Frequently Asked Questions: Teaching and Working with Students
Q1.How do I handle student requests to drop or add my course?
A. Although there is no formal “shopping period,” Vassar students have two
weeks from the start of the semester to add full-semester courses, and six weeks to drop them. To add your course, a student will need to submit an add slip to the Registrar with your signature and their advisor’s signature — even if that student is on the waitlist.
Students are responsible for the work they have missed if they add your course after the beginning of classes. To drop your course, a student only needs an advisor’s signature. Students who wish to add or drop your course after these deadlines will need permission from their advisor or the Dean of Studies office. You can check the enrollments in your course on the Ask Banner part of the Vassar website (https://secure3.vassar.edu/askbanner/advfac_log.html).
If you feel that adding your course after the first week would put a student behind in his or her work, you have the right to say so. You also can turn away a student who would increase the size of the course beyond the limit set by you and your department. Freshman Writing Seminars are capped at 17 students, and you are required by faculty legislation to keep these courses from over-enrolling. If you have any questions about dropping or adding, contact the Dean of Studies office (x5255 firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Registrar (x5270 email@example.com).
Q2. What do I do if a student does not come to class, falls asleep or seems unprepared in class, is doing substandard work, or is acting inappropriately in class?
A: Any behavior that seems strange to you, or raises red flags, is a good reason to contact the Dean of Studies office immediately (x5525 firstname.lastname@example.org). If a student misses the first two class meetings without a reasonable excuse, you may contact the Registrar to have that student dropped from the class; but if the semester is underway, and a student is absent for more than one or two class meetings. please consult with the Dean of Studies office. If a student is falling asleep in class, seems unprepared, or is acting in other inappropriate ways, you should contact the Dean of Studies office; you may also want to contact the Dean of Students, D.B. Brown (x5315 email@example.com), especially if you notice a change in behavior and not just academic performance.
Q3.What do I do if a student approaches me about a learning disability, medical problem, or psychological issue?
A. There are diverse offices on campus that can address a student who has needs beyond those that a professor should handle him or herself:
• If a student discloses a learning disability to you, and if you want to talk with someone about teaching such a student, academic coaching, or legal accommodations, contact the Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity
(x7584 accessibilityandeducationalopportunity.vassar.edu/. ) • If a student has a medical problem, you should refer him or her to the Vassar
College Health Service (healthservice.vassar.edu/), and notify the Dean of Studies office.
• If a student is experiencing behavioral or emotional problems, you might want to refer him or her to Counseling Services (counselingservice.vassar.edu/); you can call on behalf of the student or encourage the student to go. For help in making a referral in a sensitive, effective manner, please see the brochure A Guide to Making a Referral (counselingservice.vassar.edu/assets/pdfs/referral-guide.pdf).
• You can also contact the Dean of Students, David B. Brown (x5315 firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q4.What do I do if a student’s behavior leads me to suspect they may be depressed, suicidal, or dangerous to themselves or others?
A. Contact the Dean of Students (x5315 email@example.com) and the Dean of Studies Office (x5255 firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible. In extreme situations, or when a student might become a harm to himself or others in your classroom, you can contact the Security Office (security.vassar.edu/) and/or the Dean of Students, who will put you in contact with Security and also notify the other offices that can help manage student crises.
Q5.What do I do if I suspect academic dishonesty?
A. The Dean of Studies Office has a protocol for investigating and pursuing breaches of academic integrity. A joint student-faculty committee, the Academic Panel, chaired by the Dean of Studies, considers and adjudicates cases of suspected academic dishonesty. If you believe a student is guilty of an act of dishonesty, such as plagiarism, you should consult the Dean of Studies (x5255 email@example.com). Your department chair may also have suggestions on how to proceed. It is of the utmost importance that faculty members call suspected offenders to the attention of the dean or chair AND NOT DEAL WITH THE CASE THEMSELVES.
Q6.Where can I receive help on developing my courses and suggestions on effective teaching?
A. The Learning, Teaching, and Research Center is a unique office that supports student learning AND faculty teaching. The officers of faculty development – the Faculty Directors of Teaching and Research Development – work in concert with the Director of the LTRC and the Dean of Faculty’s Office to provide help in course development, effective teaching, integration of teaching and research, and other pedagogical concerns, as well as aiding faculty in achieving their personal best in terms of research and productivity.
Q7.Where can I receive training and support for the use of instructional technology and course Web sites?
A. The office of Academic Computing Services (computing.vassar.edu/faculty/) employs academic technologists, trained in pedagogy, who can help you match your learning goals with appropriate instructional technologies. They can also co-create websites and other digital publishing platforms. Vassar also uses
Moodle, a digital course management system similar to Blackboard, that is available for every course. Contact ACS for more information, or visit the Moodle website (moodle.vassar.edu/).
Q8.What is College policy regarding student and faculty religious observance and possible conflicts with course obligations?
