Frequently Asked Questions About Student Petitions

Q: Through which academic unit should students submit their petitions, the unit where they attended during the time of the request or the unit where they are currently enrolled?

A: Student petitions are always submitted through the college/campus in which the student is currently enrolled, no matter where the student attended during the time of the request. Students are responsible for obtaining documentation from another college/campus if applicable.

Q: If students are not currently enrolled at Penn State, through which academic unit should they submit their petitions?

A: Students who are not currently enrolled will submit their petition through the college/campus in which they were enrolled while taking the course(s) in reference. Students who plan to re-enroll, however, should petition through the college/campus in which they plan to re-enroll.

Q: If students are in Non-degree Regular status, through which academic unit should they submit their petitions?

A: Non-Degree Regular and World Campus students planning to enroll in a degree program will submit their petitions through the college/campus in which they plan to pursue a degree. Students who are not pursuing a degree at Penn State or are undecided about a college will submit their petitions through the Division of Undergraduate Studies.

Q: If students are in Non-degree Conditional status, through which academic unit should they submit their petitions?

A: Non-Degree Conditional students will normally submit their petitions through the college in which they plan to re-enroll. Non-degree Conditional students who are undecided about a college will submit their petitions through the Division of Undergraduate Studies.

Q: If students no longer live in the area, is it necessary for them to come to Penn State to prepare a student petition?

A: No. It is not necessary for students to be physically present to prepare a student petition. Students can normally work with their college/campus representative via email, phone, and fax to gather and submit documents for their petitions.

Q: Can students send petitions directly to the Senate office instead of working with a college/campus?

A: No. Students must initiate their petitions with their college/campus. If petitions or documents to be included with petitions are sent directly to the Senate office; this will delay the petition. Authorized petition submitters in the colleges/campuses will help students prepare their petitions and make sure that all of the necessary documentation is included. There will then be a review at the college/campus level, after which the petition will be forwarded to the Senate office to be reviewed by the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards.

Q: What happens to student petition materials if they are accidentally sent directly to the Senate office?

A: If the Senate office receives petition materials sent by students and not initiated at an academic unit, a Senate office staff member will contact the student by email. Arrangements will be made to forward the materials to the correct authorized petition submitter based on the college or campus in which the student is currently enrolled. If confidential documentation is included, such as medical documents, the student will need to send permission via email to the Senate before the materials can be forwarded.

Q: Why can’t students submit petitions through the World Campus?

A: Penn State’s World Campus is not considered an academic unit, but a delivery unit, meaning that it does not confer degrees. Degrees are conferred through the college/campus identified for each individual program. Student petitions that involve courses taken through the World Campus will include a letter from a World Campus adviser that will be obtained before the petition is submitted to the Senate office.

Q: How do students obtain a letter from World Campus to be included in their petitions?

A: If a student petition involves courses that were taken through the World Campus, the authorized college/campus petition submitter will either obtain World Campus documentation before they submit the petition to the Senate, or after the college/campus review is completed the submitter will forward the petition to the World Campus. A World Campus adviser will then review the petition, provide a letter, and then forward the petition to the Senate office.

Q: Do students need to provide supporting documentation about their extenuating circumstances?

A: Yes. The Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards prefers at least one piece of supporting documentation to be included with the student letter. Students should provide any documentation that they think may help make their case stronger.

Q: How “official” does supporting documentation need to be?

A: Supporting documentation should be as official as possible. If a student is providing a letter from an instructor, medical or mental health provider, attorney, etc., it should be on letterhead and contain a signature. Emails from instructors or other University personnel should include the headings with descriptive information (i.e., To, From, Subject, etc.).

Q: What kind of supporting documentation is the Senate committee looking for?

A: Supporting documentation provided varies based on the type of petition that is being prepared and on the student’s extenuating circumstances. Documentation should link directly with statements in the student letter. The following are some examples:

  • Obituary or death certificate
  • Medical documentation
  • Mental Health documentation
  • Employer documentation for work/school conflicts
  • Military documentation for deployment or other military-related circumstances
  • Financial documentation

Q: What if students do not have any documentation to provide? Can a family member write a letter of support?

