Final responsibility for assigning grades to students in a course rests with the faculty member teaching that course. Requirements and specific expectations concerning the level and way in which requirements are to be met are specific to a given course; it is inappropriate to expect that evaluations of course work can be made by third parties.
Faculty members are expected to evaluate student performance based on the criteria and requirements outlined in course syllabi. All students are to be treated impartially and fairly in relation to those requirements. There are three bases for a grade appeal:
- Alleged failure of a faculty member to assign the proper weight as stated in the course syllabus to various parts of the assessment elements that contribute to the final grade.
- Alleged prejudicial treatment of a student in relation to the treatment afforded other students in the course.
- Alleged violation of the Academic Rights for Students as stated in the Student Handbook and the Faculty Handbook.
The student should be prepared to demonstrate a direct link between the circumstances of the awarding of his/her grade and one of the bases above.
An appeal cannot be based on a challenge to the difficulty of a course or on strictness of grading. Each faculty member is responsible for these standards, and, so long as they are applied equitably and fairly, their strict application is not a basis for an appeal. Should a student have reason to appeal the final grade in a course, the following appeal procedure must be followed in the sequence indicated below with Step 3 completed no more than 3 calendar weeks from the first day of classes of the following regular semester. Students who are off campus while pursuing a grade appeal should work through the Director of Academic Success who will serve as the student’s liaison. In all cases, the Director will be responsible for informing the student, faculty member, and department chair involved of the Appeal of Grades Procedure.
Step 1. The student first requests, schedules, and attends a face-to-face conference with the faculty member who taught the course to determine whether the matter can be settled between the student and the faculty member. A face-to-face meeting constitutes a conference; a conversation by voice-mail, e-mail or telephone does not. In the event that a faculty member is no longer employed at Southwestern, the student should proceed to Step 2, working with the chair of the department who will attempt to facilitate the process with or without the former faculty member.
Step 2. After this conference, should the student continue to believe that fair and equitable treatment has not been given, the student must communicate that in writing to the instructor and the matter should be brought by the student to the faculty member’s department/program chair. This conversation should also be face-to-face, not by telephone, e-mail or voice-mail. If the faculty member who taught the course is also the department/program chair, the student should have a face-to-face conversation with a faculty member designated by the Dean of the Faculty.
Step 3. If a settlement is not reached after the conversation referenced in Step 2, the student should take the complaint to the Associate Director. The circumstances of the appeal will be confirmed by the Associate Director and (s)he will review the grade appeal process with the student, providing feedback on the appropriateness of the appeal. An official form detailing the completed steps and timeline of the grade appeal process will be filled out at this time by the Associate Director and the student. A copy of this form will be forwarded to the faculty member and the chair of the department regardless of the outcome of this conversation. Should the student choose to continue the grade appeal process, (s)he will sign a statement indicating the intent on the form. This step should be completed within 3 calendar weeks from the first day of classes of the semester immediately following the one in which the course was taught.
Step 4. Should the student wish to continue the grade appeal process, the Director will ask the student to provide a written statement outlining the basis for the appeal. This statement must be submitted within 6 calendar weeks from the first day of classes of the semester immediately following the one in which the course was taught. The Director will then ask the faculty member to provide a written response. A copy of the faculty member’s response will be given to the student. The student may elect to provide a reply to the faculty member’s response which is shared with the faculty member. These documents and other relevant materials will then be reviewed by the Academic Standards Committee.
Step 5. The Academic Standards Committee is charged with evaluating such complaints and the evidence on which they are based. Meetings of the Academic Standards Committee are held in closed session. Should the committee conclude that there are not sufficient grounds for a student’s claim of prejudicial or unfair treatment, it will be reported to the student and to the faculty member in writing and the matter will be closed. Should the committee determine that there is a basis for this claim, its recommendation will be reported in writing to the Dean of the Faculty.
Step 6. The Dean of the Faculty is then responsible for discussing the findings and recommendation of the Academic Standards Committee with the department chair and the faculty member involved. The department chair and the faculty member will then develop a solution for resolution of the complaint. Should the grade be changed, such change is reported by the faculty member to the Records Office on a Change of Grade Form. This will be reported to the student by the Dean of the Faculty in writing.
Step 7. In cases where a faculty member refused to accept the recommendation of the committee and there is a reason to believe that the faculty member’s behavior was prejudicial or unfair, the Dean of the Faculty may authorize that the grade in the course be changed to a “CR” or a “W”. This will be reported to the student by the Dean of the Faculty in writing.