Monday, June 29, 2009

Oh man: The Academic Appeal

I just got done writing the first draft of my academic appeals letter. It appears, according to the Ombudsman, that I am only the second person to appeal a grade that wasn't in trouble academically in his tenure here. --grimace-- I found a form template here and I'm not going to lie. I felt myself get worked up all over again. I sent the rough draft to the ombudsman, who is out of town, so i figured i would post it here [minus names of course in case anyone had any feedback]. How do you tell someone that they were a careless jerk who risked ruining your academic standing and remain professional. The guy got insulted if I asked him how to do an assignment, I can't imagine he's going to react very well. Perhaps, If I'm lucky he'll continue to be reckless enough to shoot his mouth off when he rejects my appeal. He's been pretty good for that so far, right down to the audio recorded conference. Yeah, I'm that chick, who knows intuitively to document everything at the first glimpse of trouble. I had to do something, my advisor went awol and I'm not going to take something like that on without back up. Either way, I'm not too worried. I just have to remember to remain calm. I already have what I need to go further if I need to. I just would have preferred receiving preparation for the course instead. here's what I wrote.

Dear Dr. So and so,

The purpose for the letter is to formally appeal the grade I received from you in the Q section of GSTR 210 during the Spring Semester of 09. As outlined by the 2008-2009 Student Handbook, on pages … I am required to submit this appeal to the instructor prior to submitting my request to the department chair first. So I am writing to appeal my grade upon the following grounds.

According to the 2008-2009 Student Handbook,

It is recognized that instructors must have the primary responsibility of assessing the quality of academic performance, advancement, and achievement of students in their classes. However, instructors are subject to human frailties; these frailties can cause errors in calculation or judgment that may affect assessment of a student’s performance. Because all instructors are required to reveal on the course syllabus the method in which the final grade will be determined, it is the responsibility of the student to review the course syllabus and become familiar with all components of the course grade. Further, it is the responsibility of the student to discuss any questions about grading practices during the course with the instructor.

I have contacted you on numerous occasions throughout the course with my questions via email and in person regarding the criteria of our undocumented assignments because I often noticed many discrepancies with what was graded and what was assigned. Without being provided written or electronic documentation of what was assigned, I had a lot of questions throughout the semester which were left unanswered. Based upon what we discussed in class was required for our assignments and because we were not instructed or provided with resources how to avoid making many of the common errors that we were critiqued upon, I do not feel that my grade reflects what was asked nor what was taught, which is the basis for my appeal.

I have saved my written requests for clarification of the assignments and kept dates of when I specifically asked for written documentation or supplemental resources that would show me how to complete the assignments properly, i.e. websites or other visual models. I know that I repeated many enquiries regarding the assignment parameters early and even expressed to you that without documented guidelines I had much difficulty understanding how to correctly complete the assignments since the information was not provided in writing on blackboard or documented except in a listing on the final copy of the syllabus. I believe that this caused us both a lot of frustration and if you’d like, I would be willing to forward you a transcript of these requests and have also saved written and audio notes from our class meetings to review. I also have the audio recording from our meeting on February 26, 2009. I did use the book that you gave me during our meeting on May 13 before class, two days before our final paper was due. But I feel that this was not adequate time to prepare my paper according to the grading criterion you attached to my final paper especially since this was information that I specifically requested from you beforehand. This seemed to be a recurring issue from the first assignment. I was very careful to make sure that I communicated throughout the course my difficulty with not understanding how to do the assignments due to the lack of attention to the instruction of how to correctly complete the procedures. I specifically asked to be provided with the information needed to produce our final paper before our assignments were due and even went so far as to explain how this created a learning barrier for me and for some of my other peers.

According to the final syllabus, we were also supposed to have conferences on April 13 and May 4. I believe that because we did not use either of those dates to discuss questions and concerns that we had this may be why an assumption was made that we all had a clear understanding of what was expected in the assignment. But because many of my peers were also very unclear, and the Learning Center and TAs I consulted did not fully understand the guidelines as they were not documented, this is why I came to your office to ask for clarification on May 13th. After numerous requests for documented guidelines I did attempt to use the book that you finally loaned me. But this did not address all of the information from your critiques in my previous grades and so I simply consulted online resources so that I could have something to turn in by the due date. With the amount of effort that I spent working on the assignment and trying to learn how to do the assignment with such limited resources, I feel that it is very appropriate to request that my grade be reconsidered to reflect the considerable amount of work that I put into the assignment despite the fact that I was inadequately prepared to do such a sizeable amount of work correctly in such a short span of time given.

According to the Blank College 2008-2009 course catalog, the GSTR 210 course is

designed to develop and build upon the reasoning, writing, research, and learning emphases of GSTR 110, while engaging all students on issues close to the historic mission of the College--race, gender, Appalachia, and class. Initially, each section explores the story of Berea, including as it relates to the unifying themes of GSTR 210. Each section of the course involves explicit, continuing attention to writing, reasoning, research, and reflective engagement with various texts, including instruction in the processes of producing a research paper.

I understand that each of the instructors for this course has a different set of parameters for how he or she chooses to teach the material. But I think that based upon what I was asked for, what was provided and the guidelines outlined by the course catalog, that allowances be made to compensate for discrepancies in the grading this semester as the instruction seemed inconsistent with the goals of the course. I have been very careful to keep documentation that supports my claim and want to reiterate that my grievance is specifically is with the grading inconsistencies and not the instructor. I realize that this can be a very tedious process, but feel that under the circumstances that it would be irresponsible for me not to request that my grade be reviewed once more and changed. I have reviewed the handbook, understand the procedure, and will compliantly await your response. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



I know i need to go back in and add handbook page numbers, but that is the gist of it. let me know if you see anything that needs to be struck. i don't want to come across as pompous as this guy is


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