Academic Policies and Practices

Academic Freedom and Responsibility*

This statement summarizes the understanding between the faculty and administration of Berea College on the principles and practices of academic freedom at this institution. Although both faculty and administration recognize the value of these principles, it is important to state the nature of the policies and the specific arrangements by which they are implemented. By having known principles and practices on these matters, the welfare of the entire College is promoted and safe-guarded.

* The substance and the wording of this statement are drawn in part from the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, developed by the Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors.

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is essential to quality education. It promotes strength in the educational program and protects faculty members in their responsibilities. All the constituent groups of the College share concern for the protection of academic freedom.

Freedom in Teaching

The faculty member is expected to be in sympathy with the aims of the College which should be stated clearly in writing at the time of appointment. The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom and should be supported by the College administration and colleagues in its exercise. Academic freedom, however, carries with it duties correlative with rights. In exercising freedom in discussion of the subject matter, the faculty member should be careful not to introduce controversial matter which has no relation to the subject. This should not be narrowly construed, but the faculty member has a responsibility to the entire College community to refrain from habitually substituting extraneous materials for the proper subject matter of the course.

Freedom of Research

This freedom is fundamental to the advancement of truth. The faculty member is entitled to full freedom in ordering and recommending library materials, presenting a variety of perspectives, and in research and in the publication of the results. Such research and publications should not detract from the adequate performance of one’s other academic duties. Research for pecuniary return should be based on a written agreement with the administrative authority of the College.

Freedom as a Citizen

The faculty member is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and a member of an educational institution. He or she enjoys the Constitutional rights which belong equally to all citizens. When the faculty member speaks or writes as a citizen, he or she should be free from institutional censorship or discipline. But professional membership in the community imposes special obligations. As a person of learning and as a member of a college faculty, one should remember that the public may judge the institution by one’s utterance. Hence the faculty member should at all times seek accuracy, exercise appropriate restraint, show respect for others, and indicate that he or she is not an institutional spokesperson.

Scope of Academic Freedom

Academic freedom, as described above, applies to all teaching faculty, whether they are tenured, on probationary appointment, or under special agreement.

Academic Freedom for Students

The student is entitled to academic freedom in learning. Faculty members should recognize the student’s right to free speech in the classroom and the right to disagree.

College Calendar

Berea operates on a 4-4 calendar for the academic year. This provides for a fall term beginning in late August or early September and lasting for about 15 weeks, and a spring term of similar length. The academic year ends with Commencement exercises. Four-week and eight-week summer sessions, which run concurrently, are offered. The specific calendar for each year is developed by the Enrollment Policies Committee and approved by the Executive Council.

Several features of the fall and spring terms are worthy of special note. Toward the end of each term a three-day Reading Period is scheduled. This time, which includes either a Friday or a Monday and the adjacent weekend, is set aside for students to review course materials in preparation for final examinations. No classes or other course meetings are held during this time. Reading Period is followed by four days of examinations. The schedule is developed so that most students will have no more than two examinations each day. To protect that situation for students, scheduled examination dates may be changed only in rare circumstances; approval of the Director of Academic Services is required well in advance.

There are several vacation, holiday periods, and special events during the year. During one week in October classes are not scheduled for two days to provide a Mid-Term Reading Period. The observance of Thanksgiving begins on Wednesday and extends through Sunday. The break between the fall and spring terms lasts two weeks or somewhat longer. Spring Break occupies one week in mid-March. The College also observes other special days of celebration when no classes are held. On Mountain Day, in October, faculty, students, and staff join to enjoy outdoor activities and the heritage of the Appalachian region. On Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, recognized on the date of the national holiday in January, faculty, students, and staff join in various activities to celebrate and learn about those who sacrificed for Civil Rights. The College reserves a day in the spring term for the purpose of exploring labor, academic, and co-curricular opportunities (known as Labor Day).

Student Course Load

Using a course-credit system, Berea does not count credit-hours. Graduation requirements are expressed in terms of 32 course credits for all major fields except nursing, which requires 34. (One credit is equivalent to four semester credit-hours.) Due to the eight-term limit at Berea, the normal student load is four credits each term. A student must enroll and remain in at least three credits each term to qualify for full-time status. Degree - seeking students must have prior formal approval from the Office of Academic Services to enroll in less than three credits during a regular term.

