Student Grievance Guidelines

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I. PREAMBLE

A grievance may arise out of a decision or action reached or taken in the course of official duty by a member of the faculty, staff, or administration of Gallaudet University. The purpose of the grievance procedures is to provide a process for an impartial review of student-initiated concerns and to ensure that the rights of university students are properly recognized and protected.

II. PURPOSE AND SCOPE

Any student may file a grievance under this policy. The grievance can arise from any official faculty or staff action or decision deemed to be unjust or discriminatory by the student and is based upon violation of an institutional policy or written standard that protects every student. The goal of this process is to insure fair and equitable treatment of all students, to hold administrators, faculty and staff accountable for compliance with institutional policies and procedures. Resolution of student complaints, regardless of the outcome, also can improve a student's progress toward completion of a course or degree and ultimately success at the institution.

III. DEFINITION OF GRIEVABLE ACTIONS

A. A grievable action is an action that:

  1. Is in violation of written campus policies or procedures, or

  2. Constitutes misapplication or misinterpretation of University policies, regulations, rules, or procedures. Grievances may not be used to challenge policies or procedures of general applicability.

B. Complaints between students, disciplinary decisions administered by the Office of Student Conduct, and decisions made by persons not employed by Gallaudet University are not grievable under these procedures.

C. A flow chart to help determine what is grievable and what is not grievable action is provided below:

Table I: Grievable Issues

Issue
Action
1. Is your complaint about a violation of a written campus policy or procedure?
Contact the Student Grievance Coordinator to file a complaint.

At any time, you may ask for help from the campus ombuds at ombuds@gallaudet.edu                                       
2. Is your complaint about an arbitrary, capricious, or unequal application or use of written campus policy or procedure?

Table II: Non-Grievable Issues

Issue
Alternative Avenue
1. Is your complaint against another student?
See the Office of Student Conduct (Ely Center #103)
2. Is your complaint about a financial aid decision, rule, and/or regulation?
See the Financial Aid Office in Chapel Hall #G-02 to initiate the financial aid appeal process.
3. Is your complaint about facilities?
Submit a work request to Facilities at this website: http://tma.gallaudet.edu.
4. Is your complaint about computer equipment or technology?
File a request at the Helpdesk at http://helpdesk.gallaudet.edu or contact Helpdesk in HMB W121.
5. Is your complaint about your course grade?
Complaints about course grade must first be resolved through your professor, then the department chair, the school dean, and the provost in that order until a resolution is reached.
6. Is your complaint about sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, sexual preference, national origin, age, martial status, pregnancy, Vietnam veteran's status, or disabling condition?
Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity officer in College Hall #308.
7. Is your complaint in regard to a denial of an accommodation due to a qualified disability?
See the "Section 504/ADA Student Grievance Procedure" in your student handbook.

Table III. Other Resources

If you wish to report a possible misconduct, you can file your grievance under Gallaudet's whistleblower policy at this hotline:

IV. INFORMAL PROCEDURES

A. A party or parties to a dispute or grievance are defined as the grievant and/or the respondent(s). The student(s) initiating a grievance must be the student(s) who alleged he/she was unfairly treated or discriminated against; a grievance cannot be filed on behalf of another student.

B. The Student Grievance Procedures rely on the good faith of all involved to achieve a reasonable resolution of grievable actions.

C. Any student who believes he/she has grounds for a grievance shall make an attempt in good faith to resolve the problem through early informal discussion of the matter with the academic, administrative, or staff member directly involved. A timely response to the student's complaint should occur within fifteen (15) days of initial contact. Flexibility should be given or considered during times when school is not in session, during summer breaks, and if extenuating circumstances exist (e.g. medical emergencies, sabbaticals)

D. If the student is not satisfied with the early informal discussion of the matter with the academic, administrative, or staff member directly involved, the student shall attempt to resolve the grievance through either of the following channels:

  1. In the case of faculty, through the chairperson of the unit (department or program) that offers the course, and the unit's pertinent procedures, and if resolution still cannot be attained, the Dean of the School.

  2. In the case of professional or support staff or administrative personnel, through the employee's supervisor, and if resolution still cannot be attained, through that person's immediate supervisor (or to a higher administrative authority), if feasible.

E. The Student Grievance Coordinator, the grievant's academic advisor and/or the campus ombuds may be consulted for assistance at any point in these informal discussions if the grievant so desires.

V. ALTERNATE AVENUES FOR NON-GRIEVABLE ACTIONS

A. Student(s) can file a grievance against another student through the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) in Ely Center #103. Please click on this to go to the website for the Office of Student Conduct.

