Frequently Asked Questions

Will you raise the class ceiling, or do you keep a waiting list for the course?

Please know that I do not intend to raise the ceiling for any of my classes; it is not conducive for discussion which is crucial to the learning goals. I’d recommend that you come to the class or both classes during the first week and hopefully you’d find a spot. Almost without exception a few students drop my classes in the first week or so, and in the past, invested and interested students have been able to find room without a problem. If it is meant to be, you’ll be able to get in. If not, there will be other semesters for you. 

And I usually do not keep a waiting list. 

What about grades?

It is worthwhile for us to undertake a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the grading system, its underlying purpose and intent, its effects on the classroom, particularly on the professor-student and student-student relationships. Despite having tried hard I have not been able to make peace with the growing awareness that grades are now at the center of the classroom and have taken it hostage, along with us, our interaction and relationships. Candid conversation about grades and their impact upon what goes on in the class (and inside the classroom) I deem part of our class, curriculum and education.

Grades being grades and unavoidable – at least for now – here’s how I am oriented in determining them. There are two aspects that remain critical in pursuit of knowledge (or for that matter any other initiative of serious investment). That pursuit demands a) “Dedication” expressed through the quality of the time, effort and energy we extend to it; and b)Mastery” (or Excellence) in what we have tried to dedicate ourselves to. In other words, Dedication is the pathway, Mastery or Excellence in the subject, the goal. In my experience, dedication does not ‘insure’ or ‘guarantee’ mastery, Though dedication is much appreciated, it’s the scales of mastery (or excellence) that provide grade-assessment.    

[NOTE: Someone does need to grade the grading system. I give it a straight ‘F’.] 

Again, though my views on grading do not map onto this blog entry “Why I Don’t Grade”, I do think that reading and thinking about the issues it raises can help us re-imagine, re-think, re-configure and hopefully re-turn to more humane ways and expressions of how we are and what we do in classes and in classrooms.

[NOTE: This source was helpfully shared by my colleague Prof. Scott Denham during our Humanities program last year.]

What is your class attendance policy?

Being Present (& Active Presence):
Being inside the classroom space does not automatically classify as “being present”. Your presence is “felt” through its overall qualitative impact, through  your wakefulness, attentiveness, level of concentration and investment, and significance of the the questions you pose, in terms of where they emerge from and to where they take those in your presence, In our own way, we all contribute (or miscontribute) toward raising (or lowering) the level of our classroom conversation about the subject. Effectively contributing more than what is asked of you is quite welcome.
  1. Should there be a conflict between any class meeting and a religious observance, let SRZ know. Religious observances are allowed by college policies and respected by SRZ;
  2. Life-urgencies and difficulties are also understandable; communicate those to SRZ as they arise;
  3. It is up to you to ‘catch-up’ (e.g., obtain notes). Absence does not seem to be a good excuse for not knowing what happened in the classroom.


  1. Read the note “On Being Used by Technology” here;
  2. Always bring “The Map” & “Text-Guides” (i.e., syllabus and readings) for the week to the classroom;
  3. Do not come in late or leave early—it is usually disruptive.  
  4. Keep track of your attendance. The last day you will turn in a sheet detailing your attendance and your own assessment of your overall participation grade;  

Absence/Presence Sheet:
Toward the end of the term, you will give me an handwritten or typed “Absence/Presence Sheet”. It will have the following details:

  1.  Your full name;
  2.  Number of classes you have missed with respective dates;
  3.  An explanation as to why you have missed these classes, and anything more that you’d like to say in regards to those;
  4.  Provide an assessment of your overall participation this semester. What grade would you give yourself and why?

[NOTE: Attendance policies usually involve “policing” and I am hardly a cop.]

Do the longer essays require an argument (i.e. a thesis statement) or are they simply longer responses zhan the short answer questions?

Coherence, logical flow of thought and structure that is easy to follow, YES; thesis or argument, NO. And this applies to all answers.

Do the long essays we write have to be 5-paragraph format with an introduction and conclusion, or should we just write a couple of paragraphs that answers the question?

It’s neither the 5-paragraph or just the 2-paragraph format. I also cannot offer a definite length for the answer in quantitative terms. The answer will be assessed both on its quantity and quality. The simple idea is to answer the question, and answer it fully. Staying on point and on target, and managing time, seek to impress with what you know. 

There is definitely no need for introductory or concluding paragraphs.

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