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As an instructor in the College of Arts & Sciences, you have a wide range of teaching and administrative responsibilities that are associated with your classes. Here you can find useful information on a range of topics that may crop up as you manage these responsibilities. Your department Chair and administrator are also valuable sources of help and guidance if you have any queries about the teaching process or related procedures.
An Academic Conduct Code establishes community-wide standards of intellectual honesty to which students’ academic work is expected to adhere. Violations of academic honesty (e.g. plagiarism, cheating on exams) are described in the code, as are possible sanctions and procedures for following up appropriately in cases of suspected misconduct. The seriousness of academic misconduct and its potential consequences requires that all such cases be handled with impeccable fairness and consistency.
To check the exact dates during a given semester for adding or dropping a student from one of your courses, see the Registrar’s calendar.
You cannot change the scheduled time of your class except under extraordinary circumstances. In the latter case, you must arrange any change with your department chair.
If you are unable to meet a scheduled class due to illness or other unavoidable circumstances, please notify your department administrator. Note that you are then responsible for scheduling and holding a make-up class.
Your class lists are available online, via the (Kerberos password-protected) Faculty Link.
These lists give you access to pictures of your students (useful for learning their names), along with academic information including what courses they have taken. This allows you to verify that each student has completed the proper prerequisites for your class.
The Boston University Classrooms website provides comprehensive classroom information for all Registrar-controlled classrooms, with emphasis on all aspects of instructional technology: Equipment, Training, and Assistance. Your department administrator can assist you with information regarding proprietary rooms (department-controlled rooms).
• If you experience difficulties with technology in a Registrar classroom, call the Classroom Technology Hotline (617-353-3227) to receive help within approximately five minutes. The hotline number and corresponding email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) are posted in every Registrar classroom.
• If a classroom emergency is related to facilities, rather than technology (e.g., you and your students are locked out), it should be reported to the Facilities Operations & Service Center at 617-353-2105 (emergency number).
• In the unlikely event of a health or safety emergency in your classroom, faculty should never hesitate to call the BU Police at 617-353-2121.
• Non-emergency problems with the physical state of your classroom (e.g., broken furniture) can also be reported by email, with copies to your department administrator and to Daryl Healea, Assistant Dean for Curriculum & Enrollment Services. In the event that there is a problem with a proprietary classroom, report the issue to your department administrator in the first instance.
• All departments will arrange for student evaluations of your course near the end of the semester. These end-of-semester evaluations are required in all CAS/GRS courses. Please ensure that you set aside adequate time for your students to complete the evaluation during the class period.
• It is also a good idea to get timely feedback from students via an informal mid-semester evaluation.
• You should normally hold a final exam during the final exam period at the day and time scheduled by the Registrar.
• The time of the final exam — as well as the room, which may not be your usual classroom — will be confirmed by your department.
• You are not allowed to hold final exams during the last week of classes or during the reading (study) period.
• Final grades must be submitted within 72 hours of the end time of your final exam (or within 48 hours of the last scheduled exam for that semester). Failure to meet this deadline may jeopardize seniors’ graduation or prevent students from completing applications for which they need up-to-date transcripts.
• Take care, especially if you are uploading grades from a spreadsheet, that names and grades are correctly matched. As the instructor of record for the course, you are responsible for the accuracy of grade reporting.
• If in an emergency you will not be able to meet the deadline for submitting your final grades, contact your department administrator immediately.
For a chart of assignable letter grades at BU, see the University Bulletin (catalog).
• Possible final grades do not include A+, D+, or D-.
• Pass/fail grading is not an option in CAS courses that carry credit toward the BA and is very rarely applicable in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
• In GRS, grades of C+ or lower are failing grades.
To ensure that your evaluation of students’ work and level of achievement is appropriately rigorous and fair, make your expectations clear at the beginning of the semester and then grade according to how well each student has met those expectations.
Grades should reflect the distribution of effort and success in the class. If your distribution of grades is skewed toward the high end, it might be either that an “A” does not require a high level of achievement in your course or that you are demanding less of your students than they are capable of achieving. Easy grading disserves all students and is unfair to those who really deserve the top grades.
• Ask your chair for guidance in aligning your grading criteria and standards with those for similar courses in your department.
• Chairs can also share data about average grades in the department and College.
