University not required to maintain student files of grade appeal requests

Rachel Abbey

There’s no way to determine how many grade repeal attempts have been made by students because so few departments keep records of the complaints.

A Stater reporter contacted a total of 14 departments and offices, asking for records about the number of grade appeals filed, and all reported no official records. Common reasons given were:

“Too few complaints were filed.”

“It’s not policy to keep official records.”

“We just handle that case by case.”

“I just started working here.”

Megan Walker, junior communications studies major, was used to receiving good grades and received a D on a paper, which seemed undeserved to her. Walker said she and the professor had not gotten along throughout the semester.

While talking with some friends, they suggested she get the opinion of another professor. The professor and Walker’s friends agreed the work was not deserving of a D.

“I appealed to my department because I did not know any other process to deal with it,” Walker said.

Walker’s appeal did not even make it to the formal complaint portion. Walker said she didn’t even know about the procedure, and the appeal attempt faded away. It would have been helpful to know about the official process, she said.

Most grade disputes are the product of calculation error and can be taken care of in the first step of the university’s official complaint procedure, said Andrew Tonge, chair of the Mathematical Sciences department. Tonge is the person whom students file official complaints with in his department.

The procedure, outlined in the university’s annual Digest of Rules and Regulations, encourages students to try to resolve complaints on an informal basis before resorting to the official process.

“We’ve had very few things that haven’t been resolved with the instructor,” Tonge said.

The complaint has to be registered in the first 15 business days of the following spring or fall semester, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences Timothy Moore said. Complaints are not accepted during summer semester, and students have to wait until the fall semester to file the complaint.

However, not all disputes can be dispelled so easily. According to the procedure, the student must file a formal complaint in writing to his or her complaint adviser. This complaint can be in the form of a letter, detailing the situation, Tonge said. The complaint is then submitted to the campus dean.

While details of the procedure may vary within departments, the overall process follows the outline in the digest.

The College of Arts and Sciences sees few of these formal complaints, Moore said. Approximately five or fewer per semester are brought to his attention, although departments do not often keep official records of grade complaints filed.

When the complaints are filed, the department has to provide an objective committee of faculty and students, Moore said. All aspects of the grade dispute will be examined.

With the complaint, students need to include any documentation pertaining to the complaint. Often, a grade dispute arises when students have been attentive in their course work and think they deserve a better final grade, Moore said. Keeping all paperwork from a course, such as tests, quizzes and essays, is crucial, he said.

“You can’t go in there with a ‘he said, she said’ approach,” Moore said. “You have to have evidence.”

The complaints can not be used to claim a teacher was “bad,” Tonge said. They can only address specific grade disputes.

According to procedure, the committee will examine all evidence, the complaint, the response, the comments and the testimonies from both parties and any additional parties deemed necessary.

A written summary of the committee’s findings and recommendations will be submitted to the campus dean, who gives his or her written decision, according to the process. Either party may then appeal to the dean for Academic Affairs, whose decision is final.

The entire process usually takes about a semester, Moore said.

It is important for students to know their rights, Moore said. Mistakes can happen, and students need to know how to fight for academic justice if they feel they have been wronged.

Contact academics reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].