Grade Appeal & Grade Change Policy
The purpose of the Grade Appeal Policy is to provide the student with a safeguard against receiving an unfair final grade, while respecting the academic responsibility of the instructor. Thus, this procedure recognizes that,
• Every student has a right to receive a grade assigned upon a fair and unprejudiced evaluation based on a method that is neither arbitrary nor capricious; and,
• Instructors have the right to assign a grade based on any method that is professionally acceptable, submitted in writing to all students, and applied equally. Instructors have the responsibility to provide careful evaluation and timely assignment of appropriate grades. Course and project grading methods should be explained to students at the beginning of the term. WPI presumes that the judgment of the instructor of record is authoritative, and the final grades assigned are correct.
A grade appeal shall be confined to charges of unfair action toward an individual student and may not involve a challenge of an instructor’s grading standard. A student has a right to expect thoughtful and clearly defined approaches to course and project grading, but it must be recognized that varied standards and individual approaches to grading are valid. The grade appeal considers whether a grade was determined in a fair and appropriate manner; it does not attempt to grade or re-grade individual assignments or projects. It is incumbent on the student to substantiate the claim that his or her final grade represents unfair treatment, compared to the standard applied to other students. Only the final grade in a course or project may be appealed. In the absence of compelling reasons, such as clerical error, prejudice, or capriciousness, the grade assigned by the instructor of record is to be considered final. In a grade appeal, only arbitrariness, prejudice, and/or error will be considered as legitimate grounds for an appeal.
Arbitrariness: The grade awarded represents such a substantial departure from accepted academic norms as to demonstrate that the instructor did not actually exercise professional judgment.
Prejudice: The grade awarded was motivated by ill will, and is not indicative of the student’s academic performance.
Error: The instructor made a mistake in fact. This grade appeal procedure applies only when a student initiates a grade appeal and not when the instructor decides to change a grade on his or her own initiative. This procedure does not cover instances where students have been assigned grades based on academic dishonesty or academic misconduct, which are included in WPI’s Academic Honesty Policy. Also excluded from this procedure are grade appeals alleging discrimination, harassment or retaliation in violation of WPI’s Sexual Harassment Policy, which shall be referred to the appropriate office at WPI as required by law and by WPI policy. The Grade Appeal Procedure strives to resolve a disagreement between student and instructor concerning the assignment of a grade in an expeditious and collegial manner. The intent is to provide a mechanism for the informal discussion of differences of opinion, and for the formal adjudication by faculty only when necessary. In all instances, students who believe that an appropriate grade has not been assigned must first seek to resolve the matter informally with the instructor of record. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, the student must present his or her case to the Faculty Review Committee before the end of the second week of the term after the disputed grade is received (D term grades may be appealed the following A term). Any exceptions to this deadline for submission of appeal can only be made by the Office of the Provost.
Student Grade Appeal Procedure
Students must complete Steps 1-3 of the Appeal Procedure within the first two weeks of the term after the disputed grade is received.
1. A student who wishes to question a grade must discuss the matter first with the instructor of record at the start of the next academic term after receiving the grade. (D term grades can be discussed at the start of the following A term.) In most cases, the discussion between the student and the instructor should suffice and the matter will not need to be carried further. The student should be aware that the only valid basis for grade appeal beyond Step One is to establish that an instructor assigned a grade that was arbitrary, prejudiced, or in error. 2. If the student’s concerns remain unresolved after the discussion with the instructor, the student may submit a written request to meet with the appropriate Department Head, after speaking with the instructor. For a grade in a course, independent study or Major Qualifying Project (MQP), the appropriate person is the instructor’s Department Head. For a grade in an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), the appropriate person is the Dean of the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD). If the instructor of record is a Department Head or the Dean of the IGSD, then the student should request to meet with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, who will serve as the appropriate Department Head in this step. The appropriate Department Head will meet with the student, and, if he or she believes that the complaint may have merit, with the instructor. After consultation with the Department Head, the instructor may choose to let the grade remain, to change a course grade, or to petition the Committee on Academic Operations to change a grade for a Degree Requirement (MQP, IQP). The Department Head will communicate the result of these discussions to the student.
3. If the matter remains unresolved after Step Two, the student should submit a written request before the end of the second week of the term after the disputed grade is received to the Provost’s Office to request an ad hoc Faculty Committee for Appeal of a Grade. The Dean of Undergraduate Studies will meet with the student, and will ask the Faculty Review Committee to appoint the ad hoc Committee for Appeal of a Grade. The FRC, in consultation with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, will select the members of the ad hoc committee. The Chair of the FRC will convene the ad hoc committee and serve as its non-voting chair. The ad hoc committee for appeal of a grade in a course, independent study or MQP will be composed of three faculty members chosen in the instructor’s department or in closely allied fields. The ad hoc committee for appeal of a grade in an IQP will be composed of the instructor of record’s Department Head and two faculty members who are experienced advisors of IQPs chosen from any department. Appointees to the ad hoc committee must not have any apparent conflicts of interest with the instructor of record (which might include but are not limited to frequent co-advising or research collaboration). The committee would examine available written information on the dispute, would be available for meetings with the student and with the instructor, and would meet with others as it sees fit.
4. Through its inquiries and deliberations, the ad hoc committee is charged to determine whether the grade was assigned in a fair and appropriate manner, or whether clear and convincing evidence of unfair treatment such as arbitrariness, prejudice, and/or error might justify changing the grade. The ad hoc committee will make its decisions based on a majority vote. If the committee concludes that the grade was assigned in a fair and appropriate manner, the ad hoc committee will report its conclusion in writing to the student and instructor and the matter will be considered closed. If the ad hoc faculty committee determines that compelling reasons exist for changing the grade, it would request that the instructor make the change, providing the instructor with a written explanation of its reasons. Should the instructor decline, he or she must provide a written explanation for refusing.
5. The ad hoc faculty committee, after considering the instructor’s explanation and upon again concluding that it would be unjust to allow the original grade to stand, will then determine what grade is to be assigned. The new grade may be higher than, the same as, or lower than the original grade. Having made this determination, the three members of the committee will sign the grade change form and transmit it to the Registrar. The instructor and student will be advised of the new grade. Under no circumstances may persons other than the original faculty member or the review committee change a grade. Should the ad hoc faculty committee feel that the instructor’s written explanation justifies the original grade, the ad hoc committee will report this in writing to the student and instructor and the matter will be closed.
Faculty Grade Change Procedure
The Student Grade Appeal Procedure affirms the principle that grades should be considered final. The principle that grades for courses or projects should be considered final does not excuse an instructor from the responsibility to explain his or her grading standards to students and to assign grades in a fair and appropriate manner. The appeal procedure also provides an instructor with the opportunity to change a grade for a course or project on his or her own initiative. The appeal procedure recognizes that errors can be made and that an instructor who decides that it would be unfair to allow a final grade to stand due to error, prejudice or arbitrariness may request a change of grade for a course or project without the formation of an ad hoc committee. An instructor may request a grade change in one of two ways. First, for courses, an instructor may submit a course grade change in writing to the Registrar at any time prior to a student’s graduation. Second, for Degree Requirements (MQP, IQP), an instructor must submit a petition to the Committee on Academic Operations (CAO) to change the grade.