Syllabus Guidance, Fall 2021

Syllabus Components

The Faculty Innovation Center (FIC) has drafted some helpful information and a checklist to help guide the creation of the required components of a syllabus including a syllabus template.

As in non-pandemic times, it is of course critical to include information about

  • course materials,
  • pre-requisites,
  • meeting time and location,
  • how best to access or ask questions of the instructor (and teaching assistant) outside of class time,
  • personal pronouns used by instructor and teaching assistant,
  • assessment information,
  • grading policy and system including details about the
  • attendance policy and
  • how makeup assignments might be facilitated and how they might impact grades,
  • language about Academic Integrity,
  • Title IX
  • Requested seating assignments to facilitate possible contact tracing

We ask that your syllabus addresses how the instructor plans to make their course accessible for all. See the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) sample syllabus verbiage.

COVID-19 Syllabus content

In response to COVID-19, instructors can share the information listed below in their syllabi.

Please note that anything in italics below is intended as a prompt for the instructor that highlights content that instructors might want to tailor in their own syllabi.

  • Testing before coming to campus

The university has determined that all students coming to campus for the fall semester must receive a viral test (antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test such as PCR) within 72 hours of coming to Austin. We are asking that students take a COVID-19 test to help keep themselves and their fellow Longhorns and the community safe, to enable us to learn and be together as we did before COVID-19. Failure to test may contribute to the further spread of COVID-19 and overload our already strained healthcare system, and could usher in a semester with sick students, some of whom could require hospitalization. Additionally, all students complying will help minimize the introduction of new cases to our campus community, reducing the likelihood of disruption from missing class due to illness or exposure or the implementation of further restrictions.

  • If a student tests positive for COVID-19

    The student should follow this guidance on reporting their positive test to enable contact tracing. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they must isolate at home. (The instructor should refer the student to the part of their syllabus focused on how they plan to support students who have to participate remotely). The COVID-19-positive student should contact the Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line (BCCAL) to report their positive result. BCCAL can also assist the student with isolation options, class absence notification or other support. In addition, the student will need to meet all of the following CDC criteria for discontinuing self-isolation including:

  • 10+ days since symptom onset (if no symptoms, 10+ days since test date) AND
  • 24+ hours fever-free without use of fever-reducing medications AND
  • Other COVID-19 symptoms have improved

And before ending self-isolation for COVID-19, the student should submit the Self-declaration of release from COVID-19 isolation (see instructions here) through the UHS portal.

  • Student concerns and remote learning

    If a student doesn’t meet the required criteria for an accommodation allowing for remote learning and the instructor is not requesting a temporary change of modality for the next three weeks, then the instructor is under no obligation to offer an online version of their class. However, instructors may of course provide information to ease student discomfort and anxiety about meeting in-person as well as access to missed class materials if they so choose. Please encourage students to review UHS information about COVID-19 symptoms, transmission and prevention. Students can also be encouraged to review this exposure action chart on what to do for the following scenarios:

    • no symptoms with not-close-contact exposure,
    • no symptoms with close-contact exposure, and
    • COVID-19 symptoms

Any students feeling COVID19-related anxiety and stress might also find the resources listed in this link useful.

  • Missed materials for a student who has to quarantine

    Instructors should offer details about how they might help students who have to miss class either for quarantine or other illness- or personal circumstance-related reasons. Before COVID, students would sometimes skip class and might ask for access to some of the missed material. Instructors are encouraged to offer even more compassion and support than usual given the stress and anxiety that many are experiencing during this pandemic. The following options could be used: The instructor

    • Could let the student participate remotely using ZOOM, and/or
    • Could record class interactions for any student to review asynchronously, and/or
    • Could create an opportunity for all students to connect with others so that missed notes can be shared should anyone have to miss for any reason, and/or
    • Should clarify how late assignments will be graded for students who are sick or have personal circumstances disrupting their ability to meet assignment deadlines.

Note, however, instructors are not required to teach a fully hybrid course if the class is supposed to be in-person.

  • Masking

    Instructors may include a request in the syllabus that students wear a mask while also acknowledging individuals’ right to choose to do otherwise (i.e., not to wear a mask) without academic consequence. The following syllabus language has been approved:

University policy is to follow CDC guidance. So, until the CDC guidance suggests differently, wearing a mask is strongly encouraged in this course. You will not be penalized in any way for not doing so. Please bear in mind, however, that the interests protected by masking are not just your own. Masking to prevent transmission is very important for the health of our greater community. It may be important for others in the room in ways that you do not know or appreciate. For all of these reasons, I urge you to do so.

