Course Policies

These policies are applicable to all courses that I teach.

The Purpose of the Syllabus

A syllabus is, literally, “an outline of a course of study”. The syllabi for my courses will contain a sequence of topics to be covered, approximate dates, and grading requirements. A syllabus is not a contract. Usually, new topics will not be added. In a typical semester some unexpected event—extreme weather, facilities breakdowns, instructor illness—will lead to class cancellation, and it will be up to the instructor to decide whether and what material to remove from the syllabus.

Grading requirements may also change. Usually this would mean the elimination or substitution of a minor assignment. It could mean an alteration to a major assignment, particularly if the assignment requirements seem to be particularly confusing to the students, or if outside events impact the timing of a due date. Alterations would never lead to the addition of a new, major assignment, nor would the date of an exam or the due date for an assignment be unexpectedly moved earlier. You’re going to have to trust that the flexibility you are granting me will be used in the interests of your learning the material, and not as a way to impose unexpected burdens on you.

Communicating with the Instructor

Please email me at Email is preferable to messages sent via Canvas. You should use your email address. You should include your full name in all emails, as sometimes students have similar names and I need to know who I am talking to. For professional purposes, you should add a signature block to your email which includes your full name and desired contact information.

Please try to be specific in your communication. I have received emails the entire content of which is “What’s the assignment.” This puts the onus on me to figure out which assignment you might be talking about. It is annoying and unprofessional.


High-performing students tend to be the ones who attend all class meetings. Struggling students may be struggling for a variety of reasons, but for many of them, lack of attendance is a contributing factor. Your attendance, expressed as a percentage, is also the maximum grade you can earn in a course. See the Specification Grading page for details.

Due Dates

Most assignments will be turned in online (except for assignments where your presence is required, such as in-class presentations). In general, due dates mean by the end of the day. Since your day may end later than mine, in practice this means “before Prof. Hachadoorian wakes up the next morning”. For an assignment that needs to be turned in in hard copy, more specific rules will be attached to the assignment.

Academic Integrity

  1. Be very careful regarding quotation and citation. There have been many high-profile cases in the last several years where authors, journalists, or academics have been discovered to have plagiarized work. In a number of these cases, authors were found to have used direct quotations without citation, even though they correctly credited the author of the original idea. In such cases, some of these authors have claimed, not implausibly, that the direct quotation was inadvertent, and was because they or their research assistant took direct quotation during the research phase, but did not correctly annotate the direct quotation. If you do such a thing, and if I believe you, you will nonetheless have to waste time explaining yourself and will be exceptionally embarrassed.
  2. The reason so many cases of plagiarism are in the news is that so much writing these days is in digital formats which are exceptionally easy to cross-reference with other digital works. So the chances of being discovered if you plagiarize are higher than they ever have been.
  3. Self-plagiarism is a thing. Turning in work that you have done previously is unacceptable. Turning in work that is also being evaluated for another class is also a violation of academic integrity, although in general I am not averse to your constructing a project that will satisfy the requirements of more than one course as long as you discuss it with me and your other professor(s) beforehand so that we can be clear about what exactly you will be evaluated on. For example, since I teach Geographic Information Systems courses, I would be OK with your proposing a project involving mapping and analyzing data related to a topic you were researching for a paper in another course.
  4. You can’t stop at just one. In recent high-profile cases, once an author was discovered to have plagiarized, people started going over their older work with a fine-toothed comb and discovered other, earlier instances of plagiarism. You may not get caught the first time you break the rules. But when you do get away with it, you are programming yourself to blithely disregard academic integrity. So you will likely eventually get caught because (a) you will keep doing it, and (b) you will probably get more and more blatant about it. Therefore, the best defense is to be utterly meticulous about doing your own work and citing your sources.
  5. I will be more impressed to see you use sources correctly than at any original ideas that you have. I honestly don’t think that I am an original thinker, and you probably aren’t either. But we do have a part to play in knowledge production, and we play that part by acknowledging those who came before us. Isaac Newton, one of the most brilliant minds the world has ever known, said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” and the sentiment was already 500 years old when he wrote that! So your goal is to show me that you can stand on the shoulders of giants, not to convince me that you know how to levitate.