Student Grievance Procedure

  1. Definition of a Student Complaint

    Student complaints fall into two categories, those involving grades and those involving other matters.

    1. Grade complaints: a claim that an inappropriate grade has been assigned because of a faculty member's bias or because of a faculty member's failure to follow announced standards for assigning grades but not because of a faculty member's alleged erroneous academic judgment (i.e., not a claim that course standards are too high, reading is too heavy, the grade curve too low, etc.).

    2. Other complaints: a claim of abuse, ill-treatment, or exploitation involving the irresponsible or unjust misuse of the instructor's position of authority, power, and trust (e.g., pointed sexist or racist slurs and sexual or pecuniary blackmail).

  2. Procedure

    1. A student with a complaint against a faculty member should, where appropriate, first try to reach agreement with the faculty member concerned. Upon being notified of a complaint by the student, the faculty member must meet with the student to discuss the complaint within ten working days.

    2. If the issue is not resolved at Step 1, the student may appeal, in writing, to the faculty member's chairperson, who will attempt to mediate the complaint. Such an appeal must be made within three working days of the meeting between the student and the faculty member, unless other arrangements are made that are mutually agreeable to all involved or extreme circumstances preclude adherence to such time intervals.

    3. A student or faculty member who is not satisfied with the decision reached in Step 2 may appeal to the concerned college Dean. This appeal to Step 3 must be made no more than three weeks (within a regular Fall or Spring semester) after Step 2 has been completed. The College Dean will establish a hearing panel within two weeks of receipt of an appeal or if that is too close to the end of a regular Semester, by one month after the beginning of the next regular Semester (Fall or Spring). The college hearing panel will hear the appeal during a regular semester. Typically the panel will include three faculty members with one (only) of them coming from the involved department and the other two drawn from other departments within that college, or, where necessary from other colleges when the concerned college has few or no departmental divisions. There should be two undergraduate student members for an undergraduate appeal or two graduate students for a graduate appeal and neither of the student members should come from the department involved. (These students may be drawn from other colleges, also.)

      Where feasible, the student and professor concerned must both be present at any/all hearing/s when evidence is being presented.

      The procedures utilized by colleges relating to the student grievance procedure at Step 3 should conform to the general principles of process. To satisfy this standard, the hearing process should, at least:

      1. Fully inform the student and faculty member in writing of the procedures to be used so that they are aware of them in advance of the hearing.

      2. Make available to the student and faculty member, at least three working days prior to the hearing, all material which has been furnished to the college hearing panel that will be presented as evidence and the names of any witnesses who are scheduled to give testimony.

      3. Allow the student and faculty member to:

        1. Hear all testimony and examine all evidence presented on behalf of the other;

        2. question witnesses and/or each other about their testimony or evidence presented;

        3. be assisted by an advisor of his or her choice from among the members of the University community. The advisor may help prepare the case, raise questions during the hearing, and, if appropriate, help prepare an appeal to Step 4. A department Chairperson who has mediated or attempted mediation at Step 2 would not be permitted to serve as advisor to either party beyond Step 2.

        4. Make a summary statement at the conclusion of the hearing.

        There must be a decision made at Step 3 before an appeal can be made to Step 4.

        It is recommended that all hearings be tape recorded and those tape recordings be secured for no less than one year by the concerned college Dean's office.

        It is recommended that a copy of the written report of the decision be filed with the appointing Dean's office at the time it is sent to the student and professor involved.

      4. A student or faculty member who is not satisfied with the fairness or thoroughness of the procedures used in Step 3 may appeal to the Academic Appeals Committee of the University Faculty Senate. This appeal must be made to Step 4 no more than one month (within a regular Fall or Spring semester) after a Step 3 decision is issued. This Committee, on reviewing the case, may uphold the decision of the college committee without a hearing, or it may decide the appeal should be heard.

        For purposes of a hearing, the Chairperson of the Academic Appeals Committee may appoint an ad hoc hearing panel from among the current members of the Committee consisting of three faculty members and two students, or the Committee, at its discretion, may serve as the entire hearing panel. If the grievant is a graduate student, the two student panel members should be graduate students and if the grievant is an undergraduate student, the student panel members should be undergraduates. During the hearing, the student and/or faculty member may be assisted by an advisor of his or her choice from among the members of the University community. The student, faculty member, and the committee hearing the complaint may call witnesses and have access to all relevant materials. All involved parties must be provided with a list of witnesses at least three working days before the hearing. The decision of the panel hearing the case shall be final.

        (Rev. 5/4/92)

  3. Remedial Action

    1. In the case of a grade complaint, the Records Office may be authorized to change the student's grade if mutual agreement to do so is reached in Step 1 or 2. In Step 3, if the department/college committee determines that procedural error has been made by the faculty member, it may request the faculty member to re-evaluate the student's performance using appropriate procedures. In Step 4, if the panel hearing the complaint determines that a faculty member's bias or procedural violations may have affected the student's grade, it should, where appropriate, request other person(s) competent to judge the student's work to re-evaluate his or her achievements to determine whether and to what extent a grade change is appropriate. The person(s) asked to perform this re-evaluation may be from within or outside the University. If a change of grade is determined to be appropriate, the ad hoc panel hearing the case will authorize the Records Office to make the grade change.

      On completion of any hearing held in accordance with the procedures in Step 4, the hearing panel will forward a copy of its findings to the parties involved and to an appropriate administrative officer or faculty body.

    2. In the case of other complaints, the decision at any step of the procedure may be, if feasible, a remedy for the aggrieved party or parties. In addition to reporting its findings to the parties involved, the panel hearing appeals to Step 4 will forward a copy of its findings to an appropriate administrative officer or faculty body.

      Procedure approved by the Faculty Senate and adopted by the University, May 1976.

      (Rev. 3/14/83)

March 21, 1995