Office of the Provost

Faculty and Unclassified Staff Handbook
Chapter 7-- Student Affairs

 

Grade Appeals Policy and Procedures, Undergraduate Student

Policy

1. General Policy Statement

There is a long-established tradition of informal grade appeal at FHSU. Students are strongly encouraged to initially discuss a disputed grade with the instructor(s) responsible for determination and assignment of the grade. It is assumed that informal student-instructor interaction at this level will correct any errors in recording or arithmetical computation and provide the setting for a resolution of any disagreement between a student and instructor(s) involving evaluation and credit for work completed. If this level of interaction, however, fails to result in a satisfactory agreement regarding the assigned grade, it is the policy of FHSU to provide an informal appeal to the department chairperson and dean plus the opportunity for a formal appeal process.

2. Rationale

FHSU represents a community of learning devoted to the creation of knowledge and the advancement of humankind's intellectual progress and powers. As members of this learning community, students are an important component of this collective enterprise. It is assumed that they, too, are committed to essentially the same set of values and goals that motivate and guide other members of this learning community. Thus, FHSU is committed to the provision of a formal student right of appeal because of its communal duty and obligation to this particular class of member.

This is not to say that the opportunity for students to participate in communal actions (e.g., grade assignment) which may eventually influence their career goals and aspirations is not an important consideration. Obviously, participation in communal activities and decision making can be educational and productive of a public spirit that will provide a basis for membership and involvement in larger communities beyond FHSU. Rather, it is to say that membership alone in the learning community known as FHSU is a sufficient reason for providing students with the right of grade appeal.

3. Faculty Responsibilities and Entitlements

The instructor's professional responsibilities include grading procedures which honestly attempt to evaluate the performance of the student. An integral part of teaching is to articulate the standards and procedures used for evaluation and grade assignment. Grading standards should be the same for all members of a class or enrollment group (e.g., undergraduate students in a class open to undergraduate and graduate students) who participate in a course. Singling out one student or a small group of students for a unique and/or arbitrary application of evaluative standards and procedures can be considered a serious departure from accepted academic norms, responsibilities, and professional judgment.

At the same time, however, instructors are entitled to the widest range of discretion in making judgments about academic performance and the substantive content of class assignments (e.g., research papers, essay examinations, laboratory tasks, set design, etc.). This entitlement must not be infringed upon for two reasons. First, the instructor's grading behavior (as judged relative to the standards of the instructor's professional field and peers) is used as part of the merit evaluation process with respect to pay raises, promotion, and tenure. Second, the instructor's grade report is a statement of academic judgment, evaluation, and opinion covered by principles of free speech and its derivative, academic freedom. Great respect must be shown for the instructor's professional judgment. No individual or member of the University community may override an issued grade unless it represents a clear and substantial departure from accepted academic norms as to demonstrate that the instructor responsible did not actually exercise professional judgment or was prevented from exercising such judgment (e.g., death, mental incapacitation, etc.). In addition, intimidating behavior, remarks, or actions by other members of the University community which are designed to coerce an instructor to change an assigned grade are considered to be a departure from the University's collectively derived internal principles of governance and consequently unacceptable.

4. Student Responsibilities and Entitlements

Membership in the FHSU learning community imposes upon the student a variety of commitments, obligations, and responsibilities (e.g., preparation for class, attendance, completion of reading assignments, participation in the governance of students' affairs, etc.). One of these responsibilities includes the appropriate and prescribed use of the grade appeals process.

Students are expected to first avail themselves of the established tradition of informal appeal which involves one or more consultations with the instructor(s) involved. The reciprocal obligations which bind the members of the FHSU learning community to one another require that all grade appeals must be initially addressed and discussed at this level. Failure to recognize this obligation to the instructor(s) on the part of the student must bring into question the appellant's commitment to the learning community and seriously prejudice further petitions for a resolution of the problem. If the grade dispute is not resolved at this level or by informal appeal to the department chairperson or college dean, the student is obliged to consult next with the departmental chairperson who will inform the student in writing of formal departmental appeal procedures (see Section 5 below), and the student's entitlement to the University appeals procedures and options (as prescribed in Process and Procedures of this document).

5. Departmental Responsibilities

Each University department is responsible for the formulation and implementation of formal procedures to handle grade appeals that cannot be satisfactorily resolved through the informal process. This set of procedures should be enumerated in written form, provide for an administrative hearing to ascertain that course standards and procedures were properly established, enacted, and carried out (due process), and set reasonable time limits for appellant petitions and responses. Departmental grade appeals procedures may take a variety of forms suitable to the unique character of each department. At a minimum, however, each departmental set of procedures must be available in written form to the appellant and contain a requirement that the student initiate the departmental administrative hearing with a letter to the chairperson containing all relevant facts surrounding the grade dispute.