A: If no other documentation can be provided, a letter from a family member may be provided. However, specific documentation directly relating to extenuating circumstances always makes a case stronger.

Q: How long should the student petition letter be?

A: Typically students can present their situation in a one-page letter. A petition letter should be as long as it takes to provide adequate information for the Senate subcommittee. Letters should describe what the extenuating circumstances were, how they affected the student’s academic performance, and why the requested action was not done in a timely manner. Students should only provide information about the situation at hand and not unrelated information.

Q: How should a student’s letter be formatted?

A: Student letters should be addressed to the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education, 101 Kern Graduate Building, University Park, PA 16802. Letters should begin with stating the student’s request. For example, “I would like to request a retroactive withdrawal for the Fall 2012 semester due to medical issues.” Students should then explain what their extenuating circumstances were, how they affected their academic performance, and why they couldn’t or didn’t perform the action (withdrawal, late drop, etc.) in a timely manner.

Q: Should students complete the petition cover sheet to be included with a student petition?

A: No. the petition cover sheet is to be completed only by authorized petition submitters at each college or campus.

Q: When do students need to obtain documentation from course instructors?

A: Students should obtain documentation from course instructors any time they feel that information will help in the assessment of the petition. The following are some examples:

  • Instructors must always be contacted concerning grade change forms for courses that are completed and now need to be graded (i.e., retroactive late registration, retroactive late add, retroactive grade change).
  • Any time a retroactive late drop or withdrawal is being requested, documentation from instructors is valuable to the Senate committee if instructors knew of the student’s situation and may be able to verify any of the student’s statements.

Q: How do students contact course instructors for documentation?

A: The authorized petition submitter for each college/campus should be able to assist with contacting instructors by corresponding with the relevant department.

Q: What should students ask instructors to state in their documentation?

A: Information provided by instructors for student petitions varies based on what type of petition is being prepared and on the student’s extenuating circumstances. The following are some examples:

  • If a student is claiming that they have missed classes due to medical issues an instructor may provide information about the student’s attendance or about their knowledge of the student’s situation.
  • In the case of an eLion/LionPATH petition an instructor may provide information about being aware that the student had intended to drop the class. An instructor may also provide information about attendance, which may show that the student had not attended classes since the day he/she thought the class was dropped.
  • If a student confided in an instructor about extenuating circumstances affecting their academic performance, the instructor may be willing to verify that with the student’s permission.

Q: To whom should instructors send supporting documentation?

A: If instructors are comfortable giving documentation directly to students they may do so, except in the case of grade change forms and administrative course cancellation forms, which must be sent to the authorized petition submitter. Instructors may also send documentation directly to the authorized petition submitter.

Q: For retroactive late registration petitions that are approved, what happens if instructors are not able to provide grades?

A: If instructors are no longer employed by the University and are not accessible to provide grades for past semesters/sessions, the authorized petition submitter for each academic unit should contact the department for the relevant course(s) to assist them with either contacting the instructor or determining if the grade(s) have been retained by the department. If neither of these options is viable, an F will be assigned for the course.

Q: If medical providers are willing to provide documentation to support a petition, should they send the documentation directly to the Senate office?

A: No. All petition documentation should be sent to the authorized petition submitter at each college or campus. Since petitions are reviewed at the college/campus level before being sent to the Senate, all documentation needs to be included at that level in order for the submitter to make a recommendation to the Senate subcommittee.

Q: If a student makes an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), will they be able to get a letter of support to include with their petition for a retroactive late drop or withdrawal?

A: CAPS will only provide letters of support for students who have received services prior to the petition process. CAPS will provide a letter of support only if it is merited based on the circumstances of the treatment. Scheduling an appointment primarily for the purpose of obtaining a letter of support is discouraged.

Q: Where can students find the forms they need to attach to their petitions?

A: Most forms that are necessary to process student petitions are listed on the Registrar’s website. Exceptions to this would be grade change forms and administrative course cancellations forms, which are only available through the departments and are not provided to students.

Q: How long will it take to receive a decision on a petition?

