Policy and Procedure for Student Appeals of Final Course Grades

University Policy: 
410

I.  Policy

The purpose of this Policy is to establish a uniform and clear procedure for mediating and settling cases involving contested final grades assigned in undergraduate and graduate courses. This 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.


II. Applicability and Grounds for Appeal

A. Applicability

This Policy applies only to final course grades. However, this Policy is not applicable to appeals of course grades that result from alleged violations of University Policy 407, The Code of Student Academic Integrity; in such cases, the procedures set forth in the Code of Academic Integrity shall apply.  A student alleging that the course grade assigned was based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds due to sexual harassment by the instructor should follow the procedures set forth in University Policy 502 rather than those set forth here.

B. Grounds for Appeal

The basis of a course grade appeal must be an allegation that the grade was assigned based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds. Student disagreement with the assigned grade does not constitute a basis for review.

For purposes of this Policy, a course grade is deemed to have been assigned upon arbitrary or impermissible grounds if, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), a student establishes that:
  1. The course grade was based upon the student's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, actual or perceived gender identity, age, national origin, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, veteran status, and genetic information; 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
  2. 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
  3. The course grade assigned by the instructor was the result of a clear and material mistake in calculating or recording grades.
C. Assignments, Tests, Projects, etc.

Individual elements (e.g., assignments, tests, activities, projects) that 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:

  1. The student presents compelling evidence that one or more individual elements were graded on arbitrary or impermissible grounds (set forth in Section II.B); and
  2. Grounds can be established for determining a professionally sound grade for the appealed element(s); and
  3. The ensuing grade for each appealed element would have resulted in a different course grade than that assigned by the faculty member. 

III. Procedures for Grade Review and Appeal

A course grade assigned in a manner consistent with University policies can be changed only by the instructor who assigned the grade. University administrators can direct a grade to be changed by the Registrar only when it is determined through this procedure that the instructor assigned the course grade based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds, as set forth in Section II.B of this Policy.

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. This inquiry should occur as soon as possible after the formal grade report is received and no later than five business days after the first day of classes of the next regular academic semester.  (For grades that were received during fall semester, the next regular academic semester is spring semester.  For grades that were received during spring semester or a summer session, the next regular academic semester is fall semester.)  The instructor will then explain how the grade was determined and attempt to resolve any disagreement with the student. 

If the student is unsuccessful at resolving the grade dispute and believes the grade was based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds (see Section II.B), the student should then follow the procedure in Step 2 to request an appeal of the course grade.

In the event that the instructor who assigned the grade is not available at the time of the appeal (e.g., instructor is on leave, overseas, or is no longer employed by the University), the grade review process will begin with Step 2: Request for Appeal of Course Grade below. 

Step 2. Request for Appeal of Course Grade

If the student is unable to resolve the disagreement through consultation with the instructor, or if the instructor is unavailable (e.g., instructor is on leave, overseas, or is no longer employed by the University), the student may submit a written request for review of the course grade as follows:

Appeals must be submitted to the Chair of the academic Department, Director of the academic program in which the course was taught, or designee[1]. Written requests for review must be submitted within the first four weeks after the first day of class of the next regular academic semester. (For grades that were received during fall semester, the next regular academic semester is spring semester.  For grades that were received during spring semester or a summer session, the next regular academic semester is fall semester.) Requests for review submitted after the deadline will be heard only in exceptional cases as determined by the Academic Dean or the Dean's designee of the academic 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 Chair of the academic department or the Director of the academic program that taught the course, or to the appropriate chair or director designee.[1] Students requesting a final course grade review assume the burden of proof. Therefore, the request for review must include:

  1. A statement of the reasons the student believes the grade was based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds, as set forth in Section II.B of this Policy; and
  2. The steps taken to resolve the disagreement over the assigned course grade (e.g., evidence of efforts to consult with the instructor); and
  3. 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 based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds. Evidence might include papers, tests, syllabi, or written documentation from witnesses. The student must demonstrate that the instructor applied arbitrary 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. Students can obtain advice from the Dean of Students or the student’s academic college on how to request a grade review.

