Columbia College

Information for Columbia College Students

Each semester a small number of students raise matters of concern relating to their academic experience. More often than not, such concerns arise from a misunderstanding on behalf of, or a miscommunication by, the student and/or the instructor. But sometimes the concerns are of a more substantive nature. In either case, the situation can be upsetting and the College is committed to assisting you in resolving the problem.

There are many people on campus to whom you can turn should you have a concern:

  • Your advising dean
  • Andrew PlaaDean of Advising for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering
  • The Director of Undergraduate Studies in the relevant academic department
  • The Director of Language Instruction in the relevant academic department
  • The Chair of the relevant academic department
  • Lisa Hollibaugh, Dean of Academic Planning and Administration
  • Any other administrator or member of faculty with whom you feel comfortable discussing your concern.

All these people can help you identify the next step and/or the best person with whom to speak.

Concerns typically, but not always, fall into either or both of the following two categories:

  1. Concerns regarding a grade
  2. Concerns regarding the experience and/or conduct of a class

Concerns regarding a grade

If you believe that a grade you have earned does not reflect the work that you submitted, you can follow the steps outline here:

Step 1

Ask the instructor for an explanation of how the grade was determined.

When you have received the explanation it is hoped that the matter is then resolved. However, it might be that you remain concerned. At this point it is important for you to determine if your concern is rooted in disappointment at the grade you have earned or if it is based on a belief that there was a procedural error in determining the grade in question.

If your concern is rooted in your disappointment, you can discuss with the instructor how you can improve your work going forward.

Step 2

If you have concerns that there was a procedural error, you can raise these with the instructor directly. Alternatively, you can raise your concern with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the relevant academic department. You do not need to be majoring in the department in order to discuss your concerns with this member of faculty who is responsible for advising all undergraduates taking classes in the department. In the case of language instruction classes, you may discuss your concerns with the Director of Language Instruction in the relevant academic department.

Step 3

In the unlikely event that your concerns remain unresolved at this point, you should bring them to the attention of the College. You can do this by alerting

  • Your advising dean
  • Andrew PlaaDean of Advising for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering

AND/OR

You should note, however, that the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the College cannot intervene in a grading matter without a serious concern that there has been a procedural error.

Concerns regarding the experience and/or the conduct of a class

The College is committed to ensuring that all students have an intellectually valuable experience in the classroom. As you know, to be genuinely intellectually challenged can be uncomfortable as it requires us to reexamine our assumptions and understanding thus far. But there are the rare occasions in which a student might have concerns that go beyond appropriate intellectual discomfort and the College will assist all such students in addressing these concerns.

If you have concerns regarding your experience of a class and/or the conduct of a class, it is vitally important that you seek to address the matter as soon as possible. Do not wait for the class to have concluded because this denies you the opportunity to resolve the problem and go on to have a positive experience in the class. If you wait until the class has finished, it will always remain a negative experience for you.

College students faced with such concerns are encouraged to follow the steps outlined here:

Step 1

First discuss your concern with your advising dean, who will assist you in preparing for the next step, in which you will raise your concerns with the instructor.

Step 2

Schedule a time to discuss with the instructor your concerns; rather than trying to talk after class or during office hours, when other students might also want to talk with the instructor, scheduling a specific time ensures that you both have the time to have a genuine conversation. Make notes of what you want to say, identifying specific examples, and present your concerns in a non-confrontational manner (you might want to practice this with your advising dean). As difficult as this conversation might be for you, be as open as possible to hearing the instructor’s interpretation of events and intentions.

Step 3

It is highly likely that this conversation, while possibly uncomfortable, will resolve the matter. However, if you continue to have concerns about the class having spoken with the instructor you should then raise your concerns with the Director of Undergraduate Studies of the relevant academic department. You do not need to be majoring in the department in order to discuss your concerns with this member of faculty who is responsible for advising all undergraduates taking classes in the department. In the case of language instruction classes, you may discuss your concerns with the Director of Language Instruction in the relevant academic department.

Step 4

In the unlikely event that your concerns remain unresolved at this point, you should bring them to the attention of the College. You can do this by alerting:

  • Your advising dean (whom should have been apprised of all conversations you have had so far)
  • Andrew PlaaDean of Advising for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering

AND/OR