Appeals

Appeals Policy

The Associate Dean is responsible for the administration of the Appeals Policy.

What may be the subject of an appeal:

Students can appeal decisions on the following matters:

    • a final grade assigned to a course
    • the granting or denial of an aegrotat petition
    • the granting or denial of a petition to the Associate Dean
    • the granting or denial of a petition to the Accommodation Committee
    • the applicability of any academic regulation to a student

Students may appeal the application of any academic rule or policy, but may not appeal the rule or policy itself.  The appropriate venue for modifying existing policies or proposing new policies is whichever body has jurisdiction over the policy in question. No appeal lies from any admissions decision. 

Both formal and informal resolutions are available to students, the Faculty encourages early resolution and open communication throughout the process.  Students are encouraged to make efforts to resolve issues before launching a formal appeal. 

Students may choose to appear before the Appeals Committee with or without counsel or other advocate for support.  Students who elect to bring a person to a hearing must notify the Associate Dean and identify the advocate or support person who will accompany them at least 48 hours in advance, or in the case of a grade appeal, within 10 days of filing the notice of appeal.

General Principles

  1. The Faculty recognizes its obligation to guard the confidentiality of the matters it addresses.  In any matter a student appellant may ask to have student members of the Committee excluded from a panel.
  2. The Faculty strives to make consistent decisions about the application of academic regulations, while remaining alert and responsive to the circumstances of individual students.
  3. While the Faculty makes every effort to make timely decisions on appeals, the appeal process is subject to the schedules and outside commitments of student and faculty members.  Students should expect processes to move more slowly during periods when the Faculty is not in session.

Grade Appeals

All students, whether or not they are contemplating a grade appeal, are encouraged to meet with their instructors and discuss their exams and assignments. Such meetings provide pedagogical opportunities during which the instructor can explain his or her rationale for the mark and point out where and how the student could have performed better.

The only basis for a grade appeal is that the assigned grade is not reasonable.  Students commencing an appeal must provide written notice to the Assistant Dean, Office of the Associate Deans, that states the nature and grounds of the appeal, and includes copies of any documents relied upon in support of the appeal.  Students may appeal a final grade only.  The basis for the appeal is not limited to final exams or essay assignments, but the final grade must be issued before an appeal can be initiated. 

A student who believes that his or her academic performance was impaired due to illness or other extenuating circumstances should submit a petition for aegrotat standing to the Academic Standing Committee (ASC) and should not submit a grade appeal. Students in these circumstances should contact the Assistant Dean JD Program (alexis.archbold@utoronto.ca), for more information about the options available to them; please also see the section on Aegrotat under Examinations.  An aegrotat petition must be made at the time the exam was written or immediately thereafter.  Aegrotat petitions cannot be submitted after grades are released.

To pursue a grade appeal, the following steps must be completed:

1. Instructor Meeting

Before making an appeal, students must meet with the instructor to discuss the work at issue.     This meeting must be scheduled within 15 days of the grade being released by the Records Office.  When either the student or instructor is out of town, the discussion may be conducted over the telephone, by email or by Skype.  The purpose of the meeting is to provide clarification and context to the grade assigned.  To this end, the instructor shall re-read the written work or review the non-written work and discuss it with the student, explaining the reasons for the grade.

2.  Grade Changes

Instructors should request a change to marks that have been approved by the Academic Standing Committee only if they find that a significant factual or calculation error was made in determining the student’s grade.  When an instructor believes a significant error has been made he or she shall submit a written explanation of the error and request that the Associate Dean approve a different grade.  An instructor may request to either increase or decrease a mark. Instructors may not change a grade without the approval of the Associate Dean; if approved, the grade change will be communicated to the student through the Records Office.

3.  Student Grounds for Appeal

If after meeting with the instructor the student remains unsatisfied that the grade assigned was reasonable, the student may submit notice of an appeal to the Assistant Dean, Office of the Associate Deans (sara.faherty@utoronto.ca). Notice to the instructor alone is not adequate to initiate an appeal.  The notice of appeal must identify the nature of the appeal, specify the grounds of appeal, and be accompanied by any supporting documents.  Notices of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the release of grades; notices of appeal beyond this time will not be accepted unless the meeting with the instructor has not yet occurred. Note that if the instructor meeting has taken place more than 15 days after the release of grades, students must establish that they attempted to schedule the meeting within that time frame. If a student has made reasonable efforts to request an instructor meeting within 15 days of the grade being released and the instructor has not been available to schedule a meeting, then the student must contact the Associate Dean either to facilitate a meeting or to extend the deadline for filing an appeal.  The Associate Dean may also decide that the appeal should proceed directly to the second reader.

