Article 4: Classroom Behavior and Academic Disputes
Texas A&M International University supports the principle of freedom of expression for both faculty members and students. The university respects the rights of faculty members to teach and students to learn. Maintenance of these rights requires classroom conditions that do not impede their exercise. Classroom behavior that seriously interferes with either (1) the faculty’s ability to conduct the class or (2) the ability of other students to profit from the instructional program will not be tolerated. An individual engaging in disruptive classroom behavior may be subject to disciplinary action.
Section 4.01 Classroom Behavior
When a student’s behavior in a class is so seriously disruptive as to compel immediate action, the faculty member has the authority to remove a student from the class on an interim basis, pending an informal hearing on the behavior. A student who has been removed from a class on an interim basis is entitled to an informal hearing before the head of the department offering the course within three working days of the removal. The department head may either:
- Approve an agreement of expectations between the student and the faculty member and reinstate the student to the class, or,
- Extend the removal of the student from the class and refer the case to Student Conduct for adjudication. A copy of all material sent to Student Conduct should be provided to the faculty’s academic Dean or designee and to the student’s academic Dean or designee.
When a student action is not so serious as to require immediate removal from the class, these steps are to be followed:
- The faculty member responsible for the class or activity where the alleged disruptive behavior occurred should inform the student that his/her behavior has been inappropriate. The faculty member should describe to the student specific needed changes in the student’s behavior. The student will be provided an opportunity to modify his/her behavior in accordance with the changes identified. The faculty member will provide the student with a written, dated summary of his/her discussion with the student, and the faculty member will retain a file copy of this summary.
- If a student believes the faculty’s expectations are unreasonable, he/she may confer with the faculty’s department head about this matter. The department head may choose to support the guidelines developed by the faculty, or he or she may work with the faculty to develop a modified set of expectations. If there are changes in the faculty’s original set of expectations, a signed and dated copy will be provided by the department head to both the student and the instructor.
- Should a student’s behavior continue to be unacceptable, the faculty will apprise his/her (the instructor’s) department head of what has occurred and will share with the department head the written summary of the discussion with the student. The department head may wish to initiate additional discussion with the faculty and/or the student. If the department head concurs with the faculty’s view that the problem has not been resolved, the situation may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Engagement. A memorandum briefly describing the student’s behavior, as well as a copy of the written summary of the faculty’s discussion with the student and any other related material, should be forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Engagement for adjudication. A copy of all material sent to the Office of Student Affairs should be provided to the faculty’s academic Dean or designee and to the student’s academic Dean or designee.
Section 4.02 Disputes over Academic Matters
Faculty members are responsible for determining the curriculum of a course, for developing appropriate methods of evaluating student learning, for evaluating fairly, for upholding academic standards, and for enforcing policies concerning academic honesty. Decisions made by faculty members regarding the quality or honesty of student work – especially decisions about course grades – are, as a matter of routine, accepted as authoritative and cannot be overturned by administrative officers. Students, however, have a right to expect faculty members to have defensible course policies and to implement them in a reasonable, equitable manner. Students who believe that they have grounds for challenging faculty members’ decisions regarding academic issues – excepting those pertaining to matters of academic freedom – may appeal using the procedure outlined below [based on one recommended by the American Association of University Professors in Policy Documents & Reports, 9th edition, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press and AAUP, 2001, pp. 113-14]. It should be noted that in cases of academic dishonesty students may be subject not only to grade sanctions in courses but to disciplinary action (see Student Violations of Academic Integrity). Faculty members are required to report such serious breaches of academic honesty to their chair, their Dean, the Provost, the Honor Council, and the Vice President Student Success.
Grade sanctions may be imposed only by faculty members, but suspension or expulsion may be imposed only by the Provost, as specified in the Faculty Handbook. As with disputes about course grades, students may appeal grade sanctions for academic dishonesty only by following the procedure outlined below.
Except under unusual circumstances, the process outlined below for student appeals of faculty academic decisions should be completed within three academic work weeks (15 working days) after the student’s first meeting with the faculty member to question the faculty member’s decision.
- The student must first meet with the faculty member and discuss the faculty member’s decision. This meeting should occur as soon as possible after the decision has been made, normally within one week of the student’s being notified of the decision. The faculty member is expected to listen to the student, to provide an explanation for his or her decision, and to be willing to change the grade or decision should the student’s argument be persuasive. To change final course grades, a faculty member must submit a “Grade Change Form” and attach an accompanying memorandum justifying the decision to change the grade. The faculty member’s department chair and Dean must approve the change.
