Instructors’ Guide

As a faculty or other instructor, 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’s chair and administrator are also valuable sources of help and guidance if you have any queries about the teaching process or related procedures.

Academic Conduct

  • Refer to the Arts & Sciences Academic Conduct Code
  • Make sure that your expectations regarding independent or collaborative effort are stated in the syllabus and in class when you assign the work or hand out the exam. The students should recognize your concern about their academic integrity and that of their fellow students.
  • Design assignments and exams such that cheating is difficult.
  • Detect plagiarism through simple Google searches or through a subscription web service that will check the originality of papers submitted electronically. The Center for Excellence in Teaching has more information on plagiarism detection.
  • In the event of a suspected case of academic misconduct:
    • Contact Dean Jarvi (Room CAS 102, 8-2739) if you need advice on how to prepare for your talk with the student(s) involved.
    • Confront (in private, not in front of the class!) the student(s) involved, calmly presenting the evidence, listening to the student(s), and stating (unless the student has convinced you that your suspicions were mistaken) that you will refer the case to the Dean’s Office and that a hearing will probably follow.
    • Keep originals of all evidence, which you will pass on to Dean Jarvi.
    • Report the incident and present the evidence formally to Dean Jarvi.
    • You and the student(s) will appear before a College academic conduct committee, composed of faculty and students, if Dean Jarvi decides that the evidence warrants such an action.
    • Based on the recommendation of the committee, the Dean of CAS will determine the sanctions if the student is found guilty; these range from probation to suspension or expulsion from the University.

Adding/Dropping a Student

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.

  • The last day for a student to add your course is two weeks after the semester begins. The student must obtain your signature in order to add the course, and you must ascertain that there is an available seat (according to the official Registrar’s class list available on the Faculty Link.
  • The last day to drop a class “freely” is at the end of the fifth week of the semester. If a student drops your course after this date, a mark of “W” (withdrawal) will appear on the student’s transcript. The instructor’s signature is not required for a student to drop a course.
  • The last day to drop with a “W” mark is at the end of the eighth week of the semester. On the final grade sheet printed by the Office of the Registrar, a printed “W” will appear in the grade column for students who dropped the course between the start of the sixth and end of the eighth week of the semester. You, as the instructor, must assign an academic letter grade to all other students. (I.e., instructors may not enter a mark of “W.”)

Class Management

Times of Class Meetings

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, who needs to gain the approval of the Dean’s Office.

Duration of a Class

You are expected to use your full class time, less 10 minutes at the end to allow for the students to change classes. E.g., a class listed at 10–11 is actually taught 10:00–10:50. Your class runs from the first scheduled day and ends on the last scheduled day (see Registrar’s calendar). Late start or early end dates are not allowed.


You are expected to take attendance; for large classes, a sign-up sheet requiring a verifiable signature is helpful. Include in the syllabus of the course your policy concerning missed or late work. It is a good idea to reiterate this policy a few times during the semester. If a student has missed several of your classes, inform Kerry Buglio in the CAS Academic Advising Center (3-2400).

Classroom Maintenance

If you encounter any problems with the physical state of your classroom (broken projector screens, malfunctioning electrical outlets, problems with chairs or desks), ask your departmental administrator to notify the Schedules Department at the Registrar’s Office (3-3621).


All departments will arrange for student evaluations of your course near the end of the semester; it is a good idea to get feedback from students via a mid-semester (e.g., one month after the start), informal evaluation.

Final Exam

You should normally hold a final exam at the day and time as scheduled by the Registrar. The time of the final exam (as well as the room—it may not be your usual classroom) will be confirmed near mid-semester by your department. You are not allowed to hold final exams during the last week of classes or during the reading period.


Avoid grade inflation. Grades should reflect the distribution of effort and success in the class. In undergraduate courses, a useful (unofficial) guideline is that an “A” should mean that the student mastered the material and produced excellent work, “B” that the student understood the material but did not master it or whose work was good but not superior, “C” that there were significant gaps in understanding/accomplishment or that the work was lackluster (“satisfactory” is the term used in the Undergraduate Bulletin), “D” (“low pass”) that there was limited understanding/accomplishment or effort, and “F” that there was little understanding/accomplishment or effort. If your distribution of grades is skewed toward the high end, it might imply that either an “A” does not require a high level of achievement in the course or you are demanding too little of your students. “High end” is a median grade of “B” or higher for a 100 to 200 level undergraduate course. A median grade of “B” is common for upper-level undergraduate courses. (In graduate courses “C+” is a failing grade, hence the average grade is higher than in undergraduate courses.)