• Consistency of standards is especially important across multi-section courses.
If a student for good reason could not complete the final stages of your course (e.g., missed the final exam because of illness), you and the student can enter into a contract in which you specify the work that needs to be completed and the date by which it must be handed in to you. Your department administrator or CAS Advising can assist you with the appropriate documentation.
That date must be no later than one calendar year from the end of the semester in which the course was offered. For CAS courses, “I” grades not replaced by a letter grade within one year will be changed to “F.” For GRS courses, the “I” becomes permanent after one year.
In the event that you need to change a student’s grade after the final grades have been submitted, you will need to fill out a change of grade form, which must be approved by your department chair. Please note:
• Good reasons for changing grades are limited for the most part to a) calculation errors and b) completion of assignments as specified in incomplete contracts.
• A student’s expressed “need” for a higher grade point average is not a good reason; acceding to one student’s request would be unfair to other students in the class.
• Once final grades have been submitted, students are not allowed to hand in additional work for “extra credit.” Nor can grades be changed after a student has graduated.
• In CAS courses, all changes of grades other than the “I” grade must be recorded within six months of the completion of the course; in GRS, the maximum allowable time for all grade changes is one year.
This policy provides a means for a student to contest a final grade when that grade is alleged by the student to be arbitrary. Any questions about implementation should be addressed to Steve Jarvi, Associate Dean for Student Academic Life (617-358-2738).
For actual dates in any given semester, see the Official Academic Calendar
Classes are not held on the following civil holidays when they fall within a semester:
• Labor Day (1st Monday in September)
• Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October) The next day (a Tuesday), the University typically follows a Monday class schedule.
• Martin Luther King Day (3rd Monday in January)
• Presidents’ Day (3rd Monday in February) The next day (a Tuesday), the University typically follows a Monday schedule.
• Patriots’ Day (3rd Monday in April) Two days later (a Wednesday), the University typically follows a Monday class schedule.
You must respect the rights of students to observe religious holidays.
• This means that you must allow students to make up any work (including exams) missed and that you cannot penalize students for absences because of such observances.
• The University’s official Religious Observance Policy under Massachusetts state law is posted here.
• You can use a interfaith calendar to anticipate actual dates of religious holidays in planning your syllabus.
• Contact Steve Jarvi, Associate Dean for Student Academic Life, with any questions.
• If you will yourself be absent from campus for reasons of religious observance, please be sure to notify your students and your department’s front office staff about how your class will be covered or made up later.
• You can place reading materials on reserve at the Library, using the form available here.
• You can also place videos (VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray) on reserve at the Geddes Language Center (685 Commonwealth Avenue, CAS Room 537) for students to watch outside of class or showing times.
• Additionally, you may ask the Krasker film library, located within the Mugar library, to place videos at Geddes for a period of time.
Full-time faculty are expected to hold a minimum of three offices hours per week.
• These should not all be scheduled in the same time slot (e.g., MWF 9–10), since students who have a class at that time could not attend any of your office hours.
• Post your office hours outside your office door and in your syllabus. Your department office should post them as well.
All part-time faculty in CAS are expected to hold at least one office hour per week; two–three hours may be expected, depending on your department and the course(s) you are teaching. Consult your chair or department administrator.
There is a study period — usually including two business days — between the end of classes and the start of final exams. This period is intended for the students to organize and carry out their own study for exams and work on final papers and projects; you may not hold classes, mandatory meetings of the students in the class, or exams during the study period. The Office of the Registrar has information on dates.
In the event of inclement weather, you can determine if the university is closed or if opening will be delayed by calling the BU snow hotline, 617-353-SNOW (7669). News of school closings and delayed openings is also posted on the University homepage.
Syllabi should include all of the following in a readable format:
• Your contact information (office location and office hours, phone number, email address)
• Course overview and learning objectives
• Required textbooks, including ISBN numbers and availability (e.g., for purchase at Barnes & Noble/BU, on library reserve)
• Pertinent logistics (e.g., accessing Blackboard Learn site)
• Course policies (on attendance, late work, cellphones, etc.)
• List of assignments with a short description of each and the value of each assignment as a percentage of the final grade
• Week-by-week schedule with readings and assignments incorporated
• Reference to the pertinent Academic Conduct Code.
