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Grievance Policy

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.  All grade grievances must be initiated before the end of the semester following the one in which the course was completed. Grievances brought forward after this time period will not be considered.

Types of Grievances

Commonly, grievances fall into 2 categories:

  1. Re-evaluation of a grade given on an individual assignment or for a course
  2. Appeal of the decision to dismiss the student from the school, usually for unsafe practice, significant failure to perform academically, failure to correspond with the Office of Student Services according to stipulations in Leave of Absence letters.
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 Process

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

Appeals Process

The only ASPC decision a student may petition is that of dismissal from the School of Nursing.  The appeals process is as follows:

  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 University Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman at the University of Pennsylvania serves as a mechanism for students, faculty, non-unionized staff, and administrators who seek solutions to problems that they may not have been able to resolve through normal channels.  Students, faculty, staff, and administrators come in with a variety of problems – academic disputes, access to resources, use of authority, compensation equity, and interpersonal tensions.  The Office is staffed by the University Ombudsman, a tenured faculty member (part-time), and an Associate Ombudsman (full-time staff member).

In all cases, initial complaints are heard under complete confidentiality.  Further action is taken only when complainants want the Office to proceed on their behalf.  If complainants wish it, the person or persons complained about are approached by the Office, told that a complaint has been filed and given the opportunity to respond.  The Office serves as an impartial mediator and works to find solutions that are acceptable to the complainant and the respondent.

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.  S/he 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.

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.

For more information, refer to, or contact the Office at 215-898-8261 or

Role of the Dean of the School of Nursing

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.