A: After a petition has been submitted, students can expect a decision within three to five weeks from the time the petition is received in the Senate Office.

Q: Is there any time limit for submitting petitions?

A: There is no time limit for submitting a student petition. Occasionally students may submit valid retroactive requests post-graduation. However, prompt resolution of transcript discrepancies is encouraged for the best outcome. When submitting a petition post-graduation, students should carefully review their academic record to ensure that removing credits (via retroactive late drop or retroactive withdrawal) will not compromise their degree conferral.

Q: If a student submits a petition to his/her college/campus and has not heard anything for a while, how can he/she check the status of the petition?

A: Students may contact the person at their college/campus with whom they worked to submit their petition. Students may also call the Senate office at 814-863-0221 to ask if their petition has been received and where it is in the process.

Q: What does “Expedited Review Requested” mean on the petition cover sheet? What is the difference in response time?

A: An expedited review is occasionally requested in certain situations that require a faster processing time for a petition. Some examples are:

  • Financial aid issues
  • Student is a potential graduate of current semester/session and it is close to graduation
  • Student needs to register for the current or approaching semester/session and cannot do so until the petition is approved
  • VISA issues; sometimes petition actions can affect students’ VISA status

An expedited petition will be given priority and normally is processed within 10-14 days from the time it is received in the Senate office.

Q: How long are petitions retained in the Senate office?

A: Student petitions are kept in the Senate office for three years in accordance with the University’s General Retention Schedule, and then they are destroyed.

Q: What level of confidentiality is given to student petitions?

A: Student petitions are highly confidential and are reviewed in the Senate office only by a small group of faculty comprising the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards. Once petitions are received in the Senate office, no petition materials are released without permission from the student. Also, after submission, the only documents that students can obtain from their petitions are their student letter and the decision letter.

Q: Are student petitions reviewed on the Senate meeting dates listed on the University Faculty Senate website?

A: No. The Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards reviews petitions continuously throughout the academic year, including summer sessions. Petition review is not coordinated with meetings of the University Faculty Senate.

Q: Should students provide contact information for medical providers, instructors, advisers, etc. to the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards so that they can obtain information about students’ extenuating circumstances?

A: No. The Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards does not contact anyone on behalf of students; they expect that petitions will include everything necessary for students to make their case. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain any documentation that pertains to their petition before submitting.

Q: Who reviews petitions – faculty, administrators, students?

A: Student petitions are reviewed by the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards, which is made up of 5 faculty members from the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education.

Q: How are petitions reviewed?

A: Following is the review process:

  • One subcommittee member reviews the petition, and if he/she approves the petition, it is officially approved.
  • If the first reviewer denies the petition, it will go on to a second reviewer.
  • If the second reviewer denies the petition, it is officially denied.
  • If the second reviewer approves the petition, it will go on to a third reviewer.
  • If the third reviewer denies the petition, it is officially denied.
  • If the third reviewer approves the petition, it is officially approved.

Q: Can students call and talk with the faculty member who is reviewing their petition?

A: No. The Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards expects that by the time a petition is submitted, students should have included all of the necessary information and documentation in their petition for the committee to render a decision.

Q: Are students’ names ‘whited out’ in petitions, or is all the information available to the whole committee?

A: Students’ names are not ‘whited out’ because all petitions are logged into a database and information from this database is used for decision letters. Also, student petitions are retained in the Senate office and need to be accessed if there are any questions about the petitions. Original petitions are also used in the review process in the case of an appeal.

Q: On what basis does the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards approve petitions?

A: A student petition is a request for a waiver of a Senate policy, so in order for a petition to be granted, students must present a case that is compelling enough for the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards to decide that an exception is warranted. Decisions are rendered based on students’ extenuating circumstances and the supporting documentation provided in each petition. Each case is reviewed on an individual basis and none are exactly the same.

Q: If students need to prepare a petition for a retroactive late registration, can they register and pay for only the courses that they want on their transcript?

A: No. Students must register and pay for all courses scheduled for each semester/session. If there are extenuating circumstances associated with one or some of the courses scheduled, a Senate petition can be prepared after the semester/session has been paid for.