The Center Teaching & Learning (CTL) provides sample syllabi and a checklist to help in the preparation of syllabi.
For an excellent resource on all aspects of syllabus construction, see also this slide presentation sponsored by the national Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), of which BU is a member institution.
Find comprehensive information here on how to research and adopt textbooks online through the Barnes & Noble/BU Bookstore.
You can also contact the Bookstore’s Textbook Department by phone (617-236-7740) or email to email@example.com with questions about your order.
Adopting textbooks on time (no later than mid-December for Spring, or mid-April for Fall) ensures that they will be available on the first day of class. It also helps students to plan ahead for your course and increases their access to used texts and other affordable options.
The Virginia Sapiro Academic Enhancement Fund (AEF) enables CAS faculty members to build unique learning opportunities into their undergraduate course syllabi, using historic and contemporary Boston as an extended classroom and taking advantage of the city and University as magnets for leading academics, artists, and experts. Activities and events sponsored by the AEF include class trips to cultural performances, guided visits to local exhibits and institutions, and encounters, both formal and informal, with distinguished visiting scholars. In some cases, students themselves play an active role in designing and carrying out AEF-sponsored events.
In 2014/2015, the Fund supported more than 60 events in CAS courses across a wide range of disciplines. Thanks to the AEF, students got to know the dynamics of Boston and its neighborhoods as a built environment, ethnographic case study, and literary inspiration. Guided tours keyed to course topics and assignments highlighted class visits to the Body Works exhibit, Museum of Fine Arts, Institute for Contemporary Art, Museum of African American History, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Trinity Church, and JFK’s Birthplace. Faculty and their students attended classic and first-run art films and documentaries, an evening with the Dalai Lama at TD Garden, and a number of theatrical productions, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Lucy Kirkwood’s It Felt Empty When the Heart Went at First But It Is Alright Now, to Ether Dome (in Professor Alya Guseva’s course on medical sociology). In addition to sampling cuisines they were studying, CAS classes, including connected ESL and non-ESL Writing seminars, tried their hand at preparing culturally authentic meals together.
AEF-sponsored visitors to CAS classes included prominent scholars, journalists and creative writers in several languages, a Latin American human rights advocate, a museum curator, and a comedian. The AEF also helped to defray costs of on-campus productions as well as excursions beyond Boston city limits to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and a distinguished archaeology lecture at Wellesley College, with active learning on the bus ride back to campus. In these, and all other AEF-supported events, the fund did exactly what it was designed to do: advance the goals of CAS course and add depth to the educational experiences of undergraduate students, by allowing them to take advantage of resources uniquely available through the College, their professors, and the cultural richness of the region.
The fund is administered by CAS Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives Lucy Russell and Tess Varney, academic services administrator for CAS student academic life. A simple application is available here. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The University’s Center for Teaching & Learning provides a wide range of resources that promote and support exemplary teaching and facilitate the continued professional development of faculty as teachers.
CTL-sponsored events where you can join in campus-wide conversation about teaching and learning include a “Teaching Talks” and “Teaching Tech Talks” series, as well as an annual “Instructional Innovation Conference.” Individual consultations are also available.
If you are a junior faculty member, your department will assign a senior professor to act as your formal mentor. You should expect that from Day One your mentor will proactively and continuously support your development as a successful teacher, by offering advice or referring you to other faculty in the department, helping arrange for you to observe more experienced colleagues, providing help with the design of new courses, etc., as discussed in the CAS Faculty-Staff Handbook.
Courseware. You are encouraged to set up a Blackboard Learn site for each of your courses. Blackboard Learn enables instructors to manage all course materials online, where they are immediately available to students. You can post documents (saving paper and printing costs), make announcements, send email, create online assessments, host discussion boards and blogs, and more. Click here for information about a) creating a new course site or copying a previous semester’s site, b) starting to use a course site after it has been created, and 3) attending training sessions, viewing online help material, and learning how others at BU are using Blackboard.
Boston University Learning & Event Techology Services (LETS) offers training classes for faculty and teaching fellows on basic and more advanced installed technology equipment before the start of each semester and by request throughout the academic year. For the first three weeks of the semester, in-class assistance from CTS staff is available to faculty and teaching fellows who submit a request form. That same form can be used to request supplemental technology equipment (slide projectors, microphones, etc., but not laptops) for loan and pick-up. If you experience difficulty with instructional technology during your class and need quick help, call the CTS hotline number (617-353-3227).
