Many disputes about grades can be solved informally. We encourage students who have questions about their course grade to discuss it with their instructor (in courses with teaching assistants, students may talk with the main instructor of the course). If the student and instructor cannot settle any disagreement that may remain after this discussion, the student may ask the Department Chair to mediate. The Chair can often help resolve the problem by talking with the student and instructor. If, however, such discussion does not resolve the problem, the Department Chair may change an instructor's grade only if the Department's or College's Grade Appeals Committee formally decides that it should be changed, except when a Department Grade Appeals Committee cannot meet by the time the decision must be made.

If a dispute about a grade is not resolved by these informal attempts, a formal grade appeal may be submitted in writing to the Department Grade Appeals Committee. The Committee will examine any relevant evidence it can obtain, and issue a written decision. Students and instructors may appeal decisions of that Committee to the College Grade Appeals Committee. (For information about appeals to the College Committee, one may contact the Arts and Sciences Dean's Office.)

Submitting Formal Grade Appeals

The student should write a formal description of the situation for the Department Grade Appeals Committee, including:

  • What the instructor did that led to the appeal
  • Why the instructor's actions justify the Committee's changing the grade (taking into account the criteria listed below)
  • An email address at which the Committee can contact the student
  • Any relevant written evidence (which may include the syllabus, exams, papers, and anything else that supports the student's case)

Students are primarily responsible for gathering relevant evidence, and should ensure that they submit all evidence that helps support their case.

This description can be submitted to the Department Grade Appeals Committee by giving it to a Department Secretary, the Department Chair, or any member of the Department Grade Appeals Committee.

Committee Procedures

If the instructor is a Department Grade Appeals Committee member, the committee will choose a substitute in consultation with the Department Chair. The instructor will not participate in this decision.

The Department Chair will appoint substitute members to hear appeals if any Department Grade Appeals Committee members are not available.

Students initiate a formal grade appeal by filing a written complaint with the Department Grade Appeals Committee. The Committee will provide a copy of the complaint to the instructor, who may (but need not) file a written response. The Committee will provide a copy of any written response to the student. The Committee may request information from the instructor (e.g. , the course syllabus). The Committee will then hold a hearing.

The Committee will designate one Committee member to prepare a written summary of any evidence offered orally. This summary will become part of the permanent record of the appeal. The Committee will, if possible, hold a private meeting with any party to the grade appeals case who requests one. The Committee will designate one Committee member to prepare a written summary of the testimony at any private hearing, will provide copies of that summary to all parties, and will allow responses. All other meetings at which the Committee hears testimony will be open to the parties, and at most one advisor for each party. The Committee may choose whether to allow witnesses to remain through the entire hearing. Other people are permitted to attend only by special arrangement with the Committee.

The Committee Chair will ensure that the Committee reaches a decision as quickly after the initial complaint is filed as is feasible and consistent with all parties having adequate opportunity to present all relevant evidence. The Committee will issue a written decision, summarizing its reasons for approving or rejecting the appeal. Any party may appeal that decision to the College Grade Appeals Committee. The Committee Chair will keep complete records of the appeal (including both its written decision and the evidence submitted to it), ensuring that the record will allow review by the College Grade Appeals Committee, and will provide the record to the College Grade Appeals Committee if the Department Committee's decision is appealed.

Basis for Changing Grades

Instructors traditionally have a great deal of latitude both in establishing course requirements and in determining how well students have met those requirements. The Committee will not change an instructor's grade simply because members of the Committee would have assigned a different grade. The Committee will change an instructor's grade only if it has clear evidence that the instructor has acted in an arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise clearly unfair manner. Among the situations that might justify changing a grade are these:

  • Changing the grading procedures stated in the syllabus, without giving reasonable notice to students
  • Requiring students to agree with the instructor's views on controversial topics (Note: requiring students to defend their views and to respond to instructor's questions about them does not constitute requiring students to agree with the instructor's views.)
  • Assigning grades to a student for reasons other than the student's academic performance in the course

Availability of This Procedure

This document is available from the department Office, 315 Louise Pound Hall.

Each instructor must tell any students who ask for information about grade appeals where they can obtain it.