Grievance Policy for Graduate Studies

 

Graduate Student Grievance Procedures

 

Fairmont State University provides a uniform method by which graduate students can pursue, formally or informally, claims of arbitrary and capricious treatment in their academic careers. This method covers such concerns as grade grievances; discrimination allegations in educational programs or activities; academic standing (probation, suspension, or dismissal); and inequitable treatment by a faculty member because of graduate student participation in assessment procedures, a previous grievance procedure, or taking reasoned exception to views expressed in the academic forum.  Disciplinary matters are not included.

 

1.0              Grade Dispute Policy

It is the policy of Fairmont State that graduate students are responsible for fulfilling prescribed course objectives, completing stated course assignments, and adhering to stated academic standards for each course in which they are enrolled. It is the responsibility of the classroom instructor to evaluate each graduate student’s work and to assign a grade, which is a fair and valid measure of the graduate student’s achievement in the course. In the event of a dispute over an assigned grade, the graduate student will document in writing the rationale for the grade dispute. The graduate student must provide a copy of his or her perception of the dispute to the instructor and the Program Director. It will then become part of the permanent record concerning the dispute. This document must be signed and the date of the transmittal to the instructor and the Graduate Program Director noted on the document.

1.1       Instructor and Graduate Program Director Level

1.1.a.      The graduate student and the instructor will meet to attempt resolution of the disputed grade. If the instructor is not accessible for any reason (e.g., prolonged illness, no longer at Fairmont State), the graduate student may continue the process as noted in this policy by first meeting with the Graduate Program Director.

1.1.b.      If the matter is not resolved, the graduate student and the instructor will then meet with the Graduate Program Director, who will act as a facilitator, to determine if resolution is possible.

1.1.c.       These steps must take place within fifteen (15) working days from the date the graduate student knew or should reasonably have known about the alleged unfair grade. The timing of the resolution of a disputed grade is very important to graduate students for a variety of reasons, so faculty should make every effort to meet with graduate students to discuss disputed grades as early in the process as is possible. If the dispute cannot be resolved informally, faculty must continue to be available as much as is feasible to assist in the resolution of the dispute.

1.2              Academic Dean Level

1.2.a.      If the issue is not resolved informally at the Graduate Program Director level, within five (5) working days of the Graduate Program Director meeting, the graduate student shall schedule a meeting with the appropriate academic Dean and will provide, in writing, the rationale for the grade dispute. The academic Dean or designee will attempt to effect reconciliation between the two parties within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the graduate student’s written rationale for the grade dispute. Pertinent documentation provided by the instructor, the graduate student, and the Graduate Program Director shall form the basis for discussion at this stage.

1.2.b.      Notice and documentation of the decision of the Academic Dean shall be sent to the graduate student by certified mail. 

1.3              Grade Grievance Committee

1.3.a.      If the matter is still unresolved within five (5) working days after the meeting with the Academic Dean or designee, the graduate student may pursue the matter with the Associate Provost. The Associate Provost will convene a grade grievance committee and provide the committee with the student’s written grievance to determine whether a formal hearing is warranted. If the grade grievance committee determines a formal hearing is warranted, a date and time will be set for the hearing.

1.3.b.      The grievance committee may also determine that a formal hearing is not necessary and provide a written recommendation to the Associate Provost. The recommendation shall be submitted within five (5) working days after the initial meeting of the grade grievance committee.

1.3.c.       Formal Hearing Process

1.3.c.i                 The grade grievance committee shall be composed of two graduate faculty members appointed by the Graduate Studies Council, two graduate students appointed by the Associate Provost, and two administrators appointed by the University President or his/her designee.

1.3.c.ii               A chairperson shall be elected from and by the membership and shall have the right to vote. The Associate Provost shall serve as an ex-officio member of the committee with the right to vote only in the case of deadlock. In those instances where discrimination is alleged in connection with the grade dispute, the university’s affirmative action officer shall also serve as an ex-officio member of the committee without vote.

1.3.c.iii             A majority of the committee membership must be present for all meetings of the committee.

1.3.c.iv             Every effort will be made by the Associate Provost to schedule a grade grievance hearing at a time that is mutually convenient to the instructor and graduate student. However, this may not always be possible. The Associate Provost will set the schedule for the meeting after careful consideration of the personal schedules of the parties involved. A hearing will not be set for a time when either the instructor or the graduate student has a class scheduled at Fairmont State. One continuance is permitted if unforeseen events make one or the other party’s attendance impossible. Thereafter, a new date for the hearing will be set, and the committee will be convened despite the absence of one or both of the parties to the dispute.