The student’s grounds for appeal should center on the academic merit of the work at issue.  Examples of what are not grounds for appeal include:

Student is applying for jobs that require excellent marks
Student was surprised or disappointed by mark
Student’s other marks are higher
Student believes that the mark is discretionary and should not have been assigned

Where a student is appealing a grade based on non-written work, the appeal shall go directly to the Appeal Committee.  The Appeal Committee shall have before it any submissions from the student and instructor relating to the appeal.

4.  Instructor’s Written Rationale for the Mark

Upon receiving a student appeal, the Associate Dean shall provide the instructor with those grounds, and request the instructor’s written rationale for the mark.  This response should be provided within 15 days of the instructor’s receipt of the grounds for appeal. If a written explanation of the grade has already been provided to the student, the instructor may choose to rely on it.

5.  Second Reader Assessment

Upon receiving the instructor’s rationale for a mark, the Associate Dean shall arrange for an assessment of the written work by a second reader. The Associate Dean shall give the work at issue, the student's grounds for the appeal, and the instructor’s rationale for the grade to the second reader.  The Associate Dean may also provide additional materials relating to the course. The second reader shall endeavor to render a decision on the written work within 15 days of receiving the grade appeal record.

If, after reviewing the grade appeal record, the second reader decides that a reasonable marker could not have reached the same conclusion as the instructor, the second reader shall indicate the grade that he or she believes a reasonable marker would have assigned. The second reader must specifically identify the significant error made by the original marker.  A second reader may change a grade by either increasing or decreasing it. The second reader shall give reasons for his or her conclusion to the Associate Dean for approval.  The final grade assignment rests with the Associate Dean who will communicate the result to both the student and the instructor. Where the grade is changed and the original grade had previously been approved by the Academic Standing Committee, the Associate Dean shall submit the new grade to the next Academic Standing Committee marks meeting for its approval.

6. Further Appeal to the Appeal Committee

A student may appeal the result of the assessment of a grade by the second reader to the Appeal Committee.

The purpose of the Appeal Committee's review of a second reader's assessment is only to ensure that the policies, regulations and standards of the Faculty and the University have been applied fairly in the circumstances. The Appeal Committee does not examine the merits of the grade or reconsider whether a reasonable marker could have reached the same conclusion; under no circumstances will the Appeal Committee engage in substantive evaluation of the academic work or of the final grade under appeal. 

Notice of appeal must be given to the Associate Dean within 15 days of receipt of the decision of the second reader’s assessment of the grade.  The notice must state the grounds of appeal and include all supporting documentation.  Notice of appeal as well as the grounds and supporting documentation will be provided to the instructor and the second reader within 15 days.

The Appeal Committee will examine the assessment record. The student’s grounds for appeal, the instructor’s written reasons, and the second reader’s assessment will constitute the appeal record. 

The student may attend a grade appeal but is neither expected nor required to do so.  If the student chooses to appear before the Appeal Committee, the student shall be deemed to have waived his or her right to anonymity. If the student wishes to appear at a grade appeal, the student must inform the Associate Dean within 10 days of filing the notice of appeal.  Upon receiving notice that the student wishes to appear, the Associate Dean will inform the instructor and the second reader and advise them of their right to appear as well.

Any of the parties to a grade appeal, the student, the instructor, or the second reader, may make a further written submission responding to the record if they wish, but none is expected or required to do so. 

The standard of review of a grade appeal is reasonableness. 

An appeal shall ordinarily be heard by the Appeal Committee within 30 days of when the notice of appeal is submitted, but that date may be extended by the Associate Dean if circumstances so require.  The student appellant may ask to have student members excluded from the panel hearing his or her petition. The Appeal Committee shall endeavor to render its decision, with reasons, within 30 days of when the appeal is heard.

A student who has been denied a grade appeal by the Appeal Committee may appeal the decision to the Academic Appeals Committee of the Academic Board of Governing Council. 

Decisions of the Academic Standing Committee

A student may appeal a decision on a petition to the Academic Standing Committee to the Appeal Committee. A student appealing a decision on a petition from the Academic Standing Committee may elect not to have student members of the Appeal Committee sit on the appeal. The purpose of the Appeal Committee's review of the petition record is to ensure the policies, regulations and standards of the Faculty and the University have been applied fairly and reasonably in the circumstances of the appeal. The Appeal Committee shall have the record of the petition including the reasons given for granting or denying the petition.

Decisions of the Associate Dean

Students may appeal a decision of the Associate Dean concerning the application of an academic rule or policy. The Appeal Committee may reverse the decision, but it may not strike down the rule or policy itself.

To appeal the application of an academic rule or policy, a student must provide the written decision he or she is appealing together with the nature and grounds of appeal together with any supporting documentation.  Notice must be submitted to the Assistant Dean, Office of the Associate Deans, within 15 days of the communication of the decision to the student. 

Upon receipt of notice of appeal, the Associate Dean or his or her designate will provide the student with a written response, together with any supporting documentation.  The Associate Dean will endeavor to provide the written response within 15 days. The student’s grounds and the Associate Dean’s response will constitute the appeal record.

