Professional and Social Contract

Instructor: Prof. Sibin Mohan, The George Washington University

Version | Aug 24, 2023

When conducting yourself in this class both, in person and online (for example, on Discord, Blackboard or Email), you must adhere to the class’ Professional and Social Contract (PSC). This social contract is optimized toward ensuring everyone can learn effectively.


  1. Don’t question motivations. By default, give everyone the benefit of the doubt that the questions they ask come from genuine curiosity. Questioning motivations tends to make a discussion turn personal quickly, which is rarely productive.
  2. Be respectful to others. Both patience and care in crafting your messages go a long way in showing each other respect. Summoning the empathy to attempt to understand the core of a question before answering it, will lead to a more productive discourse.
  3. Maintain professional behavior. Both, in class as well during other interactions. This could include not causing disturbances, talking loudly, playing music/videos without headphones, etc. (to be broadly interpreted).
  4. Use proper grammar and spelling. Don’t implicitly ask readers to put effort into deciphering your questions. Not putting time into formulating your question demotivates others to provide you an answer.
  5. Stay updated in the class discussion. Do your due diligence that you aren’t asking a question that has already been answered. If you don’t do this, it is easy to interpret a redundant question as asking someone else to lookup an answer that you should have looked up yourself. Students who don’t do this will often get a response that they need to read previous Blackboard/Discord messages. It is not reasonable to expect others to read the previous messages for you, so do your homework.
  6. Accept answers that ask you to do some work. When asking questions, you’re asking others to spend their time to help you. That’s what the instructional staff is there for, but we optimize for the best way for you to learn. Sometimes the best way to learn is not to get a simple answer, but to investigate the problem. Thus our answers might, at points, recommend that you do more work rather than answer directly.
  7. Addressing violations. If you take issue with some communication by another student or instructional staff, please talk to Sibin about it. It is not your job to police the discourse for the class. If you take issue with some communication from Sibin, and don’t want to raise the issue with him, please inform the Dept. Chair.
Why care about your conduct? First, academia should be a place for productive discourse and learning. It is important to buy into this, and contribute to that culture. Second, also realize: the way you’ll get your second, third and fourth job is through networking. The people who you know and who’ve you impressed, are the people who will go out on a limb to try and get you hired. If you look around you at your peers (in-person or digitally), this is your network. Don’t waste the opportunity to give as many people as possible the impression that if they get a fantastic job, they should work hard to get you hired. Burning bridges serves only to constrain your opportunities and future potential.