Course Policies


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. I will take attendance each day on Canvas. Canvas docks a percentage of your total attendance grade for each missed class. If there are 45 class days and you miss 2 (thereby attending 43), your grade should be a 95.5%, still an A. 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. Tardiness counts as a partial docking. 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. Students are welcome to obtain excuses for official absences.

Your success and the success of this course depend on your active participation; therefore, your regular attendance is required. Excused absences are certainly appropriate, and of course you should communicate with me about your absences as much as possible. Be aware, though, that University policy (Policies and Rules, 42-27) states that a student whose absences are excessive “may run the risk of receiving a lower grade or a failing grade,” regardless of his or her performance in the class.

You run that risk if you exceed three unexcused absences for a MWF class or two unexcused absences for a TR class. (These are absences that you can take with no penalty, grade-wise.) If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the assignments, class notes, and course changes from a classmate.

In-class work cannot be made up. While it is understood that emergencies/University-sanctioned activities may arise which result in you missing one or more classes, frequent absences will negatively impact final grades.

Special attendance situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. In these cases, it is important that you keep your instructor apprised in such circumstances.

Late Assignments

Late work will be penalized at the rate of one letter grade per day, and only if prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. Late work for which no such arrangements have been made will not be accepted for a grade (but must be turned in, nonetheless). If the assignment is due in class, please do not come in and ask if you can email it later; the answer will be no.

If you are scheduled to present on a particular day and miss your presentation slot, you will will receive a zero for the assignment (but must still complete it). In other words, if you are on the docket to speak first and are not present when presentations are to begin, whether you come to class at all or not, you will receive a zero for the assignment.

  • Speaking assignments typically have a written component. Not having this written component will bar you from presenting, resulting in a zero.
  • All assignments should be typed using a standard font, such as Times New Roman. Please use one-inch margins and a font size between 11-12 point. Handwritten work is never accepted.
  • Staple all work that is more than one page. (No paper clips or folding over, please.) Do not come to class asking me for a stapler. I don’t carry one with me.
  • Carefully proofread all assignments before submitting.
  • Submissions should include your name, the course name (CAS 137H), and the date as a heading on the first page.
  • Never wait to print your work until just before class. There is no acceptable excuse outside of an emergency (for which you must offer proof) for not turning your work in on time.

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.

Self Care

More than half of all college students report feeling hopeless, while over a quarter of college students feel overwhelming anxiety. There are few things that can affect your academic performance like struggling with maintaining mental health. If you feel hopeless, or you feel any other symptoms of mental illness or struggle, there is help for you. And please do ask for help—the sooner you do, the sooner you may find relief. Looking for help can be daunting, especially if you aren’t feeling well. Reach out to someone you trust who might be willing to connect you with resources. I am not a doctor, counselor or psychotherapist, but I will help you find someone who is. Be in touch if you need that kind of support.

CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services): Provides support and help for an array of concerns, from relationship issues to suicidal feelings.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or you can go to their site and chat online.

Centre County CAN HELP: 1-800-643-5432. Provides immediate crisis intervention, as well as referrals to hospitals or other medical and counseling assistance, community resources. CAN HELP can send mental health professionals to you to help assess a serious crisis situation and provide the appropriate resources. CAN HELP should not be a substitute for dialing 911 if the situation is life-threatening.

The Centre County Women’s Resource Center: 1-877-234-5050/814-234-5050. 24 hour hotline supporting women and men who have experienced relationship violence or sexual violence. CCWRC provides crisis help, legal advocacy, counseling, and medical advocacy.

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

Penn State Rhetoric and Civic Life is a resource for all sections of RCL where you can find course-wide announcements and social media feeds. There, you can also find successful RCL assignment examples from previous years.

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!