Guide to Common Law Section Grade Review Process

Introduction

Revision of grades and appeals is governed by the University of Ottawa's Academic Regulations, rule 10.3. The following information provides further details regarding the process specific to Common Law.  

Under the Common Law Section Regulations, the grade review process is the responsibility of the Examinations Committee, which is composed of one professor acting as chair (currently Professor Gruben), the Vice-Deans of the English and French Programs and two other professors from each of the English and French Programs.

The Committee treats every application for review seriously, seeks to ensure that each student's concerns are given due consideration and that all applications are disposed of in a fair manner. The Committee recognizes that in order for students to feel confident in the grade review process, it must be open and well understood.  With this in mind, the Committee provides the following guide to the process. You should read through this Guide before filing an appeal.

 

Overview of the Grade Review Process

 

The procedure to be followed for grade reviews depends upon whether the error complained about is mechanical or substantive in nature.  

Mechanical Errors

Mechanical errors include errors in transcription, arithmetic and other similar technical or clerical errors. If a student believes that a mechanical error has been made in the grade assigned, he or she should bring the error to the attention of the instructor. If the instructor agrees that a mechanical error was made and the error affects the student’s grade, the instructor must send a written explanation of the mechanical nature of the error and of the change required to the Academic Administrator. If the Academic Administrator is satisfied that the error is mechanical in nature, the grade will be changed accordingly. In case of doubt as to the mechanical nature of the error, the Academic Administrator may confer with the Chair of the Committee before deciding whether to accept the proposed change. If the Academic Administrator determines that the error is not mechanical in nature, the student will be so informed and will be required, if he or she still wishes to have the grade changed, to submit an application for grade review as outlined below.

Substantive Errors

Students are entitled to apply to the Examinations Committee if they believe the final grade assigned was the result of a significant error or injustice. Only final grades may be reviewed. In order to seek review of interim assessments, it is necessary for the student to wait until the final grade in the course is received. 

The review process involves the following steps. Please note the strict deadlines listed below. Students have ten (10) business days from when a final grade becomes official (see University calendar for the exact date) to seek a grade review from Examinations Committee. 

 

  • Mechanical errors are corrected expeditiously on the basis of a direction to the Academic Operations Supervisor from the instructor in the course who gave the grade.
  • Substantive errors can only be corrected through the grade review process. Instructors have no jurisdiction to change grades after they have been assigned. Students must apply in writing to the Examinations Committee setting out in detail the grounds upon which they rely. Students who are not satisfied with their grade after discussing the matter with their professor can ask for a review. Their request must be submitted within ten (10) working days after the course’s final grade becomes official (see the University calendar for the exact date).
  • If the Committee finds sufficient merit in the student’s application, the grade is sent for review by the instructor in the course and a second reviewer. This is followed by a decision of the Committee based on the results of these reviews.
  • Reviews for substantive errors will take up to thirty (30) working days from the deadline for the submission of grade review requests.

 

Step 1. Attempt to obtain an explanation of your grade from your instructor

 

  • The student must make a serious attempt to obtain an explanation of his or her grade with the instructor. The purpose of this step is to help the student understand how the grade was determined. Students should not attempt to negotiate a change of their grade with the instructor. Instructors have no authority to change grades.
  • Instructors must provide a reasonable opportunity for students to obtain an explanation of the basis for their grade. This opportunity can be provided in person, by email, through a website or by telephone.
  • If students have not received feedback (or a response indicating that feedback will be forthcoming before the deadline) after five (5) working days of serious effort to contact the professor, students may contact the Vice Dean who will then contact the professor. However, it is not useful to contact the Vice Dean just before the deadline. Accordingly, students must contact the Vice Deans three (3) or more working days before the deadline. 
  • Students who appeal outside the ten day limit must demonstrate due diligence to acquire feedback from the professor in any available form. Students need to show that they took all reasonable steps available toward this end, including contacting the Vice Dean where necessary, according to the timelines that follow. The unavailability or non-responsiveness of a professor will not prejudice a student’s appeal, provided that the student can demonstrate having followed the procedure above, including 1) having, in so far as possible, made a serious attempt to contact the professor for five (5) business days and 2) enlisted the assistance of the Vice Dean within a minimum of three (3) business days of the filing deadline.

