Here’s what I decided:

  1. I will have an attendance policy, with a brief mention of the fact that people who don’t come to class and participate tend not to do well regardless of any attendance policy. They get 3 freebies, and then a 5-point deduction (out of 200 possible points for the class) for each subsequent absence. I will make no distinction between excused and unexcused, except in very dire cases. These cases will most likely involve deans anyways, so they’ll have my back on this.
  2. There will be a participation policy, but it will be based on some sort of written product (minute paper, questions related to an in-class film, or a written synopsis of an in-class group activity).  However, I will incentivize being attentive and engaged (not necessarily talking, but showing a general sense of give-a-shit) by increasing one’s grade by a couple of points if it means the difference between a B+ and an A- (for example). That way, they aren’t penalized for lack of participation, but it means I’m not necessarily going to go above and beyond for those who don’t engage.
  3. I’m not going to ban technology, but if someone is obviously tweeting/Facebooking/texting, I’ll take Elaine’s approach of noting the disrespect inherent in such acts and leave it at that.

I think these are policies I can live with, because they are clear, reasonable, and enforceable. We’ll see how things go!