Student Complaints and Appeals

Effective August 31, 2009
It is the policy of Union Institute & University (UI&U) to ensure that students have recourse to due process with regard to situations and decisions with which they disagree or where they believe they have been unfairly treated. Union Institute & University is committed to consistent and fair consideration of student complaints and appeals through processes that ensure that all involved parties in a dispute are given due consideration.

Applicability of this Policy and Procedure


This policy and procedure applies to the following persons:
  • students enrolled in a Union Institute & University program;
  • formerly registered students in those programs who have withdrawn or who were administratively withdrawn or dismissed. The complaint must be initiated within thirty (30) days of the last day of official registration.

This policy and procedure does not apply to the following persons:

  • applicants for admission to a Union Institute & University academic program;
  • formerly registered students who did not initiate the policy and procedure within thirty (30) days of their last day of official registration;
  • students or former students who have initiated any legal action related to the appeal or complaint. If legal action is initiated after a complaint has been filed, UI&U will terminate the process immediately;
  • university employees seeking to file a complaint unless the employee is also a student and the complaint is in the context of the individual’s relationship to the university as a student. (Employee grievance policies are established in the Human Resources Policy Manual.)

This policy and procedure does not apply to the following circumstances:

  • requests for waiver of published program policies (a student may initiate the appeal process if her or his request for a waiver is denied);
  • decisions regarding violation of university policies on academic integrity (see Academic Integrity Policy and Procedure);
  • complaints or grievances related to sexual or other discriminatory harassment; (see Discriminatory Harassment Policy);
  • complaints or grievances related to American with Disabilities Act issues (see ADA Grievance procedure);
  • decisions to institute financial aid probation or termination (see “Financial Aid Probation, Termination, and Appeal”);
  • decisions made by the Institutional Review Board (by Federal regulation, decisions made by a registered Institutional Review Board may not be over-ridden);
  • satisfactory academic progress issues related to the precohort Ph.D. program.

Definitions


Appeal - If a student is dissatisfied with attempts to resolve her or his complaint informally, the student may file a formal appeal. A formal appeal may be instituted for any administrative or academic issue or decision not specifically excluded from this policy. All formal appeals must be submitted to the provost.

Complainant - A student making an informal complaint or filing a formal appeal

Complaint - A complaint as defined under this policy is an initial written allegation by a student, that there has been an arbitrary or unfair application of a policy of the university or a policy of the student’s academic program. Complaints may be administrative or academic.

  • An academic complaint is one that involves an academic decision and/or application of academic policy.
  • An administrative complaint is one that involves a non-academic decision and/or application of administrative policy.

If a student is dissatisfied with the resolution proposed at the program/departmental level, he or she may decide to file a formal appeal.

Involved Parties/Parties The complainant and the person or persons against whom a complaint or appeal has been made.

Resolution The outcome of a complaint or formal appeal.

Complaint and Appeal Records
A record of every student complaint will be maintained in the applicable department or program office. Records of student complaints and appeals related to academic issues may also be placed in the student’s academic record, and they may become part of the student’s academic record. In addition, by federal regulation, records of official student complaints must be maintained in the Office of the President. At UI&U it has been determined that only student appeals submitted to the provost will be considered to be official complaints.

Confidentiality


UI&U will maintain confidentiality of student complaints and appeals, within the guidelines of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Only the involved party/parties and university representatives involved in the review and resolution of a complaint or appeal will have access to information related to an ongoing complaint or appeal. Once the complaint or appeal has been resolved, this information will be placed in the student’s file.

Students who are considering filing a formal appeal or who have filed a formal appeal are expected to use discretion in discussing the issue with other students or with employees, keeping in mind that there are other parties involved. Depending on the nature of the issue under appeal, other involved parties could be damaged by the student’s public allegations. If a student is determined to have discussed or publicized her or his pending or ongoing appeal in such a way as to potentially affect the outcome, the provost may immediately halt the appeal process and deny the appeal.

Procedural Guidelines: Complaints and Appeals
UI&U expects that every complaint should begin with a sincere attempt at an informal resolution. It is expected that most conflicts will be resolved informally. A formal appeal will not be considered unless such an attempt has been made.

If at any stage of an informal complaint or formal appeal process the university becomes aware that a student has instituted legal proceedings, the process of complaint discussion, review, and resolution will be immediately halted, and all documentation of the process will be forwarded to the office of the president.

Students are advised to retain all documentation related to informal complaints and formal appeals. Documentation may include letters, emails, faxed messages, and notes of telephone conversations.

