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Chapter 3
Faculty Responsibilities

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As a teaching-intensive institution at the undergraduate level, Tufts University expects full-time faculty members to fulfill a primary responsibility to their students and their courses. This responsibility includes holding office hours and attending departmental meetings.

Faculty members are expected to create a respectful teaching environment. Faculty members are also expected to attend every class period scheduled per course. With the approval of the department chair, faculty may make substitute provisions for an anticipated absence from class to attend professional meetings or for equally important professional reasons. Absences from class should be made known to the department chair and the students as promptly as possible, and faculty members who intend to be absent must make every effort to provide satisfactory alternative arrangements. If a faculty member plans to miss more than two consecutive classes or more than three total classes in a semester, he/she must request permission in writing from the department chair or program director and the relevant dean. Repeated absences may constitute a conflict of commitment. (See Examples of Outside Professional Activities.)

Consult the appendix and the website of the Division of Undergraduate and Graduate Students for student policies and procedures regarding academic matters.

In the graduate programs, teaching is equally rigorous but takes on additional dimensions. Effective mentoring is crucial for graduate students. Faculty mentors must commit to dedicating substantial time to graduate students to ensure their academic and professional development. A relationship of mutual trust and respect should be established between mentors and graduate students to foster healthy interactions and encourage individual growth. In addition, working with graduate students as teaching assistants is a valued part of graduate student training.

The Syllabus

At the beginning of each term, faculty members are expected to distribute to their students a detailed syllabus, indicating required course work, examinations, readings, office hours, and other expectations, including learning objectives. As a general guideline, undergraduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences are expected to spend at least two hours of work outside the classroom for every hour of in-class instruction. Faculty members should adhere to the syllabus as closely as possible and to the standards for grading that are established; deviations from the syllabus should be discussed with the department chair and explained to students, and should occur only when pedagogically appropriate.

Office Hours

In an institution such as Tufts that values teaching, a faculty member's regular presence on campus and accessibility to students are important. Faculty office hours should be posted on the office door and the department's website. Provision for three hours per week is recommended, although faculty teaching large courses may wish to offer more office time. Full-time lecturers in the School of Arts and Sciences are required to hold office hours for at least two hours per week. Additional office hours may be necessary at registration, at the beginning and end of the semester, and at the time of important examinations, when students need more time for consultation.

Student Attendance in Class

While formal attendance records for students are not required, faculty members are asked to report excessive absences to the appropriate associate dean of undergraduate education. In the case of graduate students, faculty members should contact the associate dean of graduate education in the School of Engineering or the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as appropriate. Absence from more than three class hours is normally deemed excessive. In the case of deficiencies arising from absences, the instructor must determine both the reasonableness of the circumstances and the need for special work to remove the deficiencies. A faculty member should require documentation for extended absence or absence from an examination.

Student Withdrawals from Courses

Students may drop a course without record of enrollment during the "drop" period in the first few weeks of the semester. After that date, they may withdraw from the course through the last day of classes, but the course will appear on the transcript with a noncredit mark of W. (This mark will appear automatically; professors do not need to enter this on the grading sheet.) Students are responsible for dropping or withdrawing from a course by the deadlines established by the registrar; professors may not grant permission to the student to override the deadline.

Student Evaluation of Courses

Student course evaluations are intended to help improve the quality of teaching. They are considered in decisions regarding tenure and promotion, in contract renewals, and in annual faculty salary reviews. The Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering has approved a uniform course evaluation form for use in all courses.

The department chair should discuss course evaluations with faculty members to improve teaching techniques and effectiveness.

Faculty members may ask additional questions or solicit open comments using the first page of that form. In order to obtain a maximal response, the Educational Policy Committee strongly recommends having students fill out the evaluation during class time. The instructor must leave the classroom for a reasonable length of time while the students are completing the forms. In the event that a course includes multiple instructors, a separate form should be used for each instructor, with the proviso that students only fill out Section A of the quantitative portion of the evaluation. One student or a number of students (depending on class size) should be asked to distribute and collect the forms, which should then be placed in an envelope and sealed. The instructor should not handle the envelope. All evaluation forms should be returned by the student(s) to the department for processing, tabulation, and retention in a secured area. Forms should not be returned to the instructor until after the final grading period. It is important for students to be reassured that instructors do not see these forms until after the grading period.

