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Avoiding Conflict: Contesting Grades

Grade disputes are one of the most common problems students bring to the Student Resolution Center. Students often seek advice about how to challenge grades they believe are too low.

What to do?

Your first step is to review the grading system outlined in the course syllabus. Be sure to check the attendance and tardy policy to determine if those affect the grade.

Then, using the grades from all your assignments, tests, etc., calculate your course grade based on the explanation provided in your course syllabus. You may not know your grades in some areas of the course; for example, "participation."

If you are unsure how to calculate your grade, seek out a classmate who might help you or see the Student Resolution Center.

If you believe your instructor has simply made a mathematical error in calculating your grade, see him or her immediately. Bring your grades for all assignments with you to review with your instructor. Bring any proof of arrangements or agreements the professor may have made with you that would affect your grade, for example a hard copy of an e-mail exchange. The longer you wait, the fuzzier the faculty members' memory of your specific situation becomes.

If after meeting with your instructor you feel that you have been graded UNFAIRLY, contact the department chair, then the dean (or dean's representative) of the college in which the course is offered. If after this meeting you still believe your grade should be changed, contact the Student Resolution Center to review the situation.

Meeting with the instructor or the department chair often resolves grade disputes, but, if not, you may formally challenge your grade by filing a Grade Appeal. A Grade Appeal must be filed in the office of the dean of the college within 45 days of the start of the next long semester. Copies of the Grade Appeals policy and procedure can be obtained from any academic dean's office, from the Center for Campus Life (201 Student Union) or the Office of the Ombuds (024 East Basement Student Union).

Remember this: You cannot challenge a grade based on your assessment of your instructor's teaching competence.

Challenging your instructor's grade is serious business -- for you and your instructor. Be sure to do your homework before deciding to formally appeal the grade.

Finally, in challenging a grade, don't lose your cool. Be factual, be polite and be respectful of the faculty member's rights and responsibilities.