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Graduate Student Grievance Procedures

From Brown University, Faculty Rules and Regulations, Part 4, Section 11, IIA
Adopted by the Faculty on November 6, 2018

Sections:

Scope
Grievance Procedure – Program Level
Grievance Procedure – Graduate School Level
Definitions and General Provisions

Graduate Student Grievance Procedures

1. Scope

a. The Graduate Student Grievance Procedure is one of several processes available to graduate students alleging inappropriate treatment. Normally, if another process exists to address the specific issue in question, that process should be used: those processes include, but are not limited to, the Title IX process, the Student Conduct process, and the Discrimination and Harassment Policy Incident Reporting process. This Graduate Student Grievance Procedure should be used when none of the more specialized processes is appropriate, as in, for example, a case of alleged inappropriate application of program requirements or concerns about advising. Within this context, the process can be used by graduate students pursuing concerns with other graduate students, faculty, or academic units, such as departments. In cases involving a staff member, the student may need to contact University Human Resources. In cases where it is unclear which process applies, the student should consult with the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the Graduate School.

b. Students are encouraged, when possible and appropriate, to attempt to resolve the difficulty through discussion with the other person or persons involved. The student is also encouraged to consult with the program’s Director of Graduate Study or, particularly if the Director of Graduate Study is an involved party, with the relevant Department Chair, with the aim of securing clarification and advice. Other senior faculty are likely to be valuable sources of clarification and advice. Graduate students should also consider conferring with the Ombudsperson, a dean from the relevant academic unit, and other campus resources.

c. Matters pertaining to both potential and actual grievance cases should be handled with sensitivity and appropriate privacy. All individuals involved in committees reviewing grievances are expected to maintain the privacy of a student’s education record in accordance with the University’s FERPA Policy. Committee members and parties should conduct themselves in an even-handed and constructive manner, without intimidation or retaliation.

d. The remedies and sanctions available through this process are determined by the authority of the relevant level of review, specifically the graduate program, the academic department, and the Graduate School. For this reason, the body hearing the grievance may, as it judges appropriate, consult with relevant other offices at the University, such as the Office of the Dean of the Faculty or University Human Resources.

2. Grievance Procedure – Program Level

a. If no satisfactory resolution is achieved through direct discussion (if any), the student has the option of pursuing a formal grievance.

b. If the matter falls under a single graduate program and the student wishes to file a formal grievance, the student shall file a written complaint, via email or hard copy, with the Director of Graduate Study, with a copy sent by the complainant to the Dean of the Graduate School. If the Director of Graduate Study is an involved party and the graduate program falls under a single department, the complaint should be filed with the Department Chair, with a copy sent by the complainant to the Dean of the Graduate School. If (a) the Chair is also an involved party, (b) if the Director of Graduate Study is an involved party and the graduate program does not reside in a single department, or (c) if the matter does not fall under a single graduate program, then the complaint should be submitted directly to the Graduate School pursuant to the requirements of section 3 below.

c. The complaint shall include a clear statement of the grievance, evidence in support of the claim, indication of any previous efforts to address the problem, and the proposed resolution.

d. The recipient of the written complaint, whether the Director of Graduate Study or the Chair, shall (1) forward a copy of the complaint to the respondent and (2) within 10 business days, provide to the student a written, preliminary response that outlines the process going forward.

e. The program-level procedure shall be as follows:

