University Policy 410, Policy and Procedures for Student Appeals of Final Course Grades
See: University Policy 410.1, Request for Review of a Final Course Grade
I. Statement of Policy
The purpose of the Final Course Grade Review Policy is to establish a uniform and clear procedure for mediating and settling cases involving contested final grades assigned in undergraduate and graduate courses. The Policy seeks to articulate and to protect both the rights of students for fair and impartial evaluation of their academic performance and the responsibilities of faculty members as the determiners of student grades. A course grade assigned in a manner consistent with University policy can be changed only by the instructor. University administrators can direct a grade to be changed only when it is determined through the procedure established by this policy that the faculty member assigned the course grade impermissibly or arbitrarily as defined herein.
Faculty Responsibility. It is a fundamental principle of higher education that faculty members are expected to exercise their professional judgment in evaluating student performance. At the same time, faculty members have the responsibility to specify in each of their courses at the beginning of the academic term: a) course requirements and expectations for academic performance; and b) procedures for evaluating performance (method(s) of evaluation and grading scales). Faculty members must also communicate clearly to all students in the course any subsequent additions to or changes in these requirements, standards and procedures. Finally, faculty members have the responsibility to apply the specified grading criteria equitably to the academic performance of all students in the course regardless of their race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristics.
Student Responsibility. Students have the responsibility to know and adhere to the University policies and standards pertaining to them. As students willingly accept the benefits of membership in the UNC Charlotte academic community, they are obligated to uphold and observe the principles and standards articulated in The UNC Charlotte Code of Student Academic Integrity and The UNC Charlotte Code of Student Responsibility.
II. Applications and Definitions
This Policy applies only to final course grades. However, course grades which result from alleged violations of the Code of Student Academic Integrity can NOT be appealed under this policy, since separate procedures established by the Academic Integrity Board take precedence in such cases (see the Dean of Students).
For purposes of this Policy, a course grade is deemed to have been assigned arbitrarily or impermissibly if, by a preponderance of the evidence, a student establishes that:
- The course grade was based upon the student's race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or for some other arbitrary or personal reason unrelated to the instructor's exercise of his or her professional academic judgment in the evaluation of the academic performance of the student; or
- The course grade was assigned in a manner not consistent with the standards and procedures for evaluation established by the instructor, usually at the beginning of the course in the course syllabus but supplemented on occasion during the semester in other written or oral communications directed to the class as a whole; or
- The course grade assigned by the instructor was the result of a clear and material mistake in calculating or recording grades. Individual elements (e.g., assignments, tests, activities, projects) which contribute to a course grade are generally NOT subject to appeal or subsequent review during a grade appeals procedure. However, individual elements may be appealed under these procedures providing all of the following conditions are met:
- The student presents compelling evidence that one or more individual elementswere graded on arbitrary or impermissible grounds (defined in 1 - 3 above in this section);
- Grounds can be established for determining a professionally sound grade for the appealed element(s); and
- The ensuing grade for each appealed element would have resulted in a different course grade than that assigned by the faculty member.
Allegations that sexual harassment was the reason a final course grade was impermissibly or arbitrarily assigned by the instructor must be addressed according to procedures set forth in University University Policy 502 rather than from the following procedures.
Step 1. Consultation with Instructor: When a student believes that a course grade is incorrect, the student shall first discuss it with the instructor who assigned the grade. The instructor will explain how the grade was determined and attempt to resolve any disagreement. The student’s inquiry to the instructor should occur as soon as possible after the formal grade report is received.
Step 2. Application for Appeal of Course Grade: If the student is unable to resolve the grievance through consultation with the instructor, a written request for review of the course grade may be submitted to the Chair of the Department or the Director of the interdisciplinary degree program in which the course was taught. Requests for review must be submitted within the first four weeks of the next regular academic semester. Requests for review submitted after the deadline will be heard only in exceptional cases as determined by the Dean of the college in which the appealed course grade occurred.
To initiate a grade review, the student should forward a written request for review of a final course grade to the Department Chair or Program Director in whose unit the course was offered. Students requesting a final course grade review assume the burden of proof. Therefore, the request for review must include:
- A statement of the reasons the student believes the grade was impermissibly or arbitrarily assigned;
- The steps taken to resolve the disagreement over the assigned course grade; and
- The resolution sought.
The written request for review of a final course grade shall be accompanied by any evidence the student believes supports the conclusion that the grade was impermissibly or arbitrarily assigned. Evidence might include papers, tests, syllabi, or written documentation from witnesses. The student must demonstrate that the instructor applied irrelevant or impermissible criteria in evaluating the student's academic performance, that the instructor failed to follow his or her course evaluation standards, or that the course grade was assigned as the result of a clear and material mistake in calculating or recording grades. That the student disagrees with the assigned grade does not constitute a basis for a review. Students can obtain advice and assistance from the Dean of Students on how to request a grade review.
