Policy on Arbitrary or Capricious Grading

A. Purpose

These guidelines describe how allegations of arbitrary or capricious grading are handled in course work in the University of Maryland Baltimore Graduate School. Arbitrary or capricious means (a) the assignment of a course grade to a student on some basis other than performance in the course, (b) the assignment of a course grade to a student by unreasonable application of standards different from the standards that were applied to other students in that course, or (c) the assignment of a course grade by a substantial and unreasonable departure from the instructor's initially articulated standards.

These procedures apply only to grades assigned in course work. Qualifying and comprehensive examinations and defense of theses or dissertations during the progression toward the master's or doctor's degree are to be handled under the Academic Progression* policy.

B. Procedure

  1. If a student alleges that a grade has been given in an arbitrary or capricious manner, the student must first discuss the situation with the faculty member responsible for the course within 10 business days of receiving the grade. The student should also contact the department chair or graduate program director if the issue is not resolved within 20 business days of receiving the grade.
  2. If a student remains dissatisfied after the discussions required by paragraph 1, the student may file an allegation of arbitrary and capricious grading with the Dean of the Graduate School. Allegations should be made in writing in the form of a letter to the Dean of the Graduate School within 30 calendar days of the student’s receipt of the grade. An allegation should include (a) the course, program, and semester in which the grade was awarded; (b) the basis for the allegation; (c) the date the student was advised of the grade challenged; and (d) a summary and the dates of any conversations held pursuant to these procedures.
  3. Upon receiving an allegation, the Graduate School Dean’s designee shall forward a copy of it to the faculty member who assigned the grade in question and to the chair or graduate program director.
  4. The Dean of the Graduate School or designee shall review each allegation of arbitrary and capricious grading and shall dismiss the allegation if (a) the student has submitted the same, or substantially the same, complaint through any other formal grievance procedure; (b) the allegation does not allege actions which would constitute arbitrary and capricious grading as defined in these procedural guidelines; (c) the allegation was not filed with the Dean of the Graduate School 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 chair of the program offering the course prior to filing the allegation. The Dean of the Graduate School or designee shall notify the student, the faculty member, and the chair or graduate program director in writing within one week of receiving the allegation of the disposition of the allegation.
  5. If an allegation is not dismissed, the faculty member involved will have two weeks from receipt of the allegation to submit a written response to the Dean of the Graduate School.
  6. The Dean of the Graduate School or designee shall submit the allegation of the student and the response of the faculty member to a Grade Hearing Committee (GHC) consisting of three members (two faculty and one student) appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. The GHC may decide to hear statements from the student and the faculty member or it may deliberate on the basis of written materials. GHC review may be waived with the consent of the student and the faculty member, in which case the Dean of the Graduate School or designee will review the matter and make a determination. If the matter is considered by the GHC, following deliberations, the committee will give its recommendations in writing to the Dean of the Graduate School or designee. If the GHC finds arbitrary or capricious grading did occur, its report should include recommendations for action, specifying who they recommend be responsible for those remedy actions.
  7. The Dean of the Graduate School or designee will receive the GHC recommendation and make a decision. The decision will be will forwarded in writing to the student, the faculty member, and the program director within two weeks of receiving the GHC recommendation or within two weeks of the waiver of GHC review.

C. Appeals

  1. The student, the faculty member, or the program director may appeal to the Dean of the Graduate School for reconsideration of the decision by submitting an appeal in writing to the Dean of the Graduate School in writing within 10 days of receipt of a decision.
  2.  The Dean of the Graduate School'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. The Dean’s decision will be communicated in writing to the student, the faculty member, and the program director.

(Approved by the Graduate Council, Jan. 18, 1995; revised by a University of Maryland Baltimore committee, February 1995; approved in revised form by the Graduate Council, April 20, 1995; revised July 2003.)

*Policies, guidelines, and standards related to academic progression are outlined in the Academic Standards and Degree Requirements section of the catalog.

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