Conflict Resolution Process for Student Academic Complaints: Twin Cities
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Table of Contents
Introduction and purpose
This procedure implements Board of Regents Policy: Conflict Resolution Process for Student Academic Complaints and outlines the student conflict resolution process for the Twin Cities campus.
The goal of this procedure is to provide a simple and fair process that allows for both informal and formal resolution of conflicts.
Scope and Relief Available
This procedure applies to "student academic complaints," which are complaints brought by students regarding the University's provision of education and academic services affecting their role as students.
Student academic complaints:
- must be based on a claimed violation of a University rule, policy, or established practice
- if alleging discrimination in the University-student relationship, may be filed under this procedure or with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, but not both
This procedure does not limit the University's right to change rules, policies, or practices.
Complaints Not Covered. This procedure does not apply to student complaints regarding:
- University employment
- disciplinary action under Board of Regents Policy: Student Conduct Code
- applicant complaints regarding University admission decisions
Relief available under this procedure. Resolution of complaints under this procedure may include student reinstatement or other corrective action for the benefit of the student, including refunds, but may not award monetary damages, or take disciplinary action against any employee of the University.
Process for Resolving Student Academic Complaints
1. Informal Resolution
The first step of any resolution should be at the lowest unit level, between the parties involved or the parties and an appropriate third party (e.g., other faculty, department chair, director of graduate studies, administrator). Students may wish to consult the Student Conflict Resolution Center or similar support services for advice and possible mediation. If no informal resolution is reached at the lowest unit level, a student may seek informal resolution at the collegiate level with the other party and higher level administrators. If the issue is not resolved informally, the student may seek formal resolution as outlined below.
2. Formal Resolution of Student Academic Complaints
If no informal resolution has been reached, colleges and administrative units will provide a review process appropriate to the issue raised by the student academic complaint, as described below.
- The College Appoints an Academic Complaint Officer. Each collegiate unit must appoint an Academic Complaint Officer who will be a faculty member who holds no other administrative appointment. The Academic Complaint Officer may be appointed for a set term or when a complaint arises. The Academic Complaint Officer may not have a direct interest in the dispute.
- The Student Files a Complaint. A student must file a written student academic complaint to the Dean's Office in the college where the incident is alleged to have occurred. For graduate students, the appropriate unit is the Graduate School. The student may use the complaint form attached to this procedure, or submit a written complaint letter which must identify the student; the respondent; the individuals involved; the incident; the rule, policy, or established practice alleged to have been violated; and a brief statement of the remedy the student is seeking. The complaint must be filed within 30 calendar days from the occurrence or notice of the action being challenged.
- The Academic Complaint Officer Receives and Attempts to Informally Resolve the Complaint. The college Academic Complaint Officer will review the complaint. The Academic Complaint Officer will meet as needed with the student and the respondent or other individuals involved to try again to reach a satisfactory, mutually acceptable informal resolution.
- The Academic Complaint Officer Determines Whether the Complaint Falls Within the Scope of this Procedure. If the Academic Complaint Officer is unable to informally resolve the student academic complaint, the student is entitled to a hearing, assuming the complaint is covered as defined by this procedure. If the Academic Complaint Officer determines that a complaint or any portion of it is not a "student academic complaint" subject to this procedure, the Officer will notify the student of that decision in writing. The student may appeal that decision to the senior academic administrator, following paragraph 10 below.
- The Respondent Provides a Written Response. If the Officer concludes that the complaint or any portion of it falls within the scope of this procedure, the Officer will require the respondent(s) to provide a written response to the complaint. The response is due within 15 calendar days after notice that a response is required, unless there are compelling reasons for delay.
- The College Arranges for a Hearing. The Academic Complaint Officer will refer the matter to the College, which is responsible for getting a hearing scheduled before a college hearing panel. Preparation for the hearing may include a prehearing conference to address such questions as the issues at stake, the witnesses expected to testify, the documents to be reviewed and exchanged between the parties, and other matters that will help the hearing proceed in a focused and efficient manner.
- The Hearing Panel is Set. A hearing panel will be established to hear the complaint. Members of the hearing panel will be drawn from faculty, students, and academic staff. A chair, who must be a faculty member, will be appointed to lead the hearing panel. Training for chairs will be available upon request by the Office for Conflict Resolution. The hearing panel will have a minimum of three and a maximum of five members. On a panel of three, one will be a student. If membership exceeds three, it may include more than one student. In the case of graduate/professional school complaints, the student members will be graduate/professional school students. In the case of undergraduate complaints, the student members will be undergraduates. Parties must be notified of the hearing panel membership and given an opportunity to object to members who they allege have a bias or unfair interest in the case. Disputes about the membership of the panel will be decided by the dean.
Panelists will serve as neutrals, not advocates, and none will have a direct interest in the dispute. Panelists will give the student and the respondent's cases open-minded, fair consideration. Panelists will not have private conversations about the complaint with the parties, their advisors, or attorneys.
