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Procedures for Student Academic Grievances

Types of Academic Grievances and General Guidelines

Academic disputes are those centering on issues such as unequal treatment of students with respect to course requirements; inequities in grading; 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. Only in the rare event that professional responsibility has beyond reasonable doubt been neglected or abused should the judgment of another person (or persons) be substituted for that of the instructor.

While student academic grievances are taken seriously at Smith, students are discouraged from filing frivolous complaints. Once a formal complaint is filed, the associate dean of the faculty may determine that it has no merit and dismiss it. In addition, if the grievance reaches the dean of faculty, he or she has the right to determine whether it merits continued formal review under these procedures or is to be dismissed.

Procedures for Student Grievances Against Faculty Members

Grievances concerning academic matters are ordinarily resolved informally. Means for informal resolution are described below. If a student is not satisfied after informal means have been tried, she may formalize her complaint by putting it in writing. A grievance, formal or informal, must be initiated not later than one month after the issue for complaint occurred.

If a student feels that she has been treated unfairly in connection with her academic work, she should try to resolve the problem directly with the instructor. If this is impossible or unsatisfactory, she should consult in confidence with the chair or director of the instructor’s department or program and/or a class dean in an effort to determine if the complaint is legitimate and also in an effort to settle the issue.

If the student is satisfied at this stage that she was treated fairly, the matter ends and no written record is kept. If the instructor makes an adjustment satisfactory to the student and in concert with the interests of other students in the course, the matter ends.

If an academic grievance is not settled with the first informal effort and the student wishes to pursue it further, she must proceed to the formal stage and file a written complaint.

A student must make her written complaint to the associate dean of the faculty. This dean will attempt to resolve the dispute. He or she also 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 it to the instructor and will discuss the matter with the instructor. 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 acceptable to both parties.

If no resolution satisfactory to both parties can be reached at this point, the written complaint shall be filed with the dean of the faculty, who shall determine if it 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.

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