The post-exam season can be incredibly stressful. Some students find themselves coming up short in classes they thought they aced. It has been said that the grade you deserve is the grade you earn, not the one you actually get. Here is how to get that grade you earned even if it is not the one posted on your grade report.
What if I disagree with my grade?
You should first check your instructor’s math. Read over the course syllabus to see how your grade was calculated. If the math is incorrect, contact your instructor and explain the error.
If the math is correct, still contact your professor and ask him or her to clarify your grade. Making an appointment during next semester’s office hours would allow the two of you to sit down, discuss the grade, and come to an agreement.
If an agreement cannot be struck, the next step is to contact the course supervisor or, if the instructor is a teaching assistant, contact his or her supervisor. If they are not helpful, you can then take it up the chain of command to the dean of the school providing the course, and then to the ombudsman. [sandra]
The ombudsman is an official who is appointed to help investigate students’ complaints against faculty members. At MSU, the ombudsman acts as an advocate who can help students prepare for hearings if they are bringing complaints against a faculty member or if they are defending themselves against complaints brought against them. If the ombudsman cannot resolve the issue, you can file a grievance with an appropriate college-level hearing board. “Every college writes their own procedures for hearings,” Assistant Ombudsman Sandra Harley said. She said the board is usually made up of three or more faculty members and a few students.
During the hearing, you and the instructor can have representation, state the case, designate witnesses, ask questions and present a rebuttal. “It’s usually mostly based on testimony and occasionally paper,” Harley said. The board then presents its findings and, if necessary, will contact an administrator to carry out its verdict.
During the hearing, the burden of proof is on you, the person bringing the accusation. Making a good case will require some preparation. “I think it’s important for students to come meet with myself or [Ombudsman Dr. Stan Soffin] because I can give them an accurate idea of what they’re up against,” Harley said. “Students should not go into hearings alone.” Harley recommended students have a student defender, faculty member or advisor accompany them to hearings to help present their case. Anyone can accompany you, as long as they are a student or a member of the faculty or staff.
“They have to be thorough and practice saying what they have to say,” Soffin said. “They have to be comfortable delivering their message.”
Harley encourages students to ask about any grade they think is questionable. “You have the right to look at your answers and ask if it is a grade of good faith. The sooner you take action the better because you only have until halfway through the following semester to take action,” she said.
Some students are a little more cautious about questioning their professors. “For me, personally, it would depend on how many assignments in the class and how big the grade was,” freshman Ethan Olds said. “If it’s not that big of a deal I wouldn’t bother asking.”
What if I’m accused of cheating?
If you are accused of academic dishonesty, your instructor would more than likely give you a failing grade for the assignment, or a “penalty grade.” The instructor will also notify the dean of your college. The hurt does not stop there. If the dean or instructor feels that further punishment is necessary, they can refer you to the college-level hearing board.
You can, at this point, meet with the associate provost and opt for a hearing before them instead of the board. “You’re only dealing with one person in that situation,” Harley said.
“I think it’s subject to the student’s personality if they would be comfortable before one person or before a board,” Soffin said. “I don’t think the results would be any different, whether the ruling would necessarily be lighter with the associate provost or the board.”[lepinat]
Freshman Michelle Lepinat said she would feel more comfortable in front of a board. “I’d rather have more people. I don’t feel that one person should have that much control over my future,” Lepinat said.
It should be noted that only undergraduate students have the option to go before the associate provost. Graduate students do not have the same right under the Graduate Student’s Rights and Responsibilities.
After the hearing, you would go through the same process as the grievance procedures. However, you can also appeal the ruling to the All-University Academic Integrity Review Board. Even if you are only given a penalty grade, you can appeal it to a university board and still have the same rights as in a grievance. The burden of proof is on the instructor, so you are not responsible for proving your innocence, just defeating their evidence.
If you win, you also have the right to redress. Students can usually ask for their work to be rechecked without bias. In some cases they may get other benefits as well. Harley said that one student was even allowed to retake an exam because he was accused of academic dishonesty right before it and was distressed during the exam.
First semester may have come to a close, but if you were left mystified after seeing the fruits of your labor on your grade report, it does not have to be a done deal. Take matters into your own hands by taking advantage of the systems and services in place to help out students like you.