Grade Appeals Policy

Students are responsible for fulfilling the academic requirements for a course, as established by the instructor in the course syllabus. The instructor is responsible for evaluation of student performance and for determining a student’s course grade.

The following procedures are designed to provide a means for students to seek review of final course grades alleged to be arbitrary and capricious, or based on clerical error.

A full list of policies can be found in the Student Handbook.


Arbitrary and capricious grading means the assignment of a course grade that:

  • was not based on that student’s performance in the course, or
  • was based on standards different from those which were applied to other students in that course, or
  • was made after a substantial, unreasonable and unannounced departure from the instructor’s previously articulated standards outlined in the course syllabus.

A clerical error is an error in the calculation of grades or an inaccurate recording of the final grade.

Grade appeal procedure

The burden of proof in challenging a grade rests on the student. The initial step of the student grade appeal procedure is for the student to seek resolution or redress through discussions with the course instructor within two weeks after the start of the following trimester. If the faculty member determines that the grade was based on clerical error, a grade change report will be issued by the faculty member to the Office of the Registrar. The changed grade can be verified on eNorthwestern as soon as it is made available.

If the student feels that a satisfactory solution or relief has not been obtained the student should discuss the grade appeal with the program dean. The program dean will investigate the allegation by speaking to the student and the involved faculty member. If the program dean finds in favor of the faculty member, the grade is upheld and the process ends. If the program dean finds that the instructor may have graded in an arbitrary or capricious manner, the case will be referred to an Ad Hoc Grade Appeal Committee.

This committee is comprised of three ranked faculty members jointly selected by the appropriate program dean and the Faculty Senate President. Whenever possible, at least one individual will be selected with teaching experience or professional expertise in the subject or discipline which is the source of the appeal; the other two committee members may be selected from other areas within the University.

Upon convening, the committee selects a chair from the group and will review the facts of the case, interview the involved faculty, student and dean, and gather pertinent data. The committee will communicate their decision to the student, the faculty member and the program dean.

A student may appeal a decision of the Ad Hoc Grade Appeal Committee. This appeal must be filed in writing to the Provost within ten working days following notification of the committee’s decision, and must present clear and convincing evidence supporting the student’s position that the instructor’s grade was arbitrary and capricious and/or that the grade appeal procedure had not been followed. The Provost will review the decision of the committee, consult with the committee chair and program dean, if needed, and notify all parties of the final decision. The decision of the Provost is final.