All students

Grade Appeals, All Students

Policy Number: 100105

Current Policy

Category: Academic » Appeals

 

Policy

The procedure outlined below applies to a situation where a student initiates a grade appeal request.

Please be aware that in every case, the decision being appealed is in force and considered final unless or until it is reversed or modified through this process.

Only the faculty member who assigned the original grade has the authority to change that grade unless the grade is appealed and the appeal is successful. In the event the faculty member is no longer with the university, the authority to change the grade, including the authority to make up an incomplete, is delegated to the academic unit’s Chair or Director or Dean. (Faculty Handbook – Section 5.3.9) The Grade Appeal Policy below is based upon this section of the NAU Faculty Handbook.

A grade assigned by an instructor may be appealed only by following the procedures defined below. A grade appeal should be considered only in instances where an instructor demonstrated a substantial deviation from accepted and specified standards as outlined by the instructor, program, or university.

Generally, such deviations are evidenced by, but not limited to, the following:

  • The instructor deviated substantially from the course syllabus;
  • The instructor deviated substantially from accepted and specified standards of proficiency of the University and/or academic department as established by the Faculty Handbook and/or College/Department Academic Policy Manual;
  • The instructor applied established classroom policies unevenly across students enrolled in the class;
  • The instructor applied established academic assessment methods unevenly across students enrolled in the class.

In every case, the burden of proof rests upon the student to demonstrate why the grade should be changed. In all instances, the instructor(s) involved must be given full opportunity to present his/her position before any action is taken.

If the grade appeal is based on an allegation or finding of an academic integrity violation, then the appeal must follow the Academic Integrity Policy procedures and is not considered a grade appeal.

Initiation of Grade Appeal Process

A written communication by the student to the instructor indicating a desire to review the grade is considered initiation of the appeal process. This written communication may be in the form of an email or a letter. The student must initiate the appeal process following the timeline* below:

  • Appeal of a course grade received in a fall or winter session must be initiated within the first 15 business days of the following spring term (for 16-week courses) or session (for courses that run less than 16 weeks);
  • Appeal of a course grade received in a spring or summer session must be initiated within the first 15 business days of the following fall term (for 16-week courses) or session (for courses that run less than 16 weeks).

*Please Note:

Due to typical academic calendars and faculty workload expectations, the appeal process will be conducted only during the fall and spring academic terms. In rare circumstances, and with the permission of the Dean (or designee) of the academic unit where the appeal resides, a grade appeal may be initiated in a summer term or winter intersession term.

If the student fails to submit requested materials in any step of this policy, or fails to notify the designated administrator within the timeline specified in this policy, such failure will constitute a waiver of the student’s right to an appeal and the original decision or result from the immediate previous step will remain the final decision. If the student fails to initiate the first step within the timeline above, then the grade the student originally received will remain final. An appellant or respondent may request an extension of time for this process due to extenuating circumstances. Those requests may be submitted to the designated administrator for the grade appeal which is typically the academic Chair/Director or Assistant/Associate Dean.

Group grade appeals are not permitted unless approved by the Provost or designee.

General Procedure

General Procedure for the Grade Appeal

Step 1

A student-instructor meeting must be scheduled or conducted within ten (10) business days after the date of the student’s written communication to the instructor, with the goal of ensuring fairness and a timely resolution to the problem. The meeting may be conducted in person, via the telephone, or other electronic meeting technology agreed upon by the student and instructor. Both the student and the faculty member may bring a silent observer to this meeting provided notification is given to both parties no less than two (2) business days prior to the meeting. It is recommended that this meeting be recorded and documented by both parties to ensure proper procedure was followed and to establish an accurate timeline. If the initial student-instructor meeting does not produce satisfaction, the student has ten (10) business days to notify, in writing, the designated administrator of the academic unit of the intent to proceed to Step 2. If the faculty member is no longer employed at NAU, is on sabbatical/leave or other kind of assignment, or cannot participate in the appeal process, please see Special Circumstances** section of this policy.

 Step 2

Upon receiving a written request from the student, the designated administrator will call a meeting of the student, instructor, and him/herself. This meeting may be conducted via in-person, telephone or electronic meeting technology agreed upon by all parties. The student must present to the designated administrator a “Statement of Issues” at least five (5) business days prior to the meeting. This statement must be shared with the instructor at least three (3) business days prior to the above-mentioned meeting. The student may bring a silent observer to the meeting provided the designated administrator is notified no less than two (2) business days prior to the meeting. The faculty member must be present during the proceedings in Step 2 unless they are no longer employed at NAU, is on sabbatical/leave or other kind of assignment, or cannot participate in the appeal process.* (See Special Circumstances** section of this policy).

It is recommended that this meeting be recorded and documented by the designated administrator (or a member of the administrator’s support staff) to ensure proper procedure was followed and to establish an accurate timeline.

