Academic appeals proposal limits time

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    Dissatisfied students could have to make a quicker decision on grade appeals if a new academic process is accepted, university officials said.The proposed appeals process would limit the time frame to appeal a grade to 10 days, and it would increase the size of the Academic Appeals Committee by adding graduate students, and more undergraduate students and faculty, officials said.

    The Academic Appeals Committee currently consists of seven faculty and staff members and three undergraduate students, according to the 2006-2007 TCU Handbook for Faculty and Staff. But the proposal could add up to four graduate students, another undergraduate student and nearly double the faculty who would hear appeals, said Provost Nowell Donovan.

    Enlarging the committee should help speed up the appeals process, Donovan said, which would make it faster and more fair because details pertaining to grade appeals will be easier to recall for both professors and students.

    “The further you are away in time, the more the story changes,” said Donovan, vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Not by deceit, but because of human memories.”

    Bonnie Melhart, associate provost of academic affairs, said the purpose of having students on the committee is to allow students who are appealing grades to be reviewed by their peers.

    “It would be inappropriate to have undergraduate students review a graduate student’s appeal,” she said.

    Under the current appeals process, a student has until the drop date of the next semester to appeal a grade, but Suzy Lockwood, faculty senate chairwoman, said a faster turnaround on academic decisions is needed – especially for graduate students.

    “Graduate students can’t progress in any of their programs without having a decision made,” she said. “Because many of the graduate courses and programs continue through the summer, it’s very difficult if a graduate student wanted to appeal a spring grade and needed to continue courses in the summer.”

    Melhart said adding members to the committee would ensure the minimum number of required members is met when a particular appeal needs to be heard.

    “We can follow the same process,” Melhart said. “We can still hear cases in a timely manner; we’re just not scrambling to try to get particular individuals. We’re expanding the number of people from which we can pull.”

    David Whillock, Academic Appeals Committee chairman, said the committee saw the need for a new process last summer when many of the faculty members on the appeals committee were not present, and three graduate students were selected to hear the cases with faculty and staff members.

    At that point, the committee realized they had to start serving the graduate students the same way they had been serving undergraduate students, he said.

    The proposal is being reviewed by the university’s attorneys to make sure the language is correct and that it identifies possible loopholes that may need to be corrected, Donovan said.

    The deans and the chancellor have reviewed the new process and made a few suggestions, Donovan said, but the proposal still needs to be approved and amended by the Undergraduate Council and the Graduate Council. Both councils review and recommend policies and practices pertaining to academic affairs. The University Council will review it, said Donovan, chairman of the University Council. The University Council handles all academic matters including policy, development of programs, degree offerings, calendar and some aspects of student life, according to the 2006-2007 TCU Handbook for Faculty and Staff.

    “I think we will be seeing it at the next meetings of the Undergraduate and Graduate councils as items of business to be discussed,” he said. “I’d certainly like to have this system working in the next academic year or some time at the end of May.”

    Melhart said she appreciates how the committee agreed to work out the problems.

    “I appreciate what they’ve done so far, and I think we’ll have a much better appeals process,” she said. “It won’t be radically different, but it will be better because it will be easier to understand and implement.