A student alleging that the course grade assigned was impermissible or arbitrary due to sexual harassment by the instructor should follow the procedures set forth in University Policy 502 rather than those set forth here.
CAUTION: Falsification or fabrication of information provided by the student may be subject to disciplinary action under the Code of Student Academic Integrity.
Step 3. Mediation by Chair: Within ten working days of receiving the "Request for Review," the Department Chair or Program Director will attempt an informal resolution of the disagreement between the student and the instructor. If the Chair or Director is unable to resolve the disagreement within ten working days, the Chair or Director shall forward the student's "Request for Review" to the College Dean with a statement of the Chair's or Director’s understanding of the facts.
Step 4. Initial Review by Dean: Upon receipt of the request and statement of the Chair or Director, the Dean should invite the student and instructor to submit any supplemental written statements they wish by a specified deadline. If the Dean determines that the facts alleged in the student’s written request for review of the final course grade or in the supplemental statement could, if true, constitute a violation of this policy, the Dean, within ten working days, shall appoint an ad hoc "Grade Review Committee." Within ten working days after receiving information from the Chair or Director and any supplemental statements from the instructor and/or the student, the Dean will review the written request for review of a final course grade and any supplemental statements. If the Dean concludes that the facts alleged by the student would not constitute a violation of the policy, the Dean may dismiss the grade review. The student then has ten working days in which to appeal this decision by the Dean to the Provost whose decision is final.
Step 5. Grade Review Committee: The ad hoc Grade Review Committee shall consist of three faculty members appointed by the appropriate Dean. Two of the faculty members shall be selected from "neighboring" disciplines or programs whose methods and techniques of teaching and testing are as similar as possible to those of the discipline or program of the course in question. One of these two faculty members shall be named by the Dean to serve as chair of the Grade Review Committee. In addition, the Dean shall select one faculty member from a "non-neighboring" discipline.
The purpose of this Committee is to determine whether the facts support the student's contention that the grade was impermissibly or arbitrarily assigned as defined in section II of this Policy. It is not the function of the Review Committee to reevaluate the student's work to determine whether the Committee agrees with the professional judgment of the faculty member who assigned the grade.
The Committee Chair shall convene the Committee not later than ten working days from his/her appointment to examine the student's written request for review, the factual report of the Departmental Chair or interdisciplinary degree program Director, any written statement received by the Dean from either the student or the instructor, and any additional relevant documentation. Additionally, the Committee may request oral presentations from both parties. Witnesses may be questioned by Committee members and by the persons directly involved in the review. Neither the student nor the faculty member may be accompanied or represented in the hearing by legal counsel or other advisor. The Committee may consider only such evidence as is offered by the parties and at the hearing(s) and need consider only the evidence offered that it considers fair and reliable. The burden of proof shall be on the student to satisfy the Committee that a preponderance of the evidence supports a conclusion that the grade was awarded arbitrarily or impermissibly as defined in section II. All decisions of the Committee shall be made by majority vote.
The conduct of the review shall be under the control of the Committee Chair. Within ten working days from the conclusion of its hearing(s) on the matter, the Committee will provide a written report to the Dean. The Committee report must include the Committee's finding as to whether or not the grade assigned was awarded arbitrarily or impermissibly as defined in Section II of this policy. If such a determination is made, the Committee shall specify a recommended course of action which could include assignment of a specific grade to replace the one originally assigned or implementation of some process to reevaluate the student's work.
Step 6. Review by the Dean: Within ten working days after receiving the Committee's report and recommendations and other documentation assembled in the review, the Dean will make a final decision which s/he will then communicate in writing to the student, faculty member, and the Department Chair or interdisciplinary degree program Director.
Step 7. Appeal: Other than an appeal to the Provost submitted by the student as part of Step 4 of this policy, appeals beyond the College Dean will be considered by the Provost only if the student is able to provide a reasonable basis to support the contention that the procedures prescribed in this document were not followed in the disposition of the student's request for review of a contested grade. These appeals must be made in writing to the Provost within ten working days of the Dean's decision. The decision of the Provost is final.
IV. Substitution Provisions
In the event that the faculty member whose grade is being reviewed is also a Department Chair or interdisciplinary degree program Director, the Dean shall do those things required by the Chair or Director. In the event that the faculty member whose grade is being reviewed is also a Dean, the Provost can name an appropriate substitute to perform the functions of the Dean as required by this policy.
(Approved by the UNC Charlotte Faculty Council, April 16, 1998)