Student appeals for grade changes

DVC is committed to the concept of academic freedom, which guarantees to individual instructors wide latitude in how they structure and conduct their classes. Such matters as the amount of homework, the kind and frequency of testing, the nature of the grading system, the degree of class participation expected, the choice of textbooks, the theoretical perspective, and the emphasized topics are all, within very wide boundaries, at the discretion of the instructor (described in the college catalog under “fairness of grading”).

Difficulties occasionally arise between students and faculty members about grades. Most misunderstandings are resolved amicably and the college urges students to discuss problems directly with faculty members. Because some disagreements cannot be resolved informally, DVC has a procedure for resolution of grade complaints that the student must initiate.

Grounds for grade changes
The most common problems are those concerning the grade assigned for class work. According to state law, a grade assigned by an instructor at the end of a term can be changed only by that instructor, except in cases of mistake, fraud, bad faith or incompetence. (A finding of bad faith should be supported by specific evidence that the instructor harbored ill-will or discriminatory intent, which motivated the instructor to assign to a student a grade lower than the grade the student should have earned based on objective criteria.) This policy does not apply to challenges of deadlines for pass (P) or no pass (NP). Pass/no pass grades cannot be changed to letter grades once 25 percent of the class has passed.

The informal steps below (1 and 2) may be undertaken at any time; however, a formal complaint must be filed in writing with the vice president of instruction, or designee, no later than one year following the end of the term in which the grade was given. A formal complaint may be filed at any time with the chancellor, who will refer the complainant to his designee, the DVC president. The president will designate the Complaint Review Committee to consider the complaint.

Process
If a clerical or tabulation error has been made, it can be handled through the grade correction process.

The “fairness in grading policy” section (under academic policies) clearly explains the grading guidelines a student can expect. At the beginning of each class, instructors must give students a copy of their grading policies.

If a student believes that a faculty member has deviated from these policies in the evaluation of his/her work, he/she may pursue a complaint under the description of mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetence. The student has the option of having a representative present at this and/or subsequent meetings.

1.   In the event of a problem over a grade, the student should first meet with the instructor and request an explanation of the grade. If it is uncomfortable for the student to deal with an instructor alone, a person of the student’s choice may accompany him/her. If the instructor agrees to a grade change he/she fills out a grade change report in accordance with grade change correction policy.

2.   If the student and the instructor cannot resolve the problem, the next step is for the student to meet with the department chair, who will attempt to mediate the issue. If the department chair is unable to achieve settlement, the next step for the student is to meet with the division dean, who will attempt to mediate the issue. The mediation effort shall include a conference with the division dean, the department chairperson, the student and the faculty employee, if available, and/or individual or combined sequential meetings between the division dean and the department chairperson, the student and the faculty employee, if available. The student may have a representative present in either event. If the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the student, the division dean should prepare a written summary of the mediation efforts and forward it to the vice president of instruction for the continuation of the appeal process.

3.   If the student is not satisfied with these mediation efforts, he/she may request a formal hearing before a complaint review committee, which is the president’s designee. The student must submit his/her complaint in writing and should include a precise statement of the nature of the complaint (mistake, fraud, bad faith or incompetence), any facts relevant to it, and the student’s perception of a fair resolution. The complaint must be filed with the vice president of instruction, or designee, no later than one year following the end of the term when the grade was given.

The complaint review committee will be composed of three faculty members appointed by the Faculty Senate, one of whom must be from the same division as the faculty member involved in the complaint; two students appointed by the ASDVC; and the vice president of instruction, or designee, who will act as chairperson. (All six shall be voting members.) A tie vote means the complaint is not proven. The results will be referred to the president.

The student may be accompanied by a representative.

a.   The committee shall meet within 30 instructional days of receipt of a complaint. If the complaint is filed within four weeks of the end of a term, the meeting may be delayed at the option of either the student, the faculty member involved or the vice president of instruction until the next term. In this event, the committee shall meet within the first four weeks of the new term. If time constraints prevent the meeting at the end of spring term, the meeting shall be held within the first 20 instructional days of the fall term. If this delay would result in hardship for the student or faculty member, they should advise the vice president of instruction and may request the meeting take place at the earliest time the other party(ies) and the vice president are available. In closed hearing, the committee will hear testimony by the student, the faculty member, the division dean who attempted mediation, and any supporting witnesses that either the student or faculty member care to introduce. The burden of proof shall rest with the complainant. Documentation may also be submitted. Summary minutes will be taken; the hearing may be tape recorded, but only with the permission of all participants.

b.   Within ten instructional days, the committee, under the direction of the vice president of instruction, or designee, will meet and recommend a resolution based on a majority vote of all six members. A written recommendation will be submitted to the college president within 15 instructional days of such meeting; a minority report, if any, must be noted. Copies of the recommendations will be sent to the student, the faculty member, and all members of the committee.

If the committee does find that fraud, bad faith, or incompetence led to a grading error, the rationale for the decision must be stated in the recommendations, and the committee must recommend a replacement grade to the president.

c.   The president will review the committee’s recommendations, then notify the student, the faculty members, the members of the committee, the Faculty Senate president and the vice president of instruction or designee, of the college president’s decision within ten instructional days of its receipt.

4.   If the complaint is denied, the student will be notified of his or her right to appeal the decision to the Contra Costa Community College District governing board within 30 calendar days of notification of the decision. If the complaint is upheld, the faculty member will be notified of his/her right to appeal the decision to the Contra Costa Community College District governing board, or designee, within 30 instructional days of notification of the decision. If an instructor fails to appeal a decision of the president sustaining the student’s complaint within 30 instructional days, the president shall order the grade in question to be expunged from the student’s records and enter in its place the grade deemed appropriate by the complaint review committee.

If the decision of the president is appealed and the governing board or designee sustains the student’s complaint, the president shall order the grade in question to be expunged from the student’s records and the grade deemed appropriate by the complaint review committee entered in its place.

5.   The decision of the governing board or designee is final. All records of such hearings at any level shall be destroyed at the end of one year, unless the student initiates legal proceedings relative to the disputed grade within one year.

If the decision of the governing board or designee is unfavorable to the student, or if the student accepts an unfavorable decision of the complaint review committee, the student shall have the right to submit a written statement of objections to the grade, which shall become a part of the student’s records.

Steps for resolution of grade complaints:

1.   Meet with instructor for an explanation. If unresolved, then,

2.   Request department chair mediation. If unresolved, then,

3.   Request division dean mediation. If unresolved, then,

4.   Request formal hearing with complaint review committee by submitting a formal written complaint to the office of the vice president of instruction.

a.   Hearing with committee

b.   Committee recommendation to college president

c.   President’s review and decision

5.   Student and faculty member have appeal rights.

6.   Final decision.

 

Back to top