A. As stated in the Faculty Handbook, instructors are asked to take note of significant religious holy days so that examinations or major assignments do not fall on those days. Students should be told at the beginning of each term that although classes may be conducted on these days, absence for reasons of religious observance is excused, provided students notify their instructors in advance and arrange to make up any missed work. If faculty choose not to teach on any holy day, they must notify their chair and their students at the beginning of the term, and make necessary arrangements for course coverage or make-up sessions.
Q9.What is College policy regarding student athletes and possible conflicts with regular class meeting times?
A. To the degree possible, competitive athletics events—games, meets, tournaments etc. —are scheduled for times that 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,
provided students give ample advance notice. Encourage them to let you know about sports-related conflicts at the beginning of the semester.
Q10.If I want students to attend an event in the evening or on the weekend, can I require it?
A. Many courses at Vassar require additional field work and an occasional trip on the weekends; as long as you state clearly on the syllabus and on the first day of the term that this is a requirement of the course, you can normally expect students to participate. If a student cannot attend for various reasons – health, finances, a competing commitment – you can and should consult with the student and the appropriate Class Dean in the Dean of Studies office.
Q11.What are the College’s grading system and standards?
A. The definition of the letter grades is in the Vassar College Catalogue
(catalogue.vassar.edu/academic-information/degrees-and-courses-of-study/evaluation-of-work/letter- grades.html). Details on a variation of pass/fail grading, designed to encourage students to explore courses outside their comfort zones (the Non-Recorded Option or NRO) is also explained
in the Catalogue (catalogue.vassar.edu/academic-information/degrees-and-courses-of-study/non- recorded-option.html).
Like most institutions, Vassar has seen grade inflation over the past thirty years. A number of faculty are discussing the impact of this trend and possible steps in response. Faculty interested in a detailed breakdown of grades by department and course level can obtain the biennial grade report sent to the faculty by the Registrar’s Office.
Q12.When and how are course evaluations administered?
A. Instructors hand out a standard course evaluation in each course at the end of
the semester. These are then turned over to the Registrar, and the results are sent to the faculty after the grades have been turned in for that semester.
Q13.How do I gain access to the room where I teach and to the technology housed there?
A. Most classroom buildings and classrooms are open and unlocked during business
hours; in some cases, classrooms might be locked if they house particular equipment, or if the building is used after hours. In that case, your department administrative assistant should be able to help you secure a key. Many if not most of the classrooms are “smart” classrooms, outfitted with a “smart” panel that includes a DVD and video player, hook-ups for laptops, and a mini- computer and keyboard, as well as projectors. These are usually unlocked.
Q14.Where can I find funding and logistical support for course-related field trips or guest speakers from off campus?
A. Your department chair is a great place to start; many departments have a designated committee that makes decisions about annual speaking events or field trips. The Dean of Faculty Office and the Dean of the College can also help with securing funding for off-campus guest speakers, and the Dean of the College and Dean of Studies offices have information on off-setting the costs for students going on course-related field trips.
Q15.How do I get help with library-related course projects or instruction for my students?
A. The Library Research Services team is happy to help in planning your course
around any research materials; they can also help you in creating interesting assignments and projects that make use of library collections or the enormous databases accessible through Vassar libraries. Contact Deb Bucher, head of Library Research Services (x 5763, library.vassar.edu/services/facultyservices/instruction.html), for more details on customizing library instruction for your course.
Q16.Whom do I contact when my computer acts up or the instructional technology equipment or software dies in my classroom?
A. Vassar Computing, the Computer Store, and Media Resources can offer help with computer tech support (x7224 computing.vassar.edu/). If classroom technology malfunctions, or if you have trouble opening or accessing the technology, you can contact your department assistant or Media Services (x7479) and someone will come to the classroom to assist you.
Q17.What funding is available to support summer student/faculty research?
A. Many funding opportunities are available for both students and faculty in the
summer. In the sciences, the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute provides students the chance to work with small groups in labs with faculty conducting original research; the Ford Scholars Summer Program affords students in the humanities and social sciences a chance to act as apprentices or colleagues in summer research. For more information, see the Faculty Director of Research Development, Christopher G. White (x7836 firstname.lastname@example.org), or contact the Grants Office (grants.vassar.edu).
Q18.What do I do when students ask me to be their advisor?
A. Advising at Vassar comes in several stripes. All full-time faculty after their first
year are expected to serve as a pre-major advisor, supporting new students up until the point at which they select a major. This program is coordinated through the Dean of Freshmen’s office. In your department, you can act as a major advisor, advising students on coursework and trajectories within the major (and beyond). Or, you might act as a thesis or special projects advisor, helping see a student through a capstone project in his or her senior year. Advising can be a very rewarding experience and a chance to help shape a student’s experience at Vassar. If you feel that you are advising a large number of students, talk with your chairperson about managing advising responsibilities and how to direct students to other potential advisors.