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Grievance Appeal Procedures – The Graduate School Manual

  1. Definition of Grievance
  2. Range of Committee Jurisdiction
  3. Conditions of Grievance to the Appeal Committee
  4. Initial Steps to the Formal Grievance Appeal Procedure
  5. Consideration of Formal Appeal
  6. Grievances emanating from units administered through The Graduate School
  7. Grievances in which the Vice Provost and Dean and/or Associate Dean of The Graduate School are primary parties
  8. Right to Final Appeal

According to the By-Laws of the Graduate Council, the Grievance Appeal Committee develops the grievance appeal procedures. This committee also advises the Vice Provost and Dean of The Graduate School or the Dean's designee on student and/or faculty grievances that properly involve the jurisdiction of The Graduate School and that are referred to the Vice Provost and Dean of The Graduate School, the Dean's designee, or the Graduate Council.

The following grievance appeal procedures address academic and programmatic problems involving graduate students; they are limited to grievances involving graduate students. They do not supersede or replace other policies, agreements and procedures on campus, including those described in the Handbook for Faculty and Professional Staff, Rules and Expectations, The Policies of the Board of Trustees, and the various negotiated agreements pertaining to the GSEU and other constituencies.

 

I. Definition of Grievance

A grievance involves cases in which one party believes another party has harmed him/her directly, and seeks some redress or resolution of a perceived unilateral harm. The scope of possible cases may include, but is not limited to, disagreements over course or program requirements, grading procedures, and funding offers. Interpersonal conflicts that do not affect a student's performance or grades are not considered grievable. Denial of admissions to a graduate program is not grievable. It is to be understood that all parties involved in grievances are held to the strictest standards of confidentiality throughout the process and after its conclusion.

While a grievance is pending in a graduate program, if the grievant fails to register for that semester, graduates, withdraws or is expelled from the University, the Graduate School – after petition by the graduate program - may allow that graduate program to dispense with the grievance. If the individual is severed by the graduate program or the Graduate School, a grievance will only be considered if filed within 10 business days of notice of severance. Business days are from Mondays through Fridays, excluding official holidays and university breaks/closings.


II. Range of Grievance Appeal Committee Jurisdiction

The committee will limit its consideration to grievances by or against graduate students and between graduate students and faculty and/or staff. The committee will determine the nature of the cases that come before it and reserves the right to refer a case to another, more appropriate, grievance procedure or to dismiss cases that it does not consider grievable and appealable. The committee will normally function as an appeals body for participants in a grievance, as a unit for assembling factual information, and as an advisory body to the Vice Provost and Dean of The Graduate School through channels.

Issues that are not within the domain of this committee:

  • Non-academic issues are handled by Judicial Affairs Office in the Division of Student Affairs
  • Harassment and discrimination issues  - Affirmative Action Office, Division of Administration
  • Research conduct (or misconduct) issues - Division of Research
  • Academic dishonesty by student (in course, thesis, dissertation) - Academic Honesty Committee of appropriate school or college at Binghamton.

Issues that are within the Graduate School's domain but not the purview of this committee:

  • Curriculum/program/exam requirements
  • GSEU (TA/GA) funding and work issues

III. Conditions of Grievance to the Appeal Committee

A grievance must initially be addressed at the level of the department or program, through the established grievance mechanisms of the unit, both informal and formal (Consult with the Department Chair or Graduate Director to learn more about the departmental procedures). Steps to mediate and resolve the complaint at the departmental level will normally have occurred before a formal grievance process is put into motion through The Graduate School.

An appeal to The Graduate School will ordinarily be based upon allegations of procedural problems or upon claimed new and pertinent information not known at the time of the hearing to the party who wishes to have it presented and therefore not available to the department/program committee at the time of its deliberations.

Grievants must be enrolled (registered) students.  Appeals will not be considered if the grievant has failed to register for that semester, graduated, withdrawn or been expelled from the University.

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IV. Initial Steps to the Formal Grievance Appeal Procedure

  • After an action is taken at the department or program level, appeals to The Graduate School may be made by either party to the grievance. The appeal must be in writing and no longer than two pages (single-spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt font, one inch margins). Evidentiary documents may be attached.
  • Appeals to The Graduate School must be filed with the Assistant Dean of The Graduate School within ten business days of official notification of an action or report at the department or program level. The Graduate School may extend this interim period under exceptional circumstances which will be determined at its discretion. The Assistant Dean may deny any appeal that he/she does not consider appealable. This review will be based on procedural problems or upon claimed new and pertinent information not known at the time of the hearing to the party who wishes to have it presented, and therefore not available to the departmental/program committee at the time of its deliberations.
  • If the Assistant Dean forwards the appeal to the committee, the first action on a case may be an informal attempt at mediation by the committee chair or an individual mediator designated by the committee. If such informal mediation fails to resolve the issues, the case will be considered by the entire committee in a formal hearing.
  • In cases resolved by the chair's mediation, a concluding statement will be prepared by the chair or designated mediator and signed by all the parties and the mediator. It will be filed with the Assistant Dean of The Graduate School. No other records of the case will be kept in the file without the signed mutual agreement of all parties.
  • If mediation efforts fail, a grievance appeal may be brought formally to the committee, and this must be made in writing. The Assistant Dean of The Graduate School will distribute copies of the grievance appeal within ten business days to the respondent, to all committee members, and to all parties initially involved in the case.  Each respondent may submit a written response. The response must be in writing and no longer than two pages (single-spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt font, one inch margins). Evidentiary documents may be attached.
  • Conflict of Interest: No member of the committee, including the Assistant Dean, Associate Dean or Dean of the Graduate School, shall participate in either the formal or informal action on a case emanating from his/her department or a case to which he/she or his/her spouse, partner, or relative is a party or which he/she has considered at another level; this shall also apply in those cases where such spouses, partners, or relatives serve as witnesses in a case. All conflicts of interest in any case shall be strictly avoided.
  • The grievant and the respondent have the right to challenge the impartiality of any member of the committee. The other members of the committee shall caucus and decide by secret ballot whether that member shall be disqualified for that hearing, providing that he/she has not already removed him/herself from the case.
  • The committee may choose whether to make its report and recommendation based upon the documents, or also hear testimony.

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V. Consideration of Formal Appeal

  1. Within ten business days of notification of the report at the department/program level, either party may appeal to the Graduate Council's Grievance Appeal Committee. The Graduate School's Grievance Appeal Procedures are outlined in The Graduate School Manual.
  2. The appeal must be written and include grounds for the appeal. Normally, the only grounds considered are failure of the department to follow its own procedures or the presentation of new evidence not available at the time of the department/division level hearing.
  3. An appeal will ordinarily be based upon allegations of procedural problems or upon claimed new and pertinent information not known at the time of the hearing to the party who wishes to have it presented, and therefore not available to the departmental/program committee at the time of its deliberations.
  4. All written statements submitted to the committee for its consideration in a case must be signed and dated.
  5. Reading files for each case brought to the committee shall be established with the Assistant Dean of The Graduate School in the Graduate Office. The files shall contain all written statements submitted to the committee, including the formal statement of grievance. The reading file may be examined by either party, but only in the presence of the Assistant Dean of The Graduate School or designee. While making notes is allowed, mechanical, photographic, or electronic copies of file material are not permitted.  
  6. The Grievance Appeal Committee chair will schedule its formal consideration of the appeal within 20 business days from receipt of the appeal.  The committee will decide whether to hear testimony from the parties, or rule based on documentation presented.
  7. If the committee chooses to hear testimony, whenever practicable, it must be done at a time that does not preclude the attendance of either party. Parties will be provided at least five business days' notice of the hearing date, whenever practicable.
  • Both parties are expected to accommodate the committee as much as possible so that the hearing can be scheduled in a timely way. Both parties must indicate, in a timely way, their attendance at the hearing, or that they voluntarily choose not to attend the hearing.
  • The grievant and the respondent each have the right to invite one person as an observer (who is present in a non-participating capacity) to the hearing. 
  • All parties to the grievance have the right to present evidence supporting their positions and to identify witnesses who can substantiate their claims. But the committee determines whether witnesses will testify or not. The committee may call witnesses if it feels that it cannot resolve the issue without that. Otherwise, there will be no witnesses presented or participating.
  • Both parties shall be present during the hearing and shall hear all testimony relating to the grievance from both sides. Disruptive behavior by the parties, the witnesses, or their advisors may result in removal from the proceedings after appropriate warnings by the chair of the committee. If either party is not present and there is reasonable doubt as to whether the notification of the hearing was received, the hearing must be postponed. A new hearing will be scheduled and notification shall again be sent to all parties. If either party is absent from a rescheduled hearing or if both are absent, the Committee may make a decision based on the merits of the case before them, or dismiss the case. In either instance, the case will then be considered closed.
  • Hearings are closed to the public unless the parties have a compelling reason to request an open hearing. Such requests must be received in writing by the Assistant Dean of The Graduate School a minimum of five business days in advance of the hearing. All parties participating in the hearing must agree in writing that the hearing will be an open one.
  • Hearings will be recorded on audio recording. The recording is for The Graduate School's records and will not be provided to the grievant or other parties. Written minutes will be made presenting all relevant details to accompany the recommendation to the Associate Dean of The Graduate School. The grievant may request a copy of the minutes of the hearing.
  • After the hearing, the committee will assess all the evidence and formulate a recommendation to be sent to the Associate Dean of The Graduate School. No one other than committee members shall be present during

8.   Within ten business days after the formal consideration of the appeal, the Grievance Committee will prepare a written report forwarding its recommendation to the Associate Dean of The Graduate School, who will review and act on the case. The Associate Dean of The Graduate School will convey a decision on the case in writing, with copies to the parties involved and to the Vice Provost and Dean of The Graduate School, within ten business days after receipt of the committee's report.

VI. Grievances emanating from units administered through The Graduate School

  1. As in III above, grievances must initially be addressed at the department or program level. When a department or program is administered through The Graduate School, it is the responsibility of the appropriate individual in the department/program to attempt to resolve the complaint through informal mediation.
  2. Should this mediation be unsuccessful, either party to the grievance may appeal to the committee, with notification of the appeal to the Assistant Dean of The Graduate School as noted in IV.2. above.
  3. Following notification to the Assistant Dean, Steps IV.3., 4., and 5. above apply, as do steps 6., 7., and 8.
  4. The committee shall follow all the steps outlined under V. above as it conducts the formal hearing, with notification to the Associate Dean at the conclusion of the committee's deliberations. The Associate Dean will convey a decision as in V.14. above.

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VII. Grievances in which the Vice Provost and Dean and/or Associate Dean of The Graduate School are primary parties

In the event that the Vice Provost and Dean and/or the Associate Dean of The Graduate School are primary parties to a grievance, then the responsibility for the conduct of the grievance hearing, as described above, shall fall to the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

VIII. Right to Final Appeal

It shall be the responsibility of the Associate Dean of The Graduate School to inform the grievant, at the same time as the decision in the case is conveyed, of the possibility of a final appeal to the Vice Provost & Dean of The Graduate School within ten business days of the issuance of the Associate Dean's decision. The appeal must be in writing and no longer than two pages (single-spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt font, one inch margins). It must be submitted as hardcopy (not email). Evidentiary documents may be attached, if they specifically address the issues below. This appeal will ordinarily be based upon allegations of abrogation of due process by the Graduate School (or its Grievance Committee) or upon claimed new and pertinent information not known at the time of the formal consideration of appeal by the Graduate School (or its Grievance Committee) to the party who wishes to have it presented, and therefore not available to the Graduate School or its Committee at the time of its deliberations. Upon being presented with the committee's report, the Associate Dean's decision, and the written claim of abrogation of due process and/or such new information, the Vice Provost & Dean will, within twenty business days, make a final decision on the matter. There will be no further recourse after the Vice Provost & Dean's decision.

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Last Updated: 3/28/13