Course Syllabi

I taught at Florida State University for the first thirteen years of my professional career (1995-2008), and I have been at the University of North Texas ever since. The following syllabi are from the most recent time I taught each course, whether it was at FSU or UNT.




Classroom Policies

General Expectations

(1) Students are expected to attend class regularly, even when attendance is not an explicit part of the course's grade. If you are not responsible enough to come to class regularly, or if you feel that you have higher priorities in life than attending a lecture for which (or your parents) are paying good money, then do not be surprised if the instructor starts to show you the same amount of respect that you have shown for him or her.

(2) Students are expected to be present at the beginning of the class period. Students who interrupt class by showing up in the middle of a lecture are being rude and inconsiderate to both the instructor and their fellow classmates. For this reason, if attendance is taken or if a quiz is given it will probably be done at the start of class, and any student who is not present at that time will be considered absent or will receive a failing grade for the quiz.

(2a) Students who attend class are expected to remain in class until the end of the class period, rather than disturbing the other students and interrupting class by leaving in the middle of lecture. The instructor reserves the right to mark absent a student who leaves during the middle of class, unless the student has explained the situation to the instructor before the beginning of class.

(3) Students are expected to have read the assigned material before coming to class. Each student in class will benefit from having read the material before hearing my lecture, because the lecture will be reinforcing prior knowledge instead of introducing new topics. The entire class also benefits when students are prepared -- the quality of discussion will be higher, students can ask better questions, and the class period will not be burdened by a focus on basic issues that should have been answered by the readings.

(4) Inside the classroom, students are expected to devote their full attention to the course. This means that distractions like newspapers, magazines, beepers, and cellular phones will not be tolerated. If you insist on reading the newspaper or being accessible by beeper or cell phone during the class period, please do so at home (or somewhere else outside of the classroom); such activities only serve to disrupt the course and to distract people who really want to be there. This also means that talking with your neighbors or passing notes during class will not be tolerated. If you absolutely must talk about last night's party or your plans for the weekend, please do so outside of the classroom, so that you do not disturb students who actually attend class in order to learn the material.

Course Rules

Please note that if any of these rules is worded differently in your syllabus, that version takes precedence over this general version on my web site (which offers general policies for all of my courses, but some courses or semesters may have more specific needs).

Americans with Disabilities Act

The University of North Texas makes reasonable academic accommodation for students with disabilities. Students seeking reasonable accommodation must first register with the Office of Disability Accommodation (ODA) to verify their eligibility. If a disability is verified, the ODA will provide you with a reasonable accommodation letter to be delivered to faculty to begin a private discussion regarding your specific needs in a course. You may request reasonable accommodations at any time, however, ODA notices of reasonable accommodation should be provided as early as possible in the semester to avoid any delay in implementation. Note that students must obtain a new letter of reasonable accommodation for every semester and must meet with each faculty member prior to implementation in each class. Students are strongly encouraged to deliver letters of reasonable accommodation during faculty office hours or by appointment. Faculty members have the authority to ask students to discuss such letters during their designated office hours to protect the privacy of the student.  For additional information see the Office of Disability Accommodation website at>. You may also contact them by phone at (940) 565-4323.

Weather-Related Policies

Canceling Class for Weather

I will never cancel class on my own for weather-related reasons. This means that unless you hear from UNT's Eagle Alert that school has been cancelled (or delayed past the time when class would start) on a day when we are scheduled to hold class, we will hold class at the normal time and place.

Because of this, it is each student's responsibility to make sure that you have registered your correct contact information with UNT's Eagle Alert system. Depending on your settings, they will contact you in multiple ways (such as home, office, and cell phones) any time that UNT has decided to cancel or delay classes.

Holding Class during Bad Weather

Because I know that many UNT students commute from far beyond Denton, I will not hold unscheduled class events (like unannounced quizzes or attendance days) when there is weather that might make it dangerous to drive to campus. For scheduled events like exams or paper due dates, though, the exam will still be held / the assignment will still be due on the assigned date unless UNT prevents this with an Eagle Alert (as noted above). Even if you could not make it to class because of the weather, you will still be responsible for any material that was covered in lecture that day, so make sure that you arrange to get a copy of those notes from somebody who was there.

Changing Syllabi after Cancellations

If class is cancelled due to an Eagle Alert (as noted above), the next class meeting once school reopens will cover the material that would have been covered in that cancelled class. As soon as practical after any cancellation, I will make available an updated copy of the course syllabus that adjusts the remaining class schedule to make up for the lost class meeting. I will send a Canvas announcement once the revised syllabus has been posted to the usual location on my web site.

Policy on Letters of Recommendation

I am always willing to write letters of recommendation for students who have taken my classes. Before asking me to write you a letter, though, I should warn you that my letters are always honest and will reflect your actual performance in my course(s) -- including written work, comprehension of the material, and participation in class discussion. In other words, an "A" student who attended class regularly, participated actively in class discussion, read and understood all of the course material, and demonstrated this understanding in his or her written work and class discussion will receive a letter that reflects these accomplishments. Conversely, students who skipped class regularly, did not participate in class discussion, rarely read the material, or wrote poorly will receive letters that reflect these shortcomings. (I should also emphasize that I will cover each of these topics in writing your letter. Before you ask me to overlook one of these areas, you should realize that -- even if I agreed to your request, which I won't -- most grad schools or law schools will notice the omission, and will very likely interpret it as indicating poor performance in that area.)

If you are still interested in receiving a letter of recommendation for me after reading the above paragraph, I will need several items before I can write a good letter.

These items allow me to write a more detailed letter with specific examples, which will be much more useful to a potential grad school or law school admissions office than an impersonal form letter. Similarly, I can write a more accurate and more detailed letter if you sit down and talk with me about what you plan to do (e.g., why you are planning to go to law school, which grad schools interest you and why, or what part of your background gives you a special edge for this career path).

Policy on Directed Research and Capstone Courses

Many students approach me to inquire about directed research courses, such as directed independent studies (DIS) courses or the research project version of UNT's capstone requirement for graduation. I have a number of requirements that must be met before I will agree to direct a DIS course for any undergraduate:

Although these requirements may appear to be restrictive, they do a very good job of ensuring that the DIS experience will be a good one. Similar policies helped me to undertake two very successful DIS-type courses while I was an undergraduate, and -- when these policies have been followed -- have helped produce several very successful DIS courses for students of mine. It is also worth noting that every single bad DIS experience that I have seen (whether involving me or one of my colleagues) could have been avoided by following these rules more rigorously.
Last updated: 21 August 2023
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