Teaching Handbook

Syllabus Guidelines

These guidelines are intended for WWU faculty as a reference when developing their syllabi. For references more specific to COVID-19, see:

COVID-19 Safety Information for Students

Per the Fall Quarter 2021 Memorandum of Understanding, following is suggested syllabus language.

Due to the ongoing risk of community spread of COVID-19, WWU students are reminded that proper use of masks is required in all indoor spaces on campus and WWU transportation. Your cooperation will play an important role in preventing COVID-19 transmission and keeping our classroom spaces open for face-to-face instruction. You should stay home if you have any possible COVID-19 symptoms. If you have symptoms and need to stay home, or if you are instructed to isolate due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or close contact with a diagnosed person, you should contact your instructor to make alternate arrangements for completing assigned class work, as you would for any illness or injury that prevents in-person participation in the class.

If you disregard this mandate (including anyone wearing a mask improperly) you are potentially putting your classmates at risk, which is against the expectations of the WWU Student Code of Conduct. If a faculty member identifies an unsafe situation in the class, they have the authority to tell any student contributing to the problem to change their unsafe behavior or, failing that, to direct the student to leave the place where the class is taking place.

Syllabus Expectations

Students should expect to receive a course syllabus during the first week of class, preferably at the first meeting, which serves as a contract with the students and effectively communicates the mechanics of the course, the instructor's expectations of student participation, and the methods used to evaluate students' work. The syllabus is a tool that answers some of the most basic questions that students need to know early in the course in order to lessen their anxiety and to set the tone of the learning environment. Although there are necessary elements, these guidelines allow individual discretion with regard to additional information which may be included. A copy of the syllabus should be sent to your department chair, to be kept on file.

The syllabus should consist of:

  • Current year and quarter
  • Course number, course title, and number of credits
  • Instructor name, office location, office hours
  • Instructor contact information (office telephone number, campus email address)
  • Title and author(s) of textbook(s), including ISBN; other required materials
  • Course description, explaining how the course fits into the curriculum
  • Departmental goals/learning objectives
  • Course goals/learning objectives
  • Grading standards, including a definition of S/U, P/NP grading options 
  • Assignments and other required activities (e.g. field trips, research projects)
  • Course agenda (by week), important due dates and assignments, and holidays
  • Flexibility Statement such as "This syllabus is subject to change. Changes, if any, will be announced in class or online. Students will be held responsible for all changes."

    To allow for flexibility during the quarter (for example, you can expect to stray from the proposed schedule in order to pursue student interests) you may give approximate or tentative dates/deadlines in your syllabus, as long as every student receives revised or updated final decisions regarding course scheduling.

    Save room on your syllabus by linking to Syllabi@WWU for a condensed list of essential policies written for students. See also: University Academic Policies

    Academic Honesty Policy

    WWU Academic Honesty Policy

    Academic dishonesty is not tolerated at Western Washington University. A student commits an act of academic dishonesty when he or she participates in representing work of their own when in fact it is the work of another. A Western student charged with academic dishonesty may face significant repercussions such as failure of the assignment and course and possibly dismissal. All acts of academic dishonesty are on record in the Registrar’s Office and the office of the Provost. Students do have the right to due process and may appeal a charge of academic dishonesty. For a full description of the academic honesty policy and procedures at Western, see Appendix D in the Appendices section of this catalog.

    Students could be referred to:

    Attendance Policy

    WWU Attendance Policy

    Course attendance normally is required by the instructor. Any student who fails to attend the first meeting of a course may be required to drop it if another student, previously unable to register for the course due to enrollment limitations, seeks admission.

    A student absent from any exam or class activity through sickness or other cause judged by the instructor to be unavoidable shall be given an opportunity to take a rescheduled exam or make up the class assignment in a timely manner agreed upon by the instructor (see Leaves of Absence). Examples of unavoidable cause may include participation in University-sponsored activities such as debating contests, musical or theatrical performances, or intercollegiate athletic competition.

    University policy does not allow a student to attend a class without formally being registered for it. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that he or she is properly registered for each course.

    • NOTE: Attendance policies at WWU vary by department and program. 
    • A specific note regarding illness may be appropriate, such as:
      A note regarding illness: If you have signs of flu (i.e., fever, sore throat, cough), you are encouraged not to attend class. Notify your instructor before class; accommodations will be made.  

    Disability, Equitable Access, and Accommodations

    See also: Accessible Online Course Design

    Include the following statement (updated 4/3/20):

    This course is intended for all WWU students, including those with visible or invisible disabilities. Students with disabilities will be provided equitable access to educational experiences and opportunities. If, at any point in the quarter, you find yourself not able to fully access the space, content, and experience of this course, please first contact the Disability Access Center (DAC) to discuss potential accommodations. Faculty and staff partner with the DAC in the implementation of accommodations.

    If you already have accommodations set up through the DAC, please be sure to send your Faculty Notification Letter the myDAC portal, and reach out to the DAC so they can discuss how your approved accommodations apply to this course.

    If you are unsure if accommodations are appropriate for you, contact the DAC for more information, temporary assistance, or connections to other resources: https://disability.wwu.edu or 360-650-3083.

    Religious Accommodation

    • Overview: Western provides reasonable accommodation for students to take holidays for reasons of faith or conscience or for organized activities conducted under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or religious organization. Accommodation is available to students who expect to be absent or endure a significant hardship due to religious observance during certain days of the course of the program. An example of significant hardship would be challenges resulting from fasting for religious reasons.

