May 26, 2024  
Student Handbook 
    
Student Handbook

Grade Disputes


                                                


The instructor assigned to a course has the responsibility for determining a grade and for judging the quality of academic performance. At the beginning of a course, students will be informed of course requirements and grading policies as outlined in the course syllabus. Faculty shall exercise professional judgement in the application of course requirements and the awarding of grades. All grades are final except in the case of college error.

Disputes about a Grading Policy and/or Specific Assignment Grade

Students must raise questions about a grading policy and/or specific assignment grade while enrolled in the course. A student should meet with the instructor and discuss questions or objections. If a student is unable to resolve questions or objections with the instructor, an appointment should be made to discuss the matter with the instructor’s supervisor. Students, faculty, and supervisors should document in writing what was discussed and the outcome of the discussions in case a formal Final Grade Review is later requested.

Final Grade Dispute Procedures

These procedures include time frames to provide students and college officials adequate time to collect information and conduct meetings. The student may request in writing that procedures be expedited as quickly as possible, waiving the minimum notification requirements. Howard College reserves the right to expedite procedures if the situation warrants it and will confer with the student accordingly.

A student has the right to be accompanied by a representative(s) at any level of this process for support and/or advisory purposes only. The representative(s) may not speak for the student and/or address the college officials involved (including Grade Review Panel members) unless requested to do so by college officials involved in the appeal. The student’s representative may be a legal counselor only if Howard College is given seven (7) days advanced written notice detailing the name, address, and telephone number of the legal counselor. Howard College reserves the right to have a legal counselor present as a representative for the college if a student chooses to do so.

Meeting with Instructor

If a student has a question about or disputes a final grade in a course or believes there were circumstances beyond their control that impacted the final grade, they must contact the instructor within 5 college business days of the grade being awarded to try to resolve the concern. If unable to reach the instructor, the student should contact the instructor’s supervisor.

If the final grade awarded was not the grade intended by the instructor, the instructor will initiate a Grade Change Form.

Level One - Appealing to Instructor’s Supervisor

If the grade awarded was the grade the instructor intended, but the student believes there was an error or disputes the grade or believes there were circumstances beyond their control that impacted the final grade, the student must complete a Grade Complaint Form and submit it to the instructor’s supervisor to request a formal review of the final course grade.

The instructor’s supervisor will schedule and hold a meeting with the student within five (5) college business days. The supervisor will inform the campus instructional chain of command for consultation. The supervisor will initially meet with the student and the instructor separately and may elect to meet with both the student and instructor together to resolve the issue. For dual credit high school students, appropriate high school officials will be notified of the appeal.

Within 5 (five) college business days of the meeting with the student, the supervisor will provide written notification of their decision to the student and to the instructor. The supervisor will inform the student and the instructor of the right to continue the appeal and about the appeal procedures. 

Level Two - Appeal to the Next Level Supervisor

If the outcome of the meeting with the supervisor is not to the student’s or instructor’s satisfaction, the dissatisfied (appellant) may appeal their decision in writing to the next level supervisor* within 5 (five) college business days of receiving written notification of the decision, including a clear statement of the problem and arguments or evidence to support the appeal.

The next level supervisor will schedule and hold a meeting with the appellant within 5 (five) college business days of the request.  The next level supervisor will discuss the matter with the instructor,  the instructor’s supervisor, and any other relvant parties and will attempt to resolve the matter. The next level supervisor will provide written notification of their decision to the student, the instructor, and the instructor’s supervisor within 5 (five) college business days of the initial meeting with the appellant.

If the outcome of the meeting with the next level supervisor is not to the student’s or instructor’s satisfaction, the appellant may appeal their decision and request a hearing with the Grade Review Panel.

*If the next level supervisor is the Dean of Instruction of the student’s campus or the Executive Vice President, the appeal will move directly to the Grade Review Panel.

Level Three - Grade Review Panel

If the outcome of the meeting with the next level supervisor is not to the student’s or instructor’s satisfaction, the appellant may appeal the decision and request a hearing with the Grade Review Panel.

Failure of the appellant to continue the appeal at the appropriate level and within the appropriate time frame will result in a dismissal of the appeal.

Appeals must be made in writing to the chair of the Grade Review Panel at the student’s campus:

  • Big Spring - Dean of Instruction
  • Lamesa - Executive Director
  • San Angelo - Executive Dean
  • SouthWest College for the Deaf - Executive Dean

The President may assign an alternate to serve as chair as circumstances warrant.

Appeals must be made within five (5) college business days following notification of the instructor’s next level supervisor’s decision(s). The appeal must state the specific grounds for appeal and should include all supporting documentation. Students have the right to appeal only once for each grade dispute. Students are encouraged to meet with the Grade Review Panel Chair to explore options prior to submitting the appeal.

