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Student Grievance Procedures

The University of Cincinnati Graduate Grievance Procedures provide an opportunity for the resolution of disputes involving graduate students in a fair and collegial manner and within the department if possible. Students are encouraged to seek assistance from the University Ombuds Office for possible resolution before initiating the formal grievance process. The Graduate School also provides some conflict resolution resources that students, faculty and staff may use.

These Graduate Student Grievance Procedures supersede all former Graduate Student Grievance Procedures. They do not supplant the University of Cincinnati Student Code of Conduct.

In the interest of fairness, grievances shall not proceed during the summer months unless all involved parties agree to proceed during the summer. Grievance procedures and timetables will be suspended on the last day of spring semester and resume on the first day of fall semester. Grievances filed after the end of spring semester will be held until the beginning of the fall semester.

Applicability

These procedures are applicable to any of the following types of grievances by graduate students who matriculated in any graduate program at the University of Cincinnati, with the exception of the MD, PharmD and JD programs:

  • grievances alleging improper dismissal or suspension from a graduate program;
  • grievances alleging the improper withholding or termination of financial support of any kind;
  • grievances alleging any other improper treatment, either substantive or procedural, of a graduate student by a faculty member or university agency except:
    • allegations of improper evaluation of the quality and/or quantity of academic work;
    • allegations of unfair recommendation for employment or further graduate study;
    • allegations of discriminatory treatment arising from the student complainant’s age, race, gender, sexual preference, handicap, national origin or religion. (Allegations of discrimination or sexual harassment are handled by the UC Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.)

Withdrawal of Grievance

A grievant may withdraw his or her grievance from further consideration at any time by submitting a written request to the administrator with whom the grievance was originally filed. No reason needs to be given for such a request. Upon receipt of a request to withdraw the grievance, the administrator will notify all involved parties and administrators in writing that the grievance has been withdrawn and that the grievance process is terminated.

Definitions and Assumptions

Burden of Persuasion: The grievant (the person who made the complaint) is responsible for providing the evidence to back up his or her complaint.

GRC: Grievance Review Committee.

Participants: Anyone involved in a grievance situation may submit a challenge claiming that a facilitator or committee member is biased or somehow involved in the complaint and is therefore not disinterested. The challenge must be submitted in writing to the appointing administrator within two (2) days after notification of the facilitator or committee member's appointment. The challenge must specify the reasons that would prevent the person from being unbiased in this case. If the challenge is determined to be valid by the appointing administrator, a substitute appointment will be made and the process will continue.


Party: A party is an individual grievant (the person who made the complaint) or the individual or unit grieved against (the person or the unit that is the subject of the complaint).

Rules: At all levels of review, unless stated otherwise, the committees and individuals defined in the guidelines below have the freedom to create their own rules of procedure, as long as those rules meet requirements of fundamental fairness.


Time Limits: Time limits are calculated during working days of the fall and spring semesters. Exam weeks and university holidays do not count toward the time limit. Grievances originally filed after the end of the spring semester will be heard at the beginning of the following fall semester. For example, a grievance filed after the end of the spring 2014 semester will be heard at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester.
Any stated time limit may be extended with the prior written consent of the grievant (the person who made the complaint) and appointing administrator.

Unit: Program, department or other administrative unit within a college.

Process Overview

1. Grievance Filing

The student files a written grievance on Form A. This must be done within 90 days of the alleged improper treatment.

2. Conference Review

Each grievance begins with a mediation process. A facilitator is appointed within 10 working days of receipt of Form A. The facilitator holds a Conference Review which may continue for up to 15 working days after his or her appointment. If not resolved, go to Step 3: Fact-Finding.

3. Fact-finding

A Grievance Review Committee (GRC) is appointed within 30 working days of receipt of Conference Review statement.

4. Decision

The GRC issues a report to the appointing administrator within 30 working days of appointment. The administrator renders a decision within 10 working days. If the grievant is dissatisfied, go to Step 5: First Appeal.

5. First Appeal

The grievant may appeal the decision within 10 working days of notification of decision. An Appeal Committee is appointed within 10 working days of the appeal. The Appeal Committee meets within 10 working days of its appointment. A written decision is issued within 10 working days of meeting. If the decision is at the College Dean level and the grievant is dissatisfied, go to Step 6: Second Appeal.

