Updated and Approved March 2012
The Department of Sociology believes that an instructor is in the best position to determine the quality of a student’s work in their course. The department also has confidence in the qualifications and good judgment of its faculty. Nevertheless, there are instances when a student feels that his or her academic performance has been unfairly or improperly graded. When such charges arise, discussion and arbitration can help ascertain if there is a wrong which should be righted. However, it is ultimately only the course instructor who can determine the substantive value of a student’s performance in that course, and only the instructor can change the grade.
To submit a grade grievance, the student must make the case that the grade received was unjust and substantially different from the grade that was justified. The difference between an A- and a B+ is not, for example, a substantial difference. Dissatisfaction with a grade alone is not sufficient for a grade grievance nor will appeals be heard where a student has not attended class regularly or turned in all required work.
A grade grievance is available only for review of alleged capricious grading, not an instructor’s judgment in assessing the quality of a student’s work. Capricious grading includes any of the following: the assignment of a grade to a particular student on some basis other than course performance; the assignment of a grade to a particular student by more exacting or demanding standards than were applied to other students in that course; or the assignment of a grade by a substantial departure from the instructor’s previously announced standards. A change in course or examination requirements that applies equally to all students is not grounds for an individual student’s grievance.
II. Consultation with Instructor
The first step in inquiring about the fairness of a final grade should be directed to the lead instructor of the course. This initial inquiry should take place within the first fifteen University business days of the first full term following the term in which the disputed grade was issued. If, after this inquiry, the student is not satisfied with the instructor’s response, the student may choose to initiate a formal grade grievance. To initiate a formal grade grievance, the student should contact the department’s undergraduate program director before the end of the fifth week of classes in the first full term following the term in which the disputed grade was issued.
III. Formal Complaint to Undergraduate Program Director
To initiate the formal grade grievance process, the student must convey in writing the basis for the complaint, with specific evidence in support of the argument that the grade was unfairly determined. This formal complaint also should summarize the outcome of the initial inquiry to the course instructor, indicating what aspects are in dispute. The student should also submit all papers and examinations written for the course to which the student has access. Upon receipt of the written complaint and within three weeks, the undergraduate program director will ask the instructor to provide a written summary restating how the final grade was determined and to respond to the specific claims made by the student.
After receiving this information from both the student and the instructor, the undergraduate program director will then determine if sufficient evidence exists for a grade grievance.
If the undergraduate program director determines that there is insufficient evidence for the grade grievance, the matter is considered closed, and the original grade stands.
If the undergraduate program director determines that the grade grievance should proceed, he/she will convene an ad hoc committee (hereafter the Grade Grievance Committee) and set a date for a formal hearing. The hearing should be scheduled within two weeks of the Committee’s receipt of materials from the student and instructor. This committee will consist of the department chair, two additional faculty members, the undergraduate concentration advisor, and two sociology concentrators chosen by the undergraduate director.
IV. Grade Grievance Hearing
Before the formal hearing the undergraduate program director will supply both the student filing the grade grievance and the respective instructor with copies of the written student complaint and the instructor’s summary. During the hearing, the student will be asked to first present the basis of his or her complaint; the instructor will then be asked to present his or her explanation for how grades were determined. Following an open period of questions to all parties, i.e., the student, the instructor and the Grade Grievance Committee members, the formal hearing will be adjourned.
V. Grade Grievance Committee’s Recommendation
The Grade Grievance Committee will have ten University business days from the date of the hearing to determine its recommendation and submit a written report to the undergraduate program director.
If the Grade Grievance Committee decides that a grade change is not warranted, the undergraduate program director will convey this in writing to the student and the instructor. The original grade will stand and the matter is considered closed.
If the committee recommends a grade change, the undergraduate program director will communicate that decision directly to the instructor. The instructor will then be asked to respond in writing within five University business days to the undergraduate program director indicating whether or not he/she will abide by the Grade Grievance Committee’s recommendation. If the instructor agrees to a grade change, the undergraduate program director will in writing inform the student of the instructor’s decision and the student’s final course grade will be changed. The matter is considered closed.
If an instructor does not accept the Grade Grievance Committee’s recommendation to change the final grade, the original grade will stand. By College policy, a final course grade rests solely with the instructor and, as such, a course grade cannot be changed without the instructor’s consent. When this occurs, the undergraduate program director will convey in writing this decision to the student. The matter is considered closed. There is no appeal beyond the department.
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