Making the grade

Authority Langara College

Nasim received a failing final grade in a course she needed to graduate. Believing her instructor failed to apply the course evaluation criteria in a reasonable manner, Nasim went to the college’s appeals committee. The committee upheld the grade. However, Nasim didn’t understand the basis for the committee’s decision and was left dissatisfied with the appeal process. She contacted us and we proceeded with an investigation.

We needed to know whether the college provided Nasim with adequate and appropriate reasons explaining the committee’s decision. The college’s appeal policy was straightforward; individual committee members independently write reports of their decision, explaining reasons for that decision along with a letter grade for the course. These documents are then provided to the division chair.

In Nasim’s case, the committee members’ written reports to the division chair were not provided to Nasim. We obtained copies of these reports: They detailed the facts and reasons for each committee member’s decision to uphold Nasim’s failing grade.

We asked the college to clarify why the committee’s written reasons were not provided to the complainant directly, along with the decision. The college told us that when a decision was rendered, the committee was neither required to
provide reasons for its decision nor share the members’ reports with students. We disagreed.

While the college’s practice did appear to be consistent with its own policy, it was problematic. Providing reasons for decisions is a basic element of good administration and is fundamental to administrative fairness. Reasons allow a person who may be adversely affected by a decision to determine whether there may be grounds to challenge the decision. But even if there is not a further right of review or appeal, being open and transparent about the bases for decisions increases the likelihood that the affected party will accept the decision and feel that they were treated fairly.

Had Nasim received the reasons contained within the committee reports along with the committee decision, she would have had a better understanding of the basis for the committee’s decision to uphold the grade.

We consulted with the college and discussed its obligations with respect to administrative fairness. The college agreed to send Nasim the complete reasons for the committee’s decision to uphold her grade. To prevent the problem from happening again, the college also agreed to review its policy to make its decision making more transparent.

Because the college agreed to take necessary steps to improve its appeal process, we determined that the complaint was settled and closed our file.

Category Education
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2014
Location The Lower Mainland