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A-20-1.1 Suggestions to Students Preparing a Grade Appeal

An appeal of a grade requires time and effort on the part of several people, especially the student who makes the appeal. The student has the responsibility for meeting the deadline to initiate the appeal (within three [3] weeks of the quarter following the quarter in which the grade was given). The student then must write the formal appeal (by the end of the fourth week of that quarter), and the student bears the burden of proof in the appeal. The following questions should help you determine whether to initiate a formal grade appeal.

1. Do you really need to initiate a formal appeal?
Grade errors can happen accidentally, so the first step is to confer with your instructor to determine whether the grade that appeared on your grade report is actually the grade your instructor intended for you to receive. If the error is identified at this point, your instructor will file a Grade Change Form with the Records office to correct the error and no further action is needed.

2. Do you have solid grounds for an appeal?
You may feel that you had poor instruction or that course objectives were unreasonable or that course grades were generally low. Such problems are addressed through other avenues, such as Faculty Evaluation, but they cannot be corrected through the Grade Appeal procedure. Grade Appeals based on such charges as these will not succeed, and a student who has spent hours preparing an appeal will feel frustrated as a result.

The Grade Appeal procedure is available only for review of allegedly capricious grading (study the definition of "capricious grading" in the Grade Appeal Procedure document). The Procedure is not designed for review of the judgment of an instructor in assessing the quality of a student's work or for setting the standards for a course. A grade will not be raised because an instructor graded tests very severely, providing the instructor applied the same rigorous standards to all students. Proof that a faculty member has been antagonistic toward you will not be sufficient to raise a grade unless evidence exists that such antagonism did in fact result in your receiving a lower grade than you earned through performance in the course.

These comments are not meant to discourage you from making an appeal. Rather, they are intended to remind you that the grounds for appeal are limited.

3. Have you already exhausted other avenues for changing the grade?
The grade appeals procedure requires that you try to resolve the dispute at the lowest possible level. First, talk to the faculty member. When you do, listen to the faculty member's side of the story and make sure you offer concrete, objective arguments. Second, talk to the Department Chair (by the end of the third week of the quarter), who will listen to your case and perhaps try to arbitrate a solution on an informal basis.

Third, file a formal written appeal with the Vice President for Instruction, by the end of the third week (or the end of the fourth week, if written notice of intent to appeal has been submitted to the Department Chair by the end of the third week).

4. Preparing your written appeal:
Since the burden of proof is on you, you will need to prepare your appeal carefully. It need not be long. In fact, irrelevant charges and material are likely to confuse the issues and hurt your case. The following points should help you.

First, state the basis for the appeal; i.e., whether you believe there was a departure from stated requirements in your case, a mechanical error, or inconsistent grading practices. Be explicit. The Grade Appeal Committee must know your grounds for appeal.

Second, state the evidence in support of your appeal. Stick to the facts. Name calling, unsubstantiated reports about other students' experiences, and exaggerated claims will not help your case.

Third, include any physical evidence that you have, such as your personal records, tests, comparisons of your score and those of other students, and so forth. Note that the instructor will be asked to supply relevant class records to the Grade Appeals Committee.

Fourth, describe briefly the attempts you have made to resolve the matter, including names, dates and times, and outcomes of meetings you have had with the instructor and the Department Chair.

5. When it's all over:
There are no "victories" or "defeats" in the grade appeals process. Its purpose is to arbitrate differences over grades that could not be solved on a personal basis because both parties to the appeal believed they were right. Based on the evidence at hand, a disinterested committee does its best to render a fair judgment.