1.3.c.v               If any committee member has a direct personal or professional relationship with any individual(s) involved in a particular case, that committee member may disqualify him/herself from serving on the committee while the case is being heard. Further, if a charge of bias is raised by an individual, the contested committee member may disqualify him/herself from committee deliberations. Failing voluntary action in either situation, the committee itself must reach a decision as to the continuance of the individual so questioned. If a member is disqualified, another individual from the same constituency shall be appointed to serve in his/her place.

1.3.c.vi             The grade grievance committee shall at the conclusion of a formal hearing have prepared a written recommendation to the Associate Provost. The recommendation shall be submitted within five (5) working days after the formal hearing.

1.4              Provost

1.4.a.      Within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the recommendation of the grade grievance committee from the Associate Provost, the Provost will take action and shall notify all parties in the grievance of the decision and action taken. This action shall be considered final.

 

2.0              Graduate Student Complaint Procedure

If a graduate student has a grievance against a member of the faculty or professional staff, other than a grade grievance (See Section 1 above) or a claim of sexual harassment (See the Fairmont State University Student Handbook), the graduate student shall take the following steps:

2.1              Instructor and Graduate Program Director Level

2.1.a.      The graduate student and faculty/professional staff member will meet to attempt resolution of the complaint.  If the faculty/professional staff member is not accessible for any reason (e.g., prolonged illness, on leave, refuses to meet with student), or if the graduate student fears reprisal, the student may initiate the process by first meeting with the Graduate Program Director, or the Dean of the appropriate academic unit.

2.1.b.      If the matter is not resolved, the graduate student and the instructor will then meet with the Graduate Program Director, who will act as a facilitator, to determine if an informal resolution is possible.

2.1.c.       In any case, if the matter is not resolved informally, the graduate student must notify (in writing) the faculty/professional staff member and the Graduate Program Director within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date the graduate student knew or should reasonably have known about the matter.

2.1.d.      If the student wishes to pursue the matter immediately, the Graduate Program Director must schedule a meeting between the faculty/professional staff member and the aggrieved graduate student within fifteen (15) working days after being contacted by the graduate student. The graduate student and faculty/professional staff member will be informed in writing by the Graduate Program Director of the outcome of the meeting.

2.1.e.      If the graduate student wishes to delay pursuing the matter until the semester is over, the Graduate Program Director must schedule a meeting between the faculty/professional staff member and the aggrieved graduate student within fifteen (15) working days of the next semester. The student and faculty/professional staff member will be informed in writing by the Graduate Program Director of the outcome of the meeting.

2.1.f.        If the grievance is against the Graduate Program Director, the graduate student may begin the complaint process at the academic Dean level.

2.2              Academic Dean Level

2.2.a.      If the issue is not resolved at the Graduate Program Director level, within five (5) working days of the Graduate Program Director meeting, the graduate student shall schedule a meeting with the appropriate academic Dean and will provide, in writing, the rationale for the complaint.

2.2.b.      The Academic Dean will convene a meeting to attempt to effect reconciliation between the two parties within fifteen (15) calendar days of receiving the graduate student’s written rationale for the grievance. Pertinent documentation provided by the faculty/professional staff member and/or the graduate student shall form the basis of the discussion at this stage.

2.2.c.       The Academic Dean will render a written decision to the Provost and the parties to the grievance within fifteen (15) working days of the Dean level meeting.

2.3              Provost

2.3.a.      Within fifteen (15) working days of receiving the decision of the Dean, the Provost will take action and shall notify all parties in the grievance of the decision and action taken. This action shall be considered final

3.0              Notes:

3.1              This process does not apply to graduate students’ personal preferences regarding the faculty/professional staff members’ physical appearance, personal values, sexual orientation, or the right to academic freedom or the freedom of expression.

3.2              In all grievance matters, to the extent possible, the graduate student will be responsible for documentation of his/her allegations.

3.3              To insure the protection of the parties’ privacy, the process and all documentation will be completely confidential.

3.4              The faculty/professional staff member being complained about is expected to attend all meetings set up to resolve the complaint.

3.5              All graduate students, graduate faculty, professional staff, Graduate Program Directors, and Deans are expected to follow the steps in this policy.

3.6              If a Graduate Program Director, Dean, the Associate Provost, the Provost or the President of the university receives a letter of complaint about a faculty or professional staff member from a student, he/she will forward the letter to the individual being complained about and inform the student that the complaint process must begin with an attempt to resolve the problem with the faculty/professional staff member, and that the above complaint procedure must be followed.