Course Grade Appeal
Course Grade Appeal
The purpose of the Course Grade Appeal Process is to provide students a safeguard against receiving an unfair final course grade while also respecting the academic responsibility of the instructor and academic standards of Houston Community College. The College must follow clear and consistent guidelines for all grade appeals. It is the responsibility of all HCC faculty to evaluate each student’s work fairly and to assign a grade which is an impartial measure of the student’s achievement in the course. In the event of a dispute over an assigned final course grade, students should be provided the opportunity, within certain guidelines outlined in the HCC Course Grade Appeal Process, to formally present a case and rationale for a grade appeal which will be evaluated using a fair and consistent review process.
This process is in accordance with the following SACSCOC Federal Requirements:
“4.5 The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints.”
The Course Grade Appeal Process applies to all programs throughout the HCC district.
Bias: A particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned. An unfair personal opinion that influences one’s judgment.
Caprice: a tendency to change one’s mind without apparent or adequate motive.
Business days: Every official working day of the week at HCC. Typically, they include days between Monday and Friday and do not include HCC-approved holidays or weekends.
Communication: For the purposes of this process, communicate in writing between the student, instructor, panel chair, or department chair/dean/COE dean via HCC email account and/or the student contact information provided on the Grade Appeal Form).
Grade determination and awarding of all grades in a course is the responsibility of the instructor. If a student believes a grade was awarded on an assessment in a capricious or arbitrary manner while a course is in progress, the student should discuss the matter with the instructor. This Course Grade Appeal Process only applies to final course grades. A student’s final course grade can be changed only at the discretion of the instructor or as a result of this Course Grade Appeal Process. A student may appeal a final course grade if he/she is able to demonstrate that an inappropriate grade was assigned as a result of:
Other reasons for changing final grades will not constitute a valid appeal. The burden of proof is on the student to justify the basis for changing the grade.
Note: In cases of a grade dispute regarding alleged academic dishonesty, a separate process will be followed (see Academic Dishonesty section of the Student Handbook).
The Grade Appeal Process is comprised of the following progressive levels to provide due process for the student:
Resolution may be reached at various points throughout the process outlined below:
Level 1: Informal Resolution
Whenever possible, students should attempt to resolve grade disputes informally with the instructor as this allows for the potential of immediate resolution.
After meeting with the instructor, if the student remains dissatisfied, the student should notify the appropriate department chair of the grade dispute. If there is no chair assigned to that program, the appeal should be made to the appropriate dean. The chair/dean/COE dean shall attempt to resolve the matter informally through consultation with the instructor. If informal resolution is not obtained through mediation at that level, the grade dispute is consigned to the process of a formal appeal.
Level 2: Formal Appeal
Student grievances which are consigned to a formal appeal must be specified in writing using the Student Course Grade Appeal Form. It is recommended that the Authorization to Release Information for Course Grade Appeal – FERPA Release Form also be submitted at the same time by the student filing the appeal.
These forms must be submitted to the department chair/dean/COE dean no later than fifteen (15) business days from the day the grade was officially posted by HCC.
The department chair/dean/COE dean will review the student grievant’s appeal to determine if appeal criteria have or have not been met. Again, the student must demonstrate that an inappropriate grade was assigned as a result of bias, caprice, or other improper conditions such as computational error. The instructor may submit a written response to the appeal. The decision of the department chair/dean/COE dean will be communicated in writing to the student (via their HCC email account and/or the contact information provided on the Grade Appeal Form submitted) and to the instructor within ten (10) business days of receipt of these forms. The email will notify the student grievant whether or not the department chair/dean/COE dean finds grounds for a grade appeal. That email will also notify the student that, if they do not accept the decision of the department chair/dean/COE dean, then he/she has five (5) business days from that notification to request a Grade Appeals Panel to review the case. If no response is received from the student within five (5) business days, the appeal is closed.
Level 3: Grade Appeals Panel
If the student requests a Grade Appeals Panel, the Panel will render its decision no later than twenty (20) business days following receipt of that request. In rare cases, such as when faculty are not on contract, no more than twenty (20) additional business days may be allotted. A Grade Appeals Panel consists of at least two full-time instructors from the instructional area involved or a related instructional program as well as one student panelist independent of the class or program associated with the appeal. The entire Grade Appeals Panel, including the student panelist, will be selected by the department chair/dean/COE dean. The student panelist will be selected from the current Student Government Association leadership, or membership if an elected SGA leader is not available.
All proceedings and information discussed in the Grade Appeal Process are confidential.
The Grade Appeals Panel will select a chair. The student panelist cannot serve as chair. Upon appointment, the student panelist is required to sign the Acknowledgement of Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure of Protected Student Information form. Panel members shall neither engage in any independent investigation outside of the hearing nor consider any information obtained outside of the panel’s deliberations or hearings. The instructor who assigned the disputed grade cannot serve as a member of the Grade Appeals Panel, however, may submit a written response to the appeal. Both the student grievant and the instructor have the right to appear in person before the Grade Appeals Panel. The student grievant and instructor shall represent him/herself, but either may be accompanied by another individual, who must be identified in advance of the panel hearing. Neither additional individual is permitted to address the panel. The panel can interview others who they determine may have relevant information. When both student and instructor appear before the panel, they should be afforded access to each other’s submitted documentation. Interviews with both the student and instructor should be conducted separately If neither party appears in person, the panel should complete its review based on the written materials submitted. The panel shall consider all aspects of the case before making its decision.
No more than five (5) business days after the hearing, the Grade Appeals Panel will decide either to let the student’s original grade stand or to change the grade. The Grade Appeals Panel chair will prepare a written report stating the panel’s decision along with the justification for that decision. A copy of that report will be emailed to the student (using the student’s HCC email account and/or the contact information the student indicated on the Grade Appeal Form), the instructor, the instructional supervisor, and/or the dean/COE dean. If the Grade Appeals Panel determines that the student’s grade is to be changed, then the instructor’s supervisor will prepare and submit a Change of Grade Form. The decision of the Grade Appeals Panel is final, except in cases of procedural error as specified below.
Level 4: Appealing the Panel’s Decision
A student grievant’s appeal of the Grade Appeal Panel’s final decision can only be based on procedural errors that compromised the fundamental fairness of the process. If either the student grievant or instructor who assigned the grade believes that the appeals process was not properly followed, then he or she may file a written appeal to the Vice Chancellor for Instructional Services/Chief Academic Officer (VCIS/CAO).
The VCIS/CAO will review the appeal and conduct whatever investigation is appropriate. If the VCIS/CAO determines that the grade appeal process was not properly followed and that the failure to follow proper procedures biased the result of the grade appeal, then s/he will vacate the judgment of the grade appeal panel and direct that the process be repeated with a different panel using the same deadline restrictions. If the VCIS/CAO rejects the appeal, the decision of the Grade Appeal Panel is final.
HCC Instructional Leaders: For information regarding the required archiving of records related to Course Grade Appeals, go to MyHCC > Instructional Services > Faculty Guidelines/Faculty & Administrative Support > Course Grade Appeal Process