Class Schedule

Classes are scheduled Monday through Friday, with most courses meeting three or four times a week for a fifty-minute period. Courses carrying less than full-course credit usually meet less often. Some full-credit courses—notably those with laboratories, studios, or seminar formats—vary from the common pattern. Classes are not scheduled between 2:50 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Thursdays to accommodate Convocations, held on most Thursdays at 3:00 p.m., and Labor meetings, frequently set for 4:00 p.m. The Convocation and Labor meeting times are also to be kept free of private lessons, tutorial sessions, required labor, and student conferences.

To facilitate the building of student class and labor schedules, the Office of Academic Services tries to insure that courses are equally distributed across all class periods. Instructors may not change the time or place of class meetings without the prior approval of the Director of Academic Services.


The planning and process of registration for each term is the responsibility of the Registrar, who is assisted by various other offices, Program Chairs, Division Chairs, and faculty advisors. For continuing students, registration for the fall term is held in April each year; spring registration takes place in November; and summer registration is usually in March. At these times, each student plans a program of study with his or her advisor and, after the advisor approves and gives the student an alternate PIN, the student registers on-line. Overloads require the signature of the advisor and the approval of the Director of Academic Services and are added to the student’s schedule at the beginning of the term by the Office of the Registrar.

Incoming students are registered for their first term classes through a centralized process, managed by the Dean of Curriculum and Student Learning, based on course preferences gathered through an on-line orientation portal in May and June. Transfer students primarily complete registration during the June Transfer Orientation Workshops.

Courses can be dropped and added during any official registration period without charge. After the first week of classes, or the equivalent during summer term, no course may be added to a student’s schedule. All other changes require the approval of the advisor and the Director of Academic Services.

Dropping a Course

In order to drop a course, the student must have the permission of his/her advisor. All courses for which the student is registered after the first week of classes appear on the student’s academic record. If the student withdraws from a course before the end of the term, the student receives a grade, which depends on the time and circumstances of withdrawal. If withdrawal occurs during the second through fifth weeks of classes in a regular term, the grade of “W” (Withdrawn) is given. If withdrawal occurs during the sixth through the tenth week of classes the grade will be “WP” (Withdrawn Passing), or “WF” (Withdrawn Failing), depending on the student’s standing in the course. Withdrawal from a course is not permitted during the last four weeks of classes. Withdrawal from a course during a summer term involves the same grading pattern but shorter time frames, reflecting the compressed nature of those terms.

Class Rolls and Grade Sheets

The Office of the Registrar provides each instructor with on-line access to official class lists shortly after registration. Instructors are expected to check these lists against the students actually attending the class, and to report any discrepancies via the on-line process or to the Registrar. Grades are entered on-line by instructors at mid-term and at the end of the term.

Class Attendance

Each faculty member is responsible for establishing a clear policy on class attendance for each course, which should be included in the course syllabus.

The name of any student who has been excessively absent, or who seems to not be functioning in class, should be reported to the Office of Academic Services via email to “Performance Checks.” The student’s attendance and performance in other courses and labor positions will be checked, the instructor and the student’s advisor will be informed of the circumstances, and an appropriate intervention strategy will be developed. If a student is confined by illness or called away for family emergency, the Student Life Office informs his or her teachers and labor supervisor. Please note that the College Health Services will not provide students with an "excuse" for absences.

If a student is going to miss class due to participation in a College-sponsored trip, it is the student’s responsibility to confer with each instructor about the impending absence and, within the instructor’s attendance policy, to arrange to complete any course work missed. If the absence is likely to have a significantly adverse effect on course performance, the instructor is free to decide if the student should not be released from class.

Examination Policy

Except for general education core courses in which common evaluation measures have been adopted, the individual faculty member is free to decide what means are most appropriate for assessing student achievement in a course—quizzes scheduled whenever useful, term papers, oral and/or written reports, discussion assignments, course projects, examinations, etc. The instructor may also weight these elements in any fashion that is fair.

The last week of each regular term is an examination period. During this period, the usual daily schedule is not followed. Instead, each course meets once at a designated time for end-of-term examinations. These times are set by the Office of the Registrar, with an attempt to minimize conflicts and testing overloads for students. If a final examination is to be given, it is to be administered at the time specified. Since the Reading Period is intended to allow students to concentrate on preparing for exams, it may not be used for taking exams. In the event highly unusual circumstances seem to justify a change in time, an instructor may ask the Director of Academic Services for permission to reschedule an examination. If the final examination time will not be used for exam administration, then the two-hour period can be used for other course activities.

Students who have more than three exams in a given day or have other extraordinary circumstances may request to have one or more of their exams rescheduled by gaining signatures from the instructors impacted and final approval from the Director of Academic Services.

