How do I talk to a professor that I feel gave me an unfair final grade?
First, do you still have the paper? This is your best evidence. If you’ve not already spoken to the professor, go see him WITH the paper and ask him to explain his position. Understand that cheating is a HUGE issue these days, and students are very good at it (like never before) and he probably has good reasons for his decision. There are clues and ques that cheating has occurred…and you may well be innocent, but you need to investigate WHY he thought you cheated. Did you do a lot of cut-n-paste? Did you put proper citations in your paper, and quotation marks wherever needed? If not, that’s legally considered plagiarism, and he had to fail you. (This isn’t high school, your actions are considered to be “real”, “intentional”, and “knowledgeable”. That means, we have to presume that you “knew what you were doing”.
Next, if you haven’t convinced him otherwise, you can go to the dean. Be tactful. You’ll need to make your case that he’s mistaken, and have some way to demonstrate this. A dean will be open-minded, but they are as much an advocate for the professor as they are for you. At the very least, you need to give the dean a good reason to question the professor’s decision. Ultimately, nobody BUT the professor can alter your grade; it’s illegal for a dean (or anyone else) to tamper with student grades.
Plan your argument and organize your evidence before you take any other steps. Be able to SHOW, if you can, that there was CLEARLY an error made in your case.
Best of luck! This may an uphill battle, but remember that neither the prof or the dean is your “enemy”. There was a REASON he failed you. You need to figure out why, and challenge it as thoroughly and as tactfully as you can.
Second, think carefully about exactly where you found your materials. How did you do the research, or write it? In other words, what back up do you have to support your position? Write some points down, so you don’t forget them in the heat of the moment.
Then go in and discuss. Try to remain calm. Tell her that you know she thought you cheated (plagarised, or whatever – be specific if you can). Ask what caused her to feel this way. Ask her for her position and reasons. Then, once she’s spoken, bring up your own counter-evidence.
Remember to breathe. She may simply be mistaken. She is human. Find out *why* she thought you cheated. Don’t be accusatory. Have a discussion. Ask open ended questions. Get as much info from her as you can, before you start defending yourself.
Once that’s done, if there is no resolution, speak to your academic dean. But definitely speak to the professor first.
Now, as a teacher, I frequently see examples of what is technically considered cheating, but students do not do it intentionally. The biggest example is using information (mostly from the Internet) without citing that as a resource. A lot of times, students just don’t think to do that, but it is plagiarism if you don’t cite the source.
Finally, I would be calm with the prof (a confrontational attitude will get you nowhere) and see if there is someway you can revise the paper to get credit. You may have to grovel, but pride will just get you that F.
Good luck, I hope it works out 🙂
2. If that does not work go to the university ombudsman or mediation program and lodge a formal complaint
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