Faculty approve opt-in version of syllabi archive

The Augustana Student Association has received approval to create a student-accessible archive of syllabi, Curriculum Committee chair Fahd Nazir announced in last week’s meeting.

The project was voted down in a faculty meeting in December, but a revised proposal passed on May 5. According to Nazir, access to syllabi will enhance the registration experience by centralizing specific details for each class, including the frequency of exams, the amount of required readings and course content.

“The main goal is that students would take all of this information then plan their classes so that they’re not overburdened,” said Nazir. “It’s about…having a good understanding of what the class is about and whether you would thrive in it or not.”

The syllabi archive was first introduced during president Cole Tessendorf’s campaign last spring. After Tessendorf was elected, Nazir took charge of the project, exploring the idea over the summer.

Last fall it passed the university Curriculum Council, a non-ASA board consisting of members of the faculty, administration, and two student senators. However, because the archive would include the intellectual property of professors, it required a vote by the full faculty.

The archive failed in a meeting last December, with members voicing a variety of concerns. Dr. Benjamin Jeppsen, a professor of counseling and psychology, said that the project would create a “frozen” idea of a class in students’ minds that prevents them from approaching professors with questions before registering.

“I believe this kind of change is another step in the direction of making this campus more like larger institutions — where students don’t get more information about a course directly from the instructor, but instead from an archived piece of paper,” he wrote in a March issue of the Mirror.

Other professors took issue with the fact that they would have to actively indicate that they would like their material to be excluded from the archive.

“In the first edition we would basically take everyone’s syllabi and put it in this database unless you told us you wanted to opt out of it,” said Nazir. “If you didn’t tell us or you forgot about it it was going to be in the database. That didn’t go down too well with [faculty].”

After discussions with the Curriculum Council and leaders from each academic division, a modified version of the project passed a vote in the full faculty meeting. 58 members voted in favor of the archive, while 32 voted against. Going forward, when professors send their syllabi to division chairs they will be able to opt into the archive.

“It’s opt in, so we’re not taking anybody’s syllabi without their permission,” said Nazir. “Faculty wanted to feel like they still had control over it.”

Specific logistical details will be worked out this summer by Nazir and Dr. Jay Kahl from the Academic Affairs Office. Their goal is for the archive to be available next fall.