Academic petitions | St. Lawrence University Advising Toolkit

Academic petitions

What is an academic petition?

The University has many academic policies, which are spelled out in the University Catalog.

Sometimes, students finds themselves in unusual circumstances in which a particular University academic policy poses a challenge. A student may petition for an exception to the specific policy. The Academic Petitions Committee is the body that considers such petitions.

 

Crafting a persuasive petition

University policies exist for a reason, so the Academic Petitions Committee can only make an exception to a policy under exceptional circumstances. If you are writing a petition, you must first consider the policy’s purpose, so that you can persuasively explain why it should be waived in your particular situation. Think about why either the policy’s goal does not apply to your specific circumstances or why its goal would best be served by granting you the exception you are requesting.

The more exceptional the request, the more exceptional must be the circumstances justifying it. For example, requesting a late add or drop the day after the add/drop deadline is clearly an exception to policy, but not a very great exception; in this case, your petition would still need to explain the lateness, but the exception being requested does not violate the spirit of the policy, which is to allow a short time for students to adjust their schedules once they have started to attend their classes and have a sense of the course material. On the other hand, petitioning to waive a general education requirement such as Environmental Literacy or Diversity is a huge exception to policy, as these are core components of the university curriculum whose designation (EL or DIV13) is only awarded to a course after it passes a rigorous review by the Academic Affairs Committee; in this case, your petition would have to both explain how a specific course you took meets the learning goals of the requirement and why the course was not approved for such credit by the appropriate committee, if the faculty member thought it met the relevant learning goals.

 

What should and should not be in an academic petition?

An academic petition needs to include a rationale for the exception to policy being requested. For example, a student petitioning for a late withdrawal need not explain the motive for the withdrawal (since that is allowed—until the established deadline), but must explain the lateness of the request (which is the exception to policy being requested); only if the motive for the withdrawal itself were related to the lateness of the request would it be relevant.

An academic petition is a formal document, which should be written in clear, formal language. It should begin with the date and some form of salutation (such as “Dear Academic Petitions Committee”), followed by a clear articulation of what the petitioner is requesting and then a persuasive rationale for that request. It should conclude with a formal closing (such as “Sincerely,” followed by your signature and printed name). You may also wish to include a line such as “Thank you for considering this petition.”

 

Preparing to submit an academic petition

To be considered by the Academic Petitions Committee, your petition needs the support of your academic advisor. It is a good idea to see your advisor at the beginning of the process to talk over the rationale. You then need to write the rationale and share it with your academic advisor to get approval. Since the petition form requires your advisor to indicate either support or lack of support, it is crucial that your advisor read your completed rationale first.

In addition to your academic advisor, you may also consult with the Associate Dean of Academic Advising about your petition rationale or about appealing a petition that was rejected.

More information about the petitions process and the academic petition form itself may be found on the Registrar’s Office website.