Academic disputes are those centering on issues such as unequal treatment of students with respect to course requirements; inequities in grading and/or the application of due dates and extensions for late work; capricious imposition of significant new requirements after a course has begun; and similar matters. Normally, the responsibility for determining the work required in a course and for evaluating it rests solely with the instructor.
While student academic grievances are taken seriously at Smith, students are discouraged from filing frivolous complaints. Students should consult the appropriate class dean and work closely with the instructor and chair of the appropriate department/program to resolve the issues. If a student is not satisfied after informal means have been tried, she may formalize her complaint by putting it in writing and sending it to the associate dean of the faculty.
Once a formal complaint is filed, the associate dean of the faculty will investigate it. Section B outlines the informal and formal procedures in detail. A grievance, formal or informal, may be initiated any time during the semester, but not later than one month after the issue for complaint occurred and not later than the end of the second week of the following semester.
INFORMAL PROCEDURES FOR RESOLVING ACADEMIC GRIEVANCES
If a student wants to pursue an informal grievance, she should try to resolve the problem directly with the instructor. If a resolution is not achieved, she should consult with the chair or director of the instructor’s department/program in an effort to determine if the complaint is legitimate and to settle the issue. She should consult the appropriate class dean for guidance throughout this process.
If a resolution is reached, the matter ends and no written record is kept. If the instructor makes an adjustment in the grade, grade changes should be reported to the dean of the college and the matter ends.
If an academic grievance is not settled through informal means and the student wishes to pursue it further, she must proceed to the formal stage and file a written complaint to the associate dean of the faculty.
FORMAL PROCEDURES FOR RESOLVING ACADEMIC GRIEVANCES
A student must submit a written complaint to the associate dean of the faculty. This dean will investigate the grounds of the complaint and may schedule a meeting to talk with the student and the instructor. After the preliminary investigation, the associate dean of the faculty may determine that the grievance does not merit continued review and dismiss it. If the complaint is deemed to merit further investigation, the associate dean of the faculty will provide a copy of the student complaint to the instructor and the chair of the appropriate department/program. The instructor shall have an opportunity to answer the complaint in writing to the associate dean of the faculty. The associate dean of the faculty can then attempt to arrive at a resolution and will communicate the decision in writing to the student, instructor, chair, dean of the faculty, and dean of the college. If the associate dean of the faculty determines that a grade change is warranted, she will request a change in writing to the administrative board through the dean of the college. The administrative board will make the final decision.
If no resolution is satisfactory to both parties, the written complaint along with other documentation generated from prior phases of the process shall be filed with the dean of the faculty who shall determine if the complaints merits further review. If the complaint is determined to have merit and the dean of the faculty is unable to arrive at a resolution acceptable to both parties, the dean will normally convene an ad hoc committee to investigate the dispute, advise the dean concerning the merits of the case, and make recommendations for possible equitable disposition. The ad hoc committee shall consist of three members of the faculty or administration chosen by the dean of the faculty and may include persons suggested by the parties involved. The committee’s suggestions shall be advisory only. Final disposition of the grievance shall be the responsibility of the dean of the faculty and will normally be made within one month of the dean of the faculty’s receipt of the grievance. Resolution may include (but is not limited to) the following:
1. eliminating requirements that have been imposed unfairly against a particular student
2. permitting a withdrawal from a course and eliminating any record of the course from a student’s transcript
3. obtaining an independent evaluation of the student’s work for the purpose of assigning a grade for the course
4. dismissing the grievance.
The dean of the faculty shall report his or her conclusions to the person filing the grievance and to the instructor and the chair of the department/program.