Two new posts at my university blog

Now the fall semester is underway, I’m making more extensive use of my other blog, housed at the Landing, Athabasca U’s social network. I’ve just written two posts there on different subjects.

“On Black British science fiction” is a post that’s developed in response to a question that arose on the SFRA listserv, about the perceived dearth of Afro-British writers working in SF. My answer to this (following critics like Kodwo Eshun, Paul Gilroy, and others) is that the preponderance of the black diasporic SF imaginary gets invested in music production.

The other post is fitting enough for the start of the semester: it’s about the course syllabus as a kind of contract – and about whether enough students understand this, and how educators might help them to do so. This post has drawn a few comments from students and educators alike – and a few tweets as well, including this reply:

Is it just me, or is this an unusually public statement on the subject from a university administrator? I’m not sure what to make of it.

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2 responses to “Two new posts at my university blog

  1. I think the problem with referring to a syllabus as a contract is that it is written by non-lawyers. Seriously. If you’re going to make the syllabus the contract, it should be subject to the same kind of scrutiny as a business contract. Keep calling it a contract, or build that culture of it being a contract, and eventually profs and students will end up in small claims court.

    Moreover, can you actually infer that the student accepts the syllabus as contract? Is registering in the course enough to imply acceptance of the terms and conditions of the syllabus, which you don’t get until you’re in the course? What would it mean if the syllabus was used as a policy or procedural document?

    I don’t know that it’s right to conflate syllabi with contracts. I don’t think it’s the right language to use.

    • Maybe it’s more of a social contract 😉

      It may not be written in hardcore legalese (would you want to read a course syllabus written like that?), but it does represent an institutional agreement, one committed to paper (or pixels) – a statement of terms and conditions, as well as expectations. A contractual sort of document, at least, if not readily recognizable as a capital-C contract in the technical legal sense.

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