resource on Grading – Grading Issues Related to Conduct webpage). Students may be assessed on their participation in the classroom as long as the rubric used to assess the quality of that participation is explicit (i.e., described in detail in the syllabus) and not based solely on attendance. In courses where the pedagogy requires that more than 15% of the course grade be based on in-class participation, the assessment rubric is critical so that students understand what is expected of them.

Since disciplines have different methods of teaching, there are also different types of grading on participation. Departmental, school, and college guidelines may provide specific guidelines about participation for certain types of courses. For the purpose of the syllabus, what is most important is providing clear expectations of how participation will be used for evaluation purposes in the class.

Extra credit

Extra credit is discouraged. Should it be used, extra credit opportunities must be offered judiciously and not as a replacement for primary course material. Such opportunities are to be:

  • fair; that is, available to all students equally;
  • not dependent upon a specific time outside the regularly scheduled class period (e.g. attending a specific talk or performance);
  • not dependent upon the ability to travel to or from specific locations (e.g. attending a specific talk or performance);
  • not dependent upon the expression of political or social interest (e.g. caucusing, voting, watching a debate, volunteering);
  • and made explicit in the syllabus.

In no event should extra credit be offered to only a subset of students. If any student in a class cannot feasibly complete an extra credit opportunity, the instructor should offer an alternate but commensurate opportunity to that student.

Peer Evaluation

Peer evaluation must be used judiciously and in moderation. Peer evaluation may not replace grading by the instructor; while peer evaluation may be included in a grading rubric, students are not to assign grades to other students.

Incompletes

An incomplete grade (I) is given only when a student has done satisfactory work up until the last two weeks of the quarter but cannot complete the remaining work because of illness or other circumstances beyond the student’s control. The instructor must file a written statement with the head of the department or the dean of the college listing the work that a student will need to do to remove the incomplete. For further information on incompletes, refer to the Office of the University Registrar Incomplete Grades webpage and the university grading policy on their use.

Syllabus Language

Required Syllabus Language

Religious Accommodations

Providing the Religious Accommodations language is required to be included in all syllabi and/or to link to the Religious Accommodations Policy webpage for students to read.

Campus Unit: Office of the Provost
State law requires faculty to include language about religious accommodations in syllabi. The following language closely mirrors that of the law itself and was developed in close collaboration with Faculty Senate and the AGs office.

Required Syllabus Language: [DO NOT AMEND] “Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).”

Referenced Links

Religious Accommodations Policy
Religious Accommodations Request Form

Optional Syllabus Language

Academic Integrity

Campus Unit: Student Conduct
Optional Syllabus Language:

The University takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community. If you’re uncertain about if something is academic misconduct, ask me. I am willing to discuss questions you might have.

Acts of academic misconduct may include but are not limited to:

  • Cheating (working collaboratively on quizzes/exams and discussion submissions, sharing answers and previewing quizzes/exams)
  • Plagiarism (representing the work of others as your own without giving appropriate credit to the original author(s))
  • Unauthorized collaboration (working with each other on assignments)

Concerns about these or other behaviors prohibited by the Student Conduct Code will be referred for investigation and adjudication by (include information for specific campus office).

Students found to have engaged in academic misconduct may receive a zero on the assignment (or other possible outcome).

For Faculty:
The provided language is a starting point. You should consider making adjustments to reflect your specific discipline or the dynamics of your coursework. You may also consult with your campus conduct office, departmental leadership, and/or Associate Dean regarding who has responsibility for investigating academic misconduct in your school or college.

Preparing to Teach: Cheating or Plagiarism

Conduct

Campus Unit: Student Conduct
Optional Syllabus Language:

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/

Conduct Code and Policy

Disability Resources

Campus Unit: Disability Resources for Students (DRS)
Optional Syllabus Language:

Disability Resources for Students (DRS) offers the following statements for faculty to include in their syllabi:

Seattle Tacoma Bothell

Excused Absence from Class

Campus Unit: Faculty Senate
Optional Syllabus Language:
Students are expected to attend class and to participate in all graded activities, including midterms and final examinations. A student who is anticipating being absent from class due to a Religious Accommodation activity needs to complete the Religious Accommodations request process by the second Friday of the quarter. Students who anticipate missing class due to attendance at academic conferences or field trips, or participation in university-sponsored activities should provide a written notice to the instructor ahead of the absence. The instructor will determine if the graded activity or exam can be rescheduled or if there is equivalent work that can be done as an equivalent, as determined by the instructor.

Face Coverings in the Classroom

Faculty are strongly encouraged to include a syllabus statement for students regarding the use of face coverings when attending class.
Campus Unit: Faculty Senate
Optional Syllabus Language:

Face Coverings in the Classroom
The health and safety of the University of Washington community are the institution’s priorities. Please review and adhere to the UW COVID Face Covering Policy [pdf].

Referenced Links

UW COVID-19 Face Covering Policy [pdf]

Guidance to Students Taking Courses Outside the U.S.

Campus Unit: Faculty Senate in collaboration with Office of the Provost
Optional Syllabus Language:
Faculty members at U.S. universities – including the University of Washington – have the right to academic freedom which includes presenting and exploring topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events.

If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws.

If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.

Medical Excuse Notes

Campus Unit: Faculty Senate
Optional Syllabus Language:
Students are expected to attend class and to participate in all graded activities, including midterms and final examinations. To protect student privacy and the integrity of the academic experience, students will not be required to provide a medical excuse note to justify an absence from class due to illness. A student absent from any graded class activity or examination due to illness must request, in writing, to take a rescheduled examination or perform work judged by the instructor to be the equivalent. Students are responsible for taking any number of examinations for which they are scheduled on a given day and may not request an adjustment for this reason alone.

For Faculty:
Faculty are prohibited from requiring or accepting medical excuse notes from students. Requiring a medical excuse note creates an inequitable burden on certain students, strains the limited resources of Hall Health, and provides no actual confirmation of the veracity, intensity, or duration of a student’s illness, and thus is not a reliable check on student behavior.

This will not change the documentation needed for a disability, hardship, or other significant circumstances (including medical conditions) requiring longer-term absences from the University; nor does it prevent instructors from requiring students to justify the unavoidable nature of an absence, or require that instructors develop new accommodations. This change is intended to protect students from having to disclose private information to faculty, engage in potentially risky behaviors, or face undue financial and emotional burdens, to conserve resources at Hall Health, and encourage personal responsibility and professional conduct among students.

The provided language is a starting point to shift away from requiring medical notes. Given the reality that some students will miss some work during a quarter, it will be most useful to plan ahead with course policies that reflect the dynamics of your own course and will streamline your response. You may wish to provide a template for students to use when contacting you with a request for adjustments or you may consider providing a link to an automated form that students may use (e.g., Google Forms) to make such a request. More ideas are provided in the FAQ linked below. You may also consult with the Center for Teaching and Learning and your departmental leadership regarding planning ahead for student absences.

Exam Guidelines
Preparing to Teach
Provisions for changing enrollment status in a class
Leave of absence policy
Medical Excuse Notes FAQs

Safety

Campus Unit: Safe Campus
Optional Syllabus Language:
Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 anytime – no matter where you work or study – to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others. SafeCampus’s team of caring professionals will provide individualized support, while discussing short- and long-term solutions and connecting you with additional resources when requested.

UW Police

Title IX

Campus Unit: Office of the Title IX Coordinator
Optional Syllabus Language:
The Office of the Title IX Coordinator provides the following statement for faculty to include in their syllabi:
Title IX Syllabus Statement