6. Special Consideration

When the student believes that a grade is the result of illegal discrimination or sexual harassment as described by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, appeal should be undertaken in accord with the various policy statements and grievance procedures.

Process and Procedures

1. Purpose

This formal grade appeal process and set of procedures has been established for the purpose of providing due process for FHSU students who believe that standards or procedures used for evaluation and grade assignment have been applied in an arbitrary or capricious manner. The process has been designed to resolve a grade dispute at the lowest level possible beginning with the student-instructor relationship. It has not been designed to produce grade changes which are the result of a reevaluation of an instructor's professional judgment about academic performance and the substantive content of class assignments completed by a student.

2. Process

When a student feels that an assigned grade is the result of arbitrarily or capriciously applied standards or procedures, and when the initial informal student-instructor consultations or the informal appeal described in the General Policy Statement of this document has failed to resolve the situation, the following steps and procedures will be utilized:

Step A: The student is responsible for obtaining a copy of the specific formal grade appeal procedure employed by the instructor's department from the department chairperson.

    1. Submit a written statement of fact regarding the disputed grade.

    2. Arrange a consultation session with the department chairperson.

    3. Obtain a departmental administrative hearing to ascertain if course standards or procedures were properly established, enacted and carried out prior to the end of the first full semester following assignment of the grade.

    4. Initiate an appeal at the University level if the departmental hearing fails to satisfactorily resolve the dispute.

 Step B: The departmental chairperson will notify and inform the appropriate college dean of the grade dispute situation.

Step C: The University level grade appeal is initiated by the student's submission of a written statement of appeal to the provost.

All undergraduate students are entitled to a confidential administrative hearing at this level of appeal. The committee hearing the appeal will consist of the provost and two (2) faculty members. Faculty members participating in the administrative hearing will be members of the Faculty Senate and appointed by the Faculty Senate President. The appointed members participating in the hearing must be from departments or units other than those with which both parties in the dispute are formally affiliated. The appointed faculty members and the provost will hear the student's grade appeal by conducting an administrative hearing. This hearing will be conducted in such a way as to provide an opportunity for all surrounding the disputed assigned grade. Although legal counsel is not considered appropriate or necessary to such a proceeding, the appellant may request the presence of the Student Government president or designee to serve as a personal advisor. The purpose of the inquiry is fact-finding.

Step D: If after the completion of the administrative hearings, the instructor(s) who issued the disputed grade:

    1. is (are) unable to change the grade (e.g., death, termination of status as faculty member, etc.); or

    2. continue(s) to find no new basis for altering the original grade; or

    3. for any other reason refuse(s) to alter the original grade; then the appointed faculty members who participated in the administrative hearing will issue a written recommendation to the provost which will include a declaration of concurrence or disagreement with the instructor's decision regarding the original assigned grade. If in the judgment of the appointed faculty members, the administrative hearing has demonstrated that the original grade is inappropriate, they may include in the written recommendation to the provost the following options designed to provide the student with the opportunity to demonstrate the invalidity of the original grade:

         a. a retake of the course;

         b. with a different instructor;

         c. without having to pay additional tuition.

     Upon completion of the retake, the disputed grade will be expunged from the student's transcript, and the grade for the retake will replace the original.

 Step E: The provost will utilize the faculty members' recommendation to render a written decision. Copies of this document will be sent to all parties involved in the grade dispute to include the departmental chairperson, instructor, student, and college dean. This decision shall embody one of the following:

    1. agreement with the instructor's original assignment of grade;

    2. utilization of the retake option; or

    3. change of original assigned grade (option to change original assigned grade can be exercised only as a result of unanimous agreement by all members of the administrative hearing committee. Change of grade will be noted on the grading record as an administrative grade change by the provost.).

    If the provost's decision embodies item 3, the proposed change of grade must be based on a determination that the original grade was the result of a capricious or arbitrary application of course standards and procedures. As noted in "Faculty Responsibilities and Entitlements" of this document, instructors are entitled to the widest range of discretion in making judgments about academic performance and the substance of class assignments or responsibilities (class discussion, written work, etc.). Consequently, a clear and obvious violation of grading procedure must be demonstrated to justify the provost's decision to alter a disputed grade. Simple disagreement with the instructor's professional judgment about the substance of a student's performance is not an acceptable basis for changing a grade.

 

Approved by President Gerald W. Tomanek (02-05-87).

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