GW 100 - What is Green? - Fall 2010

What is Green? The Many Shades of Environmentalism.

Green Globe
Everything is green these days. What's it all about?

"Go Green." "Save the planet."

What does that mean? What are we saving? Why? What is the goal, and how can or should we achieve it? What are we doing now, and how effective is it?

We will investigate some of the many answers to questions like these. Through discussion and writing, we will explore the analyses and arguments of others as well as our own. The materials we use in this exploration will range from manifestos to marketing copy, from current events to the historical record, and from ethics and philosophy to physical science and technology.

The Gateway Colloquium is a course taken by first-year students at IWU that focuses on developing critical thinking and writing skills. Put even more succinctly, it is a course about communication. Using environmentalism as a central topic from which to draw material and ideas for reading, writing, and discussion, we will take a conscious look at several aspects of communication, this activity we perform, without thinking about it, innumerable times every day. By doing so, we can become more aware of what it is, how we are doing it, and how we can improve our own skills as both communicators (writers and speakers) and communicatees (readers and listeners).

This and related pages are living documents. Details may be added as they become relevant during the semester, and any such changes will be announced to the class.


When/Where: MWF 1:00-1:50PM / CNS E105

Instructor: Mark Liffiton
Office: CNS C207B
Office Hours: MWF 11-12; TR 11-12; by appointment MW 2-3; or email/drop in any time.
Contact: Email is preferred (please start the subject with "gateway:").
     For more pressing matters, my office # is 309-556-3535.

Library Liaison: Chris Sweet
     (office hours and contact info on linked page)

Required Texts:

Other Pages

Moodle — a detailed schedule, readings, assignments, announcements, and other online resources will be posted here.

Semester schedule — tentative - see the Moodle for up-to-date details.

Online References


The final grade will be based on the following breakdown:

Paper 110%
Paper 215%
Paper 320%
Paper 420%

Papers and Assignments

Writing, as a key component of the course, will comprise much of the work you will submit. There will be four formal papers and a variety of written assignments targeting different skills due throughout the semester. The details of each will be provided when it is assigned, but common considerations for all of them are described here.


* You can create PDFs from any document in OS X (instructions) or in Windows (using a free tool like DoPDF)., Google Docs, and many other word-processing applications can produce PDFs directly, as well.

Assignments will be posted on the course's Moodle site, along with their due dates, and they will be collected there as well. Any written material must be submitted as a PDF* on the Moodle, unless otherwise indicated.

Written submissions should be double-spaced, 12pt, and preferably in an attractive typeface (just don't use Comic Sans and we'll probably be fine). Include your name, paper or assignment name/number, and date on the first page. No title page is needed. Please number the pages (any word processor should be able to do this automatically).

Some set of the lowest assignment scores (not papers) will be dropped, depending on exactly how many assignments there are in the semester. Roughly 10% of the final set of assignment scores will be dropped, giving you some room for missed assignments or off days. However, it is worth completing all of them, as they will all reinforce important skills and/or be related to other, later assignments.


Papers will not be one-shot deals that are submitted in some final form and forgotten. Each will go through a process involving some combination of the creation of a thesis or prospectus; discussion with your peers or myself; peer review of a draft; conferences with me; revisions; and final submission. I will read the final submission to produce a grade for the paper, and intermediate steps may be graded as assignments. The process of slowly forming, scrutinizing, and revising your writing is both a more beneficial and a more realistic method for producing quality writing than "write, submit, and forget."

Engagement / Attendance

This is a discussion-based class, and as such, both attendance and participation are crucial for the class to have value. Furthermore, each student benefits from the engagement of all others in the class. Ten points of your final grade will be based on that engagement. Attending every class period on time and prepared will earn a base of 7 points; points can be gained by constructive participation, in class or out, such as asking questions, answering others, sharing insights or useful/interesting resources with the class (posting in the forum, for example), posting in the forum, and other ways; points can be lost for excessive (more than 3) unexcused absences*, disrupting class (e.g., regularly showing up late), dominating the conversation, and the like.

I expect everyone to come to class having read the assigned material and having thoughts or questions about it. You should always be ready to participate in and contribute to our discussion. This will usually require both reading (of course) and thinking about the assignments. A quick reading for content alone ("this is what it said") is usually not enough to make a meaningful contribution; what we want is quality (meaningful contributions) over quantity (a lot of fluff).

I know this can be difficult, but it's also one of the most important skills you can develop in this class. (It's a class in part about communication, after all.) Our class is a safe place to practice and improve these skills – perhaps the best place you will have. Organize your thoughts beforehand, it may help to write them down, and then put them out there when appropriate. The forum may be a good place to practice as well, given that it gives one more time to formulate thoughts and responses than in a face-to-face conversation.

*Absences can be excused with documentation from health services or the Dean of Students' office, or if arrangements are made with me more than a week in advance. In general, if you know you will be missing a class, let me know as soon as you do.

Late Policy

Late work will be handled on a case-by-case basis, but I will most often use the following policy and never apply harsher penalties.

All pre-scheduled conflicts, such as athletics, conferences, etc., must be disclosed well beforehand.


Any material you submit must be your own work. Further, work by others included in your own must be properly quoted, cited, or otherwise indicated. For details on the university's policies regarding academic honesty, please read the plagiarism section of the student handbook.

Plagiarized work can result in anything from an F on an assignment or paper to an F in the course and a formal report to the Associate Provost.

End-of-Syllabus Advice

Think about why you're here. This class exists for a reason. You are in this class for a reason. You are attending this college for a reason. You are in college at all for a reason. Why? Think about why you are where you are and why you're doing what you're doing at many levels. Be mindful of your answers; keep them in mind as you go. You should always have answers. If you do, they can provide valuable guidance. If you don't, it is worth looking for them or perhaps thinking about the reasons for their absence.