- If the faculty member refuses to alter his or her decision or grade, the student may then discuss the matter with the faculty member’s department chair or immediate academic supervisor (hereafter, “chair” will be used to mean either the department chair or the immediate academic supervisor). If the chair believes that the student’s claims may have merit, the chair would discuss the matter with the faculty member.
- If the student is not satisfied with the chair’s assessment of the issue or if the faculty member refuses to alter his or her decision after discussing it with the chair, the student may then request that an ad hoc committee of faculty members review the matter. This committee would consist of three tenured faculty members within the same discipline or department. If in some unusual case the chair determines that a sufficient number of tenured faculty members cannot be selected from the same discipline or department, then the chair may add tenured faculty members from closely related disciplines. From the pool of eligible tenured faculty members designated by the chair, the faculty member, the student, and the chair would each nominate one faculty member to serve on the committee.
- The ad-hoc committee of faculty members would hear from the student, the faculty member, and the chair and examine relevant documents. If the committee concludes that the faculty member’s original decision was justified, then the committee would provide the student with a written statement explaining the reasons for the committee’s decision. The student may request in writing that the committee reconsider its decision and provide reasons for so doing. If the committee refuses to reconsider or if it reaffirms its original recommendation, then the matter is considered settled and the faculty member’s original decision stands. If the committee concludes that the faculty member should alter his or her original decision, the committee would provide the faculty member with a written recommendation explaining the committee’s reasons. If the faculty member disagrees with the committee’s recommendation, he or she must provide the committee with a written explanation for the refusal.
- If after considering the faculty member’s explanation for refusing to alter his or her decision the ad hoc committee is still persuaded that in the interest of justice to the student the decision should be overturned, then the committee may recommend in writing to the chair that the faculty member’s decision be overturned. The committee may also make this recommendation to the chair if the faculty member fails to alter his or her decision and also fails to respond to the committee’s original recommendation. The faculty member would receive a copy of the recommendation to the chair and would have a final opportunity to alter his or her original decision. If the faculty member does not do so, then the chair, and only the chair, would be empowered by the written recommendation of the committee to override the faculty member’s original decision, and, if pertinent to the case, to alter the student’s course grade. In order to certify that the grade dispute process outlined above has been followed appropriately, the Dean of the college or the school and the Provost will review all decisions by chairs to change grades against the will of a faculty member.
Section 4.03 Grievances Against Faculty
Conflicts between faculty members and students that do not relate to faculty decisions regarding such academic issues as course policies and grades will be considered the subject of grievances. The process for resolving grievances between faculty members and students is as follows.
- Before a grievance is filed, the aggrieved faculty member or student must make a good faith effort to meet with the other party about his or her concerns. If the other party is unwilling to meet, if the aggrieved party has reasonable concerns about his or her physical safety, or if the meeting produces no resolution to the conflict, then the aggrieved party may initiate a grievance by following the steps outlined below.
- If the grievant is a faculty member, he or she will file a written complaint with the Associate Vice President. If the grievant is a student, he or she will file a written complaint with the faculty member’s department or division chair. In either case, both parties will receive a written acknowledgement of the complaint within five working days.
- The student and faculty member will meet with the Associate Vice President (or a designated staff member from Student Conduct) and the faculty member’s chair. Both the faculty member and the student must be present, unless one party waives that right. This meeting will take place within five working days of the acknowledgement of the grievance.
- If the complaint remains unresolved after meeting with the department chair and the Associate Vice President of Student Affair, then within five working days of the meeting with the chair and the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, both the student and the faculty member will meet with either the Dean of the respective college (or academic administrator to whom the chair reports) if the grievant is a student, or with the Vice President Student Success if the grievant is a faculty member. Both the faculty member and the student must be present, unless one party waives that right.
- If the complaint remains unresolved after that meeting, it will then be heard within five working days by an ad-hoc committee consisting of the faculty member’s department or division chair, the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs (or a designated staff member from Student Conduct), a member of the Student Government Association selected by the President of the Student Government Association, a member of the Faculty Senate selected by the Faculty Senate President, and a person selected by the non-grieving party from his or her peers. The chair of the committee will be the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs (or the Vice President Student Success’s designate) if the grievant is a faculty member, or the department chair if the grievant is a student. The chair of the committee will ensure that the committee is formed appropriately and meets on schedule. After hearing from both sides in the dispute and examining whatever documentation has been provided by the parties involved, the ad hoc committee will make its recommendation in writing to either the Provost or the Vice President Student Success, as appropriate. Both parties involved in the complaint should receive the written recommendation within three working days after the committee concludes its deliberations.
- The Provost or the Vice President Student Success will notify in writing both parties of his or her final decision to resolve the grievance within three working days of receiving the committee’s recommendation.