Teaching Policies and Mark Policies

Here are the policies under which I conduct all my courses. Ask me if you have any questions or need anything clarified.

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472) or by email: dprc at sfsu.edu)

SF State Policy on Sexual Violence and Sex or Gender Discrimination

SF State fosters a campus free of sexual violence including sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and/or any form of sex or gender discrimination. If you disclose a personal experience as an SF State student, the course instructor is required to notify the Dean of Students. To disclose any such violence confidentially, contact: The SAFE Place - (415) 338-2208 www.sfsu.edu/~safe_plc/ or Counseling and Psychological Services Center - (415) 338-2208 psyservs.sfsu.edu/ For more information on your rights and available resources: Title IX.

Withdrawals from Courses

Here is the University's official policy on withdrawal from courses. You should understand these two points from it:

First Two Weeks of Semester: At SF State, dropping a course is the student's responsibility. However, faculty are authorized to instructor-drop students who do not attend the first class meeting or do not meet the course criteria.

Thirteenth Week through the Last Day of Instruction: Withdrawals shall not be permitted after the twelfth week of instruction except in cases, such as accident or serious illness, where the cause of withdrawal is due to circumstances clearly beyond the student's control and the assignment of an Incomplete is not practicable. 

Office hours

My office is HUM 530, and my hours are posted outside. My office phone number is 338-7428, and I always return calls. You do not need an appointment to see me, but I appreciate any advance notice that you're coming. I would like to see you in my office at least once during the course.

Courtesy and Late Arrivals

If you arrive at a musical late, and the first number is being performed, it is courteous to wait until the number is over before trying to find your seat, rather than disrupting the performance for everyone. There will be a pause for latecomers to be seated. Lateness happens.

If you get to class late, and the professor has begun his lecture, wait at the door. Many people already do this, if they're late, but not all. The prof sees you there, and at the right moment, will stop and wave you in. That will be far more comfortable for you too, rather than making a spectacle of yourself whimpering "sorry… sorry…", as you tip toe through forty staring people to the last empty seat in class, which is inevitably in the first row inches away from the fuming professor. Instead, just wait at the door. He sees you. He'll wave you in.

And a reminder: no screens visible during class, no grand exits during lectures, not even during the films, so no bathroom breaks (cell phone breaks) unless Disability has given you paperwork about it to show me. Until the cellphone was invented nobody left class to go to the bathroom, once they reached middle school.

I expect everyone to be as serious about your education as I am, and if you are not, I won't distract the class by scolding you, but you'll get a minus against your next exam or paper. This is written notice.

Full Class Period Attendance Required

Students sometimes ask, "Can I leave class twenty minutes early each period so that I can take another class which overlaps ours?" At the Humanities Department Meeting the issue came up, and the general rule is that if students cannot fulfill all course requirements they should be dropped from a course. That includes taking all the tests, obviously. Somebody had asked me if they could leave twenty minutes early to go to a conflicting class. Sorry, that person will have to choose one class or the other. I do lots of in-class testing. That person could not take a test and get 20 minutes less time to complete it than other students. It's not equal treatment. It would fail that legal definition too. And the person would miss entire reading quizzes, when given at the end of a class period. Students must be able to stay the whole period, all the time.

In Class

Our class is like a workshop: you're expected to contribute and educate the other students with your own ideas. We don't believe that I'm the only person in the class with ideas. Therefore good classroom participation can, at my discretion, add as much as two bonuses to your final course grade (for instance, raise a B to an A minus) or lower the final course grade by an equal amount. However, you may not shout out answers and opinions nor may you interrupt and speak over others. You must raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged, and you must pay attention when others speak. You may not carry on side conversations or do work for other classes while in class. This notice is your warning and it is sufficient notice.

Electronic devices and note-taking

Your laptop computers, PDAs, cell phones, and any other electronic devices may not be visible or audible during class. You may not use tape recorders nor any other recording devices during class. You may not take pictures or videotapes with your cell phones or by any other method. Students taking them will be immediately dropped as "disruptive." My courses are 100% my intellectual property, so while you may share your notes with your classmates, you may not sell or distribute them.

Attendance and Classroom Participation

Punctuality, attendance, positive participation, and your whole effort at creating a classroom environment which supports other students trying to learn-- or at least doesn't destroy their morale and interfere with their efforts-- will all count in your final grade, up to one full letter grade. If you miss class, you alone are responsible for catching up on what you missed. Do not expect me to re-deliver the lecture for you alone at a time of your choosing. I use sign-in sheets to take attendance, and you are responsible for signing in. If you miss class, you are responsible for catching up on anything you missed. If you are late more than twice or leave early more than once (for instance, during the break in a night class), I will lower your grade without discussing it with you further. It's not my job to scold you into following clear rules. You may leave the classroom in response to an emergency phone call once, but you may not re-enter. Take your books with you. If you disrupt the class with grand entrances and exits to handle your email or calls, again, I will lower your grade.


I set deadlines already considering the fact that many of you work, commute, and have family obligations. I do not extend deadlines for individual students, but I do grant a standing grace period. I will consider your work on time if I find it under my office door when I come in on the second calendar day after the deadline. If your work appears under my door later that day, I will consider it late. Late work loses a grade for each day it's late. A B+ paper will get a B if a day late, a B- if two days late, and a C+ if three days late.


