While ratemyprofessor.com might not be the most credible source of information about courses and professors at the University, it’s usually the only place students can go for information. But recently, the LSA Student Government passed a resolution requesting that instructors make course syllabi available to students online during registration. This would provide students with a crucial resource to inform their expectations about the classes they sign up for and prepare them to face the semester. Professors should quickly embrace the practice of putting syllabi up early, and the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs — the faculty’s leading governing body — should make it official policy.

On Monday, the Daily reported on LSA-SG’s efforts, previously undertaken by the Michigan Student Assembly, to urge University professors to post course syllabi online at the time of class registration. According to Timothy McKay, director of the LSA Honors Program, most SACUA members are in support of this proposition. But John Lin — the chair of MSA’s Academic Affairs Commission and a member of SACUA’s Academic Affairs Advisory Committee — noted that it will likely take a couple of semesters for the resolution to be implemented at the University.

Posting syllabi online early would be extremely beneficial to University students who are planning course loads. Course descriptions tend to be vague and fail to provide a complete picture of the course’s content, rigor and the time commitment required. Providing syllabi early will increase students’ understanding of the courses and allow them to choose ones they know they can manage. Being able to make more informed selections of courses will help students get the most out of their education by allowing them to focus on their studies and take courses that supplement their concentration. And when students enter a class fully prepared for its rigor, they will be less likely to drop the course. This would help stabilize the hectic early-semester lives of University students. The success of similarly modeled initiatives at universities around the country, like Princeton University and Harvard University, shows that making syllabi more accessible can work at the University.

Professors should view transparency in their courses as a duty to the students. With a minimal amount of time and effort, they can make progress in improving both student participation and academic performance by giving students additional information so they can choose the right courses. Even posting an old copy of a syllabus if a current version isn’t available would provide a more in depth description of what a course offers and entails. Minor changes could always be made to the syllabus after registration.

SACUA could also be a powerful force in advancing this proposal. With encouragement from the student body and its representative parties, it should urge faculty members to commit to its implementation. LSA-SG and MSA have been pushing professors toward this initiative, but SACUA should follow the LSA-SG resolution with an official policy.

Making course syllabi available at the time of registration will allow students to make informed decisions about their course loads and get the most from their education — if SACUA takes action.

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