Faculty and Advisor Information: Petition for Modification of Academic Requirements

The purpose of academic policies

The purpose behind all academic policies is to preserve the integrity of the Lewis & Clark degree and provide our graduates with an exceptional credential - nationally valued and respected.  Academic regulations are approved by the faculty of Lewis & Clark College and may be modified for an individual student only upon the approval of the Curriculum Subcommittee on Petitions, Appeals and Student-Designed Majors (Petitions Committee).  The full policy on modification of academic requirements can be found in the College Catalog

Who hears academic petition matters?

The Subcommittee on Petitions, Appeals and Student Designed Majors is a subgroup of the faculty members currently serving on the Curriculum Committee. Upon the request of the petitioning student, the student member of the Curriculum Committee may join the Petitions Committee for the hearing of petitions. (Please note that the student representative is not available in the summer semester.) The Director of Student and Departmental Account Services will make determinations on financial matters related to academic petitions.

The task of the Petitions Committee is to ensure that exceptions to the regulations are granted only after careful consideration of all the facts and the student’s academic record, and that decisions are made with consistency and fairness. (Please note that policies involving curricular matters such as General Education may not be granted exceptions via the petitions process.) 

How is the petition evaluated?

A student’s petition will be reviewed to determine whether an extenuating circumstance and significant need exists that would present a compelling reason to grant an exception. Modifications are not typically granted unless the following criteria are met:

  • An extenuating circumstance prevents the student from adhering to policy
  • A significant need exists
  • The student demonstrates advisor and/or other faculty/staff support for the exception
  • Documentation that is pertinent to the matter is included with the petition
  • The Committee believes the exception is in the best interest of the student and will not harm the College or the value of the degree

Example of extenuating circumstance and need:

A student wishes to add a course after the add/drop deadline because the student was unexpectedly hospitalized during the end of the add/drop period. The course is needed as part of the student’s major. Substantiation of the medical matter is provided by the appropriate college office (health services or office of student accessibility).

What is the advisor’s role?

Before filing a petition, the student must meet with the Academic Advisor to consider ways of fulfilling the requirement without the need for modification. In many cases, alternatives exist that would achieve the same objective. It is the advisor’s responsibility to assist the student in working within existing policy if at all possible.

Even if an extenuating circumstance exists, the advisor should consider the following questions:

  • Is there a significant need or is the requested course of action simply desirable?
  • Can the student meet the requirement without modification in a subsequent semester (including the summer semester)?
  • Does the student have documentation related to either the extenuating circumstance or need?

If the advisor has determined that the student has a significant need, and that there is an extenuating circumstance that prevents the student from adhering to policy, then the advisor may choose to support the petition.  The advisor should provide a letter of support for the student explaining why the student cannot satisfy the requirement within the existing policy, and demonstrating support for the requested course of action.

What matters are not appropriate for a petition?

  • A student has been attending class for weeks but never officially registered for the course with no extenuating circumstance (e.g., hospitalization, death in the family).  While such a petition is technically allowed, the committee does not view these favorably.
  • A student would like to withdraw from a course in which an incomplete grade was awarded. This is not allowed. Once a grade (incomplete or otherwise) has been awarded and the semester has been concluded, the student may not withdraw from the course.
  • A student wants to satisfy a General Education requirement with a course that has not been designated to fulfill GE.  This is not allowed.  A course is designated to fulfill GE requirements or not. 
  • The student wants to graduate but has earned less than 128 credits.  The committee will not approve of granting a degree to a student who has not fulfilled the minimum credit requirement to earn a degree.

What should be included in a letter of support?

Letters of support are accepted from LC faculty and staff, as well as external sources. The letter of support should speak to the areas in which the writer has knowledge. Letters of support should include one or more of the following items:

  • explanation or corroboration of the extenuating circumstance which prevented the student from adhering to existing policy
  • an explanation of the need that exists and how approval of the petition would meet that need
  • an explanation of why the student cannot complete the requirement or meet the need under existing policy
  • an explanation of why the faculty member supports this particular course of action

The SPAS welcomes multiple letters which demonstrate faculty and departmental support for the petition and present compelling reasons to grant an exception.  While not always necessary, multiple letters of support tend to create a stronger petition.

The SPAS committee prefers a formal letter of support but will accept an email that addresses the points above.

How does the student submit a petition?

Students can find full instructions on the Petition Information page of the Registrar’s website.  Instructions are as follows:

  1. The student should meet with the advisor to discuss the proposed petition to determine if it is necessary.
  2. If the advisor believes the petition is necessary, the advisor should review and sign the petition, and provide a letter of support explaining the necessity to the Subcommittee on Petitions, Appeals, and Student-Designed-Majors.
  3. The requested information must be typed.  No handwritten petitions will be accepted. The form can be filled out online and the student should complete his or her part of the form before printing it for the advisor’s signature.
  4. If the policy/procedure for which the student is requesting an exception requires a form (overload card, add/drop slip, internship form, etc), the completed form must be included with the signed petition.  Be sure to include an academic plan approved by the advisor.
  5. The student should obtain necessary documentation and letter(s) of support, and then return the completed petition to the Office of the Registrar.  If a letter of support is being sent from the author directly to the Registrar’s office, it must be received before the petition can be accepted. Incomplete petitions or hand-written petitions will not be accepted. 
  6. The completed petition must be submitted to the Registrar at least two weeks prior to the next scheduled meeting of the Curriculum Subcommittee on Petitions, Appeals, and Student-Designed Majors.  The subcommittee shall meet at least monthly during fall and spring semester unless there are no petitions to be considered.
  7. The completed petition and supporting documentation will be submitted to the subcommittee by the Registrar.  The Registrar shall attend the subcommittee deliberations in an ex-officio capacity. 
  8. The Registrar will notify the student of the Committee’s decision by email.
  9. The decision of the faculty committee is final. 

Where can the form be found?

The Petition for Modification of Academic Requirements is available on the Registrar’s website under the “Petitions” link and also in the “Forms and Tools” link.