If the student chooses to appear before the Appeal Committee, the student shall be deemed to have waived his or her right to anonymity.   Whether or not he or she chooses to appear, the student appellant may ask to have student members of the Appeal Committee excluded from the panel hearing his or her petition.  Where appropriate, the Associate Dean may designate a faculty member or other qualified person to appear on behalf of the Faculty in an appeal before the Appeal Committee.

The standard of review for a decision by the Associate Dean shall be reasonableness.

An appeal shall ordinarily be heard by the Appeal Committee within 30 days of when the application for an appeal is submitted and the Committee shall endeavor to render its decision, with reasons, within 30 days of when the appeal is heard. When the law school is not in session these deadlines may be extended to accommodate Committee members, appellants, or other parties involved in the appeal.

A student who has been denied an appeal by the Appeals Committee may appeal the decision to the Academic Appeals Committee of the Academic Board of Governing Council. 

Decisions of the Student Accommodations Committee

The Student Accommodations Committee grants extensions and deferrals to students who make formal requests for accommodations.  Students may appeal decisions of the Student Accommodations Committee directly to the Associate Dean within 15 days of the decision being communicated to the student.  Students may further appeal decisions of the Student Accommodations Committee to the Academic Standing Committee.

Where appropriate, the Associate Dean may designate a faculty member or other qualified person to present evidence on behalf of the Faculty in an appeal before the Academic Standing Committee. 

The standard of review for a decision by the Academic Standing Committee shall be reasonableness.

Decisions of the Academic Standing Committee on appeals of accommodations decisions may be appealed directly to the Appeals Committee of Governing Council.

Appeal Committee and Appeal Panels

The Appeal Committee shall be a standing committee of Faculty Council comprised of all tenured and tenure-track faculty members and up to four members of the student body. 

Appeals will be heard by sub-committees or “panels” of the Appeal Committee consisting of two faculty members and one student designated by the Dean or Associate Dean. The student appellant may ask to have student member excluded from the panel hearing his or her petition; in the event that the student member is excluded, the Dean or Associate Dean will appoint a third faculty member to the panel. The Dean or Associate Dean will designate one faculty member of the panel as the chair of the panel.  

Student and faculty members of panels must disclose any conflict of interest they may have, by involvement in the decision being appealed or by connection to the student appellant.  Members of panels are expected to avoid the appearance of impropriety by recusing themselves from hearing issues to which they have a specific tie.

Procedure in the Appeal Committee

  1. Subject to University policies, the student shall have access to any documents a panel of the Appeal Committee considers to be relevant to the appeal and to which, in its opinion, the student ought to have access.
  2. The student shall have the right to appear before a panel of the Appeal Committee, with or without counsel or other advisor. By exercising this right, the student shall be deemed to have waived his or her right to anonymity before the panel.
  3. Where appropriate, the Associate Dean may designate a faculty member or other qualified person to present evidence on behalf of the Faculty in an appeal before a panel of the Appeal Committee.
  4. The Chair of the panel shall decide all questions of law and questions about the admissibility of evidence, and shall rule on any procedural issues that arise in the context of the appeal.
  5. Decisions of the panel are by majority vote and reasons for decisions of the panel shall be written by the Chair or a designate. If the panel is not unanimous, the reasons will state the reasons of both the majority and the minority.
  6. The Associate Dean, with the consent of the student appellant, may modify or disregard the deadlines specified in the appeals procedure or other procedural requirements if in his or her opinion it would be in the interest of fairness to the student or the integrity of the academic program to do so.  Where appropriate, and with the consent of the student appealing, the Associate Dean may also modify the appeal procedure to provide for informal means of resolving disputes.
  7. Students may appeal a decision of a panel of the Appeal Committee to the Academic Appeals Committee of Governing Council in accordance with the Rules of Governing Council. Where appeal has been denied, the written reasons of the panel will clearly indicate the availability of an appeal to the Academic Appeals Committee of Governing Council.  

Disposition of Appeals

  1. After hearing the appeal, the panel shall either dismiss the appeal or allow the appeal.  If the appeal is allowed, the panel shall render the decision that it believes should have been made, including the decision to grant aegrotat, or remit the matter back to the decision maker for reconsideration.  In the case of a grade appeal, the panel shall either dismiss the appeal or allow the appeal and instruct the Associate Dean to assign a new reader or remit the matter back to the Associate Dean for resolution.
  2. The panel shall give its decision with reasons in writing to the student and a copy shall be provided to the Associate Dean.
  3. A student may appeal a decision of a panel of the Appeal Committee to the Academic Appeals Committee of Governing Council in accordance with the Rules of Governing Council. Where the panel has denied an appeal, the written reasons will clearly indicate the availability of an appeal to the Academic Appeals Committee of Governing Council.