WSU syllabi reducing in length next semester

University and course syllabi will be separated entirely starting next semester



Clif Stratton said that a significant change students will see in the syllabus for next semester is length.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

WSU course syllabi for all classes will undergo changes to length and accessibility starting the fall 2023 semester.

Clif Stratton, UCORE director and chair of the Syllabus subcommittee, said the main thing students will notice with the syllabus for next semester will be the reduction in length.

“The idea is that all of the WSU system-wide policies and statements will not appear in that course syllabus anymore,” Stratton said. “Instead they’ll see a sentence, probably near the end of the syllabus, that says, ‘students are responsible for reading and understanding all of the system-wide course policies and statements,’ That’s not the exact statement but that’s the gist of it.”

Stratton said this change has been in discussion by the Faculty Senate Syllabus subcommittee for a few years now. 

“What we’ve been asking faculty to do for years is make sure every bit of wording is accurate and that’s an impossible task when there’s so many,” he said. “This ensures students have the most up-to-date information. Things that are exclusive to the course, faculty put that in their own syllabus.”

Another change the syllabus subcommittee will be making is to review the language in the syllabi to make sure it is accessible to all students. This was decided on so the syllabi are easier for students to read and get through, Stratton said.

“Some of them read like legal contracts, and that’s fine, but students aren’t lawyers trying to figure out the law, so we’ve rewritten them with a student audience in mind,” Stratton said. “We’ve cross-checked the English language version with a Google Translate to make sure it translates well in other languages so that a student whose first language is not English can read the syllabi.”

Stratton said while on the Syllabus subcommittee, the length of syllabi has been a concern among faculty and that they have said they are concerned that there’s too much repetitive information that students don’t read through, so this change is meant to benefit staff as well.

At the time the change was first suggested, Mark Stephan, associate professor of political science, was chairing the subcommittee, he said. He was one of the main people leading the effort to have the discussion on implementing it. 

“It was a matter of proposing the change to the faculty senate, which we did this year. They approved it this February. Then we consulted with the provost’s office to make sure the changes reflected their understanding of what a syllabus should be,” Stratton said. “Once we came to an agreement we announced it this week.”

Stephan said he is no longer on the Syllabus subcommittee, but that discussions on the change were first seriously discussed two and a half to three years ago. Another reason for this change is that all university syllabus information will be all in one place and easier to find, he said.

“I was one of the people who was most closely involved with it, but it really was a committee effort,” Stephan said. “There are some key issues in the syllabus, such as sexual harassment policy, that are listed that really every student should know.”

Stephan said the subcommittee is made up of about a dozen people when fully staffed, all of which worked together to see these changes through. The subcommittee meets three or four times a semester, but will not meet next month, since they just met a big goal and will be taking a break.

Stephan said this is one of the bigger syllabus changes in recent memory, but he believes there could be further syllabus changes at some point in the future due to the possibility of university requirements changing.

While the change is officially meant to begin in the fall 2023 semester, it is possible the change may be implemented as early as this year’s summer courses, Stratton said. After deciding on this change, the syllabus subcommittee will not meet again this semester and has no other big syllabus changes on the horizon.

“I think the thing that we did that was of most significant prior to this was develop a procedure where student organizations could propose to have a statement in the syllabi, but that’s not really visible to people unless we say, ‘OK, this is going to be in the syllabi,’” Stratton said.

Stratton said he hopes that students and faculty will notice the upcoming changes when they are implemented and that the syllabi are generally easier to get through starting next semester.