RHE 306 – Syllabus

Instructor: Cate Blouke

 email: cate.blouke@utexas.edu

Office: PAR 404  

Office hours: Friday 12:00-3:00 & by appointment

Spring 2015: T/Th 12:30-2:00, FAC 7

Unique Number: 43525

As part of the undergraduate curriculum, RHE 306 is designed to equip you to participate in civic discourse. You will learn to analyze the positions held in public debate and to advocate your own position responsibly and effectively.

In terms of how this will play out on a practical level, you’ll be learning to analyze both subtly and explicitly persuasive texts by choosing a controversial topic to research and write about over the course of the semester.

You will learn how to:

  • identify, evaluate, construct, and organize effective arguments
  • read critically
  • advocate a specific position responsibly
  • conduct library and web-based research and document sources
  • produce a clean, efficient style and adapt it to various rhetorical situations
  • edit and proofread your own and others’ prose

Required Textbooks and Readings:

Everything’s an Argument. Fifth edition. Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz. Bedford, 2010.

“They Say/I Say” The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. Second Edition. Graff and Birkenstein. Norton, 2010. 

Students should own a college-level composition handbook that covers mechanics, usage, and documentation (such as The Little Penguin Handbook or Easy Writer)

Aside from these texts, I will assign a variety of excerpts from other works, newspaper articles, blogs, and essays over the course of the semester. These additional readings will all be posted to the course wiki and available for access/download well in advance of the due date.

Coursework and Grading:

You will be graded on the following assignments this term:

  •      Paper 1-1                                     5%
  •      Paper 1-2                                    10%
  •      Paper 2-1                                    10%
  •      Paper 2-2                                   15%
  •      Paper 3-1                                    15%
  •      Paper 3-2 (w/presentation)   15%
  •      Research summaries/short writing assignments   20%
  •     In-class exercises & Homework                                  10%
  •      Peer reviews                               Mandatory
  •      Participation                              Invaluable

Points Breakdown:

All the assignments in this class will add up to a total of 1,000 points. Essentially, the percentage listed above is multiplied by 10. So, essay 1-1 will be worth 50 points total, essay 1-2 100 points, etc. Each assignment will have its own individual points breakdown, so this is all you need to know at present.

Major Assignments:

Students will write three essays ranging from 4-7 pages each (above designated as 1-1, 2-1, and 3-1), and they will revise each of these three based on my feedback (above designated as 1-2, 2-2, and 3-2). In addition, students will compose four short writing assignments of 1-2 pages each (3 research summaries, one short rhetorical analysis).

*I will not accept the larger essay assignments without prior submission of the shorter writing assignments. Therefore, in order to turn in Essay 1-1, you must have submitted Research Summaries 1-3. In order to turn in Essay 2-1, you must have submitted the Short Rhetorical Analysis assignment.


As noted above, you’ll be researching and writing about a controversial issue over the course of the semester. You will be working with the same issue for all three major writing assignments, so it’s important that you select a topic you find at least mildly interesting. The curricular goal for this course is to slow down the investigative process, encouraging you to gather lots of information and consider all sides of a question so that you may make an informed decision and have ample support for your final argument.

While it’s important to me to give you freedom to choose a topic that interests you, I’ve found that limiting the number of options makes the task more manageable for everyone. Therefore, as a group, we’ll be looking into the following “campus controversies,” or issues of particular relevance to college students.

The topics below are broad, overarching umbrellas. It will be your task to look into the various controversies related to these issues (there may be several).

  • For-profit education
  • Student loan forgiveness
  • The role of student athletes/athletics
  • The Greek system
  • Grade inflation
  • Affirmative action
  • Right to carry
  • Free speech zones
  • Student evaluations
  • Sexual assault on college campuses
  • Gender-neutral bathrooms
  • Online learning vs. in-class
  • Parking/transportation
  • Body image/eating disorders
  • Underage drinking
  • History vs. political correctness (removing statues or re-naming buildings)

Assignment Submission:

Students are expected to turn in digital copies of all major assignments by posting them on the course wiki before the beginning of class on the due date. Note: this is not a license to skip class on major due dates. 