B. Student appeals for Financial Aid decisions, rules, and regulations are to be submitted in writing to the Director of the Financial Aid Office in order to initiate the Financial Aid Appeal Process. Please click on this to go to the website for the Office of Financial Aid.

C. Issues or problems with Facilities service should be reported to the Facilities Department at facilities@gallaudet.edu, (202) 250-2560 (Video-phone), (202) 651-5181 (TTY/Voice) or submit a work request at http://tma.gallaudet.edu.

D. Computer related issues are referred to the Helpdesk through its website: http://helpdesk.gallaudet.edu.

E. Questions about course grades must first be addressed with the professor, then the department chair, school dean, and the provost in that order until a resolution is reached.

F. Allegations of discrimination that fall under the sexual harassment or non-discrimination policies are handled by the EEO officer. Please click on this to go to the website for the Equal Opportunity Programs.

G. Students should follow the procedures for matters covered under other University policies that contain complaint, grievance, hearing, and/or appeal procedures (such as FERPA or the Academic Integrity Policy, for example).

H. Non-grievable concerns can be brought to the campus ombuds. The Office of Ombuds is available as an informal, independent, impartial and confidential conflict management resource. Please click on this to go to the website for the Office of the Ombuds.

I. WHISTLEBLOWER HOTLINE
To support the Board of Trustees' mandate to report possible misconduct (known as "whistleblower policy"), the University and the Clerc Center have a whistleblower hotline through Ethicspoint. The Board's overarching goal is for people to speak up for a better Gallaudet -- to come forward with rule or policy violations or safety concerns so we can correct them. Please read the Section 1.15 Policy on Reporting Suspected Misconduct (Whistleblower Policy) in the Gallaudet University Administration and Operations Manual. The link to the EthicsPoint website is:

https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/media/en/gui/21988/index.html

VI. STANDING TO FILE A GRIEVANCE

A student has standing to file a grievance under these procedures if he/she is enrolled in a course or was a student during the semester (or summer/intersession) prior to the time of filing, provided that person has attempted to resolve his or her complaint informally through those procedures discussed in Section IV above.

VII. INITIATION OF FORMAL GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

A. If a resolution of the problem is not achieved through the informal procedures, the student may request an official examination of the facts by presenting a completed grievance form to the Student Grievance Coordinator. To complete the form, the student must prepare a specific written statement of how the decision or action is unfair and harmful to the grievant and list the University policies, regulations, or rules that have been violated. A brief narrative (including the names of individuals and/or departments and how they are involved, specific dates, times, and other relevant information) is required to support the allegations made. The student should also specify the remedies requested. Remedies under these procedures are generally limited to restoring losses suffered by a student or making changes in University policy, practice, procedures or training. Monetary damages, fines or penalties, or disciplinary action against an individual who is the subject of the grievance are not remedies available to the student under these guidelines. The Student Grievance Form may be obtained from the Student Grievance Coordinator or online at (_________@gallaudet.edu). The Student Grievance Coordinator may assist the student in preparing the grievance document to ensure its clarity.

B. In addition, the Student Grievance Coordinator will determine if the grievance is a resubmission of a previously decided grievance. If that is the case, the student will be informed that the matter is not grievable.

C. The Student Grievance Coordinator shall forward a copy of the completed Student Grievance Form submitted by the student to each member of the faculty, administration, or staff named in the grievance, along with a copy of the Student Grievance Procedures.

D. Within fifteen (15) business days (days that are not University recognized holidays, or weekends) of receipt of the completed form, the Student Grievance Coordinator shall verify on the Grievance Form confirming that informal efforts have been made to resolve the issue from the immediate supervisor and higher administrative authority. The completed form will be submitted by the Student Grievance Coordinator to the Chair of the Student Grievance Board.

VIII. TIME LIMIT ON FILING A GRIEVANCE

A grievance must be filed with the Student Grievance Coordinator no later than the end of the following semester after the occurrence of the action on which it is based. For example, an alleged grievance that occurred during the Spring semester can be filed before the end of the following Fall semester.

IX. PROTECTION AGAINST RETALIATION

Under no circumstances will the filing of a grievance result in retaliation by the party being grieved against or his/her department. Any student who has been retaliated against should contact the Student Grievance Coordinator immediately. If appropriate, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) should be contacted as well.

X. STUDENT GRIEVANCE BOARD

A. Composition: The Student Grievance Board will be composed of the Dean of Student Affairs, who is the non-voting Chair, and twenty-six members: six members of the faculty selected by the University Faculty Chair; six professional staff under Academic Affairs appointed by the Provost; six professional staff appointed by the Vice President of Administration and Finance, four undergraduate students selected by the President of the Student Body Government (SBG), and four graduate students selected by the President of the Graduate Student Association (GSA). This Student Grievance Board serves as a pool, from which 5-member hearing panels are appointed.

