Academic Appeals Process

appealsIf undergraduate students wish to dispute a course grade in a course taught by a member of the faculty of the College of Science, the first step is for the student to make a good-faith effort to meet with the faculty member to resolve their issues.  Usually this involves meeting with the faculty member to discuss and resolve the complaint.  If the student is not able to resolve his/her issues with the faculty member who taught the course, the student should work within the department or program’s chain of command.  If the course has multi-sections, there may be a course coordinator.  If this meeting fails to resolve the concern, the student should meet with the Department Chair or Academic Program Director.  Most student complaints are satisfactorily resolved within the department or program.

In rare instances, it may be necessary to involve the College.  If a student has made a good faith effort to resolve the issue by meeting first with their instructor, the course coordinator, Undergraduate Program Director or Chair and the issue has not been resolved, the student may then meet with the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs who will:

  • attempt to resolve the issue by working with and through the instructor and the Department or Program;  and, if that is not possible,
  • determine whether or not there is just cause to convene the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

In the College of Science, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee serves as the Academic Appeals Committee. The role of the Academic Appeals Committee is to conduct a review when a grade appeal is filed by a student for one of the following three reasons, concern that:

  1. The course grading policy was not applied consistently to all students within a class and/or section;
  2. The instructor’s method of assigning grades differed from the method outlined in the instructor’s course syllabus; or
  3. Concern that the instructor failed to provide a clear policy on how grades would be assigned

In order to determine whether a fair and due process was used to determine the student’s grade.

Based on the student’s meeting with the Associate Dean, the Associate Dean will determine whether the complaint should be brought to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  This decision will be based upon evidence that the student has:

  • sincerely attempted to resolve the complaint with the professor and the department or program;
  • the complaint has been brought forward in a timely manner; and
  • the complaint is substantive in nature (adjudication could affect student’s course grade and/or academic record).

If the Associate Dean determines that the complaint is substantive, the student must provide a formal written complaint to the Associate Dean within one week of the student’s meeting with the Associate Dean.

The written complaint should provide a detailed timeline as well as all available evidence supporting the student’s complaint.  Complainants are encouraged to submit a written draft of their complaint to the Associate Dean for comment.  Note that it is the student’s responsibility to make their case.  Students may submit any evidence such as emails, quizzes, examinations, etc. in making their case.

Once the Associate Dean receives a formal written complaint, the Associate Dean will provide a copy of the complaint to the faculty member and to the department chairperson or Program Director, and convene a meeting of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  If the student fails to provide a thoughtful and well-reasoned written summary of the case, then the matter will be considered closed at the college-level.

The Associate Dean will make a good faith effort to identify a date and time for the meeting that is mutually acceptable to the student, the faculty member, and the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

The student and the faculty member have the right to attend and present their case orally to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  While no one is required to make an oral presentation, it is usually quite helpful to make an oral presentation and answer any questions that the Committee may have.  If the complainant indicates that they will present their case in person and then fails to attend the scheduled hearing, the case will be dismissed.  Both the complainant and the faculty member both have the right to testify privately and separately before the committee.  Lawyers are not permitted in these proceedings. Generally, the faculty member and complainant are each given 15-minute period to present their case.

In terms of the meeting format, the student usually presents their complaint to the committee first.  This is followed by a brief Q&A of the student by the committee.  The committee may ask the complainant any questions they may have based upon either the written case submitted by the complainant or the complainant’s oral presentation.  The faculty member then presents his/her case, which is followed by a brief Q&A of the faculty member.  After both the complainant and faculty member have addressed the committee, the committee then reviews the evidence, summarizes the case, and makes a recommendation to the Associate Dean concerning the resolution of the complaint.

If the committee believes it cannot resolve any issues without additional information, the committee may request any information needed from either the complainant or the faculty member.  This information must be provided to the committee within one week of the meeting.  If the needed information is not provided in the timeframe required then the committee may weigh this failure in making its final determination regarding the original complaint.

A couple of points regarding committee process:

  1. All decisions of the committee will be made based on a simple majority (51%) vote;
  2. The chair (Assoc. Dean) of the committee is a non-voting member except in a tie;
  3. The student bringing the complaint to the Academic Appeals Committee carries the burden of proof based on the weight of the evidence in demonstrating that the grade is incorrect or unjustified;
  4. If the committee decides that the grading process was unfair, the committee can request that the instructor change the student’s grade.  If an acceptable agreement involves a change of grade, the instructor is responsible for submitting a change of grade to the Registrar in a timely manner following notification of the Committee’s decision.

Note that the committee is expected to provide a report of its findings and recommendations to the Associate Dean within 30 days of the student’s submission of the written formal complaint.  The Associate Dean will communicate the committee’s determination to the complainant.  If the student is not satisfied with the decision, the student may appeal the decision through the mechanism outlined in the Undergraduate Student Handbook (see Step 4 in the handbook).