 

Step 2. Apply to Examinations Committee

 

  • If, after complying with Step 1, the student still believes that a significant error or injustice has occurred and wishes to apply for review of the grade, the student must write a letter setting out the grounds for review (i.e., the specific facts and/or evidence showing that a significant error or injustice has occurred in assigning the student's grade). Any supporting documentation or evidence should be appended to the letter. The letter and supporting documentation must be submitted by e-mail to the Chair of the Committee (Professor Gruben) via the following e-mail address: EXAMAPP@UOTTAWA.CA.Only grade review requests, received at this e-mail address, within ten (10) working days after the course’s final grade has become official will be considered properly filed. Submissions filed in some other manner or in hardcopy will not be reviewed.
  • Applications received after the applicable deadline will be rejected unless the student can demonstrate due diligence as described under Step 1. The categories of information to be included in applications for review are set out in Appendix 1 to this Guide.  
  • The request must include a) the course title, the course syllabus, the grade assigned and the name of the professors having assigned it, b) the grounds for the appeal, and c) the assignment/test corrected by the professor (if applicable), and other relevant documents.
  • The onus is on the student to provide specific facts and/or evidence regarding the significant error or injustice.
  • The standard to be applied by the Committee (significant error or injustice) means that not all errors are sufficient to merit review. Acceptable grounds for granting a review are serious errors in the application of grading criteria, as well as facts that point to a lack of impartiality or to unequal treatment during grading.
  • Grade review is based on the evaluation itself. Specific grounds for the Committee to consider may include the following: 
    • a significant error in the application of the grading criteria (e.g. the instructor’s marking sheet refers to a point and the student addressed the point but received no credit); 
    • facts raising a reasonable apprehension of bias;
    • facts raising a reasonable apprehension of unfair treatment; or
    • facts showing a clear and demonstrable error of law made in the evaluation of the student's work.
  • It is not sufficient to state only that:
    • a significant error or injustice has occurred;
    • the instructor has not fully justified the grade to the student’s satisfaction;
    • the student does not understand how the grade was arrived at; or
    • there is a significant discrepancy between the grade complained of and the student’s other grades (i.e., the grade received is significantly below all other grades received by the student in law school). Although insufficient in itself to justify a review, grading discrepancy will lend support to allegations, based on other facts, that a significant error or injustice occurred. 
  • Grounds which are extraneous to the fairness of the evaluation itself are not relevant in the grade review process and should not be included in the student’s application. Examples of irrelevant grounds include allegations that: 
    • the grade does not reflect the amount of work the student put into the course;
    • other students who did less or similar work received a better grade; and
    • the student tutored a colleague who received a better grade.
  • It is not appropriate to express concerns about the instructor as a teacher in an application for grade review. Such concerns should be addressed to the Vice Dean's office. Applications which contain such concerns will not be considered by the Committee.
  • In submitting applications for review, students should bear in mind that the application will be sent to the instructor for his or her response.

 

Step 3. Consideration of student applications by the Examinations Committee

 

  • The Examinations Committee first assesses the admissibility of the request within ten (10) working days. 
  • If an application involves a grade assigned by a professor who is a member of the Committee, that professor does not take part in the review of that particular case. 
  • The Examinations Committee reviews student applications to determine whether it appears that a significant error or injustice may have occurred (the “prescribed standard”). In assessing the student’s application, the Committee will not inquire beyond what the student has submitted in his or her application and, normally, does not consult with the instructor. The Committee deals with the applications based upon the information filed. That said, where the student’s submissions rely on statements allegedly made by the instructor, the committee may verify these allegations with the instructor.
  • If the request is deemed inadmissible, the chair of the review panel informs the student in writing and includes the reason for rejecting the appeal.
  • If the request is deemed to be admissible, the chair of the Examinations Committee informs the student and the professor concerned, as outlined by Step 4, below.