Grading System

The quality of a student’s academic achievement in each Berea College course is reported through final course grades (approved by faculty in November 2007) as follows:


Excellent work


Good work


Competent work*


Poor work that is still worthy of credit


Raises serious concern about the readiness of a student to continue in related course work.


Failing work that is unworthy of credit


The required minimum of 7 Convocation credits were earned


The required minimum of 7 Convocation credits were not earned


Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, Satisfactorily Completed


Given in developmental mathematics courses and in other non-credit courses and projects. These grades are not used in determining the GPA.


Passing work


Given for courses which do not affect GPA, but for which credit is earned.


Continuing progress


Given when a student is enrolled in a class that continues into the next term.




Assigned only when some portion of a course has not been completed for good and sufficient reason. Courses in which I grades are assigned must be completed not later than the end of the next regular term in which the student is enrolled or the grade will be recorded as “F” on the permanent record. Note that instructors may set an earlier deadline for completion of incomplete work than that set by the College.

 N:          No grade
  A temporarily assigned grade when extenuating circumstances prevent an instructor from submitting grades at the time they are required due to travel abroad or other challenges deemed permitted by the Academic Dean. A change of grade is required no later than 10 days following the assignment of the N.

In addition, the course grades of A, B, C, and D may be modified by a plus (+) or minus (-) suffix, indicating achievement which is respectively at the higher or lower segment of each of these grade ranges.

Grade Point Average: For purposes of computing the Grade Point Average (GPA), the following weights are used: A+/A/CA-=4.0; A-=3.7; B+=3.3; B=3.0; B-=2.7; C+=2.3; C=2.0; C-=1.7; D+=1.3; D=1.0; D-= 0.7, and F=0.0. S, SC, I, and U grades are not used in calculating GPA.

* Please note that a C- does not count for sequenced courses requiring a C or higher in a previous course (e.g., FRN 102 requires a C or higher in FRN 101).

Faculty members may elect to use, or not to use, plus or minus grades. Whichever system an individual faculty member elects to use for a given course should be made clear to the students. Faculty members are urged to reflect on the definitions in the context of individual courses and incorporate the definitions into grading policies and course syllabi to be shared with students at the beginning of the term in a manner that seems appropriate to each instructor. Faculty should also consider the assigned value of a Berea College course, noting the definition of “course” in the glossary section of the Berea College Catalog.

Some courses are designed to use an alternative grading system. For example, in developmental mathematics and non-credit courses, “S” (Satisfactory) and “U” (Unsatisfactory) grades are given. The “I” (Incomplete) is a temporary grade, given only when a student is unable to complete a course for reasons beyond the student’s control. Work in a course in which an “I” was received must be completed no later than the end of the next regular term in which the student is enrolled. Instructors may set an earlier deadline, but not a later one, for course completion; the deadline should be clearly understood by the student. Failure to complete course work by the prescribed time results in the grade being changed to “F”, or if appropriate, “U”. Faculty who will be on leave of absence or sabbatical leave in the term or year following the term in which an I grade would be assigned; faculty who hold single year or term appointments; faculty who do not plan to return as an employee of the College at the conclusion of a term or academic year in which an I grade would be assigned; or faculty who have received notification that their employment with the College will be terminated (for reasons of tenure review decisions, probationary term non-renewal, etc.), may not assign I grades.

Submission of Grades

Course grades are submitted on-line by instructors. Grades for each course are expected within two working days after the time designated for the final examination in the course. Grades for all members of the class should be submitted at that time. If an individual student has permission to complete course work after the end of the term, the instructor should submit a grade of “I” at the proper time, and then change the grade when course requirements have been satisfied. After grades have been recorded, any request for a change of a grade by a faculty member must be made in writing to the Student Admissions and Academic Standing Committee through the Office of Academic Services following the policy outlined in the Berea College Catalog and Student Handbook.

As a means of identifying students having academic difficulty, a system of mid-term grading is used. Toward the middle of each term instructors receive notification that the on-line grading system is ready for them to post mid-term grades using the regular grading scale. These grades are not included in the student’s GPA or transcript record. This information enables the Director of Academic Services to contact advisors and arrange for timely intervention to help students when necessary.

