RLST 100 Course Policies

What this course is: This course is an introduction to the academic study of religion, exploring cross-culturally some of the fundamental ways in which people experience and understand religion. Together we will address the following questions: What is religion? How is it understood and practiced in different parts of the world? What constitutes religious knowledge, and how is such knowledge acquired?

What this course is not: This course is not a survey of world religions, although you will gain some insights into some of the ways that different religious traditions are understood and practiced around the world. This course will be fun, but it is not going to be easy! This is a 100-level course, which means that there are no prerequisites. I am assuming that no one here has any prior experience with religious studies, but this doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easier than an upper-level course. All students are expected to prepare adequately for each class meeting, and to think hard about the material that we’re reading and discussing.

Course Goals (i.e., what I hope you remember 5 years from now):

  • You will learn that religion is everywhere. It’s embedded into cultures, laws, practices, and policies. It’s also connected to every other subject that you will study at Lawrence. (I promise.)
  • You will also learn that “religion” has broad meanings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that religion can be defined however you want it to be defined.
  • This course will also prepare students for upper-level work in religious studies courses, and it will help students learn how to develop and present coherent arguments through writing and speech.

Required Readings:

  • All readings will be linked from within this site. To view PDFs, you’ll need a secret password from Connie. (Because copyright laws are a thing.)
  • You are required to bring the assigned reading with you to every class meeting. It doesn’t matter to me whether you print out your readings or save them electronically, as long as you bring them to class.

About your professor Her full name is Constance Kassor. You can call her “Professor Kassor” or you can call her “Connie.” Don’t call her anything else. She gets cranky about this. If you want to get on Connie’s good side, you can do the following:

Technology Policy: This course relies on technology. With this in mind, laptops and tablets – but please no phones – are welcome in class. The only caveat is that you use them only for class-related activities. In other words, you are welcome to use these devices to refer to class readings, type notes, or share relevant questions or comments on the readings on this course website. You should not, however, use these tools to read your email, check Facebook, watch cat videos, etc. Any misuse of technology by one student may result in the banning of electronics in class for all students, which would be pretty sad for everybody. So try to be cool about this, ok?

Sometimes when you’re working with computers, things can go wrong. Computers crash, files become corrupt, and servers go down. These are normal aspects of working with technology, and will not be acceptable excuses for late work or missed assignments. Please be sure to regularly back up your work and complete your assignments well enough in advance that you can avoid these problems.

At this point, I’d like to try a little experiment to see how many of you have made it this far into the syllabus. This is your first assignment, and you will get credit for this! Perform a Google image search for Milli Vanilli, the German R&B duo from the late 80’s/early 90’s. Email me your favorite photo from the results. (Bonus points if you can name their hit single and tell me why they lost their Grammy Award.)

Course Requirements

  • Attendance
    • Coming to class on time and prepared to discuss the day’s material is required. I understand that things may come up that might prohibit you from attending an occasional class, such as games, performances, illness, etc. However, our class is a community, and the community suffers if its members don’t contribute. With that in mind, missing more than three class meetings (excused or otherwise) will result in a deduction of your final letter grade for the course. Each class meeting missed beyond the first three will reduce your final grade. (E.g., If you’re earning an A- and you miss four classes, your final grade will be a B+; if you miss five classes, your final grade will be a B, and so on.) Because I value everyone’s participation and contributions to class, there are absolutely no exceptions to this policy.
  • Engagement (20%)
    • At least one hour before each class meeting that we have new reading, each student will be expected to post a total of three comments, questions, or interesting quotes based on the day’s reading. We have 20 days of new readings over the course of the term, so each day will be an opportunity to earn 1% toward your final grade. Additionally, you may earn some extra credit by constructively engaging with your classmates in the comments. “Constructive engagement” means replying to a question or contributing to a discussion in some way. Simply writing, “That’s a good question!” does not constitute constructive engagement.
  • Art Museum Project (20%)
    • In the first few weeks of the term, we will spend some time investigating religious art. More information about this project will be provided in class, but a basic breakdown of the assignment involves the following activities:
      • Selection and short write-up of three images (5%), due via email by the start of class on Friday of Week 2 (January 12). Students will write 1-2 paragraphs on each image that they have selected, and email them to Connie.
      • 5-minute presentation on one image with a partner (15%), due Friday of Week 4 (January 26). Students will be assigned an image and a partner, and will expand their original paragraphs into a longer presentation.
  • In-class Midterm Exam (20%)
    • An in-class exam covering the material from the first half of the term, Wednesday of week 6 (February 7)
  • Group Presentation (20%)
    • During Week 9 (February 28), students will give group presentations based on the topics that we have covered so far. I know that everyone is busy and it’s sometimes difficult to meet outside of class, so there will be some time in class during week 8 to work with your groups.
  • Final take-home exam (20%)
    • The exam will be distributed at the end of the last class meeting (March 9), and is due via email no later than March 14 by 5:30pm.

Policy on late assignments: No late assignments will be accepted in this course. This course relies on all participants completing assignments on time. Your comments on the readings will help to facilitate discussion in class, and will not be of any use if they are submitted after the deadline. Similarly, because class time is dedicated to presentations and the midterm exam, no extensions are possible. And because final exam schedules are set by the University, these must be completed by the deadline as well. If you have extenuating circumstances or a documented accommodation through Disability Services, please discuss this with me, and we can work together to create a reasonable plan for you.