Related University Policies and Guidelines
Academic standards of performance and conduct are predicated on the dual function of a university as a
learning community and a validating agency, verifying knowledge gained. Evaluation is central to both functions, providing the feedback that expedites learning and ascertaining the extent to which knowledge has been acquired. Evaluation is therefore often the focal point of sanctions and appeals.
A learning community is based upon free, honest, and objective inquiry - the collective pursuit, discovery, creation, and dissemination of truth. When that value is violated, learning ceases, and efforts expended in the name of it become a waste of time; for if efforts are misrepresented, there is no way to guide the progress of learning, let alone verify the results of it.
The worth of a degree depends upon public trust in the integrity of the university as a validating agency. Students, therefore, have a basic and continuing interest in the university’s attempts to ensure that academic standards are fairly and rigorously maintained. Their investment of time and resources can be protected only by the institution’s preserving the integrity and quality of the academic enterprise. Commensurately, each student should understand that, in considering any individual case, the institution must act in the best interests of all students - past, present, and future. It must try to ensure that the same standards are applied to students in the same way and that any exceptions made are clearly justifiable on academic grounds and neither unfair nor inequitable to others.
However, the judgment of the institution is not infallible; nor are the faculty members and administrators perfect embodiments of those values the university represents and seeks to impart. Further, those same values imply the right of students to contest, on rational grounds, the fairness of judgments rendered or treatment received, and to present their case through a credible grievance process. They may do so without fear of sanction or reprisal.
The procedures for sanctions and appeals described below are intended to provide resolution as early, expeditiously, and amicably as possible, with as limited involvement and as little disruption to the learning process as possible. Since the institution exists to serve the educational needs of students, individually and collectively, it is not an antagonist in any process of sanction or appeals. Rather, its interest lies in ascertaining the truth of the matter at hand, in attempting to reach a just resolution, and in viewing the process as a learning experience, both for the student and the institution.
Faculty members have the qualifications, responsibility, and authority to evaluate students’ performance and to assign grades. They are expected to exercise great care and objectivity, to be receptive to students’ inquiries about grades assigned, and to be receptive to the advice of colleagues in instances of disputed grades. Faculty members may change a final grade, once recorded, only by timely, written notification to the Registrar, ordinarily with the approval of their Dean. Otherwise, a grade may be changed only by the chief officer or chief academic officer of the institution in accordance with duly established procedures as described below.
Informal Grade Appeal Procedure
Students who believe that a grade assigned is inaccurate or unjust should first see the instructor of the course. If students remain unsatisfied or prefer not to see the instructor, they should see the school dean. The dean
may handle the case, or after consultation with the instructor, convene a divisional committee to review it. If the change of grade seems warranted, the dean will so advise the instructor.
Formal Grade Appeal
It is assumed that most grade appeals can be settled in this manner. However, students who remain unsatisfied should contact the academic school secretary to determine the appropriate administrator in the academic school who manages grade appeals (e.g., Chair, Program Coordinator, Dean, Assistant Dean, or Associate Dean). These individuals will attempt to resolve the matter informally. If not successful, they will, at the student’s request, determine whether to refer the case should be referred to the Academic Council for review and advisement. The following conditions will apply:
- The appeal must involve a terminal grade for a course or program.
- The appeal must be for reasons other than a simple disagreement about the relative merits of the student’s performance: i.e., cases to be heard by a university-wide committee should relate ordinarily to charges of arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory treatment rather than issues of academic judgment.
- The appeal must, in the Provost’s opinion, involve a palpable issue and evidence capable of sustaining rational argument.
- The appeal must be initiated by the end of the next long semester after the grade in question has been assigned.
Formal Grade Appeal Procedure
If the four conditions noted above are met, the student should petition the Provost in writing, specifying the action requested and explaining the basis for the request. Any documents or materials considered relevant should be cited or submitted. Upon notification of the relevant parties, the process will unfold as follows:
- The Academic Council will examine the appeal and supporting evidence and will determine whether a hearing is needed to address the appeal.
- If a hearing is determined to be unnecessary, the Council will deliberate and reach a judgment on the appeal.
- If a hearing is determined to be advisable or if the student or the instructor involved requests a hearing, the Council will establish a meeting time when the relevant parties can attend.
- The student and the instructor involved may be asked to appear separately or together, at the Council’s discretion.
- The student may bring one person to witness the hearing, but that person is not to participate unless called upon. (If the person is to be an attorney, the Provost must be informed in advance.)
- The student may have others submit testimony in person or in writing.
- The instructor involved may also have others submit testimony.
- Following the hearing(s), the Council will deliberate and reach a judgment advisory to the Provost.
- The Provost will then inform the student, instructor, and School Dean of the decision.
- If the decision is that the grade should be changed, the instructor will be asked to change it.
- If the instructor is unwilling to change the grade, the Provost will instruct the Office of Admissions and Records in writing that the grade change is to be made.