  • i. The Director of Graduate Study or Department Chair, within 15 business days after receiving a complaint, shall refer it to a committee of review.
  • ii. The committee of review shall be named by the Director of Graduate Study or Chair and must include the Chair (unless he or she is an involved party), at least two other faculty members, and at least one graduate student member; when evaluation of the quality of academic work is required, the student member or members shall be non-voting. Particularly in cases involving small programs, members of the committee may be drawn from other departments or programs. The total number of voting members of the committee should be an odd number. In cases where the graduate program does not fall under a single department, the role of the Chair in sections ii-v shall be fulfilled by the Director of Graduate Study (unless he or she is an involved party, in which case the complaint should have been directed directly to the Graduate School; see 2.b., above).
  • iii. As expeditiously as possible (and in no more than 30 business days), this committee of review shall hear the student and respondent, consider the relevant evidence, confer with other persons concerned in the discretion of the committee of review, and prepare a report of findings. This report shall include a summary of the process as well as the determination regarding the grievance and shall be shared with the complainant and respondent(s). Committee decisions shall be made by simple majority vote of the members. It shall be the Director of Graduate Study’s or Chair’s duty to carry out the directions of the Committee for the resolution of the grievance. Thus, within 45 business days of the initial filing of the complaint, the student shall receive a written response to the complaint. In exceptional circumstances, the student may be notified that more time is required to reach a determination; but the expectation is that the program should arrive at an outcome within the 45 business-day period. This finding, along with relevant documentation, shall be forwarded to the Graduate School.
  • iv. If a student’s record is to be discussed in the presence of people other than officials of the University, the student must supply such authorization and take such steps as are necessary to satisfy the provisions of the University’s FERPA Policy and any other University policy or procedure. If the matter involves discussion of a student’s educational record and the student declines to sign the waiver, no student shall serve on the Committee.
  • v. A student who believes that any procedure outlined in this section has not been carried out within a reasonable period of time may appeal to the Dean of the Graduate School for a determination of this allegation.

3. Grievance Procedure – Graduate School Level

a. If a complainant or respondent (1) seeks to appeal the finding at the program level or (2) contends that the process above is not being followed, he or she must, within 20 business days of issuance of the finding, file a written appeal with the Dean of the Graduate School. This appeal must include the materials from the program-level process as well as an explanation of the basis for the appeal. If (a) the Director of Graduate Study and Chair are involved parties, (b) if the Director of Graduate Study is an involved party and the graduate program does not reside in a single department, or (c) if the matter does not fall under a single graduate program, then the complaint can be submitted to the Graduate School without having previously gone through the program-level process.

b. In cases where the matter concerns evaluations of the quality of academic work, Graduate School processes shall defer to the professional judgments of faculty of the graduate program. In such cases, the Graduate School review of the appeal will consider whether policies and procedures were consistently followed.

c. Upon receipt of the complaint, the Dean of the Graduate School shall establish an ad hoc committee to review the grievance. This ad hoc committee shall consist of one faculty member from the same academic division as the student filing the complaint (who shall serve as chair), one student from the same division, one faculty member from another division, one student from another division, and one associate dean from the Graduate School. No member of this ad hoc committee shall have a conflict of interest with any of the parties in the dispute.

d. Once the ad hoc committee is established, the Dean of the Graduate School shall inform the student and other involved parties of the membership of the committee. This notification shall be sent within 25 business days of the receipt of the complaint.

e. The ad hoc committee is expected to review all submitted materials and to consult with relevant parties. The ad hoc committee shall issue its finding within 45 business days of the student’s being notified of the formation of the committee. In exceptional circumstances, the student may be notified that more time is required; but the expectation is that the program should arrive at an outcome finding within the 45 business-day period. Decisions shall be by simple vote of the majority and shall be taken in closed session; they shall be made known in writing to the involved parties by the chair of the committee as soon as possible after a decision has been reached.

f. If a complainant or respondent seeks to appeal the decision of the ad hoc committee, he or she may appeal this decision to the Dean of the Graduate School. That appeal must be submitted in writing within 10 business days of the ad hoc committee’s decision. The Dean of the Graduate School will notify the parties of the outcome of the appeal within 45 business days of its receipt.

g. If a complainant or respondent seeks to appeal the decision of the Dean of the Graduate School, he or she may appeal this decision to the Provost of the University. That appeal must be submitted in writing within 10 business days of the decision by the Dean of the Graduate School.

4. Definitions and General Provisions

a. Whenever the word “Department” is employed herein, it shall be understood to include Divisions and Programs where applicable.

b. Whenever the word “Chair” is employed herein, it shall be understood to include Divisional Deans and Program Directors where applicable.

c. When a complaint is made in a department which by reason of insufficient number of available Faculty finds that it cannot carry on the described procedure, this circumstance shall be made known to the Dean of the Graduate School, who shall devise a special procedure for hearing the complaint, following as closely as practicable the model of the regular procedure. The special procedure may involve the ad hoc enlistment of faculty members from other departments or from the Graduate Council.

d. For the purposes of section 3.c., a conflict of interest shall be understood to mean involved in previous stages of the grievance process, being an advisor or mentor of any of the parties in the dispute, or