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III. Conduct of Classes

Instructors are expected to provide a written syllabus at the first meeting of each class. Dates for examinations, papers, and other required work, grading policies, and office hours should be specified. Planned faculty absences from a scheduled class must be approved by the department chair and arrangements made to cover the class whenever possible. Missed classes must ordinarily be rescheduled, but in such a case attendance cannot be required. Longer absences (more than two days) must be approved by the dean of the faculty. It is particularly important that instructors be present at the first and last meetings of a class and during study week and final examinations.

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A. Drop/Add and Late Change of Elections

Students pre-register for classes at the end of the preceding semester or during the summer.  The first two weeks of classes is an add period during which students may add new courses.  Add forms require an adviser’s signature and election of a new course requires the signature of the instructor.  Students are responsible for work they may have missed if they join the class late.

After the first two weeks of the term, no additional elections may be made except with the permission of the instructor and the dean of studies or the appropriate class adviser in the dean’s office.

A student may drop a course during the first six weeks of classes, but only if still enrolled for a minimum of 3.5 units.  Abandoning a course after the sixth week will result in a failing grade, unless permission is given by the dean of studies or the appropriate class adviser in the dean’s office to withdraw without penalty for reasons of health or other serious emergency.


B. Scheduling of Classes

The schedule of classes is administered by the Registrar. No change may be made in the regular schedule of a course except as arranged through the Registrar.  Attendance at extra or unscheduled class meetings and at review or drill sessions must be entirely optional. Changes in class location must also be arranged through the Registrar. Classes cannot be scheduled on Saturdays or Sundays.   


C. Class Attendance

Vassar does not have a system of specified “cuts” or automatic penalties for poor class attendance, though individual instructors or departments may adopt such a policy.  The student bears the full responsibility for class attendance, for completing work on schedule, and, if allowed, for making up work missed because of absence.

Members of the faculty must explain to their classes at the first meeting of each course their expectations as to attendance and the place of attendance and class participation in the method of instruction and in final evaluation.  This information should appear on the course syllabus.

Instructors are not expected to take class attendance.  However, a faculty member who is aware of a student’s absence from class for a period of a week or more should notify the Office of the Dean of Studies or the Dean of First-Year Students.  These offices will furnish information to faculty members about students who are absent from college or who have prolonged illness when this information is available.  Departments will receive notices regarding students who are prevented from attending classes for extended periods because of illness or other emergency.  Faculty are expected to make appropriate allowances for excused absences, including observance of religious holy days.

At the beginning of a semester, students who have failed to attend the first two scheduled meetings of a class without a reasonable excuse may be dropped from the class by the instructor upon notification to the Registrar.  Subsequently, instructors may, with the approval of the dean of studies, refuse a student who has cut frequently without a reasonable excuse the opportunity to make up work or to take the final examination, or may exclude the student from the course.  In such cases, students are not to be graded according to the work they have completed, but have, in effect, failed the course.


D. Written Work and Indication of Academic Status

Students in introductory and intermediate level courses should have submitted and have had returned to them some written work and should receive some indication of academic progress by the mid-point of the semester.  This is particularly important in view of the deadline for the drop period and NRO election and should occur before that date (usually at the end of the sixth week of classes). 

All written work except “Final Exercises” should be due no later than the end of the study period.  This includes “term papers” and other longer comprehensive course projects.  Exceptions to this rule are by approval of the dean of studies.


E. Office Hours

It is college policy that office hours of faculty members must be posted, and must be given to the department or program secretary.  Scheduled hours when faculty members are regularly available to students are important at all times during the year, but especially necessary during the advising season and during the study and examination periods at the end of term.  Faculty have an obligation to be available to meet the reasonable needs of students to discuss course material and performance.


F. Conferences

Instructors are requested to confer with freshmen before Thanksgiving and spring vacation, as well as with all other students whose work is unsatisfactory.  The purpose of faculty conferences is to point up ways of improving study habits and approach to the subject rather than to tutor the students.


G.Course Evaluations

Course Evaluations must be administered by the end of the course. For best practices, instructors should refer to the evaluation instructions. Students be given sufficient time to complete the forms, and the instructor should not be present in the classroom. Instructors should avoid the appearance of improperly influencing student responses.

