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How L&S Departments Should Approach Student Grade Appeals

All L&S Departments are encouraged to establish procedures for considering student appeals of grades. This document provides guidance about factors to consider in setting up those procedures.

On occasion, a student may feel that they have been assigned a grade unfairly, and may wish to appeal the decision that was made.  The L&S Academic Planning Council advises all departments to have in place a process for dealing with questions and concerns of students who ask about appealing grades. This process should preserve the integrity of an instructor's grade and prevent excessive pressure on the instructor, while still allowing for the appeal of an alleged injustice.  

Departments should talk about and plan for grade appeals before being faced with an actual appeal. In general,

  • Instructors will (and should) only consider changing a student's final grade if there has been some error in tabulating the final grade for the course.
  • To maintain fairness in the grading process, instructors should not take into consideration a student's past performance in previous classes or the amount of energy a student has put into mastering a subject matter to alter a student's grade for a course.   
  • Departments should communicate with all members of the instructional staff who have grading responsibility (including visitors and lecturers) about procedures and expectations in this complex area.
As they plan, the faculty and staff should keep the following considerations in mind:
  • Students should be informed of the policy and procedure (e.g., posting a notice of the procedure on a departmental bulletin board or providing notice in written materials, in student handbooks, or in the policy area of a departmental website).
  • A student with concerns about a grade should always be referred first to the instructor who assigned the grade (requests submitted to department chairs, deans, the Provost, or Chancellor are generally routed back to this first step).
  • A process should be available at the departmental level for a student who is not satisfied with the results of an appeal to the instructor.
  • While an appeal may be either written or oral, it is often helpful to have the student focus the complaint and the issues by putting the appeal in writing.
  • Different departmental approaches are possible. An appeal may be reviewed, for example, by:
    • The department chair, alone.
    • A small group of members of the executive committee, with or without the chair as a member. Group membership might vary for appeals of different courses or topics.
    • A standing committee of the department, e.g., a curriculum committee or an appeals committee.
    • The entire executive committee.
  • However the department structures its approach, the hearing body should request relevant information from the instructor in response to the complaint, including grading criteria and the reason for denying the student's request.
  • A procedure should exist for accommodating the recommendations of the review committee, and it should be clear whether the recommendations are advisory (and to whom) or determining.
In the rare case when the dispute cannot be settled in the department, the academic Associate Dean determines the final outcome. It is everyone's hope that grade appeals will be infrequent, and that they can be handled by explanation and communication at the departmental level. A chair who is confronted with a potentially difficult situation may want to consult with their academic Associate Dean or with General Deans' Staff members from L&S Student Academic Affairs (for undergraduate student issues). In any event, since L&S Student Academic Affairs approves changes only in the case of clerical or computational error, a special notification will be required in the case of a grade change resulting from an appeal.

Departments should contact Elaine Klein, Associate Dean for Academic Planning or reach out to:
L&S Student Academic Affairs:
Phone: (608) 262-0617

Keywords:Policy, grading, procedures for grade appeals, working with student grade changes, changing official grade   Doc ID:22258
Owner:Elaine K.Group:L&S KB
Created:2012-01-13 15:46 CSTUpdated:2022-09-30 10:25 CST
Sites:L&S KB
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