Course Policies


  • Schedule
    You’ll find the schedule of daily homework assignments on the course website (, where they are grouped under the four units. So you can click on “Unit 1” to find the schedule of daily assignments for the first weeks of the semester, on “Unit 2” to find the next series of assignments, and so forth. Like most of your college courses, this one requires, on average, about 2 hours of preparation outside of class for each hour of class time. Note that the schedule is subject to change, and the official schedule is the one that is currently posted on the website.
  • Written Homework Assignments
    Written homework assignments may include such tasks as commenting on a reading, contributing to an online discussion, writing a paragraph sequence and posting it to the student writing section of the course website, and peer review (commenting on other students’ writing).
  • Due Dates
    Depending on the assignment, written homework should be brought to class or posted online the day it is due.
  • Organization
    I encourage you to use a two-pocket folder to keep written work, handouts, and readings organized.


  • Turning in Essays: First drafts should be turned in electronically, through our canvas website. Essay revisions should be submitted BOTH in hard copy (printed) AND electronically, through our canvas website.
  • Formatting: Essays should be typewritten and double spaced, with a 1-inch or 1.25-inch margin.
  • Due Dates: You’re expected to bring hard copies of drafts to class the day they are due. Extensions on drafts are not permitted. For revisions, however, you can elect to take a two-day grace period. If, at the end of that period, you are still having trouble completing the assignment, you must meet with me in person to go over an outline of your ideas and set a schedule for getting the paper done.

Course Engagement & Class Participation

This is not a lecture course but a seminar—a class designed for students to learn from and teach each other. So the success of the course depends on you!

Your active involvement and engagement in the course will be assessed based on such factors as
  • the quality as well as the quantity of your contributions to discussions both in class and online
  • attentive and respectful behavior when others are speaking
  • thoughtful responses to your classmates’ remarks
  • constructive participation in group activities
  • thoughtful self-assessment
  • efforts to create a positive learning environment for all.

Cell Phones, Laptops, and Other Electronic Devices

Computers, smart phones, and other electronic devices are wonderful tools, but not in a discussion class like the First-Year Writing Seminar. So when class begins, please close your computer and put your phone away.

Cell phone use in class is strictly forbidden. Text messaging or looking at a phone during class will negatively impact both your learning experience and your class engagement grade. I encourage you to turn off not only the ring sound but the vibration.

For the most part, laptops are not to be used in class. I realize some students like using their computers for taking notes, but recent research suggests that people learn more effectively when they take notes by hand. More important, with a laptop in front of you, there’s too great a temptation to multitask or get distracted. Most important, when people are looking at their screens they aren’t paying attention to each other. For all these reasons, unless you’re told otherwise, laptops should be closed during class.


Outside of regular class time, I will sometimes use email to communicate with you, so you are expected to check your BC email daily and are responsible for information communicated via email.


You are allowed 3 personal days—that is, unexcused absences due to sports conflicts, illness, family obligations, doctor’s appointments, job interviews, etc. Additional missed classes will count against your overall course grade: there is a 2-point penalty for every unexcused absence beyond the 3 allowed personal days. Exceptions will be made only in case of serious illness or emergency (for instance, illness requiring hospitalization), or for athletes with more than 3 documented travel conflicts.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism—the unacknowledged use of other people’s ideas and/or words—will not be tolerated. When you use an idea or incorporate phrasing found in any source (including web sources, Wikipedia, social media, videos, etc.), the code of academic integrity requires you to
  • acknowledge your use of the source,
  • provide full publication information for the source, and
  • put quotation marks around any language taken from the source (meaning phrases of three or more words)

Plagiarism will incur a penalty, may cause you to fail the assignment, and may result in academic charges being filed against you. Over the course of the semester, we will talk in detail about source documentation and plagiarism, but if you are ever uncertain about the rules—for instance, unsure how to paraphrase a source without plagiarizing it—please contact me before submitting the assignment. Click here for more information on the University’s policy on academic integrity.


This course has no exams or “high stakes” assignments; the grading scheme rewards engagement and consistent effort (regular completion of small assignments). Final course grades will be calculated by weighting your work as indicated below. Then an adjustment of the final grade will be made to reflect attendance (as noted above, there is 2-point penalty for every unexcused absence beyond your three personal days)

15%     Unit 1: personal essay
15%     Unit 2: close reading
15%     Unit 3: exploratory essay
15%     Unit 4: interpretive argument
10%     Portfolio
30%     Engagement (participation in class discussions and group activities, daily homework preparation, peer reviews, etc.)