If the instructor of a course has missed fewer than 25% of course meetings, evaluations will be administered. If an instructor has missed 25% of course meetings or more because of parental, FMLA, health or other official leaves, as approved by the required channels (usually the Dean of the Faculty), evaluations will not be administered unless the faculty member requests otherwise. Substituting instructors will not receive evaluations unless they have taught at least half of the course and have requested evaluations to be administered. A request for evaluation by a substituting instructor must be given to the Chair or Director (at least two weeks prior to the final class meeting. Any irregularities may be addressed in the narrative teaching statement submitted as part of the faculty member’s review materials.


H. Tutoring

Faculty members may not tutor a member of the student body for pay during the academic year and academic interns may not tutor in work in which they examine.  Faculty members may not tutor for pay during the summer vacation if the instruction is in work which they will later examine.


I. Field Trips and Observation Trips

Observation trips to factories, museums and elsewhere are sometimes planned in connection with courses.  So far as possible, trips are arranged to avoid conflicting with scheduled classes.  If it is necessary to plan such trips at times which involve conflicts with scheduled classes, students with conflicts are not required to take the trip; if they do so, they are expected to secure permission from the instructor of any regularly scheduled class which will be missed.  Instructors are under no obligation to grant such permission.

Instructors who would like financial assistance with such trips may apply for funds with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.


J. Participation in Athletics Events

To the degree possible, competitive athletics events—games, meets, tournaments etc. —are scheduled for times which do not conflict with classes.  Given the complexities of scheduling and the distances involved, however, it is not always possible to avoid conflicts.  The Athletics Director has established the policy that students’ academic appointments and commitments are their first priority.  In some instances, however, students may seek permission to rearrange an academic commitment to allow participation in a scheduled athletics event.  Faculty members are asked to accommodate such requests if possible.


K Submission of Papers

From time to time, excuses are given or misunderstandings arise because of the loss of reports, papers or other written work in the unstamped mail or through other informal arrangements. Instructors should make it clear to students that written work is not to be sent through the unstamped mail but must be delivered in person. It is the instructor’s responsibility to be specific about time and place of delivery and to be on hand to receive papers and check them in or to have departmental secretaries or assistants specifically authorized to do so. Course work may not be turned in at Message Center.


L. Integrity of Academic Work: Plagiarism

In the Student Handbook students are told that, in signing the matriculation pledge, they assume the responsibility for the integrity of their academic work.  Entering students are given the pamphlet Going to the Source which contains detailed discussions of the requirements of academic honesty.  It is recommended that instructors of freshmen and other first-year courses review the standards of attribution with their students in class. 

At Vassar a joint faculty-student committee, the Academic Panel, chaired by the dean of studies, hears cases of suspected academic dishonesty.  Any instructor who, on the basis of evidence, believes a student is guilty of an act of academic dishonesty must consult the dean of studies, who will summon the panel when, in the dean’s estimation, the evidence is such that a case should be tried.  It is of the utmost importance that faculty members call suspected offenders to the attention of the dean of studies and not deal with them themselves.  They do not have the authority to do so.  The faculty has established the Academic Panel (consisting of both student and faculty members) to deal evenly with academic offenses, and published due process is interfered with when faculty members do not take the responsibility of promptly reporting cases to the dean of studies.

The procedures of the Academic Panel are as follows:  The faculty member making the complaint shall prepare a written statement of the charge and shall give the dean of studies all relevant material.  The dean shall confer with the student and inform them of the charge, of the time and place of the panel meeting, and of the procedures followed by the panel.  The student may request to be accompanied by a member of the college community.  The members of the panel shall be notified in advance of the identity of the student involved, and any panel member who feels incapable of giving the case unprejudiced consideration may ask to be excused.  At the beginning of the hearing, the chair shall read the written charge to the defendant and the panel.  The defendant shall plead guilty or not guilty and shall have the opportunity to make a statement and to explain any mitigating circumstances.  The panel shall have an opportunity to question both the defendant and the faculty member who made the allegation, after which the panel shall determine by majority vote whether it considers the defendant guilty, and if so, what penalty to impose.  The chair shall vote to break a tie only on matters of penalties for students found guilty by the Academic Panel.  Restrictions governing penalties are provided in the Student Handbook under “The Regulations of Vassar College”, Part A, Section I.D.