Student Grade Grievances

Adopted by the Faculty Senate (Action #148) and approved by the President, March 1978; modified by Faculty Senate Action #556 approved by the President, spring 2004, and by Faculty Senate Action #719 approved by the President, spring 2010. This procedure is on file in the offices of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Vice President for Student Affairs, Deans, Department Chairs, and Affirmative Action.

Introduction:

It is expected that all instructors provide students with a clearly defined grading policy in their course syllabus and that the principles of evaluation are consistent with student rights including, but not limited to, those stated in the AAUP Bulletin (cf. Appendix A).

If a student feels that an assigned grade is not consistent with the grading policy that has been articulated in the syllabus, or that he or she is being evaluated unjustly, he or she may wish to complain in the form of a grievance. A grievance consists of a complaint and a request for action that will remove the cause(s) of that complaint or ameliorate any harm that has been caused.

The grievance procedure provides students with an opportunity to seek redress in cases of "prejudiced or capricious academic evaluation" (cf. Appendix A, b. below). In no case should unjust treatment be confused with an instructor's right and obligation to evaluate a student's course work and assign a grade.

Specialized Grievance Procedures:

In some circumstances, there are specialized grievance procedures that may or must be followed in lieu of this one. These include:

A. Academic Dishonesty - A student may not grieve an allegation of academic dishonesty. Contested allegations of academic dishonesty must be handled through the Procedures for Addressing Suspected Academic Dishonesty.

B. Discrimination or Harassment - Students who feel that their grade is as a result of illegal discrimination (Le. based on sex, race, age, marital status, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, etc.) are encouraged to follow the Complaint Procedure for Review of Allegations of Unlawful Discrimination/Harassment. Please note: If a student decides not to pursue this course of remedy, but evidence of illegal discrimination is discovered, the arbiters of the grievance are required to report this to the Affirmative Action Office.

Students who are uncertain which procedure to follow should contact the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, Deans (for Academic Dishonesty), or Affirmative Action (for Discrimination or Harassment) for further guidance.

Grievance Procedure Notes:

  1. A. For the purposes of this procedure a day is defined as an academic calendar weekday falling during the spring or fall semesters.
  2. B. In the event that the grievance occurs late in the spring semester all reasonable efforts should be made to resolve it prior to the fall semester, or the grievance will commence in the fall semester.
  3. C. The grievance procedure must be completed within 75 days (15 weeks) from the date the alleged unjust evaluation took place. A timeline for the procedure (with the maximum allowable days from the date of the alleged event) is as follows:
    1. Informal Level (30 days)
    2. Submission of Formal Grievance (45 days Total)
    3. Formal Level -Including Submission of Recommendations (75 days Total)
  4. D. The student has 45 days to file the formal grievance. From the receipt of the grievance, a maximum of 30 days should be spent reviewing the claims and formulating the recommendations. The only exception to this timeline should be if the student requests an extension (cf B, 1. below) and is approved.
  5. E. In certain circumstances, the Dean may appoint a mediator to fulfill all of the functions of the department chairperson listed in the procedure. These circumstances may include:
    1. The department chairperson is the party grieved;
    2. The department chairperson feels that he or she must recuse him or herself; or
    3. The Dean grants a request from either party to the grievance that the chairperson be recused.
  6. F. Throughout the procedure, the confidentiality of the student's academic records must be maintained. All parties must be aware of their confidentiality obligations prior to participation.
  7. G. This procedure supersedes all previous grievance procedures.

Grievance Procedure Steps:

  1. A. Informal Level: 30 working day limit
    1. Direct Discussion - The student must contact the faculty member(s) involved either in writing (may be in electronic format) or in person to attempt an informal resolution of the grievance. Every attempt should be made by both parties to resolve the grievance at this level.
    2. Third Party Facilitation - If the above step does not resolve the issue, the student must meet with the departmental chairperson who engages in further informal discussion with both parties to attempt a reconciliation, ideally in a face-to-face or video conference meeting. Note:
      1. a) The purpose of this step is to solicit the assistance of a third party not directly involved in the grievance in hopes that a third viewpoint will help resolve the issue at the informal level;
      2. b) After discussing the grievance with both parties, the departmental chairperson may take this opportunity to make either a written or oral recommendation to either or both parties concerned.
      3. c) Should the departmental chairperson feel that the complaint filed does not have merit or does not fall under the terms of an academic grievance, then every effort should be made to counsel the student accordingly.
  2. B. Formal Level:
    1. Filing of the Grievance Statement - If neither of the above informal measures resolves the issue, the student must immediately prepare a written statement of his or her grievance and submit it to the departmental chairperson, who distributes one copy each to members of the grievance committee (see # 2 below) and to the faculty member(s) grieved against. This step must be completed within 45 days after the alleged unjust evaluation took place. However, if there are extenuating circumstances, the student may be allowed up to an additional 45 days in which to submit his or her written grievance statement provided he or she obtains written permission from the departmental chairperson.
      Note: The written grievance statement submitted by the student must be dated and addressed to the departmental chairperson and must include:
      1. a) a description of the action(s) which led to the grievance including the name of the instructor(s) involved, the course number and title, and the time and place of the alleged grievance;
      2. b) a list of those persons who can supply information concerning the grieved action(s);
      3. c) a description of any written documents related to the grievance;
      4. d) a statement of the relief requested by the student
      5. e) a statement establishing that a good faith attempt at informal resolution has been made; and,
      6. f) the student's signature, local telephone number, local address and e-mail address.
    2. Constitution of the Grievance Committee - Upon receipt of the written grievance statement, the department chairperson shall have 10 days (after the date of receipt) to convene a meeting of the department's grievance committee or form a grievance committee. Note:
      1. a) the departmental chairperson mayor may not serve on this committee but both of the parties involved are disqualified from membership;
      2. b) the departmental grievance committee should consist of three persons. Two members of the committee should be selected from the faculty or professional staff while the remaining member should be a student. The chairperson of the department will select the student representative to serve on the departmental grievance committee.
    3. Committee Meetings - The department's grievance committee should attempt to discover the relevant facts concerning the grievance. The following guidelines apply to the meetings of the committee:
      1. a) Both the student and the faculty member must be given the opportunity to meet with the committee, either together or in separate appearances.
      2. b) The student or faculty member may be represented by another member of the college community (including students, faculty and administrators).
      3. c) At any point in the process, the student or faculty member has the right to submit additional information to the committee.
      4. d) The student or faculty member may present witnesses or written statements of others for consideration by the committee.
      5. e) No attorneys are allowed to represent either party at any stage of the grievance process.
      6. f) No electronic recordings or verbatim written transcripts are allowed at any committee meetings.
      7. g) The student's address as given in the written grievance statement shall be the official address for all written correspondence to the student.
      8. h) A serious attempt should be made by all parties involved to arrive at a prompt resolution of the grievance, if possible, before the end of the semester in which the alleged unjust evaluation occurred.
    4. Withdrawal of the Grievance Statement - The student may withdraw his or her written grievance statement at any time by notifying the departmental chairperson of his or her desire to do so. In the event that this is done, the chairperson shall notify the grievance committee and the faculty member(s) grieved against of the student's decision. The grievance procedure stops.
    5. Committee Recommendations - The department's grievance committee are obligated to arrive at a recommendation with regard to the relief requested by the student in the grievance statement. This recommendation must be transmitted in writing to both parties, the departmental chairperson, and the Dean of the faculty within 20 working days after the committee has been convened to consider the grievance. Copies of the student's written grievance statement along with the written recommendation of the committee are to be kept in departmental files and removed in accordance with SUNY and NY general records schedules.
    6. Appeals - Should the recommendation of the department grievance committee (cf S, 5.) be unacceptable to either party involved, each has the right of further appeal to the Dean of the faculty. This appeal must be made in writing within 10 days of the committee's recommendation.

Appendix A of Student's Grievance Procedure

Excerpt from the joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students, AAUP Bulletin, Summer 1.68.

The professor in the classroom and in conference should encourage free discussion, inquiry and expression. Student performance should be evaluated solely on an academic basis, not on opinions or conduct in matter unrelated to academic standards.

a. Protection of Freedom of Expression

Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.

b. Protection Against Improper Academic Evaluation

Students should have protection through orderly procedures against prejudiced or capricious academic evaluation. At the same time, they are responsible for maintaining standards of academic performance established for each course in which they are enrolled.

c. Protection Against Improper Disclosure

Information about student views, beliefs and political associations which professors acquire in the course of their work as instructors, advisors, or counselors should be considered confidential. Protection against improper disclosure is a serious professional obligation. Judgments of ability and character may be provided under appropriate circumstances, normally with the knowledge or consent of the student.

 

Contact Information

For more information about Academic Affairs at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:

James Liszka, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Office: Kehoe 802
Phone: (518) 564-5402
Email: provost-office@plattsburgh.edu

Lizabeth J. Woodard
Secretary
Office: Kehoe 805
Phone: (518) 564-5402
Fax: (518) 564-4415
Email: lizabeth.woodard@plattsburgh.edu