GSH APPENDIX D - Graduate Student Grievance Review Guidelines

Overview - D.1

The Graduate School is specifically authorized by the graduate faculty and Graduate Council to review grievances related to graduate examinations and graduate associate appointments. The purpose of this document is to outline the process for the systematic review of grievances filed by graduate students related to graduate examinations and graduate associate appointments. The aim of the guidelines is to ensure that a graduate student who is unable to resolve a dispute over a graduate examination or a GA appointment locally has access to a review by a knowledgeable group of neutral faculty and graduate students who are not associated with the student’s graduate program or appointing unit or who in any other way have a conflict of interest.

Graduate programs should have local procedures for resolving grievances, such as discussions with an advisor, supervisor, Graduate Studies Committee Chair, department chair, or college dean. Graduate associates should also consult their Recruit-to-Hire and Period Activity Pay documents.

The Graduate School is occasionally called upon to address a complaint by a graduate student related to other academic matters. The Graduate School becomes involved in such matters only after all reasonable local efforts to resolve the problem have failed. In accordance with university policy, complaints of harassment, sexual or otherwise, and allegations of scholarly misconduct are directed to the appropriate offices authorized to address them. Complaints involving discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct are reported to the Office of Institutional Equity, while allegations of scholarly misconduct are reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct or the Office of Research Compliance. Workplace complaints may be reported to Employee and Labor Relations or via the university’s Anonymous Reporting Line.

Interested graduate students are strongly encouraged to submit a Graduate School grievance request form as soon as possible to ensure a timely review and decision. The Graduate School reviews all grievance requests submitted for its consideration. Students will be notified by the Graduate School when their request has been received, and they should familiarize themselves with the grievance review process outlined in this Appendix. Please note that the review by the Graduate School does not guarantee that the request will be approved.

Procedures - D.2

When the dean or associate dean of the Graduate School receives a petition for the review of a grievance related either to a graduate examination or to a graduate associate appointment, the dean or associate dean will determine first that all viable options for resolution of the problem at the local graduate program or individual appointing unit level have been exhausted. If such a resolution is not achieved, the dean or associate dean will review the petition and determine if the matter should be referred to the chair of the Graduate School Grievance Committee.

Upon receipt of such a request from the dean, the Graduate School Grievance Committee will conduct, expeditiously, a hearing for the review of the grievance. The Graduate School grievance committee will consist of the following members:

  • Three graduate faculty members of Graduate Council (voting).
  • Two graduate student members of Graduate Council (voting).
  • An associate or assistant dean of the Graduate School (nonvoting), who will serve as chair of the Grievance Committee. In the event of a tie vote, the chair casts the deciding vote.

In cases where any of the individuals serving in these roles have a conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest, substitutions will be permitted with the permission of the dean of the Graduate School.

The chair of the Grievance Committee will convene the hearing. Faculty members or graduate students who are members of the graduate program(s) involved are disqualified from sitting on the grievance committee.

At least one week prior to the hearing, the chair of the Grievance Committee will provide the materials listed below to all members of the Grievance Committee and to all parties to the grievance, depending on the nature of the grievance:

  • A letter detailing the nature of the grievance and establishing the time, location, and expected duration of the hearing.
  • A copy of these guidelines.
  • A copy of the complainant’s letter to the dean.

Each party is expected to attend the hearing in person to present their case and may call witnesses on their behalf. A party unable to attend the hearing may submit a written statement. Additionally, parties to the hearing may submit a petition to the Graduate School requesting a remote participation option if they are unable to attend the hearing in person due to extenuating circumstances.

Parties are defined as follows:

  • Graduate Examination Grievance: a) the student, and b) the members of the examination committee, including the graduate faculty representative (doctoral-level examinations only).
  • Graduate Associate Grievance: a) the student, and b) the student’s GA supervisor and/or head of the GA appointing unit.
  • Additional persons who may attend the hearing include the Graduate Studies Committee Chair of the student’s graduate program and resource personnel from the Graduate School.
  • The parties may submit written statements related to the charges. Such documents must be received no later than three working days prior to the scheduled date of the hearing. All materials so submitted will be shared with all parties and the grievance committee members on a confidential basis.
  • Notice must be given to the Graduate School at least one week prior to the hearing if any of the parties is to be accompanied by witnesses and/or legal counsel. The Graduate School will notify the parties, in advance, if any witnesses intend to attend the hearing.

Conduct of Hearing - D.3

At the beginning of the hearing, the chair will outline the procedures to be followed in the hearing:

  • The chair shall allocate a specific amount of time to each party to state their case.
  • Members of the Grievance Committee shall be present during the entire testimony portion of the hearing.
  • Parties to the grievance are expected to be present to hear and participate in the entire testimony portion of the hearing.
  • Legal counsel, if present, may not participate in the hearing. Involvement of legal counsel will be limited to consultation with the client, who answers all questions directed to the student.
  • Witnesses, if called by either party, may attend only the portion of the hearing directly related to their testimony.
  • The testimony presented at the hearing will be recorded on audiotape. A party to a grievance may request a copy of the tape.
  • Committee members may ask questions to obtain a full understanding of the case.

At the conclusion of the testimony portion, all persons attending the hearing are excused except for the Grievance Committee members and the Graduate School personnel. The parties to the hearing will be asked to wait in a designated location outside the hearing room until freed to leave by the chair.

Hearing and Committee Decision - D.4

The decision of the Grievance Committee is reached in closed session, with only the hearing committee members and the Graduate School personnel present.

All members of the Grievance Committee vote on the outcome. The Graduate School personnel, including the associate dean who serves as the chair, may participate in the discussion and decision, but they do not vote (except when the chair votes to break a tie vote).

  • The Grievance Committee will decide on the basis of a simple majority as follows:
  • The Grievance Committee shall decide whether the master’s examination, candidacy examination, final oral examination, or professional doctoral examination was conducted in conformity to Graduate School and/or local graduate program rules.
  • The Grievance Committee shall decide whether actions taken with respect to a graduate associate appointment were conducted in conformity Graduate School and/or appointing unit rules. As stipulated in the Graduate School Handbook, the appointing unit is required to develop, publish, and make available its graduate associate rules.
  • The chair of the Grievance Committee will report the committee’s finding in writing to the Dean or Associate Dean of the Graduate School.
  • If the Grievance Committee finds that a violation of Graduate School rules or other violation has occurred, the chair of the committee will also communicate a recommended resolution.
  • The Dean of the Graduate School shall make the final decision regarding the grievance and the recommendation of the Grievance Committee and shall notify all the participants in the proceeding. There are no avenues to appeal the Dean of the Graduate School’s final decision. 
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