Have a blue book or two with you in class every session, in case there is a quiz. Use the large blue books, not the small ones, for all exams. Since I'd like you to write on every other line for clarity's sake, bring twice as many as you normally would. Use pen, blue or black ink. You may not retake missed or failed exams. A missed exam is an F in that exam, and I don't give early or late exams.

There will be no final, but there will be a comprehensive exam usually held during the last class period of the year. That exam will be worth 1/2 of the final course grade. You must take your exams with the rest of your classmates, unless you are registered with Disability and can take exams there. If this is the case, you must see me far ahead of time so we can set it up. It's your responsibility to stay on top of that situation. The comprehensive exams make a pile two feet high at the end of each semester. I can't save them and return them to you unless you request ahead of time.

Certain approved term projects (for instance, those done by graduate students) will be finally due on the date and time listed in the class schedule, and in the place listed, for the (optional) final examination that we will not have. That will give you an extra week. Oral evaluations of the term projects will take place in that meeting. You may not submit any work after that date.


You will earn your grade through attendance, participation, assignments, and exams. All assignments involve writing because all my courses are, at heart, writing courses. Midterms and finals may consist of papers or exams. The midterm is worth 1/8 of your grade; the final comprehensive exam is worth 4/8 of your grade; everything else is worth 3/8 of your grade. I do not give out course incompletes. For further circumstances that can raise or lower your mark, see "Attendance and Classroom Participation" above.


All assignments are due in class on their deadlines, though you may also submit assignments under my office door. Do not submit your assignments through any third party, including our department's secretary; I will not accept such submissions. All your assignments must be typed, and you must type them yourself. You may not use typing or editing services. You may use tutorial services only if they are school-funded and campus-based. Writing assignments will be marked according to the standards of good writing described, in detail, in Break Your Writer's Block, which has been prepared specially for SFSU students. Incorporate into your assignments the writing advice I give in Break Your Writer's Block. I will look for evidence of this, and I may mark your paper down if you don't. Turn in any first, rough, or working drafts along with your final draft. You must keep an extra paper copy of your final drafts for possible final projects. Until the third-to-last class period, you may, if you get my permission, rewrite an assignment after talking to me about it.

Museum Work

One class will be held in a museum on a Saturday or Sunday, or else at some related event, like a reading. According to the official University policy, that meeting is "optional." However, the paper I require afterwards is not optional; it is required. If you cannot attend this class meeting, you can ask me for an alternate assignment, which will also include writing a paper. However, I strongly encourage you to attend this Saturday or Sunday meetings; many prior students have said it's one of the best parts of the cours.

You will be required to visit two other museums on your own. Bring your student ID for a discount, and ask about student membership, a category which often does not appear online. There are sometimes free days, but these may be too distant for you to use them in time for your assignment. Expect to pay a modest admission each time. These museum visits, in which you see great works in person, in proper scale, are our equivalent to lab work; the admissions you pay are the humanistic equivalent of lab fees in the sciences.


Plagiarism is a form of cheating or fraud; it occurs when a student misrepresents the work of another as his or her own. Plagiarism may consist of using the ideas, sentences, paragraphs, or the whole text of another without appropriate acknowledgment, but it also includes employing or allowing another person to write or substantially alter work that a student then submits as his or her own. Any assignment found to be plagiarized will be given an "F" grade. All instances of plagiarism in the College of Humanities will be reported to the Dean of the College, and may be reported to the University Judicial Affairs Officer for further action. Be aware that of the seriousness of plagiarism as an offense. SFSU has a Student Code of Conduct, available on p. 704 of the 2001-02 Bulletin, or online at http://www.sfsu.edu/~helpdesk/docs/rules/conduct.html

I take plagiarism seriously. If you plagiarize, you will get an F in the course and you may even be expelled from school. And I will catch you because I can easily tell your writing from other people's writing. You must be able to show me any texts you worked from, and I always ask for a few at random. You must put quotation marks around any words that are not yours. You may quote words and phrases without limit, but the most you can quote at one time is one complete sentence, and then not more than once per page. See the Bud Vase technique in Break Your Writer's Block.

"Plagiarism occurs when a student misrepresents the work of another as his or her own. Plagiarism may consist of using the ideas, sentences, paragraphs, or the whole text of another without appropriate acknowledgement, but it also includes employing or allowing another person to write or substantially alter work that a student then submits as his or her own. Any assignment found to be plagiarized will be given an "F" grade. All instances of plagiarism in the College of Humanities will be reported to the Dean of the College, and may be reported to the University Judicial Affairs Officer for further action."
     College of Humanities Plagiarism Resources

Extra credit

See me for an extra credit assignment as soon as you discover that you're not doing well in class. I can create the opportunity for you to do well, but you must not wait until it's too late. You must obtain my approval for any extra credit assignment no later than three weeks before the first class period following Thanksgiving or Spring Break.


In this course, email is only used for announcements. I don't teach my students through email. No email.