Complaint / Resolution Procedure - Departmental/Program Level


A student may initiate a complaint through a letter or email—if a student verbally communicates a concern, it is not considered to be a complaint under the terms of this policy. The student must identify the concern as a complaint under the terms of this policy, and submit it to the individual in authority of the unit involved in the complaint (e.g. dean or a director of an administrative unit). To avoid possible delays, written complaints should not be submitted to faculty or staff, or to assistant or associate deans or assistant or associate directors; any such employee who receives a written complaint from a student must immediately forward it to her or his departmental or program head. Similarly, written complaints submitted to the provost or president will be referred to the appropriate dean or director. Upon receipt of written complaint, the dean or director will provide a copy of this policy and procedure to any student filing the complaint.

If the complaint is about an academic issue and the program has an academic appeals policy and procedure, the dean or director will invoke that policy, supplanting this policy’s departmental/program level procedure. If there is no program-level academic appeals policy and procedure, then the dean or director will follow the procedure outlined herein.

For complaints regarding non-academic issues or decisions, the dean or director, in consultation with all involved parties, will evaluate the situation and propose a resolution. Proposed resolutions may range from no action (i.e. denial of the student’s complaint) to reversal of the initial action or decision. At the conclusion of the process, the dean or director will prepare a written report, which will include: the student’s written complaint, description of the review process (interactions with involved parties), and the dean or director’s proposed resolution. The dean or director will provide this report to the student and other involved parties, placing a copy of the report in the student's record.  The dean/director’s report will be submitted within thirty (30) days of receipt of the initial complaint; if additional time is needed to conduct a review, the dean or director must notify all involved parties. The student will be invited to respond to the report by filing a formal appeal in the event that he or she disagrees with the resolution. That invitation will include a thirty (30) day deadline for submission of a formal appeal.

Note: In the event that the student’s complaint is against the dean or director, the student may submit the written complaint directly to the provost. In such cases, the provost will follow the informal resolution procedure outlined above. If the complaint is against the director of a non-academic unit not within the academic affairs division of the university, the provost may forward the complaint to the executive responsible for the unit, who will, again, follow the procedure for informal resolution outlined above.

Appeal and Resolution


If the student is not satisfied with the resolution proposed by the dean or director, the student may choose to submit an appeal to the provost. An appeal will not be considered unless there has been a documented complaint/informal resolution process. Students should be aware that an appeal should not be undertaken lightly or frivolously. Every appeal must include a compelling argument from the student, beyond simple dissatisfaction with a situation or proposed resolution. Appeals must be submitted within thirty (30) days of the conclusion of the departmental/program level complaint resolution process.

Appeals are submitted to the provost in writing. An appeal must include:

  • all documentation related to the program level complaint/resolution process
  • additional information that the student deems pertinent to the issue.

The student’s appeal must be in the form of a letter, clearly marked “Formal Appeal,” and it must be dated and signed by the student. An appeal may not be submitted as an email, but the signed document may, however, be submitted as an email attachment. Students choosing to submit appeal documents as email attachments should insert “Formal Appeal” in the email subject line.

Upon receipt of the appeal, the provost will conduct a brief review of the materials provided by the student and the dean or director. This initial review will typically be concluded within ten (10) working days of receipt of the initial appeal; the provost will notify the student if the initial review will take longer than ten days.

At the conclusion of the initial review, the provost refuse to accept the appeal. If an appeal is not accepted, the provost will notify the student, in writing, citing the reasons for the decision. An appeal may be refused for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The issue being appealed is not covered by this policy and procedure (see above)
  • The appeal appears to be motivated by a desire to punish or retaliate, rather than by a desire to resolve the situation.

A student whose appeal is not accepted may re-submit the appeal to the provost, with additional documentation or information. If the appeal is not accepted after the second submission, the student may not appeal again.

Provost’s Review/Resolution


Appeals are considered through the provost’s review/resolution process. In this process, the provost will review all documentation related to the appeal, including the student’s written appeal and the dean/director’s report on the program/departmental level complaint review/resolution process. The provost may consult with any or all involved parties, and/or the responsible dean, director, or vice president.  At the conclusion of the review, the provost will determine a resolution and prepare a written report, which will include: information related to the initial complaint and resolution, the student’s written appeal, a description of the review process (such as interactions with involved parties), and provost’s resolution. The provost will provide this report to the student and other involved parties, placing a copy of the report in the student's record.  The provost’s report will be submitted within thirty (30) days of receipt of the initial complaint; if additional time is needed to conduct a review, the dean or director must notify all involved parties. The provost’s decision is final: no further appeal will be considered.