Q: If a student has a retroactive late registration petition approved, how long do they have to pay the related costs?

A: After a retroactive late registration petition is approved, students have 30 days to pay for that semester/session.

Q: Will student aid cover the tuition for retroactive late registration?

A: Students need to work closely with the Offices of the Bursar, Registrar, and Student Aid in the processing of a retroactive late registration. Students must have sufficient funds available to pay tuition and fees prior to submitting their petition. Any type of financial aid (grants, scholarships, federal or alternative loans) that is processed by the Office of Student Aid and paid directly to Penn State cannot be used as payment towards a retroactive registration.

Q: After a Senate petition is approved for retroactive withdrawal, will students automatically get a tuition adjustment?

A: No. The student petition process handles revisions to the student’s academic record (transcript) only, and does not include the handling of any financial adjustments. These matters need to be petitioned separately through the Fee Assessor in the Office of the Bursar.

Q: If a student is preparing a petition for tuition adjustment through the Office of the Bursar, and he/she needs to provide documentation from an approved Senate petition, how can the documentation be obtained?

A: Students who are preparing a petition for tuition adjustments can request that the Senate forward documentation directly to the Office of the Bursar to be included in their petition. Students need to provide the Senate with written permission before their documentation can be forwarded.

Q: If a student is preparing an Academic Progress Appeal through the Office of Student Aid, and he/she needs to provide documentation from an approved Senate petition, how can the documentation be obtained?

A: Students who are preparing academic progress appeals can request that the Senate forward petition documentation directly to the Office of Student Aid to be included in their appeal. Students need to provide the Senate with written permission via email before any documentation can be forwarded.

Q: When students get a decision letter in the mail and their petition has been denied, why are there no reasons given for the denial?

A: There are no denial reasons provided because the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards reviews between 1,200 and 1,400 petitions per year. Each student’s petition is different. Petitions are reviewed according to established procedures and based on extenuating circumstances and documentation provided. Contact information for the Senate office is included in the letterhead on every decision letter. Students may call the Senate office at any time at 814-863-0221 to request denial reasons.

Q: If a student’s petition is denied, is there any way to have it reconsidered?

A: There is an appeal process in place for denied student petitions. In order to prepare an appeal, students must have additional documentation and/or rationale that was not included with the original petition. Prior to beginning the appeal process, students should contact the Faculty Senate office by phone at 814-863-0221 or by email to determine why their original petition has been denied, and to get suggestions for what may be helpful to provide in an appeal. The appeal process is the same as the original petition process, and appeal petitions are initiated by students at their colleges/campuses.

Q: What is the difference between a retroactive late drop and a retroactive withdrawal?

A: A retroactive late drop is when a student is requesting to late drop only one course or some of the courses scheduled for a semester/session, but not all of them. A retroactive withdrawal is when a student is requesting to withdraw from all courses scheduled for a semester/session.

Q: If a student received an Academic Integrity sanction for a course, may they still try to drop the course retroactively?

A: No. According to Senate Policy 49-20, in conjunction with G-9 Procedures for Academic Integrity, a student who has received an academic sanction as a result of an academic integrity violation may not drop or withdraw from the course at any time. These drop actions include regular drop, late drop, withdrawal, retroactive late drop, and retroactive withdrawal.

Q: If a retroactive withdrawal is approved, how is it reflected on the transcript?

A: If a retroactive withdrawal is approved, all courses will remain on the transcript, but grades will be replaced with the letter “W” for withdrawal.

Q: If a student wants to petition for a retroactive late drop, is not knowing how late drop process works an appropriate reason to petition?

A: No. The Senate Subcommittee on Academic Standards knows that information about late dropping courses and other student related information is provided for all students in a number of ways throughout the semester/session/term. Students are expected to take responsibility for knowing about policies and procedures that affect them.

Q: If I have specific questions about student petitions that have not been answered, who can I talk with about them?

A: Specific questions concerning student petitions should be directed to Anna Butler, Administrative Support Assistant, Office of the University Faculty Senate, using the following contact information:

Email: afb11@psu.edu
Phone: 814-863-0221