C.2 Disputed Academic Evaluation Procedures
General university policy regarding disputed academic evaluations entitles a student to two levels of formal appeal after review by the instructor. In the interest of preserving the very important student-instructor relationship, the student and instructor should try to resolve the grade dispute by direct communication. If the issue cannot be resolved by this dialogue, the grade dispute should move beyond the instructor to the next level of review. All grade appeals must be brought no later than the end of the semester following the semester for which the student received the disputed grade. In general, the two levels of appeal beyond the instructor are either: the department chair and the school dean, or the school dean and the provost’s office. Whether an appeal is heard by the department chair and dean or dean and provost’s office depends upon the structure of the school in which the academic evaluation occurred. The two levels of appeal are as follows:
I. Schools Organized by Departments
For schools organized by departments, the first level of review, after speaking with the instructor, is by the department chair and, if needed, a second level of review by the dean. The process described in the paragraphs 1.A. and 1.B. below applies to:
USC Marshall School of Business
USC School of Cinematic Arts
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC (except the DDS, B.S./DH)
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
USC Roski School of Art and Design
USC Thornton School of Music
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences graduate students (USC Dornsife College undergraduates have a variation on the process, which is described in paragraph 1.C. below).
1.A. The department chair at his or her discretion may review the matter personally or conduct a formal hearing through an ad hoc or standing committee. The hearing committee is appointed by the department chair and consists of a faculty member from outside the involved department or academic unit, a student, a faculty member of the appealing student’s choice, and two faculty members from the department or academic unit. A written decision will be given to the student after the department chair’s decision or the hearing committee decision. Normally a decision should be sent to the student within approximately 15 days after the hearing. This time may be extended if necessary. The student should be informed in writing if the decision will be delayed.
1.B. If either the student or faculty member who assigned the grade wishes to appeal the decision of the chair or the hearing committee, in the next level of appeal beyond the instructor and the department chair, he/she must appeal in writing to the dean of the academic unit within two weeks after receiving the written decision. The dean of the academic unit may review the matter personally or, if a hearing has not been conducted by the department, the dean must conduct a hearing. The hearing committee consists of the same categories of members within the academic unit as described above.
The committee will make a recommendation to the dean who will make a decision which is final and binding. Normally a written decision should be sent to the student within approximately 15 days after a hearing. This time may be extended if necessary. The student should be informed in writing if the decision will be delayed.
1.C. In the case of undergraduate students in the Dornsife College, there is an initial consultation by the college ombudsman after the student has talked to the instructor. All grade or evaluation appeals must be filed in writing with the college ombudsman by the end of the following semester (excluding the summer session) after the student received the disputed grade or evaluation. The college ombudsman will explain the review and appeals process to the student, and will direct the student’s written appeal to the relevant department chair. The second level of review beyond the instructor is conducted by the vice dean for academic programs (with or without a hearing committee). The hearing committee is appointed by the vice dean and should conform to the guidelines outlined in 1.A.
II. Schools Not Organized by Departments
For schools not organized by departments, the first level of review beyond the instructor is by the dean and, if needed, the second level is conducted by the office of the provost. This applies to the following schools:
USC School of Dramatic Arts
USC Davis School of Gerontology
USC Price School of Public Policy
USC School of Social Work
There are two important exceptions to the above:
III.A. Schools with certain professional degrees: The following degrees are governed by separate disputed academic evaluation procedures. Copies of these procedures can be obtained directly from the school.
USC School of Architecture (separate procedures for all degrees except Ph.D.)
Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC (DDS, B.S./DH)
USC Rossier School of Education (separate procedures for all degrees except Ph.D.)
USC Gould School of Law (J.D., MCL, LL.M)
Keck School of Medicine of USC (M.D. and the Physician Assistant Practice program). Other degree programs in the Keck School of Medicine, including undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs, fall into the review category I above.
USC School of Pharmacy (Pharm.D., D.R.Sci.)
III.B. Graduate students with an academic evaluation for which the potential sanction is termination from a degree program: If a graduate student in a program whose degree is conferred by the Graduate School (listed below) is dissatisfied with the outcome of the first and second levels of review (beyond the instructor) and the potential sanction is termination from a degree program, the student may appeal in writing to the vice provost for academic affairs and graduate programs or his or her designee. Such an appeal must be received within six months after the student has received notice of the outcome of the second level of review. Appeal panel guidelines can be found at: usc.edu/schools/GraduateSchool/current_student_resourc_03.html. This applies to all students pursuing Ph.D. degrees and those graduate degrees which are conferred by the Graduate School. A list of those degrees can be found in the USC Catalogue.