Course Policies

Office Hours:

Office hours are available by appointment on Please sign up for a time before midnight on the day prior to your scheduled meeting. If you schedule it on the same day, I may not see the notice that you signed up in time. Also, be sure to look closely at the range of times for which you are scheduled (it looks tricky in the email reminder) and take special note of the location of the meeting. If you can’t find a time that will work for your schedule, please contact me to suggest alternate times during the day on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.

Because my office building is currently under renovation and my temporary office space is far from my (and your!) classroom buildings, I will be holding office hours in the Kern Building common area.

Major Assignments

The major assignments for Rhetoric and Civic Life I are:

Unit One 25%

  • Civic Artifact Speech (12.5% of final grade)
  • Rhetorical Analysis Essay (12.5% of final grade)

Unit Two 30%

  • RCL TED Talk (15% of final grade)
  • Paradigm Shift Paper (15% of final grade)

Unit Three 20%

  • History of a Public Controversy Project (20% of final grade)

Attendance, Participation and Blogging: 25%

Passion and RCL Blogs (20% of final grade)

Participation and Attendance (5% of final grade)

Grading Scale

A = 95 to 100, A- = 90 to 94.99, B+ = 87 to 89.99, B = 83 to 86.99 B- = 80 to 82.99, C+ = 77 to 79.99, C = 70 to 76.99. D = 60 to 69.99, F = 59.99 and below. Note: The Penn State grading scale does not allow the option of awarding grades of C-, D+ or D- grades. This grading scale is recommended by the Penn State College of Liberal Arts. Instructors are not required to “round up” according to this scale.

For detailed information on course assignments, please consult the Assignments tab on this website.


Participation in this class is strongly encouraged, which is why it counts for 5% of the final grade (see below). Participation has several dimensions, not the least of which is presence in class. This doesn’t simply mean bodily presence but actual attunement to the class discussion. Engaged, vocal contributions (questions, discussion points, etc.) are considered central to the success of the class. Also valuable is recognizing when it’s time for other students to contribute. There will be opportunities to contribute in small-group discussion. All in-class activities represent opportunities to work out ideas.


Attendance is required. More than three unexcused absences may result in a lower final grade for the course (down to and including an “F’). Three late arrivals equal one absence. Students will bring the reading material to class on the day it is assigned or risk being counted absent for that day. Students who come to class without having completed the assigned reading or writing may be counted absent as well. Barring extenuating circumstances, a poor attendance record can affect your participation grade as well as your overall final grade, which may be docked for excessive absences.

Academic integrity/Plagiarism

Penn State defines academic integrity as the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts (Faculty Senate Policy 49-20). Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students who are found to be dishonest will receive academic sanctions and will be reported to the University’s Judicial Affairs office for possible further disciplinary sanction.

We will discuss proper citation practices in class, and I welcome questions on this issue at any time before assignments are due. I’d like to stress too that plagiarism is not to be confused with the sharing of ideas—all writers get advice from friends and colleagues. For the purposes of this course, the element that distinguishes such productive collaborative moments from plagiarism is that of willful deception—i.e., cheating.

Disability Support Services & Special Circumstances

The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified people with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities and is committed to the policy that all people shall have equal access to programs, facilities, and admissions without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. If you have a registered disability or any other special circumstance, please let me know about it within the first week of class. We can then devise a plan for how to approach the semester.

Statement on Nondiscrimination

The Pennsylvania State University is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, admission and employment without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. It is the policy of the University to maintain an academic and work environment free of discrimination, including harassment. The Pennsylvania State University prohibits discrimination and harassment against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status. Discrimination or harassment against faculty, staff, or students will not be tolerated at The Pennsylvania State University.

Note: The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have questions about physical access, please tell the instructor as soon as possible.

Mobile Devices

Please silence your mobile devices before entering class.

Course Resources

RCL has a course site for all sections, where you can find announcements and social media feeds. There, you can also find successful RCL assignment examples from previous years at “This is RCL.”

Writing and Speaking Help

Students are encouraged to draw upon the University’s resources to develop their skills in writing and speaking. Students can consult with peer writing tutors through Penn State Learning and get help with their oral communication skills and presentations from peer mentors at the Undergraduate Speaking Center, sponsored by the Penn State College of Liberal Arts. Keep in mind that these resources are free are useful for students at all levels!


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