6. Second Appeal

The grievant may appeal the College Dean’s decision within 10 working days of notification of the first appeal decision. No second appeal may be filed if the Dean of the Graduate School made a decision on first appeal. The Dean of the Graduate School’s decision is final.
OR
A second Appeal Committee may be appointed in unusual circumstances at the discretion of the Dean of the Graduate School.

Grievance Steps

Step 1. Grievance Filing

A graduate student who believes he or she has valid grounds for a grievance applicable to the situations described under Applicability earlier in this document should submit a written and signed grievance on Form A within 90 days of the alleged improper treatment, specifying allegations and identifying the individual(s) grieved against. Grievances should be submitted to the appointing administrator as follows:

Level 1 - to the unit head for grievances against a faculty member, committee, or an agency associated only with that unit.

Level 2 - to the College Dean for grievances against a unit head, faculty members in two or more units of that college, or a college-wide agency.

Level 3 - to the Dean of the Graduate School for grievances against faculty members in two or more colleges, a university-wide agency, or a College Dean. Copies of Form A must be sent by the appointing administrator, to the dean responsible for the unit(s) and college involved, and to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Step 2. Conference Review

Every grievance must be discussed in a Conference Review process. It may not proceed unless this stage has been completed.

A. A disinterested facilitator to conduct the review is appointed and identified to all parties in writing (on Form B*) within 10 working days of receipt of Form A.

Level 1 – The unit head is the appointing administrator who appoints the disinterested facilitator from the unit or college. If the unit head determines that a disinterested facilitator is not available in the unit or college, he/she must document the reasons in a request to the college dean to process the grievance at the next level.

Level 2 – The dean appoints a disinterested facilitator (from within unit if possible, otherwise from within college) to conduct the review.

Level 3 – The Dean of the Graduate School appoints a disinterested facilitator (who may be anyone who holds faculty rank in the university) to conduct the review.

B. The facilitator meets with the parties individually or together (at the discretion of the facilitator) to attempt to arrive at a resolution which is agreeable to all parties (Form C,* Conference Review Checklist). This review may continue for up to 15 working days after the facilitator is appointed. 

C. If the grievance is resolved by the Conference Review: The facilitator sends a resolution form (Form D*) signed by all parties to all involved parties, including the Dean of the Graduate School. No written records shall be retained by the facilitator. Original documents must be returned to their source, to another site as agreed in the signed resolution, or to the appointing administrator. All other notes must be destroyed.

D. If the grievance is not resolved by the Conference Review, the facilitator sends a notice (Form E*) that the grievance was not resolved to all involved parties, including the Dean of the Graduate School. No written records shall be retained by the facilitator. Original documents must be returned to their source, to another site as agreed in the signed resolution, or to the appointing administrator. All other notes must be destroyed.

E. Grievances that are not resolved by the Conference Review proceed to Step 3: Fact-Finding and Step 4: Decision.

Under no circumstances may the facilitator be involved in any other stage of the grievance procedures in any capacity.

Step 3. Fact Finding

A. A Grievance Review Committee (GRC), composed of 3 disinterested faculty members and 2 disinterested graduate students, is appointed within 30 working days of receipt of the Conference Review Non-resolution Form (Form E*). The appointing administrator must inform all parties of the committee appointments in writing on Form F within the 30 working days.

Level 1 - The unit head is the appointing administrator who appoints the GRC from the unit or college. If the unit head determines that a disinterested panel is not available in the unit or college, he/she must document the reasons in a request to the college dean to process the grievance at the next level.

Level 2 – The College Dean is the appointing administrator who appoints the GRC from the unit or college. If the College Dean determines that a disinterested panel is not available in the unit or college, he/she must document the reasons in a request to the Dean of the Graduate School to process the grievance at the next level.

Level 3 – The Dean of the Graduate School is the appointing administrator who appoints the GRC from throughout the university.

B. The GRC must provide all parties the opportunity to present written and oral information relevant to the grievance to the GRC. (See the Grievance Review Committee Instructions on Form G*.) The GRC may also request information from other sources. Copies of all written information and summaries of pertinent oral information provided to the GRC must be provided to all parties.

