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Teaching and Grading

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The teaching team

Most courses in the College of Engineering are led by full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty members. Exceptions include professional writers who teach Engineering Communication courses and some of the First-Year Writing Seminars.

Teaching assistants (TAs), undergraduate facilitators, and peer tutors also serve as part of a teaching team. TAs are typically graduate-level students who assist faculty members with various aspects of undergraduate courses, such as laboratories, recitation sections, office hours, and tutoring.

Engineering Learning Initiatives works with other university offices to provide a comprehensive training program for all engineering TAs. This program includes instruction in teaching methods, diversity awareness, and evaluation of teaching and mid-term feedback. 

For some courses the teaching team also includes undergraduate facilitators, who are upper-level engineering students who help first- and second-year students learn mathematics, computer science, or chemistry in cooperative, supplemental courses known as Academic Excellence Workshops.

Good standing

Comprehensive tutoring and helpful support is available for all Cornell engineeerins, regardless of their level of advancement or proficiency. See Support Structures for more information.

Students are required to make adequate progress toward a degree at all times, but the specifics vary from major to major.

For engineering students to be in good standing at the end of their first year, in each of the two semesters they must have:

  • at least 12 credits, including at least one course in engineering mathematics, and at least one course in science or engineering (physical education credits and courses below the 1100 level do not count)
  • a C– or better in each of the mathematics courses
  • a GPA of at least 2.0
  • no F, U, or INC grades

See the Engineering Handbook.

Academic integrity

The Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity Handbook is distributed to all new students. It says, in part:

Absolute integrity is expected of every Cornell student in all academic undertakings . . . not only in formal coursework situations but in all university relationships and interactions connected to the educational process. Submission of work for academic credit indicates that the work is the student’s own. All outside assistance should be acknowledged, and the student’s academic position truthfully reported at all times. In addition, Cornell students have the right to expect academic integrity from each of their peers.

In an era of digital temptation and technologies that can easily be misused, maintaining academic integrity is the responsibility of every individual in the Cornell community.

How courses are graded

Individual faculty members determine their own grading policies; there is no “standard” method across the university. Typically, on the first day of class, each professor will distribute a course syllabus and explain the grading policy. Students should not hesitate to ask the professor or TA for clarification if needed. Professors have the obligation to grade fairly and according to clear criteria, and they are required to review grades students think may be incorrect.

But here’s the bottom line: Once a professor determines that a grade is correct, the grade stands. Professors have the ultimate responsibility and authority for assigning grades in their courses.

The Dean’s List

Dean’s List citations are presented each semester to engineering students with exemplary academic records. Currently the requirements are a semester GPA of 3.50 or higher (without rounding); no failing, unsatisfactory, missing, or incomplete grades (including physical education); and at least 12 letter-grade credits. Students may earn Dean’s List status retroactively if they meet these criteria after making up incompletes. Students who make the Dean’s List receive certificates from the Engineering Registrar’s office, and the honor is noted on their transcript.