Understanding academic rights and recourse

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

As Carnegie Mellon students, you are some of the most intelligent people in college at this time. However, due to the challenging nature of this university, time is a most precious commodity. Imagine now that you are sitting in a history or English class and you are handed back a paper in which you argued a point that the instructor doesn’t agree with. You used numerous credible sources to back up your thoughtful and well-written paper; nevertheless, you feel your grade was based on the instructor’s beliefs, not the course criteria. What would you do?

Personally, I would begin by asking the instructor about the grade, and if that answer was unsatisfactory, I would then follow the policies set forth in The Word to challenge the validity of the grade received.

This scenario would fall under the proposed amendment to the Student Rights Policy, which is found in The Word, Carnegie Mellon students’ guide to the University’s policies. The amendment currently reads: “The third right of students is to be evaluated based on stated course criteria and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study.” I have seen this proposal take various forms and have been around many discussions since its introduction during the middle of last semester.

I have struggled unsuccessfully to see the necessity of this amendment for two reasons: firsly, I feel it is obvious to any student that he or she has the right to be evaluated based on his or her knowledge of a given subject. Secondly, the policy already includes the right for recourse “against unreasonable academic action.”

As this amendment created by the Academic Affairs Committee of the Undergraduate Student Senate follows the process to become part of the policy, there will be plenty of discussion about it from the Graduate Student Assembly, the Faculty Senate, and the Undergraduate Student Senate. Granted, this is a great process, as feedback is received from at least three bodies, all of which have unique populations, but this is where my concern arises. I feel all students need to hear about this and be given the chance to express their opinions about it, since there have been claims of student support for this policy. There was a forum on this topic last semester, but it took place on a Friday afternoon and was sparsely attended.

Until there is more student input on a policy that will affect all students, I will make sure all relevant bodies know about the lack of input and call the necessity of the amendment into question.