Student Academic Affairs

procedures for appeals of academic matters

The following procedures describe the process of pursuing academic appeals and grievances for students in the College of Arts and Sciences. It should be understood that appeals concerning academic matters generate tension for the parties involved. Throughout the appeal process, efforts will be made to minimize the tension by endeavoring to conduct matters efficiently and in ways that will respect the concerns of those involved.

Appeals relating to academic dismissal from the University

Appeals which relate to academic dismissal are made directly to the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs, who will hear individual petitions for reconsideration on the basis of extenuating circumstances. Students seeking to enroll in classes prior to the end of the mandatory period away from classes following an academic dismissal will be asked to complete the Petition to Return from Dismissal form.

The Associate Dean's decision may be appealed to the Dean of the College, who has the final authority for admission of students majoring in the College.

In the enforcement of retention standards, it is accepted by the Office of the Dean as a working principle that the University standards for probation and retention are to be maintained in all but the most extraordinary cases.

Appeals relating to the fulfillment of requirements for graduation

Appeals which relate to the requirements for graduation in degree programs in the College of Arts and Sciences are made to the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs. Students seeking an exception to a degree requirement work in consultation with their academic advisor, and the academic advisor submits a Petition for Exception to Degree Requirement. Prior to being reviewed by the Associate Dean, petitions are reviewed by the chairperson of the department in which the student is majoring, and petitions concerning general education requirements normally are reviewed by the Coordinator of the General Education Program as well.

Final appeal in modifying degree requirements is made to the Dean of the College, who has final authority to certify completion of requirements for graduation.

Because curricular requirements for degree programs are set by the faculty members of the University as an area within their primary authority, waivers or substitutions will be approved only for the most extraordinary reasons.

Appeals which question the grading practices of a professor

I. Basis for Appeal
A student may appeal a grade granted by any instructor of any course. The student may appeal the grade based on one of more of the following:

  1. An error in the calculation of the grade.
  2. The assignment of a grade to a particular student by application of more exacting or demanding standards than were applied to other students in the same section of the same course, in the same semester, with the same instructor.
  3. The assignment of a grade to a particular student on some basis other than performance in the course.
  4. The assignment of a grade by a substantial departure from the instructor's previously announced standards for that section of that course. 1
  5. The assignment of a grade by a substantial departure from the written departmentally approved standards for a course.

Any other grounds for appeal shall be considered irrelevant. 2

II. Informal Appeal
All students must follow the informal appeals process for questioning grades prior to engaging the formal appeal. In so doing, they are to, where possible, seek out the instructor for a face-to-face conversation. The instructor is encouraged to listen to the entirety of the student’s case and then to consider whether the current grade is appropriate. Should no resolution occur, the student is required to contact the department chairperson. The chairperson is required to meet with the student one-on-one, to seek a conversation with the instructor one-on-one, and then highly encouraged to meet with the two of them together. Students must initiate their informal appeal within 30 working days3 of the posting of the grade. Should no resolution occur, the student may choose to engage the formal appeal process.

III. Filing a Formal Appeal
A formal appeal is made in writing to the dean of the college of the instructor, hereafter referred to as “the dean.” When filing an appeal, a student must specify the basis (bases) of the appeal and do so within 30 working days of the conclusion of the informal appeal. The student must indicate one of the following:

  1. The instructor is unable or unwilling to communicate with the student on the appeal and the informal appeal could not proceed
  2. No resolution resulted from the informal appeal process

The contents of the appeal should include as much of the relevant physical or electronic record as is possible for the student to collect. If the second basis (differential standards) is asserted, the student should provide a list of the names of other students and specific assignments so that a review of the relevant materials and appropriate comparisons can be made.

The form for formally appealing a grade is available here.

IV. Verification of the Appropriateness of the Appeal
An instructor “cannot respond” if (s)he has died or has suffered a debilitating physical or mental condition. For appeals to grades submitted by instructors who have been terminated, resigned, or retired, it is the dean’s responsibility to manage the notification process. In doing so, the dean shall make three separate attempts at contact within 30 days with the last one in writing by registered letter to the last known address. If after ten working days of the dean’s receiving of the registered letter receipt, the instructor still refuses to discuss the grade appeal, the dean shall convene the Grade Appeal Committee.

If an instructor has denied the grade appeal after having met with the department chairperson, the dean must review the materials and discuss the matter with the student. The dean may choose to discuss the matter with the instructor, the chairperson, or both. If the dean cannot create a mutually satisfactory resolution, the dean shall convene the Grade Appeal Committee.

V. Composition and Purpose of the Grade Appeal Committee
At the beginning of each academic year, each college shall create its Grade Appeal Committee(s) in a fashion that 1) it has only tenured faculty and 2) it has no fewer than 5 members with one alternate. Members of the department may serve on the Grade Appeal Committee of a departmental colleague. When the instructor in question is a member of the Grade Appeal Committee, he/she is recused, and the alternate shall serve in his/her place.

Within the College of Arts & Sciences, the committee shall include faculty from the Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, and Math & Sciences. Within the College of Nursing, Health, & Human Services, the committee shall include faculty from Nursing and Health & Human Service areas.

Without regard to the calendar, once a formal appeal has been submitted to the Grade Appeal Committee, that committee shall remain with the appeal until its conclusion. If two or more appeals are received by the dean about the same instructor and the same course, the Dean shall inform the Grade Appeal Committee. If the Grade Appeal Committee determines that the appeals are of identical character and that the students’ rights to appeal would not be compromised by combining the appeals into one process, the Grade Appeal Committee may make this determination. The Grade Appeal Committee has the sole authority to make this determination.

VI. Grade Appeal Committee Actions
The Grade Appeal Committee, by majority vote, shall, within 10 working days recommend one of the following:

  1. That the original grade stand
  2. That any higher grade be substituted for the original grade
  3. That an incomplete grade be granted.  (If this recommendation is made, the chairperson shall be appointed the instructor of record for the course for this student.  The conditions for completion, the default grade, and the expiration of the incomplete shall be specified.) 

VII. Transmission
When a recommendation is made by the Grade Appeal Committee, the dean shall prepare a written summary of the recommendation and transmit the recommendation to the student and the instructor. A copy of the recommendation shall be transmitted to the Provost, the department chairperson, and the members of the Grade Appeal Committee. When the Grade Appeal Committee recommends a changed grade or an incomplete grade, the dean shall prepare a letter to the Registrar stating the new grade. The letter shall carry the signatures of the dean and the members of the Grade Appeal Committee. No such letter is required if the grade does not change.

VIII. Registrar's Action
In the event a grade is changed, the following notation shall appear on the transcript:
Original grade of ___ was overruled as authorized by the Grade Appeal Committee.

1An instructor may alter original grading standards for an assignment as long as that change has been announced with reasonable notice in advance of the due date for the assignment. An instructor may reasonably add or subtract assignments or assessments from those that have been previously announced. Instructors are highly discouraged from altering the grading scale for the course if that grading scale has been included in the syllabus or previously announced.

2Unless the appeal is on the basis of 5) above, cross-instructor or cross-section comparison appeals are not to be considered as relevant. Instructors are free to have different assignments, assessments, and standards for different sections and different instructors of the same course are free to have different assignments, assessments, and standards from one another.

3A “working day” includes all weekdays that the University is open. In cases where a Grade Appeal Committee or a department’s committee must meet during the summer, synchronous telephonic meetings shall be permissible.