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VI.5. Grade Appeals
In the event that a student requests to appeal a course grade, the university provides clear procedures to follow, for both undergraduate and graduate appeals. NIU’s Academic Policies and Procedures specify that each academic department will establish a Grade Appeals Panel early in each academic year to be available to consider allegations of capricious grading. Some departments may specify in their bylaws the Grade Appeals Panel selection process. From this Panel, a Grade Review Board will be selected for each specific appeal.
Prior to the occurrence of a student allegation of capricious grading, the department chair has several responsibilities. As with any student complaint, the chair should remain a neutral party in the evidentiary process. The chair should also be well-informed about the appeal process before a distraught student appears at the office door and must be able to explain to the student the criteria for capricious grading as explained in APPM. Once the complaint of capricious grading has been formally documented by the student, the chair should direct the student to the grade appeal procedure and follow-up with the faculty member involved. It is imperative that the chair does not apply pressure to a faculty member to change his or her grading criteria; however, that faculty member should be able to explain her or his grading process clearly enough to demonstrate that no capriciousness occurred. Short of clear evidence of capriciousness on the part of the accused faculty member, the department is best served by giving its faculty the benefit of the doubt. As faculty members are committed to fairness in grading and face regular pressure from students to engage in grade inflation, they deserve the chair’s support in their efforts to uphold academic standards.