    • Process for Students: Students seeking such accommodation must provide written notice to their faculty within the first two weeks of the course, or at least 3 weeks prior to when the accommodation is needed, citing the specific dates for which they will need accommodation.

    • Process for Faculty: If the exact date of a religious observance is variable, (for instance, pending official sighting of the moon), faculty will work with the student to include options to provide accommodation one day before or after the expected date. “Reasonable accommodation” means that faculty will coordinate with the student on scheduling examinations or other activities necessary for completion of the course or program so that class activities do not conflict with the student’s participation in the religious observance. Alternate times offered must extend at least 24 hours before or after the scheduled activity to provide reasonable accommodation. In the event that course activities cannot be rescheduled, such as certain laboratory activities, faculty will provide an alternative method for the student to learn the missed content. Absences as part of religious accommodation will not count against any attendance requirements for the course.

    • Help: The testing center is available to administer exams for these accommodations. Additional information about this accommodation can be found in 5166: Providing religious accommodations for postsecondary students.

    Student Conduct Code - statement about or link to online version

    Sample statement: Emergency Response Guide- WWU recommends faculty include a statement about emergency response at Western.

    Sample statement:
    • Campus Emergencies: If during class an emergency arises in this classroom, building or vicinity, your instructor may inform you of actions to follow to enhance your safety. As a student in this class, you are responsible for knowing emergency evacuation routes from this classroom. Know which of Western’s three major disaster meeting locations is closest to this building (Old Main green, grassy oval at Communications Facility or tennis courts).

      Watch emergency videos and information at
      emergency.wwu.edu. If police or university officials order the class to evacuate the classroom or building, do so in a calm and orderly manner. Assist those who might need help in reaching a barrier-free exit. You may receive Western Alert emergency information via the building enunciation system or by text message, email, Facebook or Twitter.


    (See Catalog for full details)- WWU recommends faculty include a statement about emergency response at Western.
    • Finals Preparation Week (a.k.a. “Dead Week”): In preparation for Finals Week, with some exceptions, exams are not to be administered and new graded assignments shall not be introduced beyond the 5th week of the term that would be due this week.
    • Finals Week: Final examinations, given in most courses at Western during the last week of the quarter, are administered according to a Finals Schedule (exceptions for lab courses). This generally differs from the usual class meeting times. The scheduled days and hours for these examinations may not be changed. For details about what happens when a student does not take a final, see the Catalog. If students find they are scheduled to take three or more examinations in one day, any of their instructors may arrange an examination later during finals week.

Sexual Discrimination Prohibited

Sex Discrimination, Including Sexual Assault, Harassment and Misconduct
  • This institution will not tolerate any form of sexual assault or harassment, within the WWU Student Conduct Code; WAC 516-21-180 Sex Discrimination: Disparate treatment or disparate impact based on an individual’s sex. This includes sexual misconduct in all forms—sexual harassment, gender based harassment, and sexual violence, as well as other discrimination that treats or impacts people disparately on the basis of sex or gender identity. Prohibited sex discrimination includes the following:
    • Sexual Misconduct: An umbrella term for the following types of sex discrimination—sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, and sexual violence.
    • Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. This includes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal, physical, or cyber conduct of a sexual nature and can involve persons of the same or different sexes or sexual orientations. Sexual harassment also includes sexual violence, sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, stalking, sexual misconduct, and dating violence. Regardless of your mental or physical state at the time of the misconduct.
    • To report an incident or of Sexual Misconduct or Sexual Harassment, and/or to get help now please visit Together Against Sexual Violence or Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services at DVSAS or 1-877-715-1563. Other resources include WWU Students Against Harassment & Sexual Assault SASHA, the Equal Opportunity Office (360-650-3307), Campus Police (360-650-3911) and the Bellingham Police 9-1-1.

In addition to the above, syllabi might include the following where appropriate:

  • Course web page URL and/or Canvas information
  • Names of and contact information for teaching assistants
  • Indicate whether you require or make appointments with students during office hours
  • Late work policy
  • Make-up exam/quiz policy
  • Incomplete (K grade) policy
  • Policy concerning extra credit and/or curved grades 
  • An estimate of student work load
  • Sample exam questions (or old tests)
  • Lecture handouts
  • Expectations - You may also want to include any additional expectations of students (eg. classroom behavior and in-class discussion), and what the students may expect from you, the instructor.
  • Expectation of respect for All/LGBTQ + Students
  • Netiquette - is a combination of the words network and etiquette and is defined as a set of rules for acceptable online behavior
  • Gender Neutral Restroom Locations

Structural Equity and Bias Response Team

SEBRT consists of a Bias Response Team and a Structural Equity Team. These two teams work together to support people impacted by bias incidents and examine and offer alternatives to conditions at Western that give rise to such incidents. The BRT’s role is to identify and collaboratively coordinate caring, prompt, and effective responses to bias incidents to (1) support Western students, staff, and faculty who are targeted or impacted by these incidents and (2) educate the Western community about impacts and histories of such bias and actions to prevent future similar acts. The BRT also educates the university community about how to notify BRT of bias incidents. A student, staff, or faculty member can notify the BRT of a bias incident by completing and submitting the online notification form. More information can be found here: Structural Equity and Bias Response Team


See also: Syllabi@WWU for a list of policies written with students as the audience.