October 13, 2016
Questioner: Pali Sen
Posed to: Provost Earle Traynham, Academic Affairs and Megan Kuehner, Registrar, Registrar’s Office
A question on a student’s petition of a grade of a F to a W in the faculty association meeting on September 1, missed the intended mark. I know students can petition any grade, I am asking about the outcome of it. If a student uses a Waiver of University Policy form to change a final grade in a course to a W, and the faculty assigning the grade denies the request, then it can be granted by a chair or a dean or ultimately, the Provost. I believe this violates the collective bargaining agreement. The process for assigning a W after a final grade has been assigned, needs a clarification so that faculty know the answer to an important issue.
Response from Provost Earle Traynham, Academic Affairs:
Article 10.2 (a)(2) explains the grade appeal process, and makes clear that neither the department chair nor the dean has the authority to change a grade that has been assigned by the faculty member . If the student appeals to the provost, the appeal is heard by the University Appeals Committee, which then makes a recommendation to the provost. Through this process, the provost does have the authority to change the grade.
This process covers the vast majority of cases involving a dispute over an assigned grade. The student has 90 days to file an appeal. Although rare, there have been cases in which a student requests a change in a grade of F to a W after more than 90 days, sometimes after several years. I am aware of two instances in which this has occurred. In these cases, our office contacted the faculty member notifying them that the student had submitted a Waiver of University Policy for a grade change from F to W. We indicated that if the faculty member could verify that the student never attended class we would consider the appeal. In both instances, the faculty member was able to determine that the student had not attended class and had not taken any exams. The grade was the n changed to a W.
Please let me know if there are any questions.
Response from Megan Kuehner, Registrar, Registrar’s Office:
Good afternoon – I would like to send the attached response to the question posed by Dr. Sen. I know
it was directed to and answered by Dr. Traynham but, given my office’s role in the process I want to provide additional feedback.
Students at the University of North Florida currently have several withdrawal options. Withdrawals for extenuating circumstances typically include the withdrawal for military service (WS), medical withdrawals (WM), and withdrawals with a fee refund (WR). Each of these options has its own governing policy and approval process. In the case of the WM and WR, those processes exist outside of Academic Affairs.
A request for a traditional withdrawal after grades have posted would initiate with the student and would be submitted via the online Student Petition of Academic Policy. All students are required to upload documentation to support the request and the requirement is enforced by a systematic hold that prevents submission until documents are uploaded. The appeal is submitted for review by the advisor, instructor, chair and Registrar’s Office/Graduate Dean.
Students can appeal to withdraw for a variety of reasons. Most often the student will state that he or she did not attend the course and therefore did not earn the failing grade. These are usually students who left UNF without officially dropping courses. In these cases the instructor typically verifies the student’s statement and approves the withdrawal. In cases where the student has attended and still wishes to pursue a withdrawal, the instructor, advisor and chair would make the best decision based on the student’s supporting documentation. The online process does not prevent any reviewer from discussing the appeal with another reviewer and it is our understanding that a dialogue frequently occurs between each party. Additionally, each reviewer can enter notes for final review by the appeals committee. The committee is comprised of members from offices with Enrollment Services and academic advising. The committee reviews the same documentation, the advising history and most importantly, the feedback of each reviewer.
Appeals are not automatically funneled to the provost for additional review. Any undergraduate student who wishes to appeal the final decision is referred to the dean of Undergraduate Studies and graduate students are referred back to the Graduate School. The situations that typically escalate are those where the student was denied the request and those denials are in support of the faculty and chair.
The committee makes an effort to openly communicate with instructors and chairs to clarify any questions prior to review, which can include verifying the accuracy of a student’s stated timeline, reviewing the syllabus and/or confirming communication outside of class. This is done to ensure all parties are accurately represented and have a voice in the process. Very seldom have we encountered a situation where there is disagreement between and chair and instructor. In those cases, we notify each party and seek a solution.
It is important to note that there are two related processes that are sometimes confused with the Student Petition of Academic Policy. First is the punitive F grade or FA. This grade is assigned when a student has violated the Academic Misconduct Policy and it is a final assignment that cannot be withdrawn by the student. Students do have the right to appeal and that process is outlined in the policy with the absolute final decision rendered by the president if necessary. The second process is the grade appeal process outlined in the Appealing Academic Grades policy. Students in this separate, but related, case have the right to appeal any grade. Please note that this policy states, “Neither the Chair nor Dean may override the instructor’s decision and issue a change of grade without the faculty member’s concurrence.”