Arts & Sciences Information Technology makes short-term (less than a day) loans of laptops and projectors.
The Geddes Language Center offers over 5,000 audiovisual titles, in addition to audio, video, and computer labs; a/v recording studios and screening rooms; digital production services; and classroom equipment.
For students experiencing academic difficulty, early identification can be crucial to their seeking the resources and support they need to succeed in your course and overall.
• You will receive a request at mid-semester from the CAS Advising Office to complete a brief online report a) for those of your current undergraduate students whose progress the office is following, and b) for any other student you have identified as struggling in your course.
• You need not wait to be contacted by the Advising Office to alert them to your concerns. Contact the office (100 Bay State Road, 4th floor) by phone (617-353-2400) or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Peer tutoring is available free of charge to students in most 100-level and 200-level CAS courses at the Educational Resource Center (ERC). Located on the 6th floor of the Yawkey Center for Student Services at 100 Bay State Road, the ERC also offers a range of workshops on study skills and time management. Students who might benefit from these supports should be encouraged to visit the ERC website.
Boston University Student Health Services (SHS) does not generally provide medical excuses for missed classes for exams. This policy decision was made after considering a number of issues, including the following:
• Medical excuses may jeopardize a patient’s right to confidentiality, and many of the problems SHS manages are highly sensitive.
• In the past, SHS found that some students came solely for the purpose of obtaining an excuse for classes (with or without a true illness). SHS seeks to educate students on the appropriate use of health care.
• SHS supports the developmental transition into young adulthood, which includes negotiating work and school demands in the face of illness.
• On many occasions, students appropriately manage minor illnesses with self-care, without seeking medical advice, and this may include the personal decision to rest or miss class without the direct advice from SHS staff to do so.
Major Illness, Injury or Life Event
When a student is hospitalized or has suffered a major illness, injury or life event (for example, a family death affecting the mental state of the student), SHS will, when possible and with the student’s consent, assist in coordinating communication through CAS Advising with the student’s current instructors; and SHS will provide documentation when its treatment plan specifically recommends absence from class, which is rare.
About Student Health Services
Student Health Services provides medical, mental, and health education and prevention services to the Boston University student community at their main location, 881 Commonwealth Avenue. SHS also manages the Center for Sexual Assault Response and Prevention, located at 930 Commonwealth Avenue.
For students in distress, faculty members cannot do the job of trained experts in behavioral medicine. You can however be of essential assistance in ensuring that a student in crisis does not come to harm or that students get needed professional help.
See the Student Health Services Department of Behavioral Medicine website for guidance on:
• Listening and responding appropriately when a student confides distress
• Making referrals for counseling
• Recognizing signs of a serious mental health crisis
• Taking immediate and effective action when you suspect a crisis
Never hesitate to call the following emergency numbers:
Boston University Police (617-353-2121) if you believe there may be imminent danger of harm to a student or someone else
Office of Dean of Students (617-353-4126) for help in assessing the situation (8 am-6 pm)
Behavioral Medicine (617-353-3569) for psychiatric emergencies (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center (617-353-7277) for crises related to crime and interpersonal or sexual violence (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Instructors are required to provide accommodations for students with documented (learning, physical, or psychological) disabilities. Such students will have letters from Disability Services. If you find that implementing the accommodations authorized by a student’s letter poses logistical difficulties, consult with your department chair.
FERPA protects the privacy of students’ education records. Complete information on Boston University’s policies under FERPA is available here.
• Those policies prohibit BU faculty members from providing specific information regarding individual students to anyone outside the university.
• In particular, you cannot give information about grades, attendance, or other performance assessments to parents or guardians.
• You can, however, share this information with agents of the University such as CAS Advising, the Registrar, etc.
• Exceptions to FERPA rules are in place for CAS Advising and other BU offices, primarily for extraordinary circumstance requiring notification of parents. These exceptions do not generally apply to faculty members.
• If parents or others contact you directly for academic information about a student and will not take “no” for an answer, you can refer them to a FERPA liaison in the CAS dean’s office: Daryl Healea, Kerry Buglio, or Steve Jarvi.
• CAS liaisons can also answer your questions about other specific provisions and applications of FERPA at BU.