Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations

Academic Grievance Procedure Concerning a Grade


The following outlines the School of Diplomacy and International Relations’ internal policies and procedures for dealing with student grievances with respect to grades received in courses given by the Diplomacy School's regular or adjunct faculty.  In order to initiate the grievance process, the student must file a formal grievance with the departmental chairperson.  The School will not intervene in grade disputes unless this formal process is followed.  The School will also not intervene in grade disputes involving Diplomacy students and courses taken in other university departments.  

General Principles
With very rare exceptions, the final decision on all grades rests with the professor. Students have the right to protection, through fair procedures, against arbitrary and capricious academic evaluations. Arbitrary and capricious means that there is no relation between the grade given and the student’s performance in the class and that a reasonable person could not find that the grade was deserved. Mere disagreement with a grade thus does not constitute a basis for grievance. In practice, it is unlikely that a grade of B or better would be considered arbitrary.  

A professor cannot be forced to change a grade. The strongest action that may be taken is a recommendation to a professor that a grade be changed.

School Procedure
  1. The student’s first step in the event of a grade dispute is to confer directly with the professor in question. If it is not resolved, a formal request in writing for a grade change must be made to the instructor no later than four months from the date of the grade being posted.

  2. If a mutually acceptable resolution cannot be achieved, the student must then present the issue in writing to the department chairperson explaining in detail why the grade is arbitrary and capricious. The departmental chairperson will then decide whether to initiate the departmental grievance procedures.

  3. Should the departmental chairperson decide to initiate the departmental grievance procedures, the matter will then be referred to the School Grievance Committee (“Committee”). Before the Committee meets, the student may submit any materials supporting the grievance claim. The departmental chairperson will appoint the committee, which will consist of two faculty members and one student member.

  4. The Committee will review carefully the argument and data provided by the student and will proceed with any or all of the following steps:
    1. Based on the supporting materials submitted by the student, the Committee may conclude there is insufficient evidence that an arbitrary and capricious evaluation has taken place. In this case, the student will be so notified by the committee chairperson in writing.
    2. The Committee may confer with the professor in writing or verbally to obtain that individual’s views on the matter and an explanation of the basis for the grade.
    3. The Committee may also select to meet with the student directly and afford the student an opportunity to present his or her case in the matter.
    4. In all cases, the departmental chairperson is notified, and as necessary, facilitates the process.

  5. Ultimate School Grievance Committee outcomes:
    1. In the event the Committee concludes that there is not sufficient evidence to support a claim of arbitrary and capricious grading, it will so inform the student. This action may occur at any point in the process at the committee level.
    2. In the event the Committee believes that there is some evidence supporting the student’s claim but it is not compelling, it will request that the professor in question reevaluate the student’s work and reassess the grade. In this situation, the decision on the grade will rest entirely with the professor.  
    3. In the event the Committee concludes that compelling evidence does exist that a grade was arbitrary, it will recommend that the professor adjust the grade accordingly.

Should the student be dissatisfied with the Committee actions and the professor’s ultimate decision, she may then make a formal request to the Dean of the School of Diplomacy for a face-to-face hearing facilitated by the departmental chair or an assistant departmental chair.

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