Department Principles and Guidelines

Biological Sciences Department Principles and Guidelines


Our commitment to inclusive excellence


We in the Wellesley College Department of Biological Sciences, including all faculty, staff and students participating in the department, are devoted to improving equity and enhancing student experiences of community, engagement and belonging. We believe that the diversity of our community is central to intellectual growth and development. We are committed to being a learning community that embraces and supports the identities, abilities, life experiences, and aspirations of every member of our community.  


Core Educational Principles and Values


The Biological Sciences Department faculty is committed to providing our students with an excellent education in biological sciences and research skills. We believe that there is a set of skills and habits that is essential for student success in our courses, other College courses, and in the workplace and beyond. We are committed to supporting the development of these skills through the design of our courses and through our interactions with students. In addition, we recognize that we depend on each other as a community of learners and that optimal learning is achieved when all members of the community participate and contribute ideas from a broad range of experiences. To that end, we have adopted these principles and values to create a departmental-wide classroom structure that encourages students to engage fully with our courses. The following principles and values guide our course design and teaching and apply to faculty and students alike:


Respect: Successful courses are based on constructive interactions between instructors and all the students in the course. Faculty and students should treat one another with humanity, dignity, and respect.


Equity: The classroom should be a level playing field in which policies and requirements apply fairly to all students. This commitment includes the implementation of ADR approved accommodations, which provide students with disabilities the access and support they need.


Integrity: The Wellesley College Honor Code is at the core of our academic program and its values of integrity and honesty should be held by all members of the community.


Compassion: Life is complicated, and there will always be times when circumstances make it difficult for us to do our very best work. Faculty should engage in a caring way with students experiencing academic or personal difficulties, including by encouraging students to develop strategies that allow them to manage their workload in the face of normal day-to-day stresses.


Inclusivity: Successful courses are ones in which every student feels like a valued member of the class community. All course participants, students and faculty alike, should strive to create a welcoming and inclusive classroom environment.


Engagement: Learning takes place both in the classroom and outside, and our small class sizes allow students to engage actively with the material, the professor and each other. Faculty should design their course content and materials carefully and communicate their expectations clearly, while students should recognize enrollment in a course as a commitment to be engaged in all aspects of the course.


Progress: Biological Sciences is a sequential discipline, both across and within courses, where success with later material requires mastery of earlier material. Faculty and students should be attentive to the need to keep up with course material and exert consistent effort across the semester.


Choice: As mature learners, students have agency to make choices within the framework of the course as designed by the faculty member and communicated in the syllabus. We encourage students to make thoughtful choices, for example about how to allocate their time. Please contact your professors, class deans, or the PLTC if you need any assistance with this. 


Guidelines Arising from these Principles


The guidelines below are based on the principles and values that underlie the department’s educational philosophy and our experience-based understanding of the practices and behaviors that promote student learning and success in our courses. If there are any issues or concerns regarding the following guidelines, please contact your professors, class deans, and/or ADR.


Syllabus: Designing a course, and presenting that design in the syllabus, is a significant part of the intellectual work of teaching and is done with considerable thought and care on the part of a faculty member. Faculty members will provide students with the syllabus on the first day of classes and will review that syllabus in class. Students will be expected to read the syllabus and to know its contents. The syllabus will contain the following elements:


● Contact information for the faculty member and guidance on course communication

● Learning objectives for the course

● Assignments and their associated dates and weights in the grading scheme

● A course schedule or outline

● Course policies

(Engagement, Inclusivity, Respect)


Communication: The syllabus will establish the communication mechanism that will be used for the course (e.g., email, Google chat, Sakai site). Students will be responsible for checking the relevant forum and responding as necessary. Faculty members and students will read and respond to messages regarding the course in a timely manner (Engagement, Inclusivity, Respect).


Lecture attendance: Students are expected to attend all class meetings. Students who need to be absent will typically be responsible for informing faculty in advance, although some faculty members may describe different expectations on their syllabi. Faculty will establish limits on unexcused absences, beyond which they may impose repercussions that may include grade deductions or asking students to withdraw from the course. Students who miss class meetings will be encouraged to work with classmates to catch up on the material they missed; faculty members will respond to questions but will not be expected to provide class recordings or individual tutorials on material missed as a result of a missed class meeting. (Choice, Compassion, Engagement, Respect)


Tardiness: Students are expected to be in class and ready to begin at the appointed hour. (Engagement, Respect) 


Workload: The College legislation stipulates that students spend at least 12 hours per week for a one unit course, including class meetings, examinations, appointments with faculty and office hour attendance, meeting with working groups, tutors and in Supplemental Instruction, field work and site visits, online activities, reading, completing assignments, preparing for class, and all other course requirements. For a 1.25 unit course (i.e. those with labs), students are expected to spend 15 hours per week total for that course. (Engagement, Progress)


