Council debates changes to grade appeals process

The Undergraduate Council discussed a proposal Friday that increases the number of members on the University Appeals Committee and shortens the amount of time students have to file appeals but ultimately decided to table the decision until the February meeting.David Whillock, chairman of the University Appeals Committee, and Bonnie Melhart, associate provost for academic affairs, have been working with a faculty task force and the rest of the committee since the fall to revise the current system students use to appeal received grades.

“We’re keeping the old policy, for the most part, but we’re fixing inconsistencies and explaining it better,” Melhart said at Friday’s meeting.

Whillock said problems in the system became apparent last summer when there weren’t enough committee members on campus to hear student appeals.

It was also unfair for graduate students undergoing the appeal process because “the committee should be a group of peers,” Whillock said, and there are no graduate students currently on the committee.

The proposed committee would consist of three staff members, two undergraduate students, three graduate students and 12 faculty members, six of whom would have graduate-faculty status, doubling the current number of members. Five members will hear any one appeal.

“A larger group just gives us more people to choose from,” Whillock said.

The proposed system also shortened the amount of time students have to initiate a grade appeal. Under the current system, students may appeal a grade until the final drop date of the subsequent fall or spring semester. Under the proposed system, students would have five days after receiving their grades to appeal to their teachers and five subsequent days to appeal to the faculty chair or dean of the school the course is in and the appeals committee, respectively.

“It allows for a better mindset for both the faculty member and the student to go through the process more quickly,” Whillock said.

Most importantly, Melhart said, the proposal outlines exactly how students appeal, clearly explaining each step in the process.

“Before, it was just more jumbled up, and now we’re trying to sort it all out,” Whillock said. “Having everything in writing makes it easier for everyone to be on the same page.”

Council members voted to table the discussion until additional concerns could be addressed in the proposal.

One of the issues was when a student’s five-day limit began. Since grades are posted online, professors don’t know when the students see them. Furthermore, if a student appeals in the summer, a faculty member might not be able to be reached in an reasonable amount of time.

Students were also concerned they would not be able to initiate the process in such a short amount of time.

“If you have a medical or family emergency come up, you’re not going to think about appealing within five days,” said Sydney Jones, senior fashion merchandising and advertising/public relations double major. “If that happens with this rule, you’re stuck.”

There were also concerns about the difference between officially appealing and simply inquiring about a grade.

Suggested revisions to the proposal included a formal appeal form for students to submit online and a longer amount of time for students to appeal.

The council will discuss the updated proposal at the Feb. 16 meeting. The Graduate Council and the University Council must also approve the proposal before it goes into effect.

“We’re never going to be able to make everyone happy,” Whillock said. “But we did get some good feedback.