Departments are encouraged to maintain forms in a secure archive, since these are confidential records. The registrar's office also keeps the quantitative summaries on file. By vote of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, the registrar provides the TCU Senate with each course's aggregate statistics to be publicized on the senate's website (unless a department specifically elects not to have its course evaluations passed along to the senate).

Reading Period and Final Examinations

The reading period set by the university for preparing for final examinations may not be used to give examinations or hold extra class meetings (other than voluntary study sessions). A thesis defense may take place during the reading period. Faculty should adhere to the schedule of final examinations prepared by the registrar. A faculty member may offer an earlier or later examination if students do not have the opportunity to take the examination at the originally scheduled time.


In courses for which faculty members have responsibility, they also have primary responsibility for proctoring and grading examinations. Faculty members are accountable for reviewing all grading done by assistants. Staff members should not proctor exams.

Faculty should accommodate students who miss an examination for legitimate reasons (e.g., illness or death in the family). Generally, students are expected to inform the instructor of an impending absence before the examination and to supply documentation for an extended absence due to illness. The instructor fixes the time, place, and conditions of a special or makeup examination and informs the student of the details.

It is the university's policy for students with documented disabilities to receive specific accommodations on examinations. These students must supply a letter of support from the program director of disability services well in advance of the examination. The director, after reviewing documentation from a qualified professional, may prescribe extended time on tests, a distraction-free testing environment, or some other accommodation. Faculty members may not make individual accommodation arrangements with students who have not provided documentation of their disability via the Office of Student Accessibility Services. More information is available here.

Grading Policies

University policy states grades in any course are based on all evidence available to the instructor. Such evidence includes a final examination unless the instructor decides other evidence may appropriately be substituted. To maximize the educational character of grading, faculty members should provide written or oral comments on papers and examinations, indicating problems and areas of improvement, and return these materials to students in a timely fashion (normally, within two weeks of the final examination).

Effective education requires timely, objective evaluation of students' academic work, using clear, standard, fair, and public criteria. Such standards should be listed in the syllabus. While criteria differ across disciplines and faculty members, the ultimate responsibility for setting standards and evaluating performance rests with departments and individual faculty members. Submitted grades are final and not subject to negotiation. Exceptions should be limited to correcting clerical and calculation errors, and correcting deviations from stated criteria. Of course, students do have the right to know the basis for a grade and faculty should be open to that post-semester conversation. Following such conversation, undergraduates who believe an error or deviation remains can appeal to the department chair and if necessary, subsequently to the dean of academic advising and undergraduate studies. Graduate students may appeal to the department chair and then to the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences or to the associate dean for graduate education in the School of Engineering. Policies regarding grading and changes for both undergraduate and graduate students are described in the Arts, Sciences and Engineering Bulletin.

All final grades must be entered online by the date listed in the academic calendar for each term. Please note that grades for all degree candidates must be submitted within forty-eight hours of the final exam. This is necessary so that degrees may be certified in the very limited time between final examinations and the faculty vote on honors and degrees. Grades for degree candidates with no final should be submitted by the first official day of exams. (Please refer to the academic calendar for specific dates.) Grades for nongraduating students must also be submitted promptly so that academic standing and financial aid decisions may be made shortly after the end of the term.

Grades are submitted through SIS. It is the responsibility of faculty members to submit grades for each of their courses. Department chairs can submit grades if a faculty member is unable to do so for any reason. All faculty members must have access to SIS Online and be linked to the courses they are teaching. It is important for departments to submit the course listings to the registrar's office with the name of the instructor teaching the course. Application for SIS Online access can be found here. This form is to be completed by any new faculty member or teaching assistant and sent to Dowling Hall. A grade must be entered for every student on the class list.


The standing of the student in each subject is expressed by one of the following letters.

