Admissions and Standards Committee


Motion to Adopt a University-Wide Student Policy and Procedures
for Student Complaints, Petitions for Policy Waivers and Variances, and Appeals

Rationale

For our SACS Compliance Report due September, 2007, GSU needs to provide evidence of compliance with the following standard:

Standard 4.5 The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints.

ďIn addition, each institution is required to have in place student grievance and public complaint policies and procedures that are reasonable, fairly administered, and well-publicized. The Commission also requires, in accord with federal regulations, that each institution maintain a record of complaints received by the institution. This record is made available to the Commission upon request.Ē (Complaint Procedures for the Commission or its Accredited Institutions, p. 2)

While all colleges have grade appeal policies and waiver/variance policies for both graduate and undergraduate students, not all colleges have academic grievance policies, and there are no non-academic grievance policies either at the college or the university level. (See attached summaries.)

The multiple existing policies (27 currently) exist in various locations and can be difficult to find. Having a single easily accessible policy for all students in all colleges would provide consistency for the student, while at the same time allowing colleges to have variations in their processes.

The goals of this policy are:
1. To provide a single policy for both graduate and undergraduate students;
2. To provide a single university-wide policy incorporating and allowing current college policies and practices;
3. To provide easily accessible student complaint, waiver/variance, and appeal policy and procedures (i.e., to be more student-friendly);
4. To conform to SACS reaccreditation requirements.

Motion

GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY Policy and Procedures for Student Complaints, Petitions for Policy Waivers and Variances, and Appeals

I. PURPOSE AND APPLICABILITY

Georgia State University seeks to maintain the highest standards of integrity and fairness in its relationships with students. The Undergraduate Catalog and the Graduate Catalog (both found at http://www.gsu.edu/es/catalogs_courses.html), and the Student Code of Conduct (http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwdos/codeofconduct.html) set forth policies and requirements for Georgia State students. Students are expected to know and comply with these policies. Students may, however, seek relief or resolution when they believe that:

a. The application of these policies and procedures will create undue hardship for them or will not recognize their extraordinary or extenuating circumstances; or
b. Specific actions, practices, or decisions on academic or non-academic matters have been made or carried out in an arbitrary, discriminatory, or inequitable manner.

The procedures set forth below cover complaints, petitions, and appeals related to University-wide and college-based policies. Individual colleges or departments may have additional or more specific procedures that may also apply to complaints, petitions, and appeals. Students are referred to the office of the dean of the particular college for information about additional or more specific procedures that apply. In case of conflict among policies, this University policy takes precedence over College and Departmental policies.

The following policies include their own complaint, petition and waiver procedures. This policy may not be used in lieu of these policies.
1. Any policy for anyone other than a student to make a complaint, file a grievance, or request a waiver, such as policies that govern faculty and staff.
2. All policies in the student code of conduct
3. Hardship withdrawal policy
4. Admission, readmission, and exclusion policies
5. Discriminatory and sexual harassment policies
6. Disability policies
7. College of Law Honor Code
8. Student parking policy

The procedures set forth below are applicable to undergraduate and graduate students of the University.

All appeals under these procedures will be made based only on the written record. A studentís appeal under these procedures will be granted only if the student can prove by preponderance of evidence that a decision was arbitrary, discriminatory, or inequitable.

II. STUDENT COMPLAINTS ON ACADEMIC MATTERS

A. College-Level Academic Complaints

1. Final Course Grade Appeals a. Students are encouraged to discuss concerns and disputes over final course grades with the instructor prior to filing a formal grade appeal, in an effort to gain understanding about the basis of his/her grade. Instructors are encouraged to be available to students for such discussion regarding grades so that grade disputes, to the extent possible, are resolved informally. The Office of the Ombudsperson can provide assistance to students, instructors and administrators with resolving disputes informally through voluntary facilitated discussions, in an effort to bring resolution to the matter prior to the initiation of a formal complaint.

b. In situations where such informal resolution does not occur or is not successful, the student may appeal the final course grade to the Department Chair. The appeal must be in writing and describe the precise reason for the appeal. Any pertinent information must be submitted with the appeal in order to be considered in this or subsequent appeals. The appeal must be submitted within 10 business days of the beginning of the academic term (fall, spring, summer) that follows the term in which the final grade was submitted by the instructor. For example, if a student took an incomplete in a fall term course and completed the course works in the following spring semester, then an appeal of that grade must be submitted within 10 business days of the beginning of the summer term. The Department Chair will provide a decision in writing to the student, normally within 10 business days of the receipt of the complaint in the Department.

c. The student may appeal the decision of the Department Chair, as described in section 2-c through 2-e below.