- The Hearing Panel Hears the Complaint and Issues Recommendations. The hearing panel will provide a fair opportunity for the student and the respondent(s) to present their views and information. The panel may follow its own hearing procedures or may follow procedures similar to the Guidelines for Colleges: Panel Hearings Under the Conflict Resolution Process for Student Academic Complaints appended hereto. The hearing panel will review the complaint and the response, and will review information and hear testimony where appropriate. Panel hearings are not court cases, and the rules of evidence do not apply, but the panel will exercise reasonable judgment in deciding the information to permit and to rely on in making a decision. Each party is responsible for presenting its own information and arguments and obtaining the appearance of its own witnesses. A party presenting documents must bring a sufficient number for each party and panel member. Witnesses are present only during their own testimony. Parties may be present throughout the hearing. Students may bring or be represented by an advocate or lawyer. In the event the student is represented by a lawyer, the respondent will be represented by the Office of General Counsel.
The burden of proof is on the student to show that it is more likely than not that the action complained of violated a University rule, policy, or established practice.
The panel will prepare a written report, recommending findings and a resolution of the matter. The panel must submit its report within 15 calendar days of the close of the hearing, unless there are compelling reasons for delay. The chair will send the report to the dean of the college, who will distribute the report to the parties. For graduate students, the report is submitted to the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education. If the complaint challenged an action personally engaged in by the dean, the senior academic administrator responsible for the college (either the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, or the Vice President for Health Sciences) will appoint another administrator to fulfill the dean's role under this procedure.
- Decision by the Dean. The dean will review the panel's report and may review any other parts of the hearing record. The dean has full discretion to accept, modify, or reject the panel recommendations. Within 15 calendar days of receipt of the panel report, the dean will issue his or her decision to the parties, unless there are compelling reasons for delay. The dean must inform the student of his or her right to appeal an adverse decision.
- Appeal. If any party is not satisfied with the dean's decision, the party may appeal to the appropriate senior academic administrator (either the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, or the Vice President for Health Sciences). The purpose of the appeal is to determine whether the parties have been afforded due process. The party must file a written appeal to the senior academic administrator within 10 calendar days of receipt of the decision by the dean. The party must explain the basis for the appeal. The senior academic administrator has the discretion to decide how to process the appeal. The appeal may be handled by written submissions or oral presentations to the senior academic administrator or delegate, or the senior academic administrator may set up an appellate hearing panel to hear the appeal and provide a recommendation before making a decision. In any case, the senior academic administrator will provide a written decision to the parties. The senior academic administrator will issue a decision within 30 calendar days of the filing of the appeal, unless there are compelling reasons for delay.
This same process applies to appeals from a college's Academic Complaint Officer finding that a complaint falls outside the scope of this procedure under paragraph 4 above. The senior academic administrator may reverse the Officer's decision and return the complaint to the college for a hearing, or the senior academic administrator may affirm the decision by the Officer that the complaint is outside the scope of this procedure.
The decision of the senior academic administrator is final and cannot be appealed further within the University.
Within Administrative Units.
Because of the variety of potential student complaints regarding the provision of education and academic services (e.g., complaints regarding residency determinations for tuition purposes, denials of tuition refunds, provision of disability accommodations, etc.), there is no single avenue for review of student academic complaints originating in administrative units. Administrative units may establish their own review processes for student academic complaints within their area, consistent with this procedure.
- The Student Files a Complaint. A student must file a written student academic complaint to the appropriate administrator in the administrative unit where the incident is alleged to have occurred. The complaint must include the information required by the unit, and should generally identify the student, the respondent, the individuals involved, the incident, the rule/policy/established practice alleged to have been violated, and a brief statement of the remedy the student is seeking. The complaint must be filed within 30 calendar days after the incident occurred.
- The Unit Applies Fair Review Procedures. The administrative unit must apply review procedures that are fundamentally fair to the parties. Due process does not always require a full evidentiary hearing, but must allow a fair and reasonable opportunity for the parties to present their respective cases. The parties should have fair notice of the issues to be heard and the nature of the information to be presented at the hearing or review. They should have sufficient notice to give them an opportunity to prepare for the hearing or review. The decision by the review body must be based on the record.
- The Student Receives a Written Decision. The student must receive a written decision from the administrative unit.
- Appeal. If any party is not satisfied with an administrative unit's decision, the party may appeal to the appropriate senior academic administrator. If the unit has its own appellate procedures, those procedures must first be exhausted. The purpose of the appeal is to determine whether the parties have been afforded due process. The student must file a written appeal to the senior academic administrator within 10 calendar days of receipt of the last decision of the administrative unit. The student must explain the basis for the appeal. The senior academic administrator has the discretion to decide how to process the appeal. The appeal may be handled by written submissions or oral presentations to the senior academic administrator or delegate, or the senior academic administrator may set up an appellate hearing panel to hear the appeal and provide a recommendation before making a decision. In any case, the senior academic administrator will provide a written decision to the parties. The senior academic administrator will issue a decision within 30 days of the filing of the appeal, unless there are compelling reasons for delay.
The decision of the senior academic administrator is final and cannot be appealed further within the University.