13. Grievance Policy
Purpose & Scope
The Law School is committed to fostering and maintaining a community of mutual respect. The purpose of this Grievance Policy is to ensure that Law School students have a means and opportunity to resolve complaints alleging fundamentally unfair or other impermissible treatment. This policy applies only for those grievances not specifically addressed by any other Law School or University policy or procedure.
Who May Bring a Claim
The procedures set forth in this Grievance Policy may be used by grievants who: (a) are enrolled or registered at the Law School; (b) were enrolled at the Law School the immediately preceding term; (c) are on approved educational leave or other approved leave status; (d) are members of the University community but are taking a class or classes at the Law School; or (e) are participating in a Law School-sponsored educational event at the time of the incident being grieved. The person filing the grievance must be the alleged victim of unfair treatment; a person cannot file a grievance on behalf of another person.
What May Be Grieved
This procedure may only be used to resolve grievances regarding decisions or actions made by employees or agents of the Law School. The following claims may not be grieved:
- Claims unrelated to an employee or agent’s job or role at the Law School;
- Disciplinary decisions, since those decisions are covered by a separate Law School policy; and
- Complaints of unlawful harassment and/or discrimination, as those grievances are covered by a separate University Law School policy.
With the exception of grievances related to grades or other academic errors, the procedure outlined in this Grievance Policy must be initiated within 60 calendar days of the decision, action, or events giving rise to the grievance. If the 60th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a campus holiday, the time period will be extended to the following working day. This time limit may be extended by the Dean of Students or the Dean of the Law School if the grievant makes the request for extension within the 60-day period, provided the grievant can show good cause for the extension.
Informal Resolution Process
The Law School seeks to maintain a professional environment, and a core aspect of professionalism includes learning to resolve disagreements in a collegial and mature manner. For this reason, all students are expected to make a good faith effort to resolve any and all conflicts with faculty, staff, and administrators directly. Further, prior to filing a formal grievance pursuant to this policy, a student must first demonstrate that he or she has attempted to resolve the matter informally with the person responsible for the action or decision being grieved, and/or that person’s supervisor (or higher administrative authority), or both persons.
In the event that the grievance does not concern a specific employee, but rather a policy, procedure, or regulation, the student should contact the faculty or administrator responsible for implementing or enforcing the policy, procedure, or regulation.
The student may contact the Dean of Students for assistance with informal resolution. If a student believes that efforts at informal resolution may result in retaliation or other unfair treatment, the student should contact the Office of the Dean of Students. If the grievance relates to the Office of the Dean of Students, the grievant should contact the Deputy Dean of the Law School.
Attempts to resolve the matter informally should be completed within 60 days from the time at which the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the action the student seeks to grieve. Any student wishing to file a formal grievance must do so within the 60 day limit, regardless of the status of the informal process.
Formal Complaint Procedures
A student may file a formal written grievance for problems that cannot be resolved informally or if the student has received permission from the Office of the Dean of Students (or, in the event of a grievance related to the Office of the Dean of Students, the Deputy Dean of the Law School) to by-pass the informal resolution process.
A. Grade or Academic Grievances
Students with grievances based on grades or some other academic issue must submit a written request to the professor or faculty member describing in detail the nature of the grading or academic error, why the student believes an error occurred, and what the student believes is the correct grade. All grievances related to grades must be submitted within four weeks (20 working days) of the receipt of the course grade or evaluation.
Upon receipt of the grade or academic grievance, the professor shall review the student’s submission and the student’s exam and determine whether an error occurred. The professor shall then inform the student in writing as to the outcome of the student’s grievance (e.g., the grade will remain the same, the grade will be changed, etc.). The professor shall respond to a student’s grievance within 10 days from the receipt of the request, if practicable. The professor’s decision shall be final.
In the event that a student prefers to maintain his or her anonymity, the student may submit his or her grievance to the Office of the Dean of Students and the Dean of Students shall forward the grievance on to the professor.
B. Non-Grade Grievances
As with all other grievances, students with non-grade grievances must make every reasonable attempt to resolve the grievance informally. If, however, informal resolution is unsatisfactory and/or the time limit for filing a formal grievance is about to expire, the student should do the following:
- Complete the Grievance Form or a written document that includes all of the substantive areas set forth in the Form.
- Submit the Grievance Form to the Office of the Dean of Students (or, in the event of a grievance involving the Office of the Dean of Students, the Deputy Dean of the Law School) within 60 calendar days of the decision, action, or events giving rise to the grievance. If the 60th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a campus holiday, the time period will be extended to the following working day. This time limit may be extended by the Dean of Students, the Deputy Dean of the Law School, or the Dean of the Law School if the grievant makes the request for extension within the 60-day period, provided the grievant can show good cause for the extension.
- In the event that a grievance is deemed to be untimely, the Office of the Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School (in grievances involving the Office of the Dean of Students) shall dismiss the grievance and send a letter to the grievant specifying the reason for the dismissal.
- The Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School will review the grievance and conduct an investigation of the facts underlying the grievance. The investigation will include interviews of faculty and staff, if deemed appropriate within the discretion of the Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School. When weighing the merits of the grievance, the Dean of Students and/or the Deputy Dean of the Law School shall use a preponderance of the evidence standard.
- The Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School will inform the student and the Dean of the Law School, in writing, of the decision regarding the grievance. The Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School will strive to reach a decision within three weeks (15 working days) of receipt of the written grievance.
- If the issue cannot be resolved by the Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School, and/or if the student wishes to appeal the decision, the student may appeal to the Dean of the Law School. Any appeal of the Dean of Students’ or the Deputy Dean’s decision must be made in writing within 10 days of notice of the outcome of the investigation.
- The Dean of the Law School (or his or her designee) shall consider all pertinent materials and determine whether the student’s grievance has any merit. The Dean’s (or the Dean’s designee’s) decision is limited to deciding whether the decision or action being grieved was fundamentally unreasonable, arbitrary or unfair.
- The Dean and/or his or her designee may exercise discretion and request that the student and/or other witnesses appear before the Dean or his designee to answer questions or to present any new relevant information. In addition, the student also may request to appear before the Dean or his or her designee. In the event that the student appears before the Dean or his or her designee, the student shall be allowed to select an advisor for assistance. If the student elects to have an advisor present, the student must notify the Dean at least one full business day in advance of the student’s appearance before the Dean or his or her designee. Advisors are not advocates or active participants in the process and serve solely to support and advise the student.
- The Dean of the Law School and/or his designee will make a final decision and communicate that decision to the Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School. The Dean of Students or the Deputy Dean of the Law School shall convey the decision to the student in writing. The decision of the Dean of the Law School and/or his or her designee shall be final and unreviewable.