Within ten (10) college business days of receipt of a student’s written appeal, the Grade Review Panel Chair will convene the Grade Review Panel. The Grade Review Panel Chair will communicate the following in writing to the student and to the instructor (at least five (5) college business days prior to the hearing):

  1. Date, time, and location of the review
  2. Procedures to be followed during the review
  3. Deadline for submitting documentary evidence (two (2) business days prior to the review)

The appellant may request in writing that the hearing be expedited as quickly as possible, waiving the minimum notification requirements.

Grade Review Panel Hearing Procedures

The Grade Review Panel will be composed of six members, appointed by the chair of the Grade Review panel as follows:

  • One staff member
  • Three faculty members, including at least one from a division different from the faculty member involved
  • Two students

The chair provides direction for the panel members and is not involved in the decision-making. Members of the Grade Review Panel cannot be involved in, nor have direct knowledge of, the case.

The Grade Review Panel hearing is closed to the public. The chair will introduce panel members, outline hearing procedures, and review the details of the appeal. The student and the instructor will each present evidence to support their respective positions. Witnesses may be invited by the student and the instructor. Panel members will be allowed to ask questions of the student, instructor, and witnesses. The student and the instructor may ask each other questions as well as question witnesses. Prospective witnesses, other than the student and the instructor, will be excluded from the hearing during the testimony of other witnesses. Student witnesses may be charged with Student Standards of Conduct violations if it is found that they intentionally provided false information to the college. The Grade Review Panel has the authority to summon witnesses. Refusal to obey the summons may subject the student witness, if so recommended by the panel, to disciplinary action by the campus judicial officer.

The hearing will be conducted in a manner that is fair to all. The chair will provide reasonable time for cases to be presented, questions to be asked, and witnesses to be heard. The chair will exercise discretion in leading the hearing. The chair may exclude irrelevant, immaterial, and unduly repetitious evidence and may stop discussion that is not relevant and/or productive to the hearing. The chair may remove any person who becomes disruptive during the hearing, including the student.

Only the Grade Review Panel shall be present at its deliberations after the hearing concludes. Student members’ perspectives shall be heard prior to those of staff or faculty members. The panel’s deliberations shall not be recorded or transcribed.

The panel may impose one or more of the following recommendations:

  1. Reevaluation of the grade by the instructor.
  2. Specific change to be made by the instructor.
  3. Status quo.

A written notice of the decision will be provided to the student and to the instructor within five (5) college business days of the hearing.

Record of Proceedings

A single record consisting of written notes, electronic recordings, or other method selected by the panel chair, will be made of all hearings. Such record will remain the property of the college but will be made available to the student or instructor for review during any appeal period.

It is the responsibility of the panel chair to send written notification to the student, the faculty member, and the registrar of any grade change resulting from the panel’s decision.

Attendance and Postponement of Grade Review Panel Hearing

The appellant may request postponement of the hearing for reasonable cause. If the student chooses not to attend the hearing, the grade assigned by the instructor stands.

Level 4 -Appeal Panel

If the outcome of the hearing with the Grade Review Panel is not to the student’s or instructor’s satisfaction, the appellant has five (5) college working days to submit an appeal, in writing, to the Executive Vice President, chair of the Appeal Panel. The Appeal Panel will hold a conference within seven (7) college working days of the request.

The panel consists of three members, including the chair. The Executive Vice President will select faculty and/or staff members according to the case.

In general, appeals must be based on the issue of substantive or procedural errors which are prejudicial and which were committed during the Grade Review Panel hearing. Specific questions for the review, which should be addressed in the written appeal, are the following:

  • Were procedures outlined in the Student Handbook followed?
  • If a procedural error was committed, were the rights of either party materially violated?
  • Was the hearing conducted in a way that permitted both parties an adequate opportunity to present their case?
  • Was evidence presented at the hearing substantial enough to justify the decision reached?

The Appeal Panel’s consideration must be based on the information developed by the Grade Review Panel and no new evidence shall be received by the panel.  The decision will be reviewed upon the basis of the transcript or summary of the hearing. Both parties may, at the discretion of the Appeal Panel, submit oral and/or written statements to support their position. The chair will exercise discretion regarding meeting procedures.

The Appeal Panel may uphold, reject, or modify the decisions by the Grade Review Panel or may require that the original hearing be reopened for the presentation of additional evidence and reconsideration of the decision. The chair will notify, in writing, both parties and the chair of the Grade Review Panel of the decision.

Level 5 - Appeal to College President

If the decision made by the Appeal Panel is not to the student’s or instructor’s satisfaction, the appellant has five (5) college working days to request, in writing, a review by the college President, who will render a final opinion within five (5) college working days.

Note: Online students will be able to complete any level of this process through teleconferencing, emails, and/or online video conferencing. Remote and/or virtual meetings may also be utilized if students and/or college officials are not able to meet in person.