Policy and Procedure for Appeal of a Course Grade

Policy.  The instructor has both the professional competence and the jurisdiction to determine grades; the student has the right to appeal a course grade that the student believes to be in error. The only basis for an appeal is whether the grade has been determined fairly within the grading system adopted by the faculty member.

Thus every student has the right to know at the beginning of any semester how the final grade for any particular course will be determined. This means knowing what percentage of the final grade the assignments (tests, quizzes, papers, class participation, etc.) will comprise.

For this reason the instructor has the obligation to present this information to the student at the beginning of the semester as part of the syllabus. Once the semester begins, an instructor should not make substantial changes in the grading system and should inform the students of even minor changes. If an instructor does not provide such information, the student has the right to seek redress.

Procedure: Step 1. The student who wishes to contest a course grade should first make an effort to discuss the matter with the instructor and attempt to resolve the problem concerning the disputed grade. (If the instructor is away from the University during the period of the grade appeal, the student may proceed directly to the department chair.)

Step 2.  If there is no satisfactory resolution at this level and the student wishes to pursue the matter further, the student must initiate a formal grade appeal within a specific time period. (A disputed course grade from the fall semester must be appealed by the end of the sixth week of the spring semester. A disputed course grade from the spring semester or one of the summer sessions must be appealed by the end of the sixth week of the fall semester.) The appeal must be made in writing to the instructor and a copy sent to the department chair, who will then schedule a meeting with the student and the instructor.

Step 3. If the department chair cannot resolve the dispute in a manner satisfactory to the parties concerned, the chair will notify the associate dean of the school in which the course is taught. The associate dean will then attempt to resolve the problem.

Step 4.

  1. If the associate dean judges that the appeal is without sufficient basis, the associate dean can so rule, and the case is closed.

  2. If the associate dean is in doubt or thinks it possible that the grade should be changed contrary to the wishes of the instructor, the appeal moves to a committee comprised of three faculty members from the University. To form the appeals committee, the associate dean will request the Faculty Council to provide a list of the names of nine, randomly selected, faculty members. From this list, the associate dean, the instructor, and the student each will choose three to consider the matter. Faculty unanimously selected will sit on the appeals committee; if agreement on the three cannot be reached, the associate dean will fill any remaining spots on the committee from the names on the list.

  3. Both the instructor and the student will present their cases to the committee. (The appeals committee will make no effort to establish whether a grading system is academically sound; rather it will attempt to establish whether an instructor’s grading practices and procedures were followed consistently, fairly, and accurately according to the standards set forth in the syllabus and other course directives.)

  4. The committee will decide by majority vote whether to recommend that the grade be changed and will provide the associate dean with a written explanation of its recommendation. The associate dean will make the final decision after carefully considering the recommendation of the committee. If the final decision is contrary to the recommendation of the committee, the associate dean should explain the reasons for the decision in writing to the committee.

Step 5.  The associate dean will then notify the instructor, the department chair, and the student of the decision, ordinarily by the end of the semester during which the appeal arose.