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Academic appeals: "do"s and "don't"s

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Don’t think you deserved that F last semester? Have you been requested to withdraw from a course? Unbeknownst to many people, you have the right to appeal.

“There’s always an opportunity to appeal,” said Students’ Union Vice-president Academic Heather Clitheroe. “Whether or not an appeal is heard is determined by someone else, but these are the rights that students have: you can appeal for a reappraisal of term work, assignments, rulings, charges of plagiarism, or academic misconduct.”

Clitheroe elaborated on the necessity of academic appeals.

“Sometimes students have been treated unfairly,” she said. “Sometimes, they’ve done very poorly because of circumstances that are completely beyond their control influencing their academic success.”

“We recommend students speak to professors first when they try to resolve the conflict,” added Clitheroe. “We can then begin the appeals process by submitting the letter requesting the appeal hearing to the Faculty Chair [of the Appeals Committee].”

According to Student Rights Advisor Christine Nugent, details are the most important factor students should keep in mind when drafting their appeal letter.
Clitheroe agreed, emphasizing students should appeal as soon possible, especially if a student is requested to withdraw from their faculty or is accused of plagiarism.

“It’s so important to check the dates on the letters when they’re coming in,” she said. “Generally, the golden rule is within 15 days of receiving written notice from the faculty.” Clitheroe added that those seeking appraisal for graded term work through the registrar have more time.

Details are also important during an appeals case.

“Document everything, write it all down,” said Clitheroe. “Bring in as much documentation as you can—death certificates, police reports, medical information. It all needs to be brought in.”

Students often have misconceptions about the appeals process.

“I think the big one is that they will automatically get a hearing,” said Nugent.
Clitheroe added that many students wrongly assume either their case will be airtight and automatically win, or there’s no point in trying.

Once the request is granted, a faculty level hearing in front of a committee which includes a chairperson, three professors from the particular faculty and a student representative is conducted.

Students requesting an appeal are welcome to seek advice from the SU, but Clitheroe warns the SU cannot say whether a student will win or lose. The individuality of each case also influences the length of the hearings.

“Usually, they can be resolved quite quickly,” said Clitheroe, “but there are general faculty appeals that can drag on for days.”

If a student thinks the faculty hearing was unfair, the appeal can be taken to the General Faculties Council, which is comprised of professors from across campus.

Further inquiries about appeals may be directed to the SU at 220-6551. More information is also available in the 1999/2000 University of Calgary calendar.

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