Procedural Guidelines for Handling of Allegations of Arbitrary and Capricious Grading

University of Maryland Graduate School, Baltimore (UMGSB)

A. Purpose

These procedural guidelines are designed to provide a means for graduate students to seek review of course grades or grading procedures alleged to be arbitrary and capricious. The term "arbitrary and capricious" grading means (1) the assignment of a course grade to a student on some basis other than performance in the course; (2) the assignment of a course grade to a student by unreasonable applications of standards different from the standards that were applied to other students in that course; and/or (3) the assignment of a course grade by a substantial and unreasonable departure from the instructor's initially articulated standards.

These procedures will apply to grades assigned to courses or academic assignments. Grievances related to examinations taken during the normal progression toward the master's or doctoral degree will be handled under the Academic Dismissal Policy.

B. Procedure

  1. If a student alleges that a grade has been given in an arbitrary and/or capricious manner, the student must contact the faculty member responsible for the course to discuss the grade. If the student is dissatisfied after this discussion, the student then must contact the faculty member's department chairperson or graduate program director for further discussion. The student may also consult with his or her own graduate program director for guidance.

  2. If a student remains dissatisfied after the discussions required by paragraph 1, the student may file a formal allegation of arbitrary and capricious grading. Allegations should be made in written letters to the associate dean of the Graduate School. An allegation should include (a) in detail, the basis for the allegation; (b) the date the student was advised of the grade challenged; and (c) a summary and the dates of any conversations held pursuant to these procedures. An allegation also should be supported by any attachments necessary to explain the issue and by an attachment giving the names and contact information (e.g., campus addresses, telephone numbers) of persons with relevant information. An allegation may be supported by written statements from other persons, provided such persons are identified in the statement and contact information is included.

  3. Upon receiving an allegation, the associate dean shall forward a copy of it to the faculty member(s) who assigned the grade in question and to the chairperson and/or graduate program director who has been involved in discussions.

  4. The associate dean shall review each allegation of arbitrary and capricious grading and shall dismiss the allegation if (a) the student has submitted the same or a substantially similar complaint through any other formal grievance procedure; (b) the allegation does not allege actions that would constitute arbitrary and capricious grading as defined in these procedural guidelines; (c) the allegation was not filed with the associate dean within 30 calendar days of the student's notice of the grade; or (d) the student has not conferred with the instructor and either the graduate program director or department chairperson of the program offering the course prior to filing the allegation with the associate dean. If the allegation is dismissed, the associate dean shall notify the student, the faculty member, and the chairperson or graduate program director in writing.

  5. If an allegation is not dismissed by the associate dean, the faculty member(s) involved will be asked to submit a reply to the allegation within two weeks of the faculty member's receipt of the allegation.

  6. The associate dean shall submit the allegation of the student and the response of the faculty member involved to the Graduate Council Grievance Committee (GCGC). The GCGC will hear statements from the student and the faculty member(s) at its next regular monthly meeting. GCGC review may be waived upon the written request of the student and the program. Following deliberations, the committee will give its recommendations in writing to the associate dean.

  7. A decision and action of the associate dean will be conveyed in writing to the student, the faculty member(s), and the chairperson and/or program director. A decision will be made and issued within two weeks after the associate dean receives the recommendations of the GCGC or the request to waive GCGC review.

C. Appeals

  1. Either the student or the faculty member(s) involved may appeal the decision of the associate dean to the dean of the Graduate School. An appeal to the dean must be made in writing within 30 calendar days of a student's or faculty member's receipt of the decision of the associate dean. An appeal may be taken from a decision on the merits or from the decision to dismiss allegations pursuant to part B.4.

  2. The appeal shall be decided by the dean based upon the written record reviewed by the GCGC and the communications from the associate dean following the associate dean's decision. If the dean requires additional information, the dean will return the file to the associate dean for further investigation.

  3. The dean's decision with respect to an appeal shall be final. The dean will endeavor to make a decision on the appeal within 10 days after its receipt.

D. Schedules

Times stated in these procedures will be shortened, if feasible, when a grade is relevant to an advancement decision. Times stated in these procedures will be extended when circumstances do not permit student, faculty, or administrative actions within the specified time frames. The associate dean shall make all decisions to shorten or extend the schedules, but the associate dean may not require that the dean decide an appeal within a certain time. The associate dean's decisions with respect to scheduling shall be final.

Approved by UMGSB Graduate Council, April 1995.Revised, November 2009.