Why aren’t professors required to make the syllabi public?

Reading the syllabi for a class gives you a much better feel for it than what’s on SPIRE

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Will Duffy, Collegian Contributor

Who else is experiencing post-add/drop remorse?

Such a feeling is, unfortunately, all too common. We’ve all picked a class from SPIRE that’s required for our major or minor and seems interesting enough. However, those first few classes are like the honeymoon period in a relationship and soon enough there’s nothing more you want but to drop the class. Unfortunately, you can’t because the other classes that would have satisfied the same requirements are full, or because add/drop is over.

Most of the time, when you pick a class on SPIRE, you don’t really know what you’re getting into. Yes, the short class descriptions give a basic feel of what you’ll be learning, but they say nothing about the specifics of the class. How much work is the class going to be? Is attendance required? Is the professor one of those anti-laptop crusaders that makes everyone use notebooks? If students know nothing about these aspects of the class, that sets them up for potentially a rude awakening when they finally look at the syllabi of the class they signed up for. This is especially annoying when the Moodle page doesn’t show up right away after you register for a class, meaning that for a while, you still don’t know exactly what you’ve signed up for – assuming the class you signed up for even has a Moodle page, which of course you wouldn’t know unless you attended one of its lectures or discussions or looked at its syllabus.

Surely, there must be a better possible system than having students scramble for classes and praying that the ones they picked are the right ones?

This could all be avoided if students were able to access the syllabus of a class before they signed up for said class. Perhaps there could be a link to the PDF of the syllabus on SPIRE next to the “Add” button. Such an arrangement would allow students to get a much better understanding of what the class will be like and make a more informed decision, instead of taking the time to try out a bunch of classes in the two weeks before add/drop ends.

As someone who’s in their last semester of college, I was looking for classes simply to fill the 12-credit requirement to be a full-time student since I had completed all of my major requirements. There were three classes I was taking that I was fine with, only one of which I needed due to my minor, but they only added up to 11 credits. My aim was to find easy classes that didn’t give me a huge workload.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to find out this kind of information about classes I was looking at unless I signed up for them. It was impossible for me to just take them all and gather what they were like from the lessons I attended, since they were all held at similar times. I couldn’t even sign up for the classes just to look at the syllabi since SPIRE doesn’t let you sign up for multiple classes in the same time slot. And since the classes I was already in were almost full, I didn’t want to drop them and risk them filling up.

I’m sure I’m far from the only one who’s had this experience.

Of course, posting the syllabus online wouldn’t solve everything. There’d still be the question of what the professors are like and if the classes are enjoyable or not. Not only that, but some professors also have a habit of not putting important information in their syllabus. However, this would certainly be preferable to the system we have now. Picking classes at the University of Massachusetts can be a total leap of faith, when it doesn’t need to be that way at all. Please UMass, for transparency’s sake, do the right thing.

Will Duffy can be reached at [email protected]