 

Step 4. Review by Instructor and Second Reviewer

 

  • If the request is deemed to be admissible, the chair of the Examinations Committee informs the student. The chair also immediately sends notice of the student's request to the professor concerned and may invite him or her to revise the grade and/or submit in writing any comments, as well as the evaluation criteria explained to the student for the test or assignment, and other relevant documents. Professors must respond within ten (10) working days.
  • Upon receiving the required documents from the professor, if necessary, the chair of the Examinations Committee asks at least one other professor to review the exam or assignment under review and forwards all documents from the student and the grading professor to this reviewing professor. The chair must ensure that the reviewing professor possesses the necessary professional qualifications. Normally this person will have been the Co-Examiner for the exam. The review must be done within ten (10) working days.
  • Both the instructor and the second reviewer are asked to read the student’s work and to determine whether the grade should be increased or decreased or left the same. A change should be recommended only if the grade assigned suffered from serious error or was clearly unreasonable or unfair. Both the instructor and the second reviewer are invited to provide a written response to the Committee. If a grade revision is recommended, an explanation in writing must be provided. 
  • When a review by a second reviewer is impossible (such as in cases involving oral examinations and assessments of class participation), the Committee will ask the instructor who gave the grade to review it to ensure that the student’s grade was determined on a basis comparable to that on which other students in the course were graded. The original instructor must review the grade assigned and provide the Examination Committee with a written response including (1) an explanation of the general grading process followed and the criteria applied, and the specifics of the grading of the case at hand and (2) a recommendation and explanation for the same.
  • In all cases, the aim of the review is to provide a reconsideration of the evaluation as a whole, rather than the specific concerns of the student. The professor and/or the reviewer may address the student’s specific concerns but are not required to do so. This approach has been adopted in the regulations of the Common Law Section in order to ensure that the student’s grade is determined on a basis comparable to that on which other students in the course were graded to the extent possible.

 

Step 5. Review of recommendations by the Examinations Committee

 

  • Based on all of the documents received following the review process described above, the review panel determines within ten (10) working days the grade to be awarded and the student and the professor in question are informed immediately.
  • If the instructor and the reviewer make the same recommendation, the Committee will accept the recommendations. If the instructor and the reviewer make different recommendations, the Committee will consider the recommendations and the explanations given and make a decision about whether the grade should be changed.
  • In cases of review involving oral evaluations or assessments of class participation, the Committee meets to consider the recommendation and explanation given by the instructor and makes a decision about whether the grade should be changed.

 

Step 6. Report to Student

 

The Committee’s decision is reported to the student in writing.

Appeal to Senate

A student may appeal the Committee’s decision on an application for grade review to the Senate Appeals Committee.

Once a student has filed such an appeal, the academic unit will provide to the Committee all relevant documentation and its comments.

 

Appendix 1- Information Required in Applications for Grade Review
  1. The student’s name, address (including telephone number and email address) and student number.
  2. The name and course code of the course in relation to which grade review is sought and the name of the instructor.
  3. The grounds and evidence on which the student relies to show a significant error or injustice.
Appendix 2- Examination Committee Practice
  1. The Chair convenes and presides at all meetings of the Committee.
  2. At Examination Committee meetings, three (3) faculty members constitute a quorum.
  3. A decision made by a majority of the quorum is regarded as a decision of the Committee. In practice most decisions are taken by consensus.
  4. In considering applications for review, the Chair may, in lieu of a meeting, request that Committee members provide their comments in writing. If all members agree on the disposition of the case, the Chair will dismiss the application or initiate the review of the grade subject of the application by the instructor and the second reviewer, as the case may be. If all members do not agree, a meeting is called to consider the application.
  5. If an application involves a grade assigned by a professor who is a member of the Committee, that professor does not take part in the review of that particular case.
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