  • A. Superior work.
  • B. Meritorious work.
  • C. Work without marked merit or defect.
  • D. Unsatisfactory work but allowable for credit, subject to the restrictions specified under the requirements for graduation. Some departments disallow credit toward the concentration requirement.
  • P. Passing work (D- or better) for courses taken under the pass-fail option, and for selected courses offered only pass-fail by departments. Grade point average is not affected. Students may select this option without the faculty member's knowledge.
  • F. Failure; no credit is received. A grade of F is included in the grade point average.
  • NG.No grade since the instructor has no current knowledge of the student and no basis for assessing work not submitted.
  • NR.No record of student ever attending class.
  • Y. Year-long course.
  • I. Incomplete (faculty member must submit to the registrar's office a completed form, including a default grade, for each grade of "incomplete").
  • W. Withdrawn; an indication that a student has been permitted to withdraw from a course after the fifth week of a semester, but no later than the last day of classes.

In computing a grade average, each course grade of A counts as 4.00; B, 3.00; C, 2.00; D, 1.00. Appropriate value is given to plus and minus grades and to half-credit courses. Averages are computed to three decimal places, and semester and cumulative averages are rounded to two decimal places. Since changes cannot be made after graduation, seniors are urged to rectify any errors on their transcripts well before that date.

Student Academic Dishonesty

Tufts undergraduate students and graduate students are subject to a policy on academic integrity. Faculty members who encounter evidence of academic dishonesty must report it to the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. Please use the online reporting form to report your concern. This academic integrity policy assures consistency in the treatment of academic dishonesty and allows the institution to identify repeat offenders. The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs works with the faculty member in applying university and departmental policies and can assist in determining an appropriate academic outcome. Please review the Student Judicial Process for information about the grading and disciplinary guidelines for academic integrity violations for undergraduate and graduate students.

Once accused of academic dishonesty, a student may not withdraw from a class. A student accused of or found responsible for academic dishonesty has the right to continue in the course, regardless of the grading consequence. The Student Judicial Process allows for appeals of the disciplinary consequence on the basis of inconsistency, new evidence, or denial of fair process. There is no appeal of grading consequences.

Privacy of Student Academic Records

Federal law (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA) requires that Tufts University be particularly vigilant in protecting the privacy of student records. The Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering determined by vote in spring 2008 that only the following personnel shall have access to the transcripts and educational records of the following groups of students to carry out the necessary academic responsibilities of advising, monitoring, and promoting student progress.

  • Deans shall have access to the academic records of all students.
  • Advisers shall have access to information regarding their advisees.
  • Department chairs and program directors shall have access to the academic records of students in the majors they oversee.
  • Appropriate departmental or program staff as designated by a chair or program director shall have access to the transcripts and educational records of students in the majors they serve.

Faculty members should be respectful of the privacy rights of their students. Paper transcripts should not be left in public spaces. When no longer of use, they should be disposed of properly (that is, filed or shredded by nonstudents). Faculty members should never request and consult a transcript in the process of assigning a student's grade. They may request and consult a transcript, however, if this will help them to address an academic concern or to identify an academic problem.

More information regarding FERPA is available here.

Religious Holy Days

As the academic calendar is constructed, religious holy days are not the sole factor in determining days on which classes are held or suspended. However, it is the policy of the faculty that students be encouraged to observe their appropriate religious holy days; that instructors strive to facilitate this by allowing absence from classes for such purposes and by trying to ensure that no examinations, written reports, oral reports, or other mandatory class assignments are scheduled for or due on such holy days; and that instructors provide ample opportunities for such students to make up work missed on such occasions without penalty.


Faculty members must exercise reasonable care regarding the safety of students in classes and laboratories. They should be aware of the location of all safety devices (such as eye-rinsing facilities and fire extinguishers). Tufts Environmental Health and Safety (TEHS) is an important resource for health, safety, and environmental protection in teaching and research. It provides training, advice, and other compliance assistance to faculty members. More information can be found at http://publicsafety.tufts.edu/ehs/. Faculty members should also consult their departments for information specific to their discipline.