Petitions for Exceptions to Academic Policies and Procedures
When a student has not followed a University Faculty Senate policy or procedure and believes an exception to the policy may be warranted, he/she may submit a petition to the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education Subcommittee on Academic Standards. A petition may be used to request an exception to any policy and/or to request a retroactive procedure. The committee does not grant petitions automatically. Strong, documented justification must be provided to establish the circumstances that warrant a retroactive action. A video recording of "Faculty Senate Petitions: What Advisers Need to Know" (October 24, 2014) is available at Academic Advising Noon Seminar Archive and provides insights into the process as well as instructions.
Course substitution and exceptions to degree requirements do not require a petition. A petition is not required for correcting registration errors (see Administrative Course Cancellation) or changing a grade if the request is made before the deadline.
Retroactive registration requests require a petition under the following circumstances: 1) if the request is submitted more than nine months after the end of the semester or session, 2) if the student never scheduled courses for the semester or session, 3) if the student cancelled his/her registration for the semester or session.
- Instructions for Preparing a Petition
- Submission of Petitions
- Evaluation of Petitions
It is to the student's advantage to submit a complete, well-documented petition. A petition must establish why the student did not use existing University procedures before the established deadline.
Students are responsible for preparing the student request, obtaining supporting documents, and completing University forms, as described below.
When a student's circumstances require unusual confidentiality (e.g., the victim of a sexual assault or violent crime), the petitioning process is streamlined to reduce the number of people involved in processing. Trauma drop/withdrawal procedures should be followed.
The student should prepare a brief, factual letter (see sample letters) that includes the following:
- date the petition is submitted,
- PSU ID number,
- current address,
- current phone number,
- email address,
- a clear statement of the requested action,
- a description of the conditions that warrant an exception, and
- the reason University policy and/or procedure could not be followed (see Examples of Appropriate and Inappropriate Requests).
Along with the student's request, he/she should provide documentation of the circumstances that he/she claims justify an exception to University policy. Some examples are hospital records, a letter from a physician, a statement from a counselor, or court records. If the circumstances relate to a death, an obituary or death certificate should be submitted.
If the student's justification is based on a significant, prolonged medical problem and the student received care at University Health Services (UHS), the student may request verification of his/her condition for a senate petition by contacting his/her UHS primary care clinician. The director of UHS (or designee) reviews all requests and decides on the appropriate recommendation.
If the student is alleging that his/her extenuating circumstance is the result of one or more of the following problems: (a) unfair teaching practice; (b) misinformation from University personnel applying a University regulation, policy, or procedure; or (c) an administrative, advising, or clerical error then the student should provide documentation from the appropriate academic, administrative, or advising unit.
If the petition involves course work taken through the World Campus, a representative from World Campus will provide a letter of support, no support, or no recommendation. For information contact the World Campus at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 814-863-3283.
When a form is required for an action, it is also required when this action is requested retroactively. The appropriate University form, as described below, should be completed and filed with the petition.
Retroactive Grade Changes: The petition must include a letter from the instructor of the course, supporting the change and explaining the circumstances surrounding the student's request. (Disputes are addressed through the grade adjudication process.) A request for a retroactive grade change should be accompanied by a grade change authorization form*.
Retroactive Late Drop/Add: The petition must be accompanied by a completed registration drop/add form. (If the petition is approved, the $6.00 schedule adjustment fee will be charged to the student's account.) The completed grade-change authorization form* must accompany the petition for a late add.
Retroactive Registration: The petition must be accompanied by a completed registration drop/add form. The student must contact his/her instructors for the semester/session to ask that the instructor send a grade change authorization form to the petition submitter (detailed below). The completed grade change authorization form* must accompany the petition.
Retroactive Withdrawal: The petition should be accompanied by a completed withdrawal form. If the student is petitioning for a withdrawal from more than one semester, a withdrawal form for EACH semester should be included.
WARNING: Students may lose eligibility/benefits if a retroactive procedure is approved. Athletes, international students, students in the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP), and recipients of veterans benefits or student aid should consult with the appropriate office before submitting a petition to assess the potential consequences.
A student should retain a copy of his/her petition and supporting documents. Students should submit materials as instructed below. Once submitted, the petition and supporting documents become a part of a student's educational record.
Students should not send petitions or supporting materials directly to the Faculty Senate office. An authorized petition submitter (listed below) reviews the student's petition and prepares it for submission to the Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education, 101 Kern Graduate Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.
The submission must include the following:
- A cover sheet prepared by an authorized petition submitter (listed below)
- All supporting documents
- A transcript
- Forms (the original and one copy)
Degree-seeking provisional students submit materials to the executive director of the Division of Undergraduate Studies.
Nondegree-regular students submit materials to the college in which he/she hopes to enroll or, if undecided about a college, to the Division of Undergraduate Studies.
Nondegree-conditional students submit materials to the dean of the college in which he/she plans to enroll.
Other Penn State Campuses
Students at other Penn State campuses should submit their petitions to the appropriate office.
Petitions are not reviewed on a regular schedule but are considered by members of the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education and processed by the senate office staff as quickly as possible. The committee reads each petition and evaluates it based on its unique circumstances; there are no guarantees of approval on specific types of petitions.
If a student alleges that the failure of an eLion application resulted in his/her extenuating circumstance, the student's eLion transactions will be examined as part of the petition review process.
A letter indicating if a petition has been approved or denied is sent from the University Faculty Senate office to the student within three to five weeks from the date that the senate office receives the petition. A copy of the letter is sent to the college or office that forwarded the petition to the senate committee.
If a petition is approved, the senate office initiates the appropriate action(s) with the Registrar.
Payment: The Office of the Bursar is notified if a student's account must be billed tuition and fees resulting from an approved retroactive action (e.g., retroactive registration). Tuition and fees are based on the current tuition rates, the information technology, activities, facilities, and international undergraduate students fees (if applicable) as well as the student's current semester classification. A $50 late payment fee and a $250 late registration fee (if applicable) will be assessed for each semester approved for retroactive registration. After the student has paid the appropriate tuition and fees to the Office of the Bursar, the Registrar will add to the student's record the courses and any grades already submitted.
Reimbursement: A petition for an exception to academic policies does not include the handling of refunds or waivers for tuition or fees. Students seeking tuition or fee adjustments should be referred to the Office of the Bursar. Students processing a medical withdrawal can petition the Bursar's office for a possible tuition waiver.
If a petition is denied, the student may appeal the decision if he/she can provide additional information to support his/her case. To appeal, the student should prepare a new petition by following the original submission guidelines above and including any additional documentation or clarification.
* Grade-Change Authorization forms are available in academic departments. Faculty should send the completed forms directly to the petition submitter.
Last Update: October 2014
Reference(s): Policy Stated in the Preamble to "Academic Policies and Procedures for Undergraduate Students" in The University Faculty Senate Policies for Students