Academic Grievance Procedure for Graduate Students in the School of Arts and Sciences

Academic Grievance Procedure for Graduate Students in the School of Arts and Sciences
 
The following procedures should be followed in the event of an academic grievance. Academic grievances concern only matters pertaining to a student’s performance and progress in his or her academic program, such as coursework, grading, evaluations, teaching and research responsibilities, examinations, dissertation, and time-to-degree.

These procedures apply to current students enrolled in two kinds of graduate programs in SAS, and may also be used by former students within 3 years after leaving the University:

  • Ph.D.-track degrees that are governed by the University’s Graduate Council of the Faculties.  Within SAS these degrees are administered at the School level by the SAS Graduate Division and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and at the local level by a Graduate Group Chair.  A standing faculty committee, the SAS Committee on Graduate Education, advises the Associate Dean on these programs.
  • School-based Master’s degrees that are administered either by the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (and the Associate Dean for Continuing Education) or the SAS Graduate Division (and the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies).  At the local level, they are overseen by Program Directors.  A standing faculty committee, the SAS Committee on Graduate Continuing Education, advises the two Associate Deans on these programs.

A list of SAS graduate degrees and their reporting lines appears as an appendix.

1) Procedure for Appeal of an Evaluation, Exam or Course Grade

(a) Faculty members have the authority to make academic judgments in relation to their students and to make decisions in the interests of furthering their students’ education.  Therefore, ordinarily, only the instructor who gives an evaluation, exam or course grade has authority to change the evaluation, exam or course grade.

(b) In cases in which the instructor who gave the evaluation, exam or course grade no longer has an appointment at the University, the authority to change an evaluation rests with the Graduate Chair of the student’s graduate group or Program Director of the relevant graduate program.

(c) Graduate students who wish to have an evaluation, exam or course grade reviewed must first discuss the matter with the instructor who gave the evaluation provided the instructor retains an appointment (including that of emeritus faculty) at the University.  (In cases in which the instructor no longer retains an appointment at the University, the student must first discuss the matter with the Graduate Group Chair or Program Director.)  Should this discussion not yield a resolution that is satisfactory to both the student and the instructor, or should a discussion not be possible, the student may submit a request, in writing, to the Graduate Chair or Program Director of the relevant graduate program for assistance in the matter.

(d) Should the matter not be resolved with the aid of the Graduate Chair or Program Director, the student may seek the assistance of the appropriate Associate Dean. The role of the Associate Deans is to ensure that the involved SAS graduate group or program has arranged for a proper review of the matter and that the evaluation was fair and impartial and in accordance with applicable University policies.

2) Procedure for Requesting Waiver of a Graduate Group Requirement and Transcript Changes

(a) Students may petition their Graduate Group Chair or Program Director, as applicable, for waivers of requirements. The Graduate Group Chair or Program Director will forward all approved requests for waiving requirements to the appropriate Associate Dean for final consent and transcript change.  Proposals for waivers in Ph.D.-track programs that violate the rules and regulations of Graduate Council of Faculties will be denied.  In cases where there is a request to drop courses from the transcript, consultation of the involved faculty, if the faculty members are still at the University, is required.

3) Procedure for All Other Academic Grievances

(a) For graduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences, the first person to consult about most academic problems is the Graduate Group Chair or Program Director.
 
(b) If the Graduate Group Chair or Program Director does not provide a satisfactory resolution, or is seen as part of the problem, graduate students in the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences whose graduate groups are associated with an academic department may next bring the grievance to the Department Chair.  Students whose programs are not associated with specific academic departments may follow the procedures beginning in the next paragraph (3c), which describe appeals to the Associate Dean.

(c) If the student cannot reach a satisfactory solution after following the preceding procedures, s/he may take the problem directly to the appropriate Associate Dean. If such a meeting fails to resolve the problem, the student may request a hearing before the Graduate Academic Grievance Committee of the School of Arts and Sciences (on which see below, #4). This request should be made only as a last resort (that is, after the student has exhausted all viable channels discussed above). To file a formal grievance with the Graduate Academic Grievance Committee, the student must contact the office of his or her Associate Dean by letter or email that includes a description of the grievance and a description of the outcomes of the student’s attempts at resolution through the channels described above.

(d) Upon receipt of a grievance, the Associate Dean will convene the Grievance Committee, which will discuss the grievance and decide whether a hearing with the student is appropriate. The committee’s decision about whether or not to hear the case will be final.

(e) In cases where a hearing is held, after committee meetings are finished and the committee has reached a determination, the chair will draft a recommendation, which, in most cases, will be addressed to the Associate Dean (the recommendation would go directly to the Dean if the Associate Dean were implicated in the grievance).  To the best of its abilities, the committee will present its recommendation to the Associate Dean (or other applicable entity) in no more than twenty days after the hearing, and the Associate Dean (or other applicable entity) will strive to reply to the aggrieved student within one month (thirty days) of the hearing.

4) Composition of the Academic Grievance Committee

(a) The committee is composed of six voting members—three SAS faculty members and three SAS graduate students. The Associate Dean appropriate to the student’s program will convene the committee and serve as a non-voting, ex officio member. The Associate Dean is responsible for appointing the three faculty members, who should come from diverse departments within SAS and whom s/he will draw from the members of either the standing SAS Committee on Graduate Education or the Committee on Graduate Continuing Education, as appropriate to the student’s program. SASgov (the official graduate student government of SAS) is responsible for appointing the three graduate student members of the committee.

(b) The committee has a faculty chair, who is elected at the first meeting of the hearing. Only the faculty members of the committee are eligible to be chair. At the first meeting, the Associate Dean serves as chair, reviewing the role of the committee with all members and orchestrating the election of the faculty chair. 

(c) The chair is responsible for drafting a recommendation for the disposition of a grievance after full deliberation by the committee. This recommendation is then transmitted to the Associate Dean for consideration and a decision about implementation. The decision of the Associate Dean will be final, unless verifiable procedural objections are raised. In such cases, the matter will be referred to the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences for final disposition.

In addition to the channels outlined above, students may take problems to the Office of the Ombudsman (http://www.upenn.edu/ombudsman/).  The Ombudsman does not have decision-making authority, but serves as an impartial mediator in helping to resolve disputes.  Further, any student who feels that he or she has been subject to discrimination may take his or her complaint to the Office of Affirmative Action & Equal Opportunity Programs.  The role of the Office of Affirmative Action is to coordinate compliance with certain anti-discrimination laws.


Approved April 28, 2009. These procedures supersede those dated April 1999.

APPENDIX


SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
GRADUATE PROGRAM REPORTING LINES
 

SAS GRADUATE DIVISION

Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy*

Master of Biotechnology (joint program with School of Engineering and Applied Science)

Master of Governmental Administration

Master of Philosophy (affiliated with departments or Organizational Dynamics)

Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics

 

COLLEGE OF LIBERAL AND PROFESSIONAL STUDIES

Master of Applied Positive Psychology

Master of Environmental Studies

Master of Liberal Arts

Master of Medical Physics

Master of Philosophy (Liberal Arts)

Master of Science in Applied Geoscience

* The M.A., M.S., and Ph.D. are University-based degrees governed by the Graduate Council of the Faculties.  All other degrees listed on this page are School-based.