  • Social Distancing

    Instructors may require that all students socially distance in the classroom. A student can be reported to student conduct for disruption if the student continues to intentionally ignore the required distance after a warning from the instructor or teaching assistant.

  • Internship and Practicum Courses

The Faculty FAQs page includes instructions for internship or practicum courses that require students

    • to go into a facility to visit with clients or
    • to travel together with other students and/or the instructor to a facility.

We recommend that if an instructor is teaching one of these types of courses that they review the relevant FAQs and include the relevant information in their syllabi.

  • Assigned seating for contact tracing

    If the instructor plans to capture assigned seating for their students, they should include in the syllabus or in a clear communication with their students the plan for capturing the seating plan. In their communication or syllabus, instructors who are using a seating plan should also request that all students keep the same seat for the duration of the 2021 fall semester.

    Instructors who are willing to capture their students’ assigned classroom seats to help maintain health and safety should contact tracing be needed can find more details in the guidance sent from the Provost. As noted in that email, instructors are asked to submit their seating assignments using this link by September 10.

Other Syllabus content

  • Teaching Modality Clarity

Instructors should clearly explain the teaching modality for all class meetings and for their and their TAs’ office hours.

  • Sharing of Course Materials is Prohibited

The following language can be included in syllabi:

No materials used in this class, including, but not limited to, lecture hand-outs, videos, assessments (quizzes, exams, papers, projects, homework assignments), in-class materials, review sheets, and additional problem sets, may be shared online or with anyone outside of the class unless you have the instructor’s explicit, written permission. Unauthorized sharing of materials promotes cheating. It is a violation of the University’s Student Honor Code and an act of academic dishonesty. UT is aware of the sites used for sharing materials, and any materials found online that are associated with you, or any suspected unauthorized sharing of materials, will be reported to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity in the Office of the Dean of Students. These reports can result in sanctions, including failure in the course.

  • Class Recordings

The following language can be used for class recordings:

Class recordings are reserved only for students in this class for educational purposes and are protected under FERPA. The recordings should not be shared outside the class in any form. Violation of this restriction by a student could lead to Student Misconduct proceedings.

  • Religious holy days

Language about religious holy days can be included as detailed here and copied below:

A student who misses classes or other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day should inform the instructor as far in advance of the absence as possible so that arrangements can be made to complete an assignment within a reasonable period after the absence. A reasonable accommodation does not include substantial modification to academic standards, or adjustments of requirements essential to any program of instruction. Students and instructors who have questions or concerns about academic accommodations for religious observance or religious beliefs may contact the Office for Inclusion and Equity. The University does not maintain a list of religious holy days.

  • Carrying of Handguns on Campus

Instructors can include mention of what is allowed by Open Carry and Campus Carry laws. More specifically,

The Open Carry law expressly prohibits a licensed to carry (LTC) holder from carrying a handgun openly on the campus of an institution of higher education such as UT Austin. Information about Campus Carry can be found at this link.

Depending on the instructor’s preferences, the following verbiage about Campus Carry could be used in their syllabus:

Students in this class should be aware of the following university policies:

      • Individuals who hold a license to carry are eligible to carry a concealed handgun on campus, including in most outdoor areas, buildings and spaces that are accessible to the public, and in classrooms.
      • It is the responsibility of concealed-carry license holders to carry their handguns on or about their person at all times while on campus. Open carry is NOT permitted, meaning that a license holder may not carry a partially or wholly visible handgun on campus premises or on any university driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area.
      • Students in this class who hold a license to carry are asked to review the university policy regarding campus carry.

Depending on the instructor’s choice, they might also include:

      • Per my right, I prohibit carrying of handguns in my personal office. Note that this information will also be conveyed to all students verbally during the first week of class. This written notice is intended to reinforce the verbal notification, and is not a “legally effective” means of notification in its own right.
  • Land Acknowledgment

Instructors can also include the following Land Acknowledgment in their syllabi:

I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on Indigenous land and ask that we recognize the Carrizo & Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, Lipan Apache, Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, Tigua Pueblo, and all the American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories in Texas, here on Turtle Island.