C.
The GRC must issue a report (Form H*) to the appointing administrator within 30 working days of the committee’s appointment. The GRC may request a specified extension of time from the appointing administrator, with documented rationale. Extensions may be granted only in unusual circumstances when, at the discretion of the appointing administrator, they are necessary to ensure fairness. The appointing administrator notifies all parties in writing of his or her decision.

The report must contain:

  • a statement of committee procedures,
  • a summary of relevant information, including but not limited to documentation of all written and oral information presented to the GRC,
  • relevant university rules and policies, and
  • recommendations and the rationale on which those recommendations are based.

Step 4. Decision

Within 10 working days of receipt of the GRC report (Form H*), the appointing administrator:

Renders a decision in writing to all parties and all involved administrators, with a copy of the GRC report attached 
OR 
Notifies all parties and all involved administrators that additional information is being requested from the GRC.

If additional information is requested, the GRC must issue an addendum report as requested within 10 working days of the request for additional information and the appointing administrator renders a decision within 10 working days of receipt of the addendum report.

Appeal Process

Step 5. First Appeal

The grievant may appeal the decision of the Appointing Administrator on the grounds that correct procedure was not followed or on the grounds that the decision was based on errors in fact. No other grounds for appeal are recognized. The grievant must specify the grounds for the appeal.

A. The appeal must be submitted in writing within 10 working days of the date of the notification of the decision of the Appointing Administrator, and copies must be simultaneously sent to all parties and involved administrators.

  • Appeal of a decision by a unit head is to the college dean.
  • Appeal of a decision by a college dean is to the Dean of the Graduate School.

B. Any other party may submit a brief rebuttal to the appeal addressing only the alleged errors within 10 working days of the date of the appeal.

No additional substantive information may be submitted by any party, and the recommendation and decision must be based upon the written record established in the Grievance Review, Fact-Finding and Decision processes. In extraordinary circumstances, and only when new information is available that was unavailable during the Fact-Finding to the party submitting it, new written information may be accepted on appeal at the discretion of the Appeal Committee or Dean of the Graduate School as appropriate.

C. Within 10 working days of receipt of an appeal the college dean or Dean of the Graduate School (as appropriate)

  1. appoints an Appeal Committee consisting of two (2) disinterested faculty and one (1) disinterested graduate student from the college or university, respectively, to review the record and appeal, and
  2. provides them with a copy of the appeal and the Appeal Committee Instructions (Form I*). 

D. Within 30 working days of appointment, the Appeal Committee submits a written recommendation to the College Dean or Dean of the Graduate School (Form H*).

E. Within 10 working days from receipt of the Appeal Committee recommendation, the college dean or Dean of the Graduate School issues a written decision to all parties and involved administrators.

F. The decision of the Dean of the Graduate School is final. Decisions by a college dean may be appealed to the Dean of the Graduate School (see Step 6: Second Appeal).

Step 6. Second Appeal

Appeal decisions by a college dean may be appealed to the Dean of the Graduate School.

A. The appeal must be submitted in writing within 10 working days of the date of the notification of the decision, and copies must be simultaneously sent to all parties and involved administrators. An appeal must specify the grounds for the appeal and/or all alleged errors occurring during the preceding process.

B. Any other party may submit a brief rebuttal to the appeal addressing only the alleged errors within 10 working days of the date of the appeal. No additional substantive information may be submitted by any party, and the recommendation and decision must be based upon the written record established in the Grievance Review, Fact-Finding, Decision and First Appeal processes. In extraordinary circumstances, and only when new information is available that was unavailable during the Fact-Finding to the party submitting it, new written information may be accepted on appeal at the discretion of the Dean of the Graduate School.

C. Within 10 working days of receipt of an appeal, the Dean of the Graduate School:

Renders a final decision and issues it in writing to all parties and involved administrators
OR
Appoints a new Appeal Committee consisting of two (2) disinterested faculty and one (1) disinterested graduate student from the university to review the record and the appeal. A second Appeal Committee may be appointed only in unusual circumstances at the discretion of the Dean of the Graduate School.

Within 30 working days of appointment, the Appeal Committee submits a written recommendation to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Within 10 working days from receipt of the Appeal Committee recommendation, the Dean of the Graduate School issues a written decision to all parties and involved administrators.

D. The decision of the Dean of the Graduate School is final.
 

*These forms are for administrative use only.