Contesting a Grade
The Student Handbook
states: (page 97, Rights and Freedoms of Students: Academic Program, item 2) The evaluation of a student’s performance shall not reflect other factors than those directly concerned with the project or semesters work in question. Students shall have protection against prejudiced or capricious academic evaluation through the publication of clear courses objectives and evaluation policies and methods; through written explanation of grades upon student request; and through orderly procedures of appeal against clear failure to observe stated criteria, in the assignment of final grades. No later than the second class meeting, a written syllabus shall be distributed to the students, containing:….”
The College protects students from capricious and/or prejudice in grading. Students have the right to request a written explanation
of a grade in a course. The student needs to compare the explanation to his/her own records to be sure there is no miscalculation or other discrepancy that would lead to the next step of a discussion to rectify the situation. Faculty are usually quick to request permission to change a grade that has been miscalculated.
When the complaint is more complicated than that, the student needs to be able to demonstrate that the grading was capricious (not according to the syllabus, allowing for announced changes made in reasonable time, or otherwise inconsistent,) or that there was prejudice (the student was graded differently without cause.)
If the discrepancy is genuine (not a mathematical error to be corrected), the student needs to take all of his/her evidence to his or her advisor or other faculty member to discuss the reality of what can be demonstrated. Basically, this is to determine if there is a case that can be proven.
The advisor's role
is to help the student recognize real evidence as grounds for a charge and understand the ground rules. Discuss with the student: 1) Is there evidence to prove the charge? 2) What does he/she hope to accomplish? Sometimes students have unreasonable expectations for the outcome. The College strives to have the correct grade established, the grade as earned according to the stated policy for grading in the course. If there has been a case of capricious grading, the College is more likely to give the students the opportunity to change their grades to Pass/Fail or Credit/No Credit than to try to figure out specific grades. A higher grade may not be the result.
The course instructor’s judgment of the achievement is not in question unless it was capricious or prejudicial in nature. In other words, the grade might not reflect the student’s sense of the true achievement, but if it is consistent with the way in which that course was graded for everyone, then there is no case. Feeling that the grading doesn't fairly reflect how much work was done isn't grounds for a charge.
If the student has evidence for a charge, he/she makes the charge in writing. The charge is sent to the Department Chairperson who will investigate the charge and report findings to the Provost/Dean of the College for further action.
Every case is individual and there is no set way of settling them. For example, if the unfairness involves not having been given the opportunity to take a test, the solution may be to give the student an opportunity to take the test and have the professor grade it. A faculty advisor will quickly see if the student is going to benefit or not from having the case resolved.
Sometimes a student wishes to bring a charge even if there is no great hope of a grade change, to know that they have done everything they can. At other times a student may decide not to bring a charge, but wish to write a letter of complaint to express a sense of unfairness or injustice. An advisor can help the student decide whether such a letter should go directly to the professor and/or be filed with the associate provost.