Grading (Overall):

While I hope that personal fulfillment and improvement in your writing skills will be your main objective, I understand that you might also be interested getting a good grade. I will assign letter grades to your papers based on whether you exceed requirements (A), whether you meet them well (B), whether your meet them competently (C), or whether you fail to meet them at all (D or F). I strongly encourage you to make use of my office hours to discuss the course and your work, particularly if you find yourself struggling early on. I will be grading on the plus/minus grading scale. All numeric grades for this class will fit within the following scale:

A:            94.0-100                       C:            74.0-76.9

A-:           90.0-93.9                      C-:           70.0-73.9

B+          87.0-89.9                     D+:          67.0-69.9

B:            84.0-86.9                      D:            64.0-66.9

B-            80.0-83.9                      D-:           60.0-63.9

C+:          77.0-79.9                     F:             0-59.9

Late Work:

Work will be penalized one full letter grade if it is submitted late regardless of the duration of the tardiness. Work will not be accepted after four days beyond the due date. Keep in mind that if you turn things in late, you will get them back late. This could negatively affect your revision process and result in a second late submission.

Extra credit/revision policy:

I fully understand that for many of you this class is a required course that you would probably not volunteer to take on your own. I also understand that writing might not be your strong suit, and I have no interest in penalizing you for entering this class lacking particular skill sets. However, I fully intend to uphold the rigorous academic standards set forth by this institution. Hard work and genuine effort will be rewarded in my classroom.

That being said, two of my pedagogical goals for the course are to encourage you to view writing as a process and to help you gain confidence in your writing abilities. With those objectives in mind, if you are dissatisfied with your grade on any final* assignment, you may take it to the Undergraduate Writing Center along with the grading rubric/comments provided and request help with revising the paper. If you have the consultant email me regarding what you worked on, and if you resubmit your revised work, I will re-grade the paper and add a minimum of 3% to the grade (moving it from a C+ to a B-, for example). You may do this up to twice per assignment.

*Note that this does not apply to the first drafts of each major paper, though I strongly encourage you to take them to the UWC prior to initial submission.

Undergraduate Writing Center:

Getting feedback from an informed audience is a normal part of a successful writing project; it demonstrates an active involvement in the writing process, and a desire to go beyond the minimum course requirements (hint, hint). As such, I strongly encourage you to use the Undergraduate Writing Center, FAC 211 (the second floor of FAC, down the hallway on the right). The UWC offers free, individualized, expert help with writing for any UT undergraduate, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. Any undergraduate enrolled in a course at UT can visit the UWC for assistance with any writing project, and although our course will deal heavily in images, writing is nevertheless a component of every assignment.

The UWC’s services are not just for writing with “problems.” Consultants help students develop strategies to improve their writing – in any stage of the process. The assistance they provide is intended to foster confidence and independence (a dimension of learning), as well as offering skills and strategies (another dimension) for particular aspects of the writing process. Each student determines how to use the consultant’s advice, and what the consultation will cover. The consultants are trained to help you work on your writing in ways that preserve the integrity of your work.

Scholastic Honesty:

Turning in work that is not your own, or any other form of scholastic dishonesty, will result in a major course penalty, possibly failure of the course. This standard applies to all drafts and assignments, and a report of the incident will be submitted to the Office of the Dean of Students and filed in your permanent UT record. Under certain circumstances, the Dean of Students will initiate proceedings to expel you from the University.

So, take care to read and understand the Statement on Scholastic Responsibility, which can be found online at http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/rhetoric/firstyearwriting/plagiarismcollusion.php. If you have any doubts about your use of sources, ask your instructor for help before handing in the assignment.

The Department of Rhetoric and Writing’s Statement on Scholastic Responsibility offers detailed explanations of acceptable and unacceptable forms of quotation and paraphrasing. I will provide you with citation guidelines for images, but the fundamental principle is: always provide attribution.

Absences and Tardy Policy:

The Department of Rhetoric and Writing has a very strict absence policy. This is a departmental policy, and no exceptions will be made. Any questions or appeals concerning this policy must be made directly to the department Associate Chair.

