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13.1 Purpose & Scope

The Law School is committed to fostering and maintaining a community of mutual respect, robust education, and research.  The purpose of this Grievance Policy is to ensure that Law School students have a means and opportunity to resolve complaints alleging an Abuse of Authority. This policy does not apply to matters specifically addressed by any other Law School or University policy or procedure. 

This policy also offers options for resolution through informal means and information about offices and individuals who can support students in resolving conflicts or addressing concerns. Informal resolution is available to all students and should be the first recourse for addressing all conflicts, concerns, or complaints.

In extraordinary circumstances, students may request that a grievance case be handled by the Office of the Provost. If a student wishes a grievance case to be handled by the Provost’s Office, they must provide supporting rationale for why their case cannot be fairly heard within the Law School. Please consult the University Grievance Policy for Graduate Students for more information. 

Who May Bring a Claim

The procedures set forth in this Grievance Policy may be used by students who

  • are enrolled at the Law School; 
  • are on an approved leave of absence. 

The person filing the grievance must be the alleged victim of unfair treatment; a person cannot file a grievance on behalf of another person.

If a Law School student has a potential grievance alleging abuse of authority by someone outside of the Law School, the student should follow the Law School Grievance Policy.

What May Be Grieved

The formal grievance procedure may only be used to resolve complaints alleging Abuse of Authority by faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, or staff. 

Definition of Abuse of Authority: Abuse of Authority is the arbitrary or capricious exercise of authority for purposes inconsistent with the University’s educational and research mission. Expression occurring in an academic, educational or research context is considered a special case and is broadly protected by academic freedom. Such expression will not constitute Abuse of Authority unless (in addition to satisfying the above definition) it is targeted at a specific person or persons and serves no bona fide academic purpose.

Not Abuse of Authority Potential Abuse of Authority
A student receives a lower-than-expected score on an exam. A student has been assisting one of their instructors by running personal errands. During this time, they have received high grades and positive feedback on coursework. After informing the instructor that they can no longer assist with these errands, the student receives an atypically low score on an exam.
An instructor disagrees with a claim made by a student during class and corrects the student in front of the entire class. An instructor responds to a student’s comment in class by calling the student stupid and commenting that they should not have been admitted to the PhD program.
A student emails a faculty adviser requesting feedback on a dissertation draft and doesn’t receive an immediate response. Over the course of several months, a faculty adviser does not respond to continued attempts by a student to get feedback on dissertation work. The chronic lack of communication and feedback causes the student to fall behind on progress towards degree.

The following claims may not be grieved:

Complaints involving a question of academic fraud (e.g. plagiarism; fabrication or falsification of evidence, data, or results; the suppression of relevant evidence or data; the conscious misrepresentation of sources; the theft of ideas; or the intentional misappropriation of the research work or data of others) should also be brought forward in accordance with procedures established in the University’s Policy on Academic Fraud.

There is no time limit on filing a grievance, though a grievance may only be filed by persons who meet the eligibility described above to file a grievance. Students are encouraged to file a grievance as soon as is practicable as it maximizes the University’s ability to respond promptly and effectively. Delayed reporting often results in the loss of relevant information or documentation, and/or in faded and unreliable memories; it also impairs the University’s ability to interview individuals with knowledge of the case, assess information, and, if appropriate, review and resolve complaints.

Statement of Non-Retaliation

All members of the community should be able to bring forward conflicts, concerns, and possible grievances in a respectful environment and are expected to do so in good faith. The University prohibits retaliation against any person who exercises any rights or responsibilities under this policy. Any act of retaliation may be a separate violation of this policy.