Assignments: Assigned work is intended to both enhance and assess student learning. Common assignments include problem sets, quizzes, exams, presentations, and papers. Faculty members may also evaluate class participation. Students should consider the timing and format of assignments in a course to be fixed parts of the course design and should not anticipate that they will be changed. Faculty members will inform students of any changes to the syllabus in advance and will be clear about when collaboration with classmates is and is not permitted. (Engagement, Integrity, Progress, Respect)


Extensions: Most courses are designed so that the material builds upon itself; once an assignment is missed or pushed back, it can be increasingly challenging for students to keep up. Faculty members will establish a policy on late work and include it on the syllabus. (Choice, Engagement, Equity, Progress)


Exam Accommodations: Wellesley’s ADR office provides faculty with notice of the accommodations for which students in their courses are eligible. Individual students will be responsible for contacting faculty to arrange for accommodated testing and should do so at least two weeks in advance of each exam or assignment. Accommodated testing will normally occur on the date of the scheduled exam. (Equity, Respect)


Make-up exams: Students who know in advance that they need to be absent on a scheduled exam day will generally be permitted to make arrangements with the faculty member to take the exam early (if possible). Normally, students who are prevented by an emergency from taking an exam will have their other course assignments reweighted, though some faculty may choose to give a make-up exam the following day. Students who miss an exam without notifying the faculty member in advance or having a documented emergency should expect to receive a grade of zero for that exam, though faculty might choose to offer the option of reweighting other assignments. (Equity, Integrity, Progress, Respect)


Labs: Barring extenuating circumstances, students are expected to attend the first lab to save their spot in the course. Lab attendance is mandatory, as skills in labs are cumulative and build over the course of the semester. Faculty will establish limits on absences, beyond which they will impose repercussions that may include grade deductions up to failing a course or asking students to withdraw from the course. Because setting up labs is time consuming and often requires weeks of planning and advance ordering, faculty are not expected to offer make-up labs. For excused absences, faculty may offer their own plans for making up missed labs, or reweight other assignments. (Equity, Integrity, Progress, Respect)


Grade changes: Faculty will change grades after returning work only in cases where a grading error is detected. Consistent with College policy, final grades can only be changed through petition to the Academic Review Board, and only in instances where there is a grading error. (Equity)


Honor code: Faculty will enforce the Honor Code by reporting all violations to the Honor Code Council and following their procedures for adjudication. (Equity, Integrity)


Incompletes: Students must request that a faculty member give them a grade of incomplete (the request must be made before the end of the exam period). If a student has not requested an incomplete, College policy requires faculty to submit grades based on the work submitted and the grading weights announced in the syllabus, giving a score of zero to work not received. In the absence of grounds for granting an incomplete, the instructor will assign a grade. Since not all requirements for the course have been met, this could result in course failure. A student may decide in consultation with the class dean that a withdrawal is appropriate in certain circumstances. Please communicate any issues with your professors as soon as they arise. (Engagement, Progress)


What is excusable and what is not? 

Some examples of possibly acceptable reasons for extension on a paper or test:

Part of student’s accommodation granted by ADR;

Recent short-term physical illness or injury;

Recent short-term mental ill-health;

A long-term or chronic physical or mental health condition, which has recently worsened temporarily or permanently;

The recent bereavement or serious illness of a person with whom the student has a close relationship;

Representation in performance sport or arts recital at an international or national championship level

 Some examples of possibly unacceptable reasons for extension on a paper or test:

A long-term or chronic health condition (including mental ill-health or similar ill-health) for which the College has already made a reasonable adjustment;

A minor short-term illness or injury (e.g. a common cold), which would not reasonably have had a significant adverse impact on the student’s ability to complete the assessment on time;

Holidays and associated travel;

Pressure of academic work (unless this contributes to ill-health);

Poor time-management;

Overlap with other course deadlines;

Lack of awareness of dates or times of assessment submission;

Commitments to activities (including those sponsored by the College) such as sports or clubs;

Circumstances which were foreseeable or preventable

Resources on campus if you need additional assistance

We recognize that students are experiencing many issues right now. The Biological Sciences faculty are committed to working with the following resources and departments to ensure that you get the necessary assistance to maximize your learning:

Class deans: (any issues, health/financial hardships/family issues etc)

Office of Student Success: (any issues, health/financial hardships/family issues etc)

ADR: (physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and attention disorders etc)

Stone Center: (mental and emotional wellbeing)


If any party doesn’t follow these guidelines, please submit your concerns here.