If you think there's a problem with the way a course is being conducted, or with the behavior of an instructor, it's best to approach the professor or T.A. directly. If you aren't comfortable talking with the instructor, or if you have and there was not an acceptable resolution to the problem, then you should talk with someone else in the department — the undergraduate adviser or the department chair. Many students find it easier to discuss their difficulties first with the department adviser, who may be aware of the situation and have useful suggestions for dealing with it. If the adviser isn't able to help, you can go to the department office and ask for an appointment with the department chair. If you still aren't satisfied, you may want to contact the University Ombudsman, 301 HUB, (206) 543-6028. An ombudsman is a neutral third party who acts as a mediator, trying to find a resolution to the situation that seems fair and reasonable to all the parties. If you feel that discrimination is involved, as described above, you may want to contact one of the other offices listed above.
Contesting a Grade
If you believe you have been improperly graded you should speak up. You must first discuss the matter with the instructor. Here again, if you and the instructor can't arrive at a satisfactory resolution you should next speak with the department adviser or the department chair.
You need to be aware, however, that University instructors have considerable freedom and independence in the classroom. Thus, the department chair may not be in a position to intervene. You should pursue the matter if you feel strongly that you have been treated unfairly, particularly if you feel that your grade was discriminatory based on one of the factors listed above.
Talk to Your Classmates
If you feel that you're being treated unfairly in class, or graded unfairly, or if you have a serious complaint about the way in which a class is being conducted, you should talk to your classmates. They may help you see the situation from a different perspective, or may have suggestions for solving the problem. Or you may find that a number of other students in the class are having the same problem. Your position is much stronger if several of you have a similar complaint, or if your classmates can support your version of events. We don't recommend that you descend on the instructor or chairman en masse — this may be so confrontational that it produces the opposite of the result you're hoping for. A better approach would be to present a letter stating your complaint signed by you and your classmates, or to offer your classmates as supporting witnesses if needed.
Even if you are alone in your complaint, however, or if others are reluctant to join you, it's important that you speak up. While you may not be satisfied with the response, you will be heard. The same complaint registered by individual students, quarter after quarter, can have a cumulative effect as great as that of a group of classmates acting together.