If a student for good reason could not complete the last 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. That date must be no later than one calendar year from the end of the semester in which the course was offered. An incomplete grade form, available through your departmental administrator, must be submitted with your grade sheet for the course for each “I” grade that you issue.


Civil Holidays

For actual dates in any given semester, see the Official Academic Calendar.

  • Martin Luther King Day (3rd Monday in January): no classes
  • Presidents’ Day (3rd Monday in February): no classes; the next day (a Tuesday), the University follows a Monday class schedule
  • Patriots’ Day (3rd Monday in April): no classes; two days later (a Wednesday), the University follows a Monday class schedule

Religious Holidays

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. It does not mean that you need to repeat a lecture, however. Contact Dean Jarvi (8-2739) if you have any questions on this.

Library Materials

You can place reading materials on reserve at the library. Call 3-3739 if you did not already receive and fill out the form. You can place videos, DVDs, and CDs on reserve at the Geddes Language Center; call 617-353-2640 for more information.

Office Hours

You are expected to hold a minimum of three office hours per week. These should not 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.

Reading Period

There is a study period—usually two business days—between the end of classes and the start of final exams. This period is intended for study by the students; you are not to hold classes, mandatory meetings of the students in the class, or exams during the reading period. The Office of the Registrar has information on dates.

Student Medical Excuses

Boston University Student Health Services (SHS) does not generally provide medical excuses for missed classes or 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.

SHS understands that it is appropriate and important for students and faculty to directly discuss and resolve academic problems resulting from student illness. This approach is standard in college health practice and is consistent with the practices of BU’s regional and national university peers.

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 with the student’s school or college. SHS will provide documentation when its treatment plan specifically recommends absence from class, which is rare.

About Student Health Services

Student Health Services is dedicated to providing high quality medical, mental,  and athletic health training, and health education and prevention services to the Boston University student community.  Please visit SHS online at or in person at their main location, 881 Commonwealth Avenue.  SHS also manages the new Center for Sexual Assault Response and Prevention, located at 930 Commonwealth Avenue.

Students with Disabilities

Instructors are required to accommodate students with documented disabilities; such students will have letters from Disability Services. If you have difficulty in accommodating them, consult with your department chair.


Syllabi should include overview and philosophy of the course, logistical information, description of how grades will be determined, and a statement on academic conduct. The Center for Excellence in Teaching provides sample syllabi and a checklist to help in the preparation of syllabi. If you should find that your current syllabus omits something, pass out an addendum in class.


The Center for Excellence in Teaching provides information on how to order textbooks online, custom-publish a textbook, or have a course packet distributed. It is a good idea to ascertain whether the texts for your courses are available at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore before your first class. Call 617-236-7740 to check.

Teaching Resources

The Center for Excellence & Innovation in Teaching (CET)

The University’s Center for Excellence & Innovation in Teaching provides a wide range of resources that promote and support exemplary teaching and facilitate the continued professional development of faculty as teachers.

There you can obtain guidance on topics such as teaching preparation, technology in the classroom, and effective instructional strategies. It can help you with your teaching via various resources such as teaching tips for engaging students informal class visits and critiques, video-taping of your class for your review, workshops, and other mechanisms.

Mentoring and Other Advice

If you are an untenured faculty member, your department is expected to assign a senior professor to act as your teaching mentor. Your mentor should visit your classes (and you should visit his or hers).

Feel free to consult with Associate Dean for Faculty Peter Doeringer (3-2404) for advice on teaching or to discuss issues related to your career as a faculty member.

Technical Support for Teaching

  • The Boston University Media Group (3-3227) will deliver slide projectors, computer display projects, VCRs or DVD players, monitors, etc., to your classroom upon request, which should be made as early as possible, and at least 24 hours in advance.
  • The CAS Computing Services Group (3-5930) will lend computers and projectors upon request.
  • The Geddes Language Center (3-2640) offers over 5,000 audiovisual titles, audio, video and computer labs, a/v recording studios, digital production services, and classroom equipment. Reservations for film, equipment, and rooms may be made online, by phone, or in person.
  • For information and resources on enhancing your communications with students through technologies such as instant messaging, mailing lists, personal response systems, and blogs, as well as using course management software and other online teaching tools, see the CET’s Using Technology pages.