B. Training: All members of the Student Grievance Board will be trained on the hearing process. The training will be provided by Student Affairs and will be similar to the training given to Student Conduct Board members by the Office of Student Conduct.

C. Qualification of Student Grievance Board Members: Faculty members must have tenure. Staff members must have been employed at Gallaudet for at least one year. Undergraduate students must have a minimum GPA of 2.7, be at least a junior, and must have no significant or recent disciplinary incidents, Graduate students must have no significant or recent disciplinary incidents.

D. Term of Service: Members of the Student Grievance Board shall serve for one (1) calendar year and may be reappointed.

E. To facilitate the grievance process, the Dean of Student Affairs appoints the Student Grievance Coordinator, who serves as the support staff for the Student Grievance Board.

F. Conflict of Interest: In the event of any conflict of interest which will be identified through self-declaration by any of the Board members regarding a particular potential grievance or by membership or affiliation with a department or program in which the grievant or respondent is a member of, the individual will recuse himself or herself from the Board on that matter. Panel members should have no personal interest in the outcome of the proceedings, and should not have any personal involvement in earlier stages of the matter. The Student Grievance Board Chair will rule on any challenges regarding conflict of interest.

G. Maintenance of Records: The Student Grievance Coordinator will be responsible for maintaining all records of the Student Grievance Board. The records for each grievance will be maintained for a period of four (4) years after the final recommendation has been rendered.

H. Legal Advice: The Chair of the Student Grievance Board, on behalf of the Board, may seek legal advice from the Office of Risk Management and Insurance and/or informal advice from the Ombuds.

I. Student Grievance Hearing Panel

1. The Chair of the Student Grievance Board will appoint five Board members, none of whom may have a conflict of interest, which includes two teaching faculty members or professional staff (depending on whether the grievance is against a faculty or staff member), and two student members, to review a particular grievance. The appointed professional staff member will be a member of the Division of which the defendant is a member; while the appointed student members will be either graduate or undergraduate students, following the student status of the student filing the grievance. The fifth member could be a faculty member or a staff member, following the wishes of the defendant. The Chair of the Student Grievance Board will communicate the names of the members of the Student Grievance Hearing Panel to each party. The Chair of the Student Grievance Board serves as the non-voting (and sixth) member and as the chair of the Student Grievance Hearing Panel.

2. Either party will have the right to exercise one preemptory challenge, in writing to the Chair of the Student Grievance Board within three academic days, against any of the chosen appointed members of the Student Grievance Hearing Panel. If such challenges are accepted by the Chair of the Student Grievance Board, the member(s) will be replaced.

XI. DETERMINATION OF GRIEVABILITY

A. The Chair will convene the Student Grievance Hearing Panel within fifteen (15) academic days after receiving the completed Student Grievance Form (see Appendix B) from the Student Grievance Coordinator confirming that efforts have been made to resolve the issue informally. The Panel will determine by majority vote of those present whether the grievant has standing to file and whether a grievable act, as defined in these procedures, is alleged in the grievance filing.

B. All parties involved in the grievance will be notified in writing, by the Chair of the Student Grievance Board, as to the determination of grievability. A finding by the Panel that no grievable action is alleged or that the grievant lacks standing to file will conclude the proceedings. This determination by the Panel will be final. If the Panel finds that a grievable action is alleged and that the grievant has standing to file, the Chair will schedule a hearing to be held by the Student Grievance Panel within ten (10) academic days.

XII. HEARING PROCEDURES

A. The full five-member Student Grievance Hearing Panel and the Chair must be present for the hearing to proceed. All hearings will be closed to the public. Witnesses are to be present only during the time in which they are introduced at the beginning of the hearing or give their statement and will remain outside the hearing room until called. In a closed hearing, only the grievant and respondent, the advisors, and members of the Student Grievance Hearing Panel may be present. The grievant and respondent will be provided with the dates and times of the hearing and given the opportunity to hear any information presented. Should the respondent elect not to appear, it shall be held in the absence of the respondent. In such instances, all information in support of the grievance will be presented and considered in the absence of the respondent. If the grievant does not appear within a half hour of the scheduled hearing, the hearing proceedings will conclude. The complaint will be dismissed unless a valid excuse (as determined by the Student Grievance Hearing Panel) is presented within 48 hours.

