Student Appeals: Guidelines

Presenting to the Student Appeals Committee

What is an Appeal?
An appeal is an examination by an official body, of a decision made at a lower level of authority. In the university context academic appeals focus mainly on scrutiny of the evaluation/grading process in order to determine if a procedural error or omission has occurred in the student’s case. Student appeals are initiated by the student.

Appeal hearings are conducted by the Student Appeals Committee (SAC)
These are standing committees within each academic unit. They hear appeals related to academic decisions such as final grades, term grades, voluntary withdrawals, authorized withdrawals.

What is the Purpose of a Student Appeal Hearing?
An appeal hearing offers students a mechanism to challenge an academic decision on procedural grounds, beyond the individual course leader or program coordinator.

Burden of Proof
The student/appellant bears the “burden of proof”. That is, it is up to the student to convince the SAC that there are sufficient grounds to alter the original decision.

Who Attends the Hearing?
Hearings are attended by the committee members, the student/appellant and the faculty member representing the College’s perspective (usually the course leader, Program Coordinator or Associate Dean responsible for the decision in question). The SAC membership consists of 4 - 5 faculty members and 1 - 3 student representatives. This ensures a range of perspectives and that those hearing the appeal are knowledgeable about the program and about standard evaluation methods.

Committee members who have previous direct knowledge of, or involvement in the case, do not participate in that hearing.

Others who may attend are a limited number of support persons, e.g., student advocate or counsellor. Both the student and the faculty representative can also bring relevant witnesses that they feel will support their position.

Note: The College of Nursing SAC requires students to present their own case (unless special arrangements are made with the Chair ahead of time). Advocates and other support persons may speak only by permission from the Chair. Advocates or counsellors may confer with the student at any time during the hearing or in a brief recess.

Preparing for the Hearing

  1. See a student advisor to obtain the required hearing request form and for information regarding procedures and time-lines.
  2. Contact the Student Advocates Office for their assistance.
  3. Complete the request form and deliver to the Chair within the required time frame.
  4. Provide the Chair with any print materials that you feel will support your case. These will be included in the Appeals package.
  5. Carefully read all materials provided in the Appeals package identifying questions and issues to raise for clarification during the hearing.
  6. Prepare brief (approx. 5-10 minutes) opening and closing statements summarizing your main points.

The Hearing Procedure - The hearing procedure is as follows:

  1. Introduction of Participants
  2. Opening Statements - student and faculty representatives
  3. Student and Faculty Member Witness Questions - following opening statements the student and faculty witness may ask questions of one another
  4. Committee members question and seek clarification of details from student and faculty representatives
  5. In Camera Deliberations - once the appellant and faculty representative are excused, the SAC proceeds to the decision-making stage

What kind of information/evidence does the committee consider?
The hearing focuses on the procedures used to determine the original decision including: student-teacher communication, timing of feedback, standard grading practices. If relevant, the SAC will take into account the student’s academic history and past performance in the course. Only information presented to the committee at the hearing or provided in the Appeals package is considered. The SAC does not investigate cases or seek out additional evidence. Hearsay evidence may be considered on a case by case basis.

Tips for Presenting Your Case:

  • Be prepared, be clear about dates and time-lines.
  • Respond to any points about which you do not agree or when you have alternate or additional information.
  • Some students find the hearing process emotionally distressing. Ask for a time out if you need to “catch your breath”, organize your thoughts or consult your support person.
  • Do not leave anything “unsaid” that you feel is important for the Committee to hear.

The Committee’s Decision
Students receive the Committee’s decision in writing generally within 24 - 48 hours. Appeals denied at the college level may be appealed to the next highest appeal body within the University, the Senate Academic Student Appeals Committee.

Resources for Students: Student Advocates Office; Student Council; Student Advisors

(MK/UM/FON Apr/09)