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Grievance Policy

Should a graduate student feel he or she has been treated unfairly, there are a number of resources available. With few exceptions, students should first attempt to resolve difficulties informally by bringing those concerns directly to the person responsible for the action, or with the student's graduate advisor, the department head, or the immediate supervisor of the person responsible for the action. If the problem cannot be resolved informally, the student may be able to file a formal grievance.

Please also review our Summary of Grievance Types and Responsible Parties.

Grievances that will be Reviewed by the Graduate College

While the Graduate College is available to discuss any academic concern, only grievances that allege violation of a specific University rule, regulation, policy or practice will be considered for formal review as stated below. A grievance procedure is available to graduate students who have complaints that:

  1. Allege violation of a specific University rule, regulation, policy or practice;
  2. Are not remediable by other university grievance policies and procedures; and
  3. Are within the decision-making jurisdiction of the Graduate College.

The Associate Dean of the Graduate College or other delegate of the Dean of the Graduate College (hereinafter "Associate Dean") shall determine whether a complaint is within the decision-making jurisdiction of the Graduate College. Examples of complaints that are NOT suitable for formal grievance through the Graduate College are listed at the end of this section.

Grievance Procedure

To pursue a formal grievance, students must take the following steps:

  1. If informal efforts to resolve the grievance have failed, students must file their written grievance complaint with the head of their academic unit. Such written complaint must be filed within 6 months of the incident that is the subject of the grievance. The grievance complaint must include a concise statement of the allegations that form the basis for the student's complaint, including a careful statement of the facts, the rule, regulation, policy or practice that was violated, a summary of the informal attempts at resolution, and a suggested remedy.
  2. The academic unit head must review the grievance complaint and provide a written response to the student within 15 class days*. A student who wishes to appeal the unit head's response, must file a copy of the grievance complaint and the unit head's response with the Graduate College within 5 class days of receiving the unit head's response .
  3. The Associate Dean (or designee) will then try to negotiate a resolution. If acceptable mediation of the grievance is not achieved within 15 class days of filing with the Graduate College, the student may request that it be forwarded to the Grievance Committee.
  4. In accordance with the procedures set forth below, the Grievance Committee will hold a hearing and convey its recommendation to the Graduate Dean in writing within 15 class days of their final meeting. The Associate Dean will schedule the hearing date(s).
  5. The Graduate Dean will render a final decision affirming, denying or modifying the Grievance Committee's recommendation within 15 class days following receipt of the recommendation.

* "Class days" exclude Saturday, Sunday, holidays, and days in which the University is not in session. All timelines refer to the first regular semester after the incident. Grievances are not processed during the summer sessions unless the dean determines a case warrants immediate review.

Grievance Procedure Deadlines

In pursuing a formal grievance, students must take note of the necessary timeline for pursuing a formal grievance (Table 1). If a student adheres to this timeline, resolution of the grievance can be expected within about 65 class days of the student's written grievance complaint. If the Grievance Committee requires several meetings to reach a recommendation, more time might be required. Deadlines may be extended with the consent of the student, respondent, and/or the responsible party for the pending step in the process. Should there be an unavoidable delay at any step and the Graduate Dean determines that prompt disposition is not possible, he or she shall inform the grievant in writing.

The Graduate Grievance Committee

The Graduate Grievance Committee is a standing committee consisting of eight graduate students representing different academic units appointed by the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC), four faculty members from the Graduate Council and twelve faculty members at large, appointed by the Graduate Dean. Faculty members serve three-year terms. Student members serve two-year terms. All terms are staggered.

To schedule a grievance hearing, the Associate Dean will select a subcommittee from the standing committee consisting or two students and four faculty members, at least one of whom is a member of the Graduate Council. This subcommittee is the hearing committee.

The Graduate Grievance Hearing

The Associate Dean of the Graduate College will arrange a time and place for a hearing. The hearing will be closed to protect the privacy of the student. The hearing committee will select a chair. The chair will preside at the hearing and will rule upon all procedural matters. The formal rules of evidence will not apply, although objections to the introduction of specific statements or documents may be considered by the chair. Irrelevant, immaterial, privileged or unduly repetitious information will be excluded. The chair may establish reasonable limits upon the time allotted to the student and the department or academic unit for oral presentation and examination of witnesses.

All members of the hearing committee and all parties to the grievance will receive a copy of the grievance and the department's response. All parties may present evidence in the hearing. Committee members may question anyone presenting evidence during the hearing. Only evidence presented at the hearing and those documents submitted up to the time of the hearing will be considered in the adjudication of the grievance.

At the hearing, the student will first present his/her case to the hearing committee. He/she may present witnesses. The student may have one advisor present. That person will play an advisory role only and shall not present or participate in the presentation of the student's case at the hearing. If the student elects to have an attorney as an advisor, the Graduate College must be notified at least one week before the scheduled hearing.

The department or appropriate academic unit shall present its case before the hearing committee. Each party may question the other party or their witnesses. The student and the department or appropriate academic unit shall each have the right to rebuttal.

After each party has presented its case and left the hearing room, the hearing committee will begin its deliberations. Additional meetings of the hearing committee may be required for deliberation. Within 15 class days, the chair will communicate the hearing committee's recommendation to the Dean of the Graduate College who will render the final decision.

Complaints NOT Addressed Through This Procedure

Some complaints that cannot be addressed through this procedure include:

  • Allegations of discrimination base on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic information; these are dealt with by the Office of Institutional Equity.
  • Grade appeals, procedures for which are available in General Catalog or from the Graduate College Information Desk. (Grade appeal procedures apply to course grades; appeals of comprehensive examination or oral defense results follow the general Graduate College Grievance Review Procedures.)
  • Complaints against University employees and students that are covered by provisions of the University Handbook for Appointed Personnel ("UHAP"), the Staff Personnel Policy Manual ("SPPM"), and the Student Code of Conduct.
  • Graduate College petitions requesting waivers of policy are not addressed through the general Graduate College Grievance Review Procedures; students may appeal denials of petitions by writing directly to the Dean of the Graduate College.
    The University Ombudsperson is also available to assist students with concerns and complaints.

Grievance Time Table

All timelines refer to the first regular semester after the incident. Grievances are not processed during the summer sessions unless the dean determines a case warrants immediate review.
Table1: Graduate Grievance Time Table
  Steps Time Limit
1. Student submits written grievance complaint to Head of Academic unit Within 6 months of incident*
2. Head of Academic unit responds in writing 15 class days
3. To continue grievance beyond academic unit, student must file copy of complaint and unit head’s response with the Graduate College 5 class days
4. Associate Dean attempts to negotiate a resolution 15 class days
5. If not resolved, hearing committee hears grievance and sends recommendation to Graduate Dean 15 class days after last Committee meeting
6. Graduate Dean renders final decision 15 class days after receiving Committee recommendation

*Note that international students who are dismissed may have to file the grievance earlier than this in order to maintain their visa status. Please consult with the International Students' office about your visa.

Last updated 4 Dec 2017