Guidelines for the Consideration of Petitions/Appeals by Faculty Committees
These guidelines should inform the actions and decisions of Faculty committees and administrative personnel in responding to student academic petitions and appeals. They are not intended to direct the decisions of the Faculty in these matters; jurisdiction to waive academic regulations, extend deadlines and reappraise work clearly resides with Faculties in the first instance. These guidelines are to advise the relevant parties in their work to help foster equitable and consistent decisions across the University. It is recognized that the nature (performance, professional, graduate) and size of the various Faculties make it highly improbable to have uniform procedures and processes. There are areas in which greater consistency among the Faculties’ processes can be achieved and it is to that end that these guidelines are proposed.
Faculties may, and are encouraged, to have a two-tiered structure for the consideration of academic petitions: a) an academic petitions committee/associate dean and b) an administratively approved process.
- Academic Petitions Committee/Associate Dean: As all Faculties have agreed to consider requests for exceptions from Faculty regulations, there shall be a committee or a senior academic administrator charged with the responsibility of reviewing the academic petitions and rendering decisions on the basis of the reasons and supporting documentation provided by the student.
- Administratively Approved Academic Petitions: To help offset large caseloads, academic petitions may be recommended for approval by the Petitions Officer (or equivalent) and confirmed by the Chair of the Academic Petitions Committee (or designate)1. In accordance with the general considerations for granting petitions (set out below), the Petitions Officer shall identify cases which clearly meet the considerations and present them as such to the Chair for confirmation. All cases which are not clear and require discretion are forwarded to the Academic Petitions Committee for a decision. No academic petitions will be administratively refused on the basis of their merits. Students failing to provide the necessary documentation requested by the Faculty within a specific time frame will not have their academic petition considered, and the Petitions Officer shall inform the student in writing in such cases.
- Procedures: Each Faculty shall have written procedural rules that are widely available to students (e.g. in the Undergraduate Calendar, on the University website, at the Registrar’s Office). Faculty academic petition/appeal procedures must be consistent with the Senate guidelines.
- Deadlines: The Senate approved policy on the deadline for submitting an academic petition for late withdrawal is that “Normally academic petitions for late withdrawal from a course will only be considered if they are submitted within 30 days of the last day of classes [of the relevant course]. Such academic petitions may be considered for a period of up to one year if they are based on special circumstances.” The Senate policy on the deadline for deferred standing requests is “Normally requests for deferred standing must be communicated within one week following a missed examination or the last day to submit course work.” The period during which the University is officially closed for December holidays and on statutory holidays throughout the year is not counted in the determination of deadline days.
- Representation: Appellants have the right to have a representative assist in the preparation of written submissions and, if granted an appearance before a committee, represent them at that meeting.
- Jurisdiction: Students shall petition all academic matters to their home Faculty with the exception of grade reappraisals which are considered by the department/Faculty offering the course. Otherwise, Faculties shall consider requests for exceptions to all Faculty regulations.
- Bias: Any member of an academic petitions/appeals committee or a person reviewing an academic petition who has a lack of neutrality on the issue to be decided shall excuse him/herself from the consideration of that case. An appearance of bias or a reasonable apprehension of bias is also sufficient for a party to disqualify her/himself from considering an academic petition.
- Appearances: Students and/or their representatives may appear before a committee only at the discretion or invitation of the Committee.
- Anonymity: Requests from students for anonymity in the academic petitions process should be honoured. Students provided the opportunity to appear before a committee, however, will have to decide whether they wish to forego anonymity. Confidentiality in this process shall always be maintained.
- Decisions: To help fulfill the requirements for natural justice and fairness in adjudicative processes, academic petitions and appeals committees, administrators rendering decisions on academic petitions must give reasons in writing for the decision. Without reasons, a party may have to speculate why an adverse decision was made and may not be able to decide whether to appeal. Similarly, a subsequent committee or a reviewing court may have difficulty understanding the rationale for a decision without reasons and may draw inferences adverse to the initial committee from its failure to give reasons.
- Appeals: The route of appeal for students shall be included in the written decision.
Principles Regarding Grade Reappraisals
- Students may, with sufficient academic grounds, request that a final grade in a course be reappraised (which may mean the review of specific pieces of tangible work). Non-academic grounds are not relevant for grade reappraisals; in such cases, students are advised to petition to their home Faculty. Students are normally expected to first contact the course director to discuss the grade received and to request that their tangible work be reviewed. Tangible work may include written, graphic, digitized, modelled, video recording or audio recording formats, but not oral work.
Students need to be aware that a request for a grade reappraisal may result in the original grade being raised, lowered or confirmed.
- In the event that students are still not satisfied with the final grade or the course director is not available to review the work, they may submit in writing a formal request for a grade reappraisal to the department or unit in which the course is offered2. The Senate approved deadline for submitting grade reappraisals is February 15 for fall term grades, June 15 for fall/winter session and winter term grades, September 30 for summer session grades, or a minimum of 21 days from the release of grades, whichever is later. When a submission deadline occurs on a weekend or holiday, requests will be accepted up until the end of the next available business day. Exercising discretion about minor delays in meeting the deadline which result from slow mail delivery or extraordinary circumstances is reasonable.
