Boston police found Carrie O'Connor, 38, inside the elevator in her apartment building, Sergeant Detective John Boyle told CNN. The building is off campus.
Her death was ruled an accident, Boyle said, caused by "traumatic asphyxia," which usually results when a heavy object suddenly crushes the chest.
State officials told boston.com the elevator in the Commonwealth Avenue apartment building had been inspected recently.
O'Connor's family and colleagues at Boston University, where she'd taught courses in French language and culture, remembered Connor as a skilled baker and vegetarian cook, an experienced globetrotter and talented teacher.
"Already then, and even more so now, she was an intrinsic part of the French section and the department at large," French professor Odile Cazenave wrote in an email to the Romance Studies department, shared by the university. "As I spoke with her parents this morning, I let them know how much Carrie is very much alive and part of our department."