B. An advisor, with prior notification to the Chair of the Student Grievance Hearing Panel and the other party, may accompany either party to the dispute provided that the advisor is a member of the campus community. A member of the campus community is defined as faculty or staff currently employed or full-time students currently enrolled in the University. The grievant and the respondent are each responsible for presenting their own information and therefore, advisors are not permitted to speak or to participate directly in the hearing. Advisors may confer with the grievant/respondent only when there is not a question on the table or a response pending from either party. Failure of an advisor to appear for either party shall not constitute grounds for a continuance of the hearing.

C. Either party to the grievance may bring witnesses to a hearing. The names of the witnesses will be provided to all parties prior to their appearance, but the unavailability of a witness shall not constitute grounds for a continuance of the hearing. Written or video statements may be permitted from witnesses unable to attend the hearing. Such statements must be made available in advance of the hearing.

D. Prior to the hearing, both parties will have the right to inspect and review all information pertinent to the grievance. Formal rules of evidence are not applicable in Student Grievance hearings. Any information or testimony the Panel believes to be relevant may be considered.

E. The Student Grievance Hearing Panel will determine whether the respondent is responsible for a grievable action as defined in these guidelines. The Panel's determination shall be made on the basis of whether it is more likely than not (preponderance of the evidence) that the respondent violated published policies, rules, or procedures, and if so, will make recommendations or offer remedies. The Panel will then prepare its written report, which will consist of the Panel's findings and recommendations.

F. Within ten (10) academic days of the conclusion of the hearing, the Chair of the Student Grievance Hearing Panel will ensure that the Student Grievance Panel Report is completed, and shall send copies to the parties involved in the grievance, an appropriate senior administrator, and the Student Grievance Coordinator.

XIII. DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Although disciplinary action against an employee is not a remedy available to a student who files a grievance under these guidelines, the University reserves the right to impose discipline on its employees as a result of determinations made through the grievance process. Any such discipline will be imposed only after the Student Grievance Hearing Panel has completed its report and the appeal period has expired. Such discipline, if imposed, will be handled by the employee's supervisor, and may not be appealed by the employee under these grievance procedures. Such appeals will be made in accordance with appropriate staff or faculty procedures or guidelines. Such information is confidential and will not be shared with the student grievant at any time.

XIV. APPEALS

A. Within ten working days after receipt of the Student Grievance Panel's decision, either party to the grievance may appeal the decision to the Provost or the appropriate Vice-President receiving the report. The decision of the Student Grievance Panel may be appealed on the grounds that:

1. the Student Grievance Hearing was not conducted fairly and in conformity with prescribed procedures which made it unfair. However, deviations from designated procedures will not be a basis for submitting an appeal unless significant unfairness results,

2. the decision was not supported by substantial information; that is, the facts of the case were or were not sufficient to establish that a grievable action occurred, and/or

3. the recommended remedies to the student were insufficient or excessive.

B. The appeal must be submitted in writing, must indicate the grounds in which he/she is appealing, and provide a clear rationale for appealing. The Chair of the Student Grievance Board will share relevant information and records of the hearing to the Provost or the appropriate Vice-President. There is no requirement that the person handling the appeal meet with the grievant or the respondent. The Provost or the appropriate Vice-President will make a final decision on the grievance within 15 working days of receiving the appeal. This decision will be in writing. The Provost or the appropriate Vice-President can uphold, modify, or reverse the decision of the Student Grievance Panel.

XV. CONFIDENTIALITY OF GRIEVANCES

A. All information in the grievance process is confidential and protected by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and cannot be further disclosed.

B. All materials developed in the course of the grievance investigation and hearing will be placed in a confidential, non-personnel file, to be maintained by the Student Grievance Coordinator. None of these materials may be removed from the file or copied unless needed for compliance with appropriate administrative or legal requirements. These materials will not include any records of actions taken against an employee by the University as a result of the determination(s) made through the grievance process.

XVI. FALSE GRIEVANCES

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a mechanism to address legitimate student complaints and grievances. However, false grievances undermine the purpose and effectiveness of these guidelines/this policy. Accordingly, persons who knowingly bring false grievances may be subject to disciplinary action through the Office of Student Conduct. Allegations of false grievances must be reported within 30 working days after the grievance was resolved. The fact that a grievance may not result in a finding that an employee has violated a University policy, rule, or procedure, or has otherwise acted in a manner resulting in unfair treatment of a student is not alone sufficient information that the grievance was knowingly false.

XVII. PROVISIONS FOR AMENDING THE GRIEVANCE GUIDELINES/POLICY

Authority to amend these Student Grievance Procedures rests with the Provost in consultation with the Gallaudet University Faculty Senate, Staff Advisory Council, Student Body Government and Graduate Student Association.

Approved - September 3, 2010

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