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This policy exists for the resolution of disagreements between students and instructors for academic matters. A student must first have submitted a written appeal regarding the academic matter in question to the appropriate instructor or instructors. Email appeals are permitted. After a decision is made by the instructor(s), the issue, if unresolved, may be appealed to the Associate Dean for Academic Programs. The Associate Dean for Academic Programs will consult with the instructor(s) and attempt to resolve any process disputes but the faculty retains the final decision about the grade for the assignment or the course. If the matter continues to be unresolved to the satisfaction of the student and the instructor(s), the issue will be referred to the Academic Standards and Progressions Committee (ASPC). The ASPC will review the situation to determine if grading processes have been applied fairly and will provide recommendations to the instructor(s) about process improvements. 

Types of Grievances

Commonly, grievances fall into two categories:

Grade Disagreement 

The role of the ASPC in matters of grade disagreement is to investigate the processes used by faculty in determining the grade and advise the faculty member in handling any perceived problems with applying grading processes outlined in the syllabus or any other apparent violations of fairness. The Faculty member ultimately determines the grade that is awarded.

The ASPC is the only body in the School of Nursing that can dismiss a student for severely poor academic performance, failure to return from a leave of absence/ failure to correspond with the School, unsafe clinical practice or other serious problems.

Determining that clinical practice is unsafe: clinical practice that is considered unsafe must be evaluated as such by more than one faculty member involved in the course, usually the faculty member serving as the student’s clinical instructor and the Course Director or Program Director. The faculty will then consult the Associate Dean for Academic Programs who may choose to meet with the student and will consult with the faculty about potential processes to improve student performance. If it is determined that the student’s clinical practice is so unsafe that she/he must be removed from clinical, the faculty will determine if the student has failed the course. The ASPC will be consulted and will review documentation leading to the determination of unsafe practice and course failure. In collaboration with the faculty, the ASPC will determine if the student will be permitted to re-take the course or if the student is to be dismissed from the School.

Options following Dismissal from the School of Nursing 

Review by the Academic Standards and Progression Committee

In the event that the ASPC dismisses a student from the School of Nursing, the student may request a meeting with the Committee. The ASPC has the option to reconsider the decision or to uphold it. The ASPC must defer to faculty and teaching staff on all academic decisions related to dismissal.

Appeal to the Academic Standards and Progression Committee

The only ASPC decision a student may petition is that of dismissal from the School of Nursing.

Process for appeal of dismissal from the School of Nursing
  1. The student must submit a written petition to appeal the dismissal within 30 days of notification of the decision. The petition must include the grounds for appeal, which are limited to a) procedural error, b) bias on the part of the ASPC or any of its members, or c) dismissal that was arbitrary or capricious and without any reasonable basis. The petition should be sent to the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Academic Affairs.
  2. Written petitions for appeal of dismissal are evaluated by an ad hoc Appeals Committee appointed by the Dean of the School of Nursing. The Appeals Committee shall be comprised of three members of the Standing Faculty, one of whom will be designated Chair.
  3. The student may request, in the written petition, the opportunity to address the membership of the Appeals Committee.
  4. The Appeals Committee will review relevant background materials, including relevant academic history and any supporting materials submitted by the student. The Appeals Committee may seek additional information or consultation from School or University officials as its members deem appropriate.
  5. The Appeals Committee must defer to faculty and teaching staff on all academic decisions related to the dismissal.
  6. The Appeals Committee deliberates and votes in private. In voting, the Appeals Committee may consider the following among the possible options: a) uphold the dismissal, or b) return the dismissal decision to the ASPC for further consideration.
  7. The Appeals Committee reports the results of the vote and any supporting rationale to the Dean. The Appeals Committee is advisory to the Dean. The Dean holds the final decision.
  8. In the case that the Dean decides to ask the ASPC to further consider a decision to dismiss in light of such an Appeal’s Committee review, ASPC’s decision to uphold dismissal after such further consideration cannot be appealed.

Role of Ombudsman 

The Office of the Ombudsman at the University of Pennsylvania serves as a mechanism for students, faculty, staff, and administrators who have a specific problem or dispute that they may not have been able to resolve through other channels. The overarching mission of the Office of the Ombudsman is to resolve issues of equity and justice at the University of Pennsylvania before the tensions of polarization escalate.

The office is concerned with safeguarding individual rights and promoting better channels of communication throughout the University. It is independent of all administrative offices. The Ombudsman is not an advocate for any one individual or group. He or she is an advocate for fairness, adherence to University regulations, due process, and personal responsibility. The Office supplements, but does not replace, any existing grievance mechanisms or modes of redress. It can and does recommend changes in the existing rules and practices when necessary.

Students may contact the Office of the Ombudsman for consultation at any time during the grievance process. The Ombudsman may advise students about process issues and may choose to discuss the issue with relevant faculty or the Associate Dean for Academic Programs. The Ombudsman does not function as a true appeal process in that they do not attempt to overturn a faculty decision about student performance.

Role of the Dean 

Students may contact the Dean of the School of Nursing at any time in the grievance process. The Dean may communicate with relevant faculty or the Associate Dean for Academic Programs about process issues. She will not over-rule a faculty member’s decision about grading or safety of clinical practice.