2. Other College-Level Academic Complaints

a. Judgments on the suitability of academic decisions made within a college are most appropriately made by individuals with expertise in the particular academic discipline involved. For this reason, resolution of student complaints about college level academic decisions, actions, or practices is the responsibility of the department and college involved. Normally, such complaints can be resolved quickly and informally through discussion with the faculty member directly involved. The Office of the Ombudsperson can provide assistance to students, instructors and administrators with resolving disputes informally through voluntary facilitated discussions, in an effort to bring resolution to the matter prior to the initiation of a formal complaint.

b. In situations where such informal resolution does not occur or is not successful, the student may submit a formal complaint to the Chair of the appropriate academic department. The studentís complaint must be submitted in writing and be accompanied by pertinent documentation describing (a) the specific action, practice, or decision that is problematic; (b) the impact of that decision; (c) what resolution is being sought; (d) and why it should be granted. To promote prompt resolution, complaints must include current contact information and be submitted at the earliest possible time. Consideration will not be given to any complaint submitted later than the end of the term immediately following the term in which the matter in question arose. The Department Chair will provide a decision in writing to the student, normally within 10 business days of the receipt of the complaint in the Department.

c. The student may appeal the Department Chairís decision within 10 business days of being notified of the Chairís decision. Such appeal will be made, in writing, to the Dean of the College in which the Department is located. At the discretion of the Dean, an advisory panel may be appointed to review the written documentation and make a recommendation to the Dean. The Dean will issue a decision to the student in writing, normally within 10 business days of the receipt of the appeal.

d. The student may appeal the Deanís decision to the Provost, in writing, within 10 business days of being notified of the Deanís decision. The Provost will issue a decision to the student, in writing within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

e. The student may appeal the Provostís decision to the President, in writing, within 10 business days of being notified of the Provostís decision. The President will issue a decision to the student in writing within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

f. The student may appeal the Presidentís decision to the Board of Regents, in writing, within 20 business days of being notified of the Presidentís decision. Decisions regarding grades may not be appealed to the Board of Regents (BOR Policy 407.01).

B. University-Level Academic Complaints

1. Judgments on the suitability of academic decisions made at the University level are most appropriately made by individuals with expertise in the particular area. Normally, such complaints can be resolved quickly through discussion with the Academic Administrator directly involved. (See the University Organizational Chart at http://www.gsu.edu/administrative_organization.html.) Students can contact the Office of the Ombudsperson for assistance in preparing for discussion with academic administrators. The Office of the Ombudsperson can also provide assistance to students and academic administrators with resolving disputes informally through voluntary, facilitated discussions, in an effort to bring resolution to the matter prior to the initiation of a formal complaint.

2. In situations where such informal resolution does not occur or is not successful, the student may submit a formal complaint to the Associate Provost for Academic Programs. The studentís complaint must be submitted in writing, and be accompanied by pertinent documentation describing (a) the specific action, practice, or decision that is problematic; (b) the impact of that decision; (c) what resolution is being sought; and (d) why it should be granted. To promote prompt resolution, complaints must include current contact information and be submitted as early as possible, but no later than the end of the term immediately following the term in which the matter arose. The Associate Provost for Academic Programs will normally issue a decision to the student in writing, within 10 business days of receiving the complaint.

3. The student may appeal the Associate Provostís decision to the Provost within 10 business days of being notified of the decision. The Provost will respond in writing to the appeal within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

4. The student may appeal the Provostís decision to the President in writing within 10 business days of being notified of the Provostís decision. The President will respond in writing to the appeal within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

5. The student may appeal the Presidentís decision to the Board of Regents in writing within 20 business days of being notified of the Presidentís decision. Decisions regarding residency and the Guaranteed Tuition Plan may not be appealed to the Board of Regents (BOR Policy 407.01).

III. NON-ACADEMIC COMPLAINTS

1. Judgments on the suitability of non-academic decisions are most appropriately made by individuals with expertise in the particular area. Normally, such complaints can be resolved quickly through discussion with the Administrator in charge of the department making the decision. (See the University Organizational Chart at http://www.gsu.edu/administrative_organization.html.) Students can contact the Office of the Ombudsperson for assistance in preparing for discussion with non-academic administrators. The Office of the Ombudsperson can also provide assistance to students and non-academic administrators with resolving disputes informally through voluntary, facilitated discussions, in an effort to bring resolution to the matter prior to the initiation of a formal complaint.

2. In situations where such informal resolution does not occur or is not successful, the student may submit a formal complaint to the Vice President or Associate Provost who oversees the area. The studentís complaint must be submitted in writing, and be accompanied by pertinent documentation describing (a) the specific action, practice, or decision that is problematic; (b) the impact of that decision; (c) what resolution is being sought; and (d) why it should be granted. To promote prompt resolution, complaints must include current contact information and be submitted as early as possible, but no later than the end of the term immediately following the term in which the matter arose. The Vice President or Associate Provost will provide a decision to the student in writing, normally within 10 business days of the receipt of the complaint.

3. The student may appeal the Vice Presidentís or Associate Provostís decision to the Provost in writing within 10 business days of being notified of the decision. The Provost will respond in writing to the appeal within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

4. The student may appeal the Provostís decision to the President in writing within 10 business days of being notified of the Provostís decision. The President will respond in writing to the appeal within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

5. The student may appeal the Presidentís decision to the Board of Regents in writing within 20 business days of being notified of the Presidentís decision. Decisions regarding traffic citations may not be appealed to the Board of Regents (BOR Policy 407.01).

IV. STUDENT PETITIONS FOR ACADEMIC POLICY WAIVER or VARIANCE

A. College-Level Policy Waiver or Variance Petitions 1. Students may petition for a waiver or variance of a department-level or college-level policy. The appropriate College Office of Academic Assistance can provide the student with college policies and petition procedures.

2. The student must submit a petition, in writing, to the Office of Academic Assistance of the College which has made the policy in question. The petition must include the following: (a) the policy from which the student is seeking a waiver or variance, (b) the deviation being sought; and (c) the reason(s) why the exception should be granted. The Office of Academic Assistance representative will determine whether the petition needs to be addressed at the departmental or college level, and will forward the petition to the appropriate administrator who will notify the student of his or her decision.

3. The student may appeal the decision, in writing, following the procedures stated in Section II.A.2.c through f above, the College-Level Academic Complaint Policy and Procedures. If the original decision was rendered by a Department Chair, the appeal should be initiated at the level of the Dean; if the original decision was rendered by the Dean (or his or her designate), the appeal should be initiated at the level of the Provost.

B. University-Level Policy Waiver or Variance Petitions 1. Students may request a waiver or variance of a policy established by the University or the Board of Regents .

2. All requests for waivers or variances from university-level policies will be made based only on the written record.

3. The student must submit a petition for a waiver or variance in writing to the Academic Administrator in charge of the office that administers the policy in question. (These offices include the Dean of Students, Registrarís Office, Student Advisement Center, Undergraduate Admissions, and the Associate Provost for Academic Programs.) The petition must include the following: (a) The policy or requirement from which the student is requesting a waiver; (b) the deviation being sought; (c) the reason(s) why the exception should be granted; (d) a current copy of the studentís academic evaluation record; and (e) a current copy of the studentís Georgia State University transcripts, which should also include transcripts from any other college the student has attended.

4. The Academic Administrator will review the petition, attach additional documentation if necessary, and forward his or her recommendations in writing for action to the Committee on Admissions and Standards of the University Senate.

5. All petitions for a waiver or variance of a University-level policy are reviewed by a subcommittee of the Committee on Admissions and Standards. Petitions may be initiated, in writing, by students, faculty, or staff. Scholarship Appeals subcommittees will be composed of at least two faculty. Academic Regulations and Graduation Requirements Appeals subcommittees will be composed of at least three faculty. The subcommittee will make a recommendation to the Dean of Students. The decisions of the Dean of Students and all supporting documents will be distributed, as an information item, to every member of the Committee on Admissions and Standards. The Dean of Students will notify the student of the decision on the petition. Submission of petition documents does not guarantee that a waiver or variance will be granted.

6. The student, any member of the faculty of Georgia State University, or any member of the Committee on Admissions and Standards may appeal the decision of the Dean of Students to the Associate Provost for Academic Programs, in writing, within 10 business days from when the Dean of Studentsís decision is distributed to the student and to the Committee on Admissions and Standards.

7. The student may appeal the Associate Provostís decision to the Provost in writing within 10 business days of being notified of the decision. The Provost will respond in writing to the appeal within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

8. The student may appeal the Provostís decision to the President in writing within 10 business days of being notified of the Provostís decision. The President will respond in writing to the appeal within 20 business days of receiving the appeal.

9. The student may appeal the Presidentís decision to the Board of Regents in writing within 20 business days of being notified of the Presidentís decision.

V. DEADLINES

A. The University strives to resolve complaints and petitions by the deadlines established in this Policy. However, each situation is unique and may prevent the meeting of a deadline. Every effort will be made by the parties involved to minimize the delay and proceed through the processes outlined in this Procedure as close to the deadlines as possible.

B. All deadlines established in this Policy are stated in terms of business days. If a deadline falls on a weekend or scheduled holiday, the deadline will be the next scheduled workday of Georgia State University.

C. Students lose their right to continue to the next step of the procedures if they miss a stated or agreed-upon deadline.

VI. MEDIATION

Students who have filed formal complaints or petitions or those who have had formal complaints filed against them under Sections II A or B of this Policy (except for grade appeals) may request that the matter be submitted to mediation in an effort to achieve resolution. Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process whereby a neutral person facilitates discussion between the parties in a mutual attempt to reach resolution on the issues raised by the parties.

In the event mediation is agreed upon by both parties, the timelines under this policy shall be suspended until which time the mediation is completed. In the event that mediation results in agreement, the studentís complaint will be considered resolved. In the event that mediation does not result in resolution of the matter, the student may appeal to the next level of review under this policy.

Information derived from mediation discussion may not be used as the basis for higher levels of appeal, nor can the mediator be asked to provide information or make any decision at any level of the formal appeals process. Persons interested in mediation should contact the Office of the Ombudsperson.

GLOSSARY

POLICIES, PROCEDURES AND PRACTICES

Policy: A written statement (rule or principle) used to govern the actions of Georgia State Universityís employees, faculty, students, visitors, and others who come in contact with Georgia State University. For the purposes of this document, academic policies are those pertaining to scholarly programs (e.g., program degree requirements), or the studentsí progress through those programs (e.g., program prerequisites, financial aid, registration). Non-academic policies are those pertaining to functions that only indirectly support the studentsí academic endeavors (such as housing, recreation, or parking).

University-Level Student Policies: Policies established under the authority of the university and applied to all students in all colleges. These policies are implemented and enforced by central academic or administrative offices (for example, the Registrarís Office, the Student Financial Aid Office, or the University Library) .

College-Level Student Policies: Policies established under the authority of a college and applied to all students enrolled in courses or programs offered by that college: Andrew Young School of Policy Studies; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Education; College of Health and Human Sciences; College of Law; Robinson College of Business.

Procedure: A guideline that explains how policies are to be carried out or implemented; may or may not be in writing

Practice: A commonly accepted way or pattern of doing things; typically not in writing.

ARBITRARY, DISCRIMINATORY, INEQUITABLE

Arbitrary: In an unreasonable or capricious manner, in disregard of facts, or without determining principle.

Discriminatory: In a manner that is unfair or denies privileges to persons because of their race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.

Inequitable: In a manner that fails to treat similarly situated persons the same way.

COMPLAINTS , PETITIONS and APPEALS

Complaint: An objection to a decision, action or practice with a request that it be changed or reversed; a claim seeking remedy, relief, or resolution. Complaints may be against a decision or action that was based on either University-level or College-level policy.

Petition for Waiver or Variance: A request for a suspension ( waiver ) or modification (variance) of a particular policy which, if applied normally, would cause undue hardship for the individual

Waiver: An agreement that suspends a particular policy for an individual in a specific situation due to the special circumstances of that individual . ( When a waiver (o r suspension) of a policy is granted, the individual does not have to comply with some or all of the particular requirements set within that policy )

Variance: An agreement that modifies a particular policy for an individual in a specific situation due to the special circumstances of that individual . ( When a variance (modification) of a policy is granted, the individual must comply only with the modified requirements . )

Appeal: A request that a decision on a complaint or petition be reconsidered at a higher level in the University .

PEOPLE

Academic Administrator: The head of a centralized university office or department that has responsibility for academic-related student processes (such as the Registrarís Office, the Office of Admissions, the Student Financial Aid Office, the Office of Student Accounts, the Student Advisement Center); typically reports through an Associate Provost

Administrator in Charge: The head of a University office with responsibility for non-academic student processes (such as the Housing Office, the Office of Parking and Transportation, the Bookstore); typically reports through a Vice President.


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