ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Scraping the Bottom of the Syllabus

July 18, 2005 by ACTA

The invaluable and intrepid University Diaries has updated her regular feature detailing the absurdities of academic syllabus creation. Building on earlier installments to Syllabum Omnium, Margaret Soltan pays particular note to a Rutgers course on deviance that requires students to "do deviance" while threatening to refer them to the dean and the office of the prosecutor if they do too much too deviantly; an English course at Drew University in which students could not pass the course without proving that they had voted in the presidential election; and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point course called "Healthy American" that offered extra credit to students who ate at non-smoking restaurants and then presented "proof of eating" paperwork to their professor, all as part of helping along an anti-smoking referendum.

Finally, Soltan cites John Rosenberg's most recent find, a DeAnza College course called "Grassroots Democracy: Race, Culture, and Liberation" that offers extra credit for attending a pro-affirmative action teach-in sponsored by the radical group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) and then writing to Governor Schwarzenegger with recommendations for how he can "level the racial playing field in higher education." The course syllabus also offers cautionary words to all enrolled students about the dangers of contracting romantic ties with fellow students:

over the course of learning and using the emotionally-based tools taught in this class you may feel tempted to extend your relationship into more intimate realms. This is because we are setting up a learning environment that can allow for closeness and trust that some of you may have not previously experienced in a school environment. While we encourage you to develop close and trusting friendships and working relationships, our experience has been that building "romantic" relationships with members of the class (where such relationships do not already exist) can be harmful to our primary goals of learning. Therefore we encourage you to be thoughtful about the nature of the relationships you establish. Explicitly, this means especially refraining from any unwelcome intimate advances. Should this occur to you or should you have questions about this policy, please contact the instructor immediately.

Students in this course all sign an agreement promising to preserve the confidentiality of discussions with class-based "listening partners," who are assigned as part of the course's therapeutic endeavor to incorporate into class discussion the techniques of "Reevaluation Counseling"--defined as " a process of focused listening and talking to heighten our abilities to think and act through the release of emotional tension associated with past hurts."

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