Graduate Academic Council
2002 - 2003

Minutes of the Council meeting of September 27, 2002
Approved by the Council on

In attendance: B. Spanier, C. Smith, E. Block, H. Charalambous, K. Trent, K. Sarfoh, L. Cohen, L. Raffalovich, L. Trubitt, S. Maloney, C. MacDonald (Chair), J. Bartow (staff)

Unable to attend: C. Bischoff, M. Gallant, J. Rudolph, J. Mumpower, M. Genkin, R. Irving

1. Minutes of the meeting of 5/9/02 were reviewed & unanimously approved without amendment.

2. Tentative future meetings were set for 10/18, 11/1 & 12/6/02 at 12:30PM

3. Tentative GAC committees were presented by the Chair and approved as presented:

Committee on Curriculum & Instruction
Larry Raffalovich* CAS Sociology
Mary Gallant SPH Health Policy, Management & Behavior
Eric Block CAS Chemistry
Kwadwo Sarfoh CAS Africana Studies
Dona Parker CAS Dean's Office
Kevin Quinn EDU Educational & Counseling Psychology
Rose-Marie Weber EDU Reading
Ana Cervantes-Rodriguez CAS Latin American & Carribean Studies
Greg Pogarsky CRJ Criminal Justice
Floyd Henderson CAS Geography & Planning

Committee on Admissions & Academic Standing
Hara Charalambous* CAS Mathematics
Lisa Trubitt AA Extended Learning
Susan Maloney BUS Business
Katherine Trent CAS Sociology
Jennifer Rudolph CAS History
Mike Genkin SA Undergraduate Student
Anne Boehm CAS Biological Sciences
Christine Wagner CAS Psychology
Maria Brown AA Registrar's Office
Dana Peterson CRJ Criminal Justice

Committee on Educational Policy & Procedures
Richard Irving* Libraries Libraries
Carolyn Smith SSW Social Welfare
Chris Bischoff GSO Graduate Student
Bonnie Spanier CAS Women's Studies
Laura Cohen Libraries Libraries
Helga Straif-Taylor SPH Biometry & Statistics
Katy Schiller EDU Educational Administration & Policy Studies
Greg Harper CAS Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
Anita Pomerantz CAS Communication
Jean-Francois Briere CAS LLC/French Studies
Piyusha Singh CRJ Criminal Justice

4. Chair's Report - C. MacDonald

5. Dean's Report - J. Bartow for J.Mumpower



Office of the Dean
Undergraduate Studies

University at Albany LC 30
Albany, New York 12222
(518) 442-3950

  September 3, 2002

John S. Pipkin, Ph.D.
Chair, University Senate
UAB 428

Dear Prof. Pipkin:

For a number of years, there have been several continuing problems that stem from issues of changing of undergraduate grades; specifically the changing of grades when there is a grievance that finds in favor of the student and the professor of record either does not want the grade changed or is no longer present at the University. These problems are confounded by academic policies that are misleading, contradictory, or simply not addressed in the Undergraduate Academic Policy Manual. I am writing because these issues have continued over the past several years, and the inherent contradictions between the rights of faculty and the rights of students are becoming increasingly problematic. Therefore, I am requesting formally that the University Senate study and resolve each of these issues during the 2002-2003 academic year.

1. Academic Grievances:

Clearly it is the responsibility of the faculty to teach and evaluate their students. Clearly, it is the right of that same faculty to know that their evaluations of their students will stand as they submit them. This is encompassed within every definition of academic freedom ever written, and it is the responsibility of the University to communicate the above expressly to its faculty, its students, and their parents.

At the same time, there is a paragraph (see below) in the UAlbany Undergraduate Bulletin that clearly gives students the impression that they can challenge professors' grades, and that "(f)ailure to obtain satisfactory resolution… will lead to school or college review…" and, finally, the Committee on Academic Standing of the Undergraduate Academic Council rendering some type of decision.

Students challenging an academic grade must first discuss their grievances with the instructor involved. If not resolved to the student's satisfaction at this level, the grievance must then be discussed with the appropriate department chair. Failure to obtain satisfactory resolution at this level shall lead to the school or college review as stated in its procedures. Any such requests on the school or college level must be appropriately reviewed and a decision rendered. (Page 36 in the Undergraduate Bulletin 2002-2003)

However, the fact remains that neither the Dean of any School or College nor the Undergraduate Academic Council has the authority to change a Professor's grades without his/her approval, even if all concerned believe his/her grades to be inappropriate. Neither am I advocating that they should, except perhaps in the extraordinary circumstances described below. However, the reality and the regulation should be in congruence.

2. Academic Evaluations for Non-Academic Reasons:

In speaking with Richard Farrell about this issue, he informed me that a number of years ago, the Graduate Academic Council dealt with a grievance that went to the heart of the matter as to who had the authority to change a Professor's grades in an instance in which he or she clearly did not want them changed. The GAC's Committee on Admissions and Academic Standing came up with a statement very close to the following. (I use the term "very close" in that the Committee never had to present its rationale to the Council, and the statement was thus never recorded in the GAC minutes.)

A faculty member's grade can be changed against his/her will only by his/her Dean, and only under the condition that the matter has been appealed by the student through the Graduate Academic Council, and that Council has determined that the Professor's assigned grade was based on something other than an academic evaluation of the student's work.

The above was designed expressly to give the University a means to act in those rare instances where it could be determined that a professor's grades were based on something such as discrimination or sexual harassment, or were recorded at a time when the Professor was not in full control of his/her faculties.

It was also designed to prevent the appeal of a grade based on the student's belief that: "He gave me a 'B' and I know I did 'A' work. I want another Professor to look at my work and decide what grade I should receive." Specifically, the Committee recognized that, since evaluating students is one of the primary responsibilities of the faculty, and, as long as there is no evidence that a Professor's grades are based on something other than honest academic evaluations, the individual Professor's grades must stand.

I propose that a similar statement be drafted as a new undergraduate policy for submission to the University Senate.

3. Grades Assigned for Academic Dishonesty

The third area of concern results when a faculty member believes that a student has committed an act of academic dishonesty, assigns a lower (most often, failing) grade because of the dishonesty, and additionally refers the student to the Office of Judicial Affairs on charges of academic dishonesty. While a finding of 'guilty' from that office typically results in disciplinary suspension of the student, the following question does indeed arise:

What action should take place when the Judicial Board concludes that the student did not cheat or, at the very least, cannot prove that he or she did…but the Professor still insists that the student did cheat? Simply asked . . . now what?

Does the Judicial Board have the right or authority to change the Professor's grade against his/her will? Does the Professor's Chairperson or Dean have that right or authority? Should the Registrar accept and record the grade change from anyone other than the Professor? The student has been charged with academic dishonesty and gone through the adjudication process of a validly constituted campus governance body and has been found not guilty, but is still failing the course for reasons of academic dishonesty.

There is a dissonance here that has never been addressed and, I believe, can only be addressed properly by an academic council of the Senate.

These are the three grade-related problems that seem to be coming more prevalent each year. While I do not know about the prevalence of this problem with graduate students, there might be some value in developing a policy that is consistent across these groups of students. I therefore ask that either the Undergraduate Academic Council study these problems and propose legislation to this year's University Senate that will clarify these issues for the undergraduate students and the faculty or that you convene a task force that includes members of both the Graduate and Undergraduate Academic Councils and, perhaps also the Educational Policy Council, to set a uniform policy for all students.

If I can provide any clarification or further information, please feel free to call on me at any time.

Sue R. Faerman
Sue R. Faerman
Dean of Undergraduate Studies