I stopped emailing, not because I don't want to see my students, but because I DO. Do want to SEE them. Literally. See them. Or at the least, hear them. Therefore: no email.

You CAN email me to request a reservation for an office visit. In fact, please do, to be sure we're not interrupted. I'm at GL@georgeleonard.com.

I love to see people in the office, HUM 530. Those of you who have been there know I even took out the computer and put in a comfortable couch for students, to make it a more relaxed, welcoming kind of place. If you only have time to come during your lunch, you can bring your lunch. I'll even serve you some fine Chinese tea from my last Beijing trip.

Can't come to the office? I like to hear your voice on the phone. I return calls. Not only is there still such a thing as a telephone, you all carry them 24/7. Call me up! Office phone: 415-338-7428. I will return your call during my next office hour, the next day I'm on campus. My office hours are normally in the afternoon, or immediately following our classes, very convenient for you.

Above all, I like to see people in the office. It's personal. It really works. I'm in HUM 530 three minutes from our classroom.

But do not email me unless I specifically ask you to. Do not email me for any other reason -- which means, don't use it to alert me about absences or excuses, which is what ninety five percent of email, alas, turned out to be.


I also don't use it for questions, clarifications, or teaching in general. Unless I specifically request it, you may not submit papers by email. You must make it TO CLASS and hand in the hard copy. I want to see you physically at school. Papers are late until they are presented in hard copy form at the office. No more email papers.

Email looked so promising, ten years ago, but it never worked out. What went wrong with email was, the people in trouble who most needed to see me in the office, stopped coming. They relied on email. It wasn't the same amount of help.

They stopped coming to classes, too, when they found I would answer questions through email even if they were absent. And that led to some disasters for them because email just isn't the same as a class. Reluctantly, I gave up on email as a teaching tool.


The only exception: You can use email to alert me to an event, TV show, song or other object that I might want to share with the class that way. That’s the only exception, and it has worked great! Email is good for something.

So, I only use email to notify people of events or opportunities.


**However. Email is NEVER the Official Notification of anything. That’s done in class. Face to face. So if you didn’t, darn it, get the email? It doesn’t matter. It was just extra. You got the announcement in class or in the syllabus.

Just in case I was not clear, what I said above does not mean that you can send me email as long as you start it, "Dr. Leonard, I know you told us not to email you but...." Call me up! Come to the office. Slip a note under the door of HUM 530. What did people do in the endless dark ages before email, fifteen years ago?

I do reserve the right to have an email conversation with any student who would benefit from it, in my opinion.

I probably need to add, "Do not reply to this email." Not even if you start it, "I know you told us not to reply to that email..."


If you must attend weddings, funerals, or help relatives out in hospitals just get me the formal paperwork (wedding or funeral announcements, for instance.) You must support any emergency claims with official corroborating documents. If you have a medical emergency, you must show me a doctor's note. If your backpack with your paper is stolen, you must file a police report and show me a copy. I am sorry that my experience, over the past 22 years, with a tiny percentage of students makes it necessary for me to ask everyone to provide these things, but I have to be firm about asking.

Recommendation letters

I'll be glad to write you a recommendation letter for our school's Study Abroad program or a course enrollment verification for your employer. I will write you a general recommendation letter only if you've earned an A in at least two of my courses. That is my firm cut-off requirement, and I put it in writing so that no fine student who just got their first A from me feels singled out or doubts my respect for them.

Warning: "Get near ideas that scare the death out of you."

At the University's official welcome event, Fall 2014, “SF State Welcome: Faces of Our Community,” President Les Wong challenged new students assembled on the Quad to become educated citizens and to “get near ideas that scare the death out of you” to tackle the world's most pressing issues. “We're here to help you develop yourself so you can own your own mind,” Wong said. “Once you're able to do that, I believe it's unavoidable that you will make a difference.”

What did President Wong mean by “ideas that scare the death out of you?” Why is that so near to the heart of a university education, that the President would choose to say it to the incoming students? Well, obviously, if you go through four years of a college education and never hear anything that shocks you— ask for your money back! If you go through four years of a college education and still believe exactly the same things you did back in high school— ask for double your money back. A real university education is supposed to help you “develop yourself so you can own your mind,” and think for yourself about the most important questions of life. We all say, “Sure, I want to try new things.” But in college that means being willing to try new ideas— ideas involving your faith in God, or society, or your leaders, or sex and sexuality. The greatest American philosopher, John Dewey, said, “Learning means changing behavior.” Not just learning new Jeopardy questions but deciding you have to change how you live. And frankly, that hurts. Learning means you admit to yourself, you've been doing something wrong. My own teacher, Jacques Barzun, used to warn us, real learning isn't a pleasant experience. It's upsetting. When I lost my faith in God in Freshman year, I felt life was meaningless for nearly a year. But I was freer. Nobody could wave a Bible verse at me, and tell me to be ashamed. It wasn't fun though.

So I always apologize to students in advance. You've hired me to make you feel uncomfortable, to ask you to read works and hear ideas which will shake you up. I am sorry. But I am telling you in advance, so you can decide if you want to go through with this. The point isn't to upset you, it's to make you stronger, but that comes later, after the upset.