You are expected to attend class, to arrive on time, to have prepared assigned reading and writing, and to participate in all in-class activities. Should you miss the equivalent of FIVE class sections, you will fail the course.

I do not “excuse” absences as such, but if you find that an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class, you should contact me as soon as possible, preferably ahead of time, to let me know.

However, you will not be penalized for missing class on religious holy days. A student who misses classes or other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day should inform the me, in writing, well in advance of the absence, so that alternative arrangements can be made to complete work. If you know you will have to miss class(es) for this reason, provide me with the date(s) as early as possible. Please note that the University specifies very few other excused absences (e.g., jury duty).When you must miss a class, you are responsible for getting notes and assignments from a classmate.

At the beginning of each class period, I will pass around a sign in sheet. You are responsible for the record of your attendance. If your signature is not on that day’s attendance sheet, you will be counted absent. Once the sheet has circulated around the room, I will collect it. Arriving after the sheet has been collected will result in your being counted late (tardy) for the day, and it is still your responsibility to ask to sign in at the end of class. Three tardies will count as one absence.

Religious Holy Days:

By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of a pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, I will give you an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.

Technology Policies

We will be engaging with a number of technological platforms in this class, and you are expected to keep track of your own account information. I encourage you to devise a system early in the semester (such as a Google doc, spreadsheet, or smart phone note) to keep track of your usernames and passwords for each site/program.

Communication and E-mail Policies:

E-mail is an official means of communication at UT-Austin, and I will frequently use this medium to communicate class information. You are therefore required to obtain a UT email account and to check it daily. All students may claim an email address at no cost by visiting the UTMail website.

My email policies are as follows:

  • All emails must contain both a salutation (addressing me as Professor Blouke) and a closing in which you identify yourself.
  • I will check my email between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday and will generally respond within 48 hours/2 business days.
  • I strongly encourage you to email me with questions and concerns, but if your question is a lengthy one (about writing, digital media, etc.), I may ask you to visit my office hours instead of responding via email.
  • If your question relates to technical issues with any of the various programs/digital platforms we will be using in the class, I expect you to investigate the website/program’s online tutorials, instructions page, FAQ page, or to Google your issue before contacting me. Your email should include an acknowledgement that you’ve tried to find a solution and an explanation of what you still need help with.
  • I will not respond to emails asking questions that I feel can be answered by looking at the syllabus or schedule.
  • I will not respond to emails that I deem impertinent or disrespectful.

Office Hours:

Each week, I will hold regularly scheduled office hours set aside for helping you with issues related to the course. Coming to my office hours ensures you will receive individual attention and support that I cannot provide in class. While you may drop by my office hours without prior notice, this does not a guarantee I will be available or sufficiently prepared to assist you. Depending on your concern, I may, therefore, ask you to make an appointment to return.

Making an appointment to come speak with me ensures that I will be present and ready to help with your issue. Appointments can be made for times during my office hours, or I am also amenable to making appointments outside of office hours if my office hours conflict with your schedule. If you do make an appointment with me, however, I expect you to show up, on time, and with any necessary materials.

Students with Disabilities:

The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), at (512) 471-6259 [voice] or (866) 329-3986.

Emergency Information:

Occupants of buildings on The University of Texas at Austin campus are required to evacuate buildings when a fire alarm is activated. Alarm activation or announcement requires exiting and assembling outside.

Familiarize yourself with all exit doors of each classroom and building you may occupy. Remember that the nearest exit door may not be the one you used when entering the building.

Students requiring assistance in evacuation shall inform their instructor in writing during the first week of class.

In the event of an evacuation, follow the instruction of faculty or class instructors. Do not re-enter a building unless given instructions by the following: The University of Texas at Austin Police Department, or Fire Prevention Services office.

Other important Emergency Information: http://www.utexas.edu/safety/preparedness/


While I will rarely (if ever) disrupt your schedule by moving the due dates of major assignments, all readings and short homework assignments are subject to change. I will distribute reading schedules on a unit-by unit basis, and the class will evolve based on your interests and participation. As a result, occasional juggling of readings may occur, so check the online course schedule regularly for up-to-date reading assignments.