- If the condition of sufficient academic grounds has been met, the relevant department committee, department Chair, associate dean or graduate/undergraduate program director will be responsible for ensuring that the work is reappraised by an appropriate faculty member, ensuring anonymity of both the student and the reappraiser, and for communicating the result of the reappraisal (including the reappraiser’s comments) and the route of appeal to both the student and the course director. The reappraiser will be given the nature of the assignment and the rationale for the original grade. It is expected that every effort will be made to render the decision within 30 days of the reviewer having received the work.
- Parties to the decision may appeal a negative decision on a request for a reappraisal, or the result of the reappraisal itself to a Faculty-level appeals committee in the Faculty in which the course is offered (or, in the case of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, to the dean) only on the ground of procedural irregularity. Procedural irregularity is defined as actions taken or not taken by a department, Faculty, graduate program officers, committees, or members with respect to the previous disposition of the case which violate or nullify one or all of the following:
normal and written procedures of the University, Faculty, graduate program or department concerned;
consistency in the Faculty’s, graduate program’s or department’s handling of cases substantially similar to that being appealed;
principles of equity, natural justice or fairness, whether or not such violation occurred in accord with written or customary procedures. Appeals based on allegations of these last procedural irregularities should allege and demonstrate obvious bias or other misbehaviour on the part of the officers or agents of the University and for which redress was not provided by an authority which considered the case prior to the appeal.
- Parties to the appeal at the Faculty-level may file an application for leave to appeal the decision to the Senate Appeals Committee (SAC) on the ground of procedural irregularity at the Faculty-level. Applications for leave to appeal must be submitted within 21 days of the notification of the Faculty decision. SAC may waive that deadline when special circumstances are established by the appellant. No member of SAC shall consider the application if they considered the matter at an earlier level. As explained in the SAC procedures, parties may appear before the committee if leave to appeal is granted to make oral submissions on the ground of procedural irregularity. The committee’s decision will be taken in camera and it is expected that the parties will be informed of the decision in writing within 30 days of the filing of the application.
- Parties to the decision of the Senate Appeals Committee may apply to the committee to have the matter reconsidered if there is evidence of procedural irregularity on the part of SAC. Applications must be submitted within 21 days of the posting of the decision. SAC reserves the right to waive this deadline in special circumstances. Requests for reconsideration of a SAC decision will be considered by a panel of SAC members who did not serve on the panel first hearing the matter; it is expected that a decision will be rendered within 30 days of its submission.
Deferred Standing Agreement
The Deferred Standing Agreement (DSA) is a process by which students who are either unable to write their final examination at the scheduled time or submit term work before the Faculty deadline to submit final grades reach an agreement with the course director about granting deferred standing in the course and setting a date for writing the exam or submitting the outstanding work. Using the standard DSA form, it is the responsibility of students to make arrangements with the course director to complete the course and file the DSA form with the appropriate departmental/unit office by the deadline specified on the form. Course directors have the option not to consider requests for deferred standing; in such cases students must file an academic petition with the relevant Faculty-level committee for consideration within the established deadline.
Students’ Responsibilities in the Academic Petition/Appeal Processes
The University has established regulations, procedures and deadlines through its legislative bodies to which students must adhere. Students are expected to monitor their progress in courses, taking into account their personal and academic circumstances, and to make the necessary adjustments to their workload to meet the requirements and deadlines. The University recognizes, however, that specific circumstances may justify waiving the regulations/requirements/deadlines on an individual basis. Requests for a waiver of a regulation/requirement/deadline are initiated by an academic petition.
Students opting to initiate an academic petition should be assured that confidentiality is a hallmark of this process.
While it is the University’s responsibility to provide students with proper information, guidance and advice, it is incumbent upon students to:
- be aware of and adhere to all Faculty and program regulations, requirements and published deadlines;
- familiarize themselves with their Faculty’s written academic petition/appeal procedures and make requests in a timely fashion;
- provide all documentation to support their academic petition/appeal and to do so in a timely fashion;
- indicate and document all their relevant circumstances upon submitting their academic petition in the first instance.
University’s Responsibilities in the Academic Petition/Appeal Processes
Just as the students who submit academic petitions and appeals have responsibilities to meet the requirements of the process, the University has responsibilities in administering it.
It is incumbent upon members of the non-academic staff to:
- make available to students advice and guidance regarding options, deadlines, required documentation, and appeal routes by way of written notification, the University website, personal appointments or communication over the telephone;
- direct students to the appropriate office for information on academic petitions/appeals;
- attend to academic petitions and appeals efficiently to prevent undue delay;
- maintain students’ right to confidentiality.
It is incumbent upon faculty members to:
- respond to requests for information from students and non-academic staff in a timely manner;
- help direct students to the appropriate office for information on academic petitions/appeals;
- maintain students’ right to confidentiality.
Academic Petition/Appeal officers/committees:
It is incumbent upon academic petition/appeal officers or committees to:
- ensure parties receive fair, consistent and ethical treatment;
- give thorough and serious attention to all requests;
- render decisions only after careful deliberation;
- supply parties with reasons for decisions;
- maintain students’ right to confidentiality.