Confidential | Informal | Independent | Neutral

It sometimes happens that students don’t get the grade they expect on an assignment or in a course. The Office of the University Ombudsperson is here as a confidential resource for any student going through this process. While we do not serve as advocates for students through this process, our job is to advocate for fairness and due process. Students, instructors, or other community members are encouraged to reach out to our office for assistance in understanding the academic grievance and grade appeals processes at MSU.

The SRR outlines that students have a right to appeal grades based on “inappropriate or irrelevant factors,” and that grading must be based on a good faith judgement of your performance. Inappropriate or irrelevant factors might include race, sex, or personal animosity. Grievance hearings also may proceed from alleged violations of the grading policy, as stated in the course syllabus. Keep in mind, however, that students cannot grieve based upon the competence of their faculty - whether or not they are what the student considers to be a good instructor, or knowledgeable in the subject matter - this evaluation can only be made by other faculty members.

If you are concerned about how your grade was determined, or you would like to contest the grade you received in a course, please see the steps below.

Step 1: Attempt to figure out how your grade was determined. If you have all of your course grades, plug them into the grading formula or grading scale to determine if your results are the same as your instructors.

If you don’t have all your grades, including the results of your final exam, semester-end assignments, or class participation grade, if any, then you’ll need to pick up those scores or course work from your instructor. The Code of Teaching Responsibility requires instructors to retain course work not returned to students at the end of a semester for at least one semester.

Once you’ve calculated your grade, determine if you believe your instructor has made a simple math error. If so, make an appointment with your instructor to review the matter. If the math doesn’t reveal any discrepancy, you can still visit with your instructor to seek clarification of your grade. You might find your instructor is missing a grade on an assignment that you can produce.

Step 2: Meet with your instructor. Contact your instructor via email or phone and ask to set up a time to discuss your grade. It is best to have these meetings in person so that you can engage in constructive dialogue about the issue. Enter into these conversations with an open mind, and try to listen to the rationale of your instructor. This meeting will also provide you with the opportunity to share your perspective with the instructor. If you feel as though there was an error in how the grades were calculated, share this with your instructor. If you feel that you were graded unfairly, you may also share this with your instructor.

While this may be a difficult conversation to have it is important to try and maintain your composure, to listen, and to engage in respectful dialogue. The same expectations also apply to your instructor. If you determine that the instructor calculated grades appropriately, and the disagreement is over the quality of your work, this may be more difficult to contest.

Step 3: If you are unable to resolve the dispute with your instructor, you may discuss the matter with the the course coordinator in a multi-section course or, if your instructor is a TA, to his or her supervisor. The next step is to contact the Chair or Director of the department or school that offered the course. The Chair or Director is the supervisor for the instructor, and will act to mediate the dispute between you and the instructor. If the Chair or Director agree that you have been graded unfairly, they can speak to the instructor on your behalf. If they believe that your instructor graded in good faith, they may be able to provide clarity on the matter.

Step 4: The final step in the process is to request a hearing before the University Academic Grievance Hearing Board. For an explanation of the hearing process, visit our page on How to File a Request for an Academic Grievance Hearing.

If you pursue this option, you must be aware that in a formal Academic Grievance Hearing, you must demonstrate that your instructor used inappropriate or irrelevant factors in determining your final course grade.