EM SC 470
Applied Sustainability in Contemporary Culture

Class Communication Guidelines


Communication Guidelines

I am a firm believer in academic freedom and freedom of speech. Nonetheless, I want to encourage conversation and dialogue (within our formal assignments as well as in your various discussions with classmates) that are based on a framework of mutual respect and a desire for a continued and deeper understanding of the issues at hand and also the multiple perspectives represented.

Healthy debate and exploration are encouraged in your discussion posts. At the same time, you must support your well-thought-out claims and analyses with accurate and appropriate references. I will dock points when the rules of decorum are disregarded.  Keep these guidelines for class interactions in mind as you interact with classmates and your instructor.

Guidelines for Class Interactions

  1. Our primary commitment is to learn from each other. We will listen to each other and not talk at each other. We acknowledge differences among us in backgrounds, skills, interests, and values. We realize that it is these very differences that will increase our awareness and understanding through this process.
  2. We will not demean, devalue, or “put down” people for their experiences, lack of understanding, or differences in interpretation.
  3. We will be courteous. Include everyone in the discussion and refrain from private conversations within class discussions.
  4. We will trust that people are always doing the best they can.
  5. If we wish to challenge something that has been said, we will challenge the idea or the practice referred to, not the individual sharing this idea or practice.
  6. If you have much to say, try to hold back a bit; if you are hesitant to speak, look for opportunities to contribute to the discussion.

In this course, students participating in peer-to-peer learning activities are expected to participate constructively with others in the practice and development of effective communication skills. This means NO personal attacks, NO name calling, and NO threatening language of any kind.

This isn't a limitation of your free speech; it's a protection of your right to free speech. Write with passion and fervor. Mean what you say, and say what you mean, but no personal attacks, no name calling and no threatening language of any kind. Period.


  1. Warning. Your review of this page and your completion of course orientation activities serve as your first and only warning about constructive participation in peer-to-peer learning activities: no personal attacks, no name calling and no threatening language of any kind.
  2. First offense. The first instance of a personal attack, name calling or threatening language in a peer-to-peer learning activity will result in the removal of all of student’s interactions related to that assignment and a 0 for that assignment.
  3. Second offense. In a second instance, student loses the opportunity to participate in (and earn credit for) all remaining peer-to-peer assignments for the duration of the course.  

Any instance of threatening language will be reported to the Penn State Office of Student Conduct.

If you are ever unsure about a situation in a peer-to-peer assignment, contact your instructor before acting. Ask them to review your work (does it cross the line?) or to provide guidance. It is your responsibility to develop the awareness and control necessary to manage challenging interactions. The ESP faculty are here to help and support you as you work to acquire this important communications skill. Please feel free to contact your instructor and adviser at any time with any questions you may have about constructive participation in ESP peer-to-peer activities.