CAUTION: Falsification or fabrication of information provided by the student may be subject to disciplinary action under University Policy 407, Code of Student Academic Integrity.

[1] The academic program is determined by the course prefix. In the case of courses with a LBST (Liberal Studies) prefix, students should submit the appeal to the Chair of the academic department with which the instructor is affiliated.    

Step 3. Mediation by Department Chair or Program Director

Within ten business days of receiving the "Request for Review," the Department Chair or Program Director or designee will attempt an informal resolution of the disagreement between the student and the instructor. The Chair or Program Director shall send written correspondence to the student notifying him or her of the resolution (or lack thereof).  The correspondence shall include the rationale for the outcome and option for a next step in the process if appropriate.  If the Chair or Director is unable to resolve the disagreement within ten business days, the Chair or Director shall forward the student's "Request for Review" to the Academic College Dean with a written statement of the Chair's or Director’s understanding of the facts.

Step 4. Initial Review by Academic Dean

Within five business days of the request and statement of the Chair or Director, the Academic Dean or designee should invite the student and instructor to submit any supplemental written statements relevant to the case.  The student and instructor shall have five business days to submit any supplemental statements to the Dean. 

Within ten business days after receiving information from the Chair or Director, and any supplemental statements from the instructor and/or the student, if applicable, the Academic Dean or designee will review the written request for review of a final course grade, the factual report of the Departmental Chair or interdisciplinary degree program Director, and any supplemental statements.

  1. If the Academic 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 Academic Dean, within ten business days, shall appoint an ad hoc "Grade Review Committee" and shall deliver to the chair of the Committee the written request for review of a final course grade, the factual report of the Departmental Chair or interdisciplinary degree program Director, and any supplemental statements. 
  2. If the Academic Dean determines that the facts alleged by the student would not constitute a violation of this Policy, the Academic Dean may dismiss the grade review by informing the student in writing of his/her decision. The written correspondence shall include the rationale for the decision.  The decision of the Academic Dean is final. 
Step 5. Grade Review Committee

The ad hoc Grade Review Committee shall consist of three faculty members outside the department in which the grade was assigned who are appointed by the Academic Dean of the discipline or program in which the course was taught. One of these three faculty members shall be named by the Academic Dean to serve as chair of the Grade Review Committee.

The purpose of the Grade Review Committee is to determine whether the facts support the student's contention that the grade was based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds, as set forth in Section II.B 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.

Within ten business days from his/her appointment, the Committee Chair shall convene the Committee 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 Academic 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.

The student and the Department Chair or Program Director may each be accompanied by one support person if desired, but that person’s role is limited to conferring with and advising the student or faculty member; the person is not permitted to argue or make statements on behalf of the individual. 

The Committee may consider only such evidence as is provided by the Academic Dean and offered by the parties 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 based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds, as set forth in Section II.B of this Policy. 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 business days from the conclusion of its hearing(s) on the matter, the Committee will provide a formal, written report to the Academic Dean. The Committee report must include the Committee's finding as to whether or not the grade assigned was based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds, as set forth in Section II.B of this Policy, and a rationale for that finding. If the Committee finds that the grade assigned was based on arbitrary or impermissible grounds, 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 course work.

Step 6. Review by the Academic Dean

Within ten business days after receiving the Committee's report and recommendations and other documentation assembled in the review, the Academic Dean or deisgnee will make a final decision on the appeal, which s/he will then communicate in writing to the student, faculty member, and the Department Chair or interdisciplinary degree program Director. 

The written communication to the student shall include the rationale for the decision. The decision of the Academic Dean is final.


IV. roles and responsibilities

A. 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, religion, sex, sexual orientation, actual or perceived gender identity, age, national origin, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, veteran status, and genetic information. 

In the event that the instructor who assigned the grade is also a Department Chair or interdisciplinary degree program Director, the Academic Dean or designee shall do those things required by the Chair or Director in this Policy. In the event that the faculty member whose grade is being reviewed is also an Academic Dean, the Provost shall name an appropriate substitute to perform the functions of the Academic Dean as required by this Policy.

B. 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 this Policy, University Policy 407, Code of Student Academic Integrity, University Policy 406, Code of Student Responsibility, and other applicable policies.

Revision History: