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Student Compliant Procedures for Academic Issues

An academic complaint is defined as a problem with a course that is related to a student's program of study. Grounds for Academic Complaints include:

  1. The grade for an assignment or for a course was recorded incorrectly.
  2. The faculty member did not provide clear criteria upon which a grade would be evaluated.
  3. The assignment of a final grade lower than that earned by another student enrolled in the same class whose recorded academic performance (all grades for course requirements and assignments) was the exactly the same as the student receiving the lower grade.
  4. The assignment of a final grade in a course by a faculty member based upon performance measure(s) other than the criteria provided by the faculty member on the course syllabus for calculating the final grade in that course.
  5. The number of absences recorded by the faculty member was incorrect, and based upon the number of recorded absences the student received a failing grade as stipulated in the course syllabus.
  6. A student believes that he or she received a prejudiced academic evaluation for expressing a reasoned opinion or idea different from that of the instructor.

A. INFORMAL PROCEDURE

A student who has a complaint is first expected to try resolving the complaint informally. The student should discuss his or her problem with the faculty member involved and try to reach a mutually agreeable solution within the first thirty (30) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods after the problem occurred. If the student is not comfortable talking with the faculty member involved, the student may skip to the Mediation Process or the Formal Procedure as described below. Complaints submitted more than forty (40) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods after the problem occurred will not be considered. Upon notification of a complaint by the student, the faculty member must meet with the student to discuss the complaint within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. Should the issue not be mutually resolved, the student will have the option to seek mediation (Step 2 below) or advance to the formal procedure (Step 3 below) within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. A complaint resolved through the Informal Procedure is not considered an official written complaint for the purpose of federal complaint tracking requirements.  Should the student elect to advance to the Formal Procedure, she or he will waive the option to seek Mediation at a later date.

B. MEDIATION (OPTIONAL )

If all reasonable informal efforts to resolve the complaint fail, the student is encouraged, but not required to choose the mediation process. Mediation is an informal process that involves a neutral third party who will assist in resolving the problem. The objective of this process is to come to an agreement that is fair and meets the needs of the parties involved. This process is confidential and private. Mediation does not waive the rights of any aggrieved party to seek resolution of his or her complaint through GSW complaint procedure.

Steps for Mediation:

  1. The student chooses one mediator from a list of certified mediators available from Director of Human Resources. Both parties must be agreeable to mediating the complaint.
  2. The mediator will set up a time for the student and faculty member to meet. This meeting will take place within ten (10) days after the mediator is chosen, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods.
  3. At the time of the meeting, the mediator will assist the two parties in finding a mutually agreeable and fair solution to the conflict. The mediator may offer suggestions, but cannot impose a solution.
  4. If the student is not satisfied with the outcome of mediation, he or she can file a complaint through the Formal Procedure.
  5. Both parties involved in the complaint would sign the statement acknowledging their understanding of what processes occurred during Step 2.
  6. The mediator has the option to request written materials from all parties involved in the issue for the purpose of clarifying the issue(s).
  7. A complaint resolved through Mediation is not considered an official written complaint for the purpose of federal complaint tracking requirements.

FORMAL PROCEDURE

  1. A formal complaint must be filed within ten (10) days from the time of the conclusion of the Informal Procedure, if Mediation is not pursued, or the conclusion of Mediation, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. Waiver of time limits (or extension) may be approved by mutual consent of the student and faculty member involved.
  2. The student must submit a formal letter of complaint in hard copy to the appropriate Department Chair.  Formal written complaints must be submitted in hard copy, and delivered by hand, by campus mail, or by US Mail. Students in online programs may submit formal written complaints in hard copy by US Mail or by fax. A waiver of time limits may be approved by mutual consent of the student and the faculty or staff member involved. For the purposes of this procedure, an e-mail message is not considered a formal letter of complaint. The formal letter of complaint should include a return address to which the chair will direct her of his written decision. In academic units that do not have department chairs, a student begins the formal process by submitting a formal letter of complaint in hard copy to the dean of the appropriate school.
  3. The Department Chair will investigate the complaint and may interview the student for clarification. After the investigation, he or she may either grant or deny the redress sought, or provide alternate remedies. The written decision of the Department Chair will be issued no later than ten (10) days following receipt of the formal letter of complaint, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods.
  4. If the Department Chair's decision is not satisfactory to the student, the student has ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods to appeal the decision by submitting a formal letter of complaint in hardcopy to the dean of the appropriate school. The formal letter of complaint should include a return address to which the dean will direct her of his written decision. Upon receipt of the formal letter of complaint, the Dean will review the facts of the complaint and may conduct further inquiry. The Dean has ten (10) days, , excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods after receipt of the formal letter of complaint to notify the student of his or her decision in writing.
  5. If the Dean does not render a decision satisfactory to the student, the student may file a formal letter of complaint to the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) within ten (10) days of the Dean's decision, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. The formal letter of complaint should include a return address to which the VPAA will direct her of his written decision. The VPAA will review the facts of the complaint and may conduct a further inquiry. The VPAA has ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods after receipt of the formal letter of complaint to notify the student in writing of his or her decision.
  6. If the VPAA does not render a decision satisfactory to the student, the student may submit a formal letter of complaint in hard copy to the President of the University within ten (10) days of the VPAA’s decision, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. The formal letter of complaint should include a return address to which the President will direct her of his written decision.
  7. The President, upon receipt of the formal appeal, will submit the complaint to the Committee on Academic Complaints within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods for consideration.
  8. The following rules will apply:
    • The committee shall hear the case and forward its recommendations to the President.
    • The hearing will be conducted by the Committee on Academic Complaints in an informal and expeditious manner.
    • The Committee will be provided with all prior relevant documents from both sides and may request additional information or seek further witnesses.
    • Only committee members, parties to the action and their advisors (drawn from among the student, faculty, and staff of the University) and witnesses testifying before the Committee shall be permitted in the hearing.
    • At the hearing, the complainant, the faculty member, and witnesses for each party may testify, and may be questioned by committee members and the student’s advisor.
    • The Committee is empowered to rule on procedural matters and relevance of witnesses or evidence.
    • All hearings will begin within ten (10) days from the time the Committee receives the complaint from the President, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods.
    • A tape recording or other record of the hearing shall be preserved for reference and review until the case has been finally resolved.
  9. The Committee shall arrive at a decision after all evidence has been heard and the parties have been dismissed. Only committee members who have been present for the entire hearing may vote on the case.
  10. A majority vote of qualified members shall constitute a judgment.
  11. Upon receipt of the Committee's recommendations, the President of the University shall render a final decision within ten (10) class days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods, and may amend a recommendation according to his or her best judgment.
  12. If the student receives an unfavorable decision from the President of the university, she or he may submit an appeal to the Board of Regents. See Board of Regents Policy 4.7: http://www.usg.edu/policymanual/section4/policy/C333.

Student Complaint Procedures for Non-Academic Issues

A student may have a complaint about a problem that occurs outside of the classroom or is not related to a student's program of study. Examples of such complaints are:

  1. A student who receives a fine for mutilating Georgia Southwestern State University library material, by allegedly tearing out an article from periodical, states that she obtained the material from a hometown friend.
  2. The meal plan exemption request of a student, who believes that he has health problems which will be complicated by eating on campus, is denied.
  3. The request for a replacement ID card by a student, who reports that his Georgia Southwestern State University ID card was destroyed by a residence hall washing machine, is denied.
  4. A request by a president of a Georgia Southwestern State University recognized student organization for the use of a university facility for a social event is denied.

A. INFORMAL PROCEDURE

A student who has a complaint is first expected to try resolving the complaint informally. The student should discuss his or her problem with the faculty or staff member involved and try to reach a mutually agreeable solution within the thirty (30) days of when the problem occurred, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. Complaints submitted more than forty (40) days after the problem occurred, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods will not be considered. Upon notification of a complaint by the student, the faculty or staff member must meet with the student to discuss the complaint within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. Should the complaint not be mutually resolved, the student will have advance to the formal complaint procedure within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. A complaint resolved through the Informal Procedure is not considered an official written complaint for the purpose of federal complaint tracking requirements.

B. FORMAL PROCEDURE

  1. A formal written complaint in hard copy must be filed within ten (10) from the conclusion of the Informal Procedure, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods. Formal written complaints must be submitted in hard copy, and delivered by hand, by campus mail, or by US Mail. Students in online programs may submit formal written complaints in hard copy by US Mail or by fax. A waiver of time limits may be approved by mutual consent of the student and the faculty or staff member involved. For the purposes of this procedure, an e-mail message is not considered a formal letter of complaint.
  2. The student must submit a formal letter of complaint in hard copy to the appropriate Unit Head. For the purposes of this procedure, an e-mail message is not considered a formal letter of complaint. The formal letter of complaint should include a return address to which the head will direct her of his written decision.
  3. The Unit Head will investigate the complaint and may interview the student for clarification. After the investigation, he or she may either grant or deny the redress sought by the student, or provide alternate remedies. The written decision of the Unit Head must be issued within ten (10) days following receipt of the formal letter of complaint, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods.
  4. If the Unit Head's decision is not satisfactory to the student, the student has ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods to submit a formal letter of complaint in hard copy to the Vice President to whom the Unit Head reports. The formal letter of complaint should include a return address to which the chair will direct her of his written decision. The Vice President will review the facts of the complaint and may conduct further inquiry. The Vice President has ten (10) days after receipt of the formal letter of complaint, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods to notify the student in writing of his or her decision.
  5. If the Vice President does not render a decision satisfactory to the student, the student may file a formal letter of complaint in hard copy to the President of the University within ten (10) days of the decision of the Vice President, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods.
  6. The President, upon receipt of a formal letter of complaint, will submit the complaint to the Committee on Non-Academic Grievances for consideration.
  7. The following rules will apply:
    • The committee shall hear the case and forward its recommendations to the President.
    • The hearing will be conducted by the Committee on Non-Academic Grievances in an informal and expeditious manner.
    • The Committee will be provided with all prior relevant documents from both sides and may request additional information or seek further witnesses.
    • Only committee members, parties to the action and their advisers (drawn from among the student, faculty, and staff of the University), and witnesses testifying before the Committee shall be permitted in the hearing.
    • At the hearing, the complainant, the defendant, and witnesses for each party may testify, and may be questioned by committee members. The student and faculty or staff involved, may ask questions only through the Committee, who will decide whether the questions are appropriate.
    • The Committee is empowered to rule on procedural matters and relevance of witnesses or evidence.
    • All hearings will begin within ten (10) days from the time the Committee receives the complaint from the President, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods.
    • A tape recording or other record of the hearing shall be preserved for reference and review until the complaint has been finally resolved.
    • The Committee shall arrive at a decision after all evidence has been heard and the parties have been dismissed. Only committee members who have been present for the entire hearing may vote on the case.
    • A majority vote of qualified members shall constitute a judgment.
    • Upon receipt of the Committee's recommendations, the President of the University shall render a final decision within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods, and may amend a recommendation according to his or her best judgment.

C. PROCEDURES FOR GRIEVANCE HEARINGS

  1. Members - The Committee on Non-Academic Grievances shall consist of two (2) faculty members, two (2) students, one (1) staff member and one member of the faculty or administration to serve as moderator for the committee. This moderator will have no vote in decisions made by the committee unless there is a tie in which case the moderator may cast the deciding vote. The faculty members will be selected by the President of the University and will also select an alternate faculty, staff, and student member. This selection will take place during the first two weeks of Fall Semester each academic year. Alternate members will serve only in the absence of the regular member, and will serve for the complete hearing of a complaint. The regular appointee will not hear any part of a complaint for which the alternate is serving.
  2. Conflict of Interest - In the event of any conflict of interest or possible conflict of interest among any of the committee members, or if any committee member is a faculty member, student, or administrator from the same department as the complainant or the person against whom the complaint is filed, the alternate member(s) shall serve in the place of the person(s) having conflict. In the event that there are no further members on the committee, the President of the University shall appoint the replacement(s) as needed. This replacement shall be appointed within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods.
  3. Related Grievances - In the event that identical or closely related complaints are separately submitted by two or more students, these complaints may be consolidated and considered as one by the same committee, provided these complaints are received within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods of the first complaint and provided that the person against whom the complaint is filed approves.
  4. Recommendations - The committee shall recommend action to the President of the University within (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods after they conclude their deliberations. The President shall respond to the student in writing within ten (10) days, excluding weekends, university holidays, and break periods of the President's receipt of the recommendation from the appropriate committee. Time lines may be adjusted by mutual consent of the student and faculty or staff member involved.

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