Policy on Grade Grievances for Undergraduate Students in Boston University Courses

Effective June 1, 2018

This policy provides a means for a student to contest a final course grade received in a credit-bearing Boston University course when that grade is alleged by the student to be arbitrary. It is the shared responsibility of the instructor of record (hereinafter referred to as “instructor”), student, department or program (hereinafter referred to as “department”), and school/college to resolve allegations of arbitrary grading. For courses and cocurricular opportunities that have the prefix “HUB,” (i.e., HUB XCC 433) the BU Director of Advising will serve as the “chair.”

A “Boston University course” is one whose instructor is hired and directly supervised by Boston University. Please note: courses that are offered through Boston University Study Abroad but taught by another institution are not Boston University courses. Grade grievances for such courses fall under the policies of the institution at which they are taught.

Grading is the prerogative of the faculty and is based upon a student’s performance against a clearly articulated set of assignments, expectations, and standards.

Arbitrary grades are defined as those:

  • assigned to a student on some basis other than performance in the course; or,
  • assigned to a student by resorting to unreasonable standards different from those which were applied to other students in that course or section of the course; or,
  • assigned to a student on the basis of criteria that are a substantial, unreasonable, and unannounced departure from the instructor’s previously articulated standards.

Issues that do not meet one or more of these criteria of arbitrariness are not appropriate bases for a grade appeal under this policy. Only final course grades may be formally appealed. Grades that are the result of academic misconduct are not appealable. Only grades earned in Boston University courses, domestically or abroad, are appealable.

All grievances must be made in a timely manner. Unless there are extenuating circumstances such as prolonged hospitalization or debilitating illness, or other similar external inhibiting factors, the student must begin the process for contesting the course grade within six weeks of the official posting of the grade.

II. Before filing a formal appeal, a student is urged to resolve a grievance informally by meeting with the instructor responsible for the grading of the course to discuss the student’s concerns. If the grade in question was assigned by a teaching fellow, teaching assistant, or a graduate grader, the student may opt to discuss the matter with the supervising faculty with the teaching fellow, teaching assistant, or graduate grader present.

The student is responsible for bringing copies of all relevant information to the meeting (i.e., course syllabus, assignment sheet, graded work). The student should be prepared to show evidence of arbitrary grading. The instructor is expected to discuss the student’s concerns and to explain the basis for determining the grade.

If the instructor has left the University, is on approved leave, or does not respond to the student after a reasonable effort, the student should contact the chair of the department offering the course, the program director, or another appropriate academic administrator designated by the school/college if the course is part of a non-departmental program or division (hereinafter referred to as the “chair”). For courses and cocurricular opportunities carrying the “HUB” prefix, the student should contact the BU Director of Advising (the “chair”).

III. If the student and the instructor are unable to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution, the student may file a formal appeal with the chair.

To begin the process of formal appeal, the student must submit to the chair a written statement that details the basis for the allegation of arbitrary grading, and present adequate evidence that supports the allegation.

Adequate evidence may include, but is not limited to:

  • Syllabus for the course;
  • Assignment sheet outlining requirements and expectations;
  • Proof that requirements were met at a level necessary to exceed the assigned grade;
  • Demonstrable examples of clear bias.

The chair and the student will discuss the process and the strength or weakness of the evidence the student has presented. If the chair finds no evidence of arbitrary grading, the appeal is dismissed. The student may appeal within 10 calendar days the chair’s decision to the dean or, for courses and cocurricular opportunities that carry the “HUB” prefix, to the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs. The dean, or for courses with a “HUB” prefix the Associate Provost, may uphold the dismissal, thereby ending the appeal process, or return the case to the chair for panel review. The dean or Associate Provost will inform the student of their decision in writing.

If the grievance is not dismissed and the student desires to continue with the appeal process, the chair, with the student’s agreement, may explore the possibility of an immediate informal resolution that is satisfactory to both the student and the instructor of record. Otherwise, the chair will convene a panel of at least three faculty members (ordinarily from the school or college) at a rank equal or superior to that of the instructor. At least one of the panel members must be drawn from outside the department in which the grade is being grieved. As appropriate within the academic unit, the panel may comprise a standing committee, with the addition of at least one faculty member from outside of the department, or may be appointed ad hoc.

At the start of the review, the panel shall provide a copy of the student’s written statement to the instructor with a request for a prompt written reply. Unless otherwise specified by the panel, the instructor must provide a written response within 10 working days of the panel’s request. The panel must provide a copy of the instructor’s response to the student within five working days of its receipt.

The panel will review the case, including the student’s written statement and evidence and the written reply from the instructor. If necessary, the panel will interview the student complainant and the instructor. Throughout the process of formal appeal to the chair, neither party may be accompanied by a second party, except as necessary to accommodate a disability. Generally, students and instructors are expected to present their evidence and make their cases in front of each other so that each may hear the other. If circumstances make a face-to-face meeting with both instructor and student impractical, the committee may make reasonable accommodations in the interest of a fair and speedy resolution of the case.

If the opportunity for informal resolution of the dispute arises, the panel is authorized and encouraged to mediate such informal resolution.

The panel will report its determination in writing to the chair. If the committee finds that arbitrary grading has occurred, the report must include two or more alternative remedies to be implemented by the chair. These remedies must represent the best interests of the student and must include one of the following:

  • Regrading by another, qualified, disinterested member of the faculty.
  • Presenting the panel’s finding to the instructor and allowing the instructor the opportunity to change the grade if s/he sees fit.
  • Opening a new section of the class, transferring the student’s enrollment to it, and allowing the student to satisfy its requirements by examination, portfolio, or some other appropriate means, with the work evaluated by a qualified, disinterested member of the faculty.
  • Opening a new section of the class, transferring the student’s enrollment to it, and awarding a grade of “Pass.” If this remedy is selected as in the best interest of the student, the “Pass” that results from a finding of arbitrary grading will be permitted to count toward any and all degree requirements.

Other remedies may also be recommended.

No administrator may overrule the grade issued by an instructor without a finding of arbitrary grading by the panel. Only those remedies that were recommended by the panel are available to the chair. The chair and panel may communicate, but the chair is expected to respect the independence of the panel. If the chair prefers a remedy that was not suggested by the panel, s/he may request a revised report that includes that remedy. The panel, however, is free to decline the suggestion.

A formal appeal may not result in a grade lower than the grade being appealed.

The chair should communicate the findings of the panel, and the final decision, to the student and instructor in writing within 10 days of receiving the panel’s final report.

A formal grade grievance must be settled as promptly as possible, and must be settled within six weeks of the filing of the formal appeal to the chair.

IV. The student or the instructor has 10 calendar days to appeal the decision of the chair to the dean of the school/college in which the course is offered, or, for courses and cocurricular opportunities carrying the “HUB” prefix, to the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs. The dean or Associate Provost will render a final decision and notify the student and the instructor within two weeks of receiving the appeal.

Students who file an appeal of a grade under the policy must abide by the final disposition of the grievance and may not seek review of the matter under any other procedure within the University.

V. Every effort should be made to avoid conflicts of interest. Participants in the review process must identify and report potential conflicts of interest to the next higher administrative level. The next higher-level administrator is responsible for ensuring that conflicts of interest do not compromise the appeal process, and for appointing substitutes as needed to ensure the fairness of the process. Under no circumstances may an instructor accused of arbitrary grading serve on the committee that evaluates the charge. If the accused instructor is the chair, then the student should consult with the dean. If the accused instructor is the dean, then the student should consult with the provost.

The Policy on Grade Grievances respects the confidentiality of students and instructors, and holds all parties in any dispute responsible for upholding confidentiality.