Following the meeting, a letter shall be sent to the student and the faculty member documenting the meeting and confirming the decision that was made. This letter constitutes the official minutes of the meeting and shall include a copy of the student’s “Statement of Issues.” The designated administrator may affirm or change the grade based upon the evidence presented.

If the instructor of the course is a department chair or the administrator of the academic unit, Step 2 of the process is conducted by a Dean-designated administrator within the College.

If this meeting does not produce satisfaction, the student or instructor has ten (10) business days from the date of the meeting summary letter, to notify the academic college’s Dean or designee of their intent to proceed to Step 3. This request must be in writing and must be accompanied by a “Statement of Issues.” The “Statement of Issues” from previous steps in the appeal process may be modified and used.

Step 3

Upon receiving a request from the appellant, the college Dean or designee will appoint and convene an ad hoc committee composed of the persons listed below to hear the appeal. Any requests by the Committee Chair to the appellant and/or respondent must be honored within ten (10) business days.

The appellant and/or the respondent may present written responses or addendums to their original “Statement of Issues” provided in previous steps, or a modified “Statement of Issues” to support their position. No written responses or addendums may be presented less than five (5) business days prior to the meeting of the ad hoc committee. No new written responses or addendums may be presented at the Committee meeting.

Any requests for information by either the student or faculty member must be made to the Committee chair at least ten (10) business days prior to the meeting. If the Committee chair considers a request to be a potential violation of confidentiality, he/she should contact the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs for final resolution of the request.

All materials submitted by the appellant and respondent must be given to the individual designated as the Chair of the ad hoc committee. Committee members, appellant and respondent must receive the “Statement of Issues” and any written responses or addendums no later than two business days prior to the meeting.

The minutes of the Student/Faculty/Designated Administrator meeting will be forwarded to the Chair of the ad hoc committee. During the Committee meeting, the appellant and respondent will be given full opportunity to present their positions. If the faculty member or student is no longer at NAU, on a leave or other type of assignment, or cannot participate in the process, the grade appeal hearing will proceed without their participation, utilizing the official decisions and “Statement of Issues” supplied to the designated administrator for the hearing and/or supplied in previous steps of the appeal process.

The Dean's ad hoc committee shall consist of:

  • Dean of the college, or designee, who chairs the committee. This individual must be different from the individuals who served as the designated administrators in steps 1 and 2;
  • Two faculty members from the department in which the course being appealed is offered. If two faculty members from the department cannot be found, faculty from other academic units in the college/school may be appointed;
  • Two faculty members from an academic unit outside the department in which the course being appealed is offered. These faculty members may come from the same college/school as the department in which the course is being appealed or they may come from a different college/school;
  • An Associated Students of Northern Arizona University (ASNAU) senator, or designee, for undergraduate students or the Graduate Student Government (GSG) representative, or designee, representing the college/school involved with the appeal. If this individual is not available, the Chair of this Committee may appoint another student to fulfill this role.
  • A representative of the Office of the Provost, in an advisory (non-voting) capacity.

Process to be followed by the ad hoc Committee:

All members of the Dean’s ad hoc committee should be present in person or via electronic means during the fact-finding phase of the meeting. The appellant and/or respondent may bring a silent observer to this Committee hearing provided the chair of the committee is notified no less than two business days prior to the meeting.

Format for College-level Grade Appeal Hearing:

  • Introduction of Committee members
  • Charge to Committee by Chair
  • Process Statement by Provost Office Representative
  • Presentation of Information by Appellant
  • Presentation of Information by Respondent
  • Questions from Committee Members
  • Response to Respondent presentation by Appellant
  • Response to Appellant presentation by Respondent
  • Questions from Committee Members
  • Meeting Ending Statement by Chair
  • Deliberations and Vote

The fact-finding phase of the meeting should generally last between 30 and 45 minutes.

The chair shall vote only in the event of a tie. Minutes of the meeting shall be taken by someone other than the person chairing the meeting and shall be prepared in summary form. These minutes are kept in the office of the Dean; a copy is forwarded to the representative from the Provost’s Office. The appellant and respondent will be sent copies of the minutes and may propose corrections to the minutes before they are released to any party outside of the Committee.

It is recommended that the fact-finding portion of the meeting in which the appellant and respondent present their information be recorded and documented by a member of the Dean’s support staff. The recording will be retained in the Office of the Dean and disposed of according to Arizona Statutes on Records Retention. No recording of the Committee’s deliberations is allowed. Any member of the committee or party present at the committee meeting (defined as a participant) is authorized to have access to the recording and may be sent a copy of the recording for their records. Any requests from non-participants in the meeting will be referred to university legal counsel for resolution. A letter will be sent to the appellant and respondent indicating the decision of the committee, and the rationale behind this decision.