Grade Appeals

It is recognized that instructors must have the primary responsibility of assessing the quality of academic performance, advancement, and achievement of students in their classes.  However, instructors are subject to human frailties; these frailties can cause errors in calculation or judgment that may affect assessment of a student’s performance.  Instructors may appear to be capricious or inconsistent in their grading of a particular student.  Consequently, students may feel rightly or wrongly, a need to appeal that assessment.  Except in the most unusual circumstances, grades will be changed only upon the recommendation of the faculty member involved and then only with the consent of the Student Admissions and Academic Standing (SAAS) Committee.  The following procedures, designed to protect both the student and the faculty member, are to be followed such that the issue is resolved fairly and expeditiously:

  1. Within 30 days of the start of the next regular term after assignment of the grade, the student must make a formal written appeal to the instructor involved explaining why he or she believes the grade should be changed. If the instructor finds an error has been made, he or she will request that the SAAS Committee approve a grade change and notify the student in writing of the request. If the instructor finds the grade to be correct, he or she will notify the student in writing of the decision not to change the grade, specifically addressing the student’s stated reason for the appeal. The instructor’s response must take place within 30 days of receipt of the appeal, or—for reasons of college-related travel, sabbatical, or other extenuating circumstances such as sick leave—within 30 days of the start of the next regular term when the faculty member returns.
  2. If the student is not satisfied with the written response of the instructor, the student has the right to appeal in writing to the Chair of the Division in which the course is taught within 30 days of the date of the instructor’s written response. The student’s written notice of appeal should be accompanied by all relevant materials; a copy of the original written appeal to the instructor and a copy of the instructor’s written response must be forwarded to the Division Chair.  Within 30 days of the student's written appeal to the division, the Division Chair will convene a subcommittee from the division.  This committee will consist of the Division Chair and at least four other divisional faculty representing a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.  The student and faculty member may be present for the hearing.  If the Division Chair is the faculty member whose grade is being appealed, he or she will appoint another member of the division to chair the appeal hearing.  For GST and GSTR courses, the Dean of Curriculum and Student Learning serves as the Division Chair and members of the Committee on General Education serve as the division committee. The decision of the designated division committee shall be communicated in writing to the student, the faculty member, and the Director of Academic Services within 14 days of the date of the hearing. The letter should address the program’s reason for supporting or denying the student’s appeal. (Also see the “Summary of Grade Appeal Policy” chart for this information presented in chart form.)
  3. If either the student or the faculty member does not agree with the decision of the designated division committee, either may appeal to the SAAS Committee.  Within 30 days of the date of the division committee's written decision on the appeal, the student/faculty member must submit a letter contesting the division committee's decision to the Chairperson of the SAAS Committee.  The SAAS Committee will base its decision on the following materials forwarded by the division: the original appeal by the student to the instructor, the instructor's written response, the student's written appeal to the division and all supporting materials, the designated division committee's responses to the student and the instructor, a written summary of the designated division committee's decision (if any), and any paperwork or materials considered by the designated division committee.  Both the student and the faculty member may be present when the appeal is heard.  The decision of the Committee will be final.
Summary of Grade Appeal Policy
Action Time Limit
Student submits written appeal to faculty member Within 30 days after start of next regular term 

Instructor finds error was made; requests that SAAS Committee approve a grade change; and notifies student in writing of request for grade change.


Instructor finds the grade to be correct, notifies student in writing, specifically addressing the student's stated reason for the appeal

Within 30 days of receipt of written appeal or—for reasons of travel, sabbatical, or other extenuating circumstances, such as sick leave—within 30 days of the start of the regular term when the instructor returns
Student is not satisfied with the written response of the instructor and submits written appeal to Division Chair (or the Dean of Curriculum and Student Learning for GST and GSTR courses). Within 30 days of date of instructor’s written response
Division subcommittee holds appeal hearing. Within 30 days of student’s written appeal
Division Committee's decision communicated in writing to the student, instructor, and the Director of Academic Services. Within 14 days of the Division committee's decision
 Either the student or instructor does not agree with the decision of the division's committee and appeals to the SAAS Committee Within 30 days of the date of the division committee's written notification of its decision 

Academic Honesty / Dishonesty

Students are expected to be scrupulous in their observance of high standards of honesty in regard to tests, assignments, term papers, and all other procedures relating to class work. Academic dishonesty as used here includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism, cheating on examinations, theft of examinations or other materials from an instructor’s files or office or from a room in which these are being copied, copying of an instructor’s test material without the permission of the instructor, theft of computer files from another person, or attributing to one’s self the work of others, with or without the others’ permission. Falsification of an academic record with intent to improve one’s academic standing also shall be construed to be academic dishonesty.

Hutchins Library staff members have prepared an informative online summary of plagiarism, which is the act of presenting someone else’s work as one’s own. In the library’s Facts on Plagiarism, plagiarism is described in detail to help students define, understand, and avoid questionable practices.

