Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arizona college students may be able to appeal grades for 'political bias'

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Don't think the grade your college professor gave you is fair?
Legislation approved by the state Senate Thursday would give students a new avenue to appeal. All they would have to do is allege "political bias.'' And if they are successful, they actually could get an order to the teacher to raise their grades. "It's a due process issue,'' said Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale. He said it's based on conversations he's had with students at Arizona State University.
"They do not feel they can debate issues according to their politics or according to what they believe because they're afraid their grades are going to be lowered,'' Kern said. "This is going to help them.''
The 16-12 vote came despite the objections raised by the Board of Regents which would be responsible for setting up the system.
Lobbyist Thomas Adkins, testifying earlier this month before the Senate Education Committee, said there already are remedies for students who think the grades they were given are not justified.
He said it generally consists of an informal process where the student and the instructor have a conversation.
"That can escalate to a more formal process that can culminate into an academic grievance hearing committee,'' Adkins said.
Then there are cost concerns about creating another department within the Board of Regents, especially since the legislation includes no money, even though the first level of these new appeals actually would be handled by volunteers selected by the board.
"It does create an unfunded burden on the agency to try to manage those offices and recruit volunteers,'' Adkins said.
Kern, who has repeatedly criticized the board, was not swayed.
"I have been down here eight years,'' he said, saying in all that time no one has explained to me why the Board of Regents is even needed. Nor is he convinced that the board is serving any purpose by being the conduit through which universities are funded.
"Why isn't the Legislature giving the universities direct funding?'' Kern asked.
As approved, the measure would require the regents to set up a department to hear grade challenges based on bias. That department would be staffed by volunteers which could determine there was bias to order the faculty member to regrade the student's assignment or reevaluate the student's overall class grade.
And students not pleased with with the ruling of the department then could appeal to the Board of Regents which also would have the power to order a new grade on the assignment or the overall class grade.
The measure nearly failed.
Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, had previously vowed to vote against it, saying he did not support setting up a new division with the Board of Regents "when there's already structures within the universities.''
On Thursday, though, Bennett agreed to provide the necessary 16th vote in the 30-member Senate.
He told Capitol Media Services afterwards that Kern had promised to make changes when the measure now goes to House. What those changes will be, Bennett said, he does not yet know.
"I'm working on it,'' Kern responded, but provided no specifics.
But Bennett said that if they are not substantive, he will work to kill the measure somewhere in the process. He said his concern is simply making sure that the existing appeals process works without involving the Board of Regents.
On X and Threads: @azcapmedia