Sharon McGuire works in the provosts office on campus and helps deal with student complaints against professors academic policies and grading measures.
As Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, McGuire knows the ins and outs of academic complaints.
“Like many protocols, it requires going through a chain of command,” McGuire said.
McGuire said she understands students can become frustrated about a classes workload and material, or a low grade they felt was unfair.
“We recommend that students express their concerns to the faculty member first,” McGuire said. “Sometimes a faculty member is going to say, ‘That is useful to know. I will make some changes or adaptations’.”
If that doesn’t resolve the dispute, McGuire said students can then take the matter further.
“The next step would be to go to the department chair,” McGuire said.
If the department chair is not able to mediate the dispute, students can visit the Dean of their college who will review the case.
“Most of the students have an interface with an associate dean, so they probably wouldn’t talk to the dean directly,” McGuire said.
According to McGuire, students who are not able to resolve their issues through a chain of command should utilize the Academic Grievance policy, which addresses disputes with course materials and assignments.
“Students need to document that they have gone through that chain of command and then there is a preliminary hearing just to look and see whether what the student is alleging fits with the class policy,” McGuire said.
After the preliminary hearing, students go before a panel of seven selected professors and students who will hear arguments and deliberate on a decision.
Students who think they have been given an unfair grade can also appeal their scores through school officials.
McGuire explained that many grade appeals solely address possible mistakes in professors grading records.
“The grade appeal is focused on errors in the system and less about, ‘I think I should have gotten an A on this paper,’” McGuire said.
McGuire feels that many professors would be happy to discuss grading issues with students if approached by a student but in her experience, McGuire said students can be hesitant to complain about a professor’s policies or grading.
“Some students say that they feel intimidated, that they are worried about their grade being hurt,” McGuire said.
According to McGuire, many professors she works with like to keep open communication between themselves and students who may feel misjudgements and mistakes were made.
Lindsay Greenwood, an incoming freshman at Boise State in the spring thinks the grade appeals and Academic Grievance policy are necessary to ensure fairness.
“You are paying for school, so I think you should be able to complain if you didn’t get a fair grade or if the class doesn’t make sense,” Greenwood said.
Being just out of high school, Greenwood has had disputes with teachers before.
“I have had a couple teachers that I don’t think were fair, but at least here you can talk to someone to maybe fix things in class,” Greenwood said. “In high school, I guess you would tell your parents or maybe tell the principal.”