Appealing the Dean’s Ad Hoc Committee Decision

The only grounds for appeal to the Provost’s Office are procedural violations outlined in this grade appeal policy. Should this be the case, the matter may be appealed in writing to the Office of the Provost within ten (10) business days from the date of the hearing result letter.

The appeal request will be forwarded via the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs to the Chair of the Academic Standards Committee (ASC) who shall be responsible for calling a meeting of a subcommittee of the ASC composed of at least six individuals. Both the appellant and respondent must be notified in writing of the hearing at this level and the procedures to be followed.

At a meeting specifically scheduled to consider only the grade appeal, the ASC sub-committee will conduct a review of the process of the appeal at all levels based on the particular circumstances of the case and the policies of the University. The review shall be focused solely on the process carried out by the various individuals involved in the various stages of the grade appeal. The ASC sub-committee may invite the appellant and other relevant individuals to the hearing if it decides the individual’s presence is required to provide the information necessary for the sub-committee to make an informed decision.

Format for ASC Sub-Committee Grade Appeal Hearing 

When no outside parties are present

  • Charge to Committee by Chair of Sub-committee
  • Review of Appeal Statement by Appellant
  • Review of Dean’s Ad Hoc Committee
  • Committee Discussion, Deliberations and Vote

Format for ASC Sub-Committee Grade Appeal Hearing 

When One or more Invited Individuals are Present

  • Charge to Committee by Chair of Sub-committee
  • Review of Appeal Statement by Appellant
  • Review of Dean’s Ad Hoc Committee
  • Presentation of Information by Appellant
  • Presentation of Information by Respondent
  • Questions from Committee Members
  • Response to Respondent presentation by Appellant
  • Response to Appellant presentation by Respondent
  • Questions from Committee Members
  • Committee Discussion, Deliberations and Vote

The decision reached by the ASC Sub-committee will be communicated to the Appellant, the Respondent and the Dean of the College.

The decisions reached by the ASC Sub-committee shall become a matter of University record in the Office of the Provost. This decision shall be final and end any further campus involvement. There is no appeal beyond this level.

Definitions:

“Meeting”

is defined by the presence of all parties to the grade appeal either physically in one location or via electronic means.

“Designated Administrator”

refers to the individual in charge of carrying out the specific step of the process. Generally, this will be an assistant/associate dean, department chair or director. Terminology varies among the academic units.

“Appellant”

is the individual bringing the appeal to the College-level Committee or the ASC sub-committee. In most cases this will be the student, but it could be a faculty member if the grade had been changed in Step 2 by the Designated Administrator or in step 3 by the Dean’s ad hoc Committee.

“Respondent”

is the individual who assigned the grade being challenged. If the appellant is a student, the respondent is the faculty member who assigned the grade or the Designated Administrator if the faculty member is no longer an employee of NAU. If the appellant is a faculty member, the respondent is the Designated Administrator who changed the grade in Step 2 or the Chair of the Dean’s ad hoc Committee from Step 3.

“Silent Observer”

is the individual an appellant or respondent chooses to bring to observe any step of the appeal process. This observer is present to serve as a silent witness to the proceedings, and would be able to report on the actions of either the appellant or respondent during the steps of the appeal process.

“Statement of Issues”

is a written record of the specific reasons the grade is being appealed if the appellant is a student. A grade appeal should be considered only in instances where an instructor demonstrated a substantial deviation from accepted and specified standards as outlined by the instructor, program, or university.

Generally, such deviations are evidenced by, but not limited to, the following:

  • The instructor deviated substantially from the course syllabus;
  • The instructor deviated substantially from accepted and specified standards of proficiency of the University and/or academic department as established by the Faculty Handbook and/or College/Department Academic Policy Manual;
  • The instructor applied established classroom policies unevenly across students enrolled in the class;
  • The instructor applied established academic assessment methods unevenly across students enrolled in the class.

The Statement of Issues should, therefore, clearly demonstrate such alleged deviation. If the appellant at the College-level Committee hearing is a faculty member, the “Statement of Issues” is a document which refutes the reasons given by the Designated Administrator for changing the grade in Step 2.

 “Formal Meeting”

is defined as the meeting which results from the written communication to the instructor requesting a meeting to discuss the assigned grade.

“Informal Meeting”

is a meeting between a student and instructor where the student’s stated purpose is to ascertain the reasons for the assignment of his/her grade in the course. An “informal meeting” is not considered sufficient to initiate the grade appeal process.

Special Circumstances

**Special Circumstances

If the faculty member who taught the course is no longer employed by the university, on sabbatical/leave or other kind of assignment, or cannot participate in the appeal process, the appeal is filed with the appropriate designated administrator. This may progress the appeal to a future step in the process. Upon receiving a written request from the student, the designated administrator will identify the step of the process for which the appeal will occur, and notify the student of which step in the process to commence. 


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