When Academic Dishonesty is suspected, the following process is followed:

  1. In the event a student is suspected of being guilty of academic dishonesty, the faculty member in whose course the offense allegedly occurred is responsible for pursuing the matter, making an initial determination, and deciding upon an appropriate course-related sanction up to and including failure of the course. When an instructor is convinced that academic dishonesty has occurred, the instructor will counsel with the student involved in an effort to determine an appropriate course of action. The minimal action is to reject the work in question. The instructor then must report the finding in writing to the Director of Academic Services, appending any documentary evidence of the dishonesty, and furnish the student with a copy of the written report. The Director of Academic Services then will record the report in a confidential file.* If multiple charges in the student’s confidential file are observed, the Director will report this student to the Student Admissions and Academic Standing (SAAS) Committee for adjudication and possible further sanctions, including suspension. While deliberating to determine appropriate consequences, the SAAS Committee may ask for information from the student’s previous disciplinary or labor records. The student shall be informed of the names of those consulted by the Committee.
  2. An instructor has the option of referring any single case of alleged academic dishonesty to the SAAS Committee for adjudication and/or disciplinary action, even in the absence of multiple charges. Also, in any case involving alleged dishonesty, the student has the right to appeal an action taken by the instructor to that Committee. Upon receipt of the written report, the Director of Academic Services will inform the student that there is one week in which to initiate an appeal of any part of the instructor’s report. Such appeals are to be sent to the Director of Academic Services.
  3. While functioning as a judicial body to determine guilt or innocence, the SAAS Committee will observe the judicial procedures defined in the Community Judicial Code contained in the Berea College Catalog & Student Handbook. Cases involving false testimony before the SAAS Committee while that committee is functioning as a judicial body will be heard by the Student Life Council. Students who appear in a hearing before the SAAS Committee shall determine whether student members of the Committee shall participate in the adjudication.

*The principles of this policy and procedure were approved by the College Faculty in 1973.

**The purpose of keeping the confidential file separate from the student’s regular permanent student record is to make it possible for one person, the Director of Academic Services, to be aware of multiple violations. Besides calling such occurrences to the attention of the SAAS Committee, the Director will furnish information from the file concerning the violations of a particular student upon request by the Campus Conduct Hearing Board, the Student Life Council, the individuals reviewing applications for readmissions, or the Labor Program Council. The purpose of furnishing such information to these bodies is to assist them in their effort to obtain perspective on the student as a whole while deliberating to determine appropriate consequences in a particular case. Except as noted above, no group or other individual will have access to the file.

Course Syllabi

Each instructor is expected to prepare and distribute to students at the beginning of each term a syllabus for the course in which they are enrolled. The syllabus is to contain the following information:

  • Course goals
  • Course requirements
  • Nature of course content
  • Methods of evaluation, including the approved description of the College’s grading system, and how the instructor will determine a student’s grade
  • Course attendance policy
  • Office hours
  • Disability statement

Course goals are expected to center on desired student outcomes. Requirements should be clearly expressed. Material to be covered during the term should be summarized, though a class period-by-period outline need not be provided. The syllabus should make clear the instructor’s expectations regarding class attendance, describe any consequences for excessive absences, and specify any instances in which absences may be excused.

An electronic copy of the syllabus for each course taught that term is to be submitted to the appropriate Program Chair(s) by the end of the first week of the term. In the case of cross-listed courses, syllabi will be sent to all Program Chairs as appropriate. The Program Chair is responsible for collecting syllabi and insuring that they provide essential information. He or she will keep one copy on file, and forward an electronic copy to the Office of the Registrar. Faculty without a program appointment should submit their syllabi to his or her Division Chair. Syllabi will be retained for at least three years, and used for assessment and planning purposes.

Textbooks and Course Materials

Choice of textbooks and other course materials normally rests with the individual instructor. When there are multiple sections of a course taught by several instructors, the selecting of materials rests with the Program Chair or the appropriate multidisciplinary group. The Berea College Store can assist instructors in locating course materials or supplies needed for a class. The College Store provides on-line forms for ordering textbooks. The placing of book orders at the time requested by the College Store is very important, since doing so helps to insure the availability of materials at the beginning of the term needed. Textbook and course material adoptions turned in on time assists the College in meeting federal Higher Education Opportunity Act guidelines since it allows students to know up front at registration what their expenses will be for the term.


Rooms for classes, along with class periods, are assigned by the Registrar. If a classroom seems inappropriate for some reason, the instructor should ask the Registrar to determine if alternative space is available. To avoid difficulties over space that might not be immediately obvious, the Registrar alone is authorized to make such changes.