Instructors should make syllabi available for students before registering

Students should not have to rely on word of mouth to understand their future classes

ALANA LACKNER, Evergreen managing editor

Constructing a class schedule is more than just a loose four-year plan and a preference for either morning or afternoon classes. Students have to consider their personal learning styles and take a long look at what is expected of them in their potential classes.

Generally, with perhaps a few exceptions, students find themselves simply choosing classes that fulfill a requirement and fit into the schedule they want. Aside from word of mouth, it can be difficult for them to determine whether the class is one they want to take. It can take actually reading the syllabus during the first week to realize that it may not be the right class for them.

Maybe, if they have to make a choice between two similar courses with two different instructors, they’ll go onto Rate My Professors to see which of the two has better reviews.

The problem with Rate My Professors is that it’s only used by students with particularly strong opinions, while most students are middle-of-the-road. Those voices aren’t as present on the website and, beyond that, the reviews don’t generally give much information about the class itself, or its expectations.

Seeing the syllabus, even if it’s a copy from a previous year, gives an idea of what to expect from a class, and making it available in the course catalog could make a big difference in the way students approach scheduling. More than just deciding whether a class is right for them, students could see course loads and pair classes accordingly.

Psychology professor Masha Gartstein said she doesn’t see any drawbacks to showcasing the content of the course before students enroll.

“It seems like transparency is the right approach here,” Gartstein wrote in an email.

One potential concern with this idea is the ability of professors to get a syllabus posted when it is needed. Having a fall syllabus ready in the spring may seem unreasonable along with their other responsibilities.

Michael Salamone, a political science professor and director of the Pre-Law Resource Center, explained why this might not be as difficult as it sounds, particularly for classes that aren’t brand new.

“I don’t see any problem in making the syllabi for classes that are ongoing available,” Salamone said. “We have to give our syllabi to the secretary for our department every semester anyways, so there is [an] archive of all of these somewhere.”

It’s worth noting that many professors either have a syllabus somewhere online, such as on a personal website, or are open to giving out their syllabus when asked.

Not all students have the time to meet with professors, however. Students shouldn’t have to put in extra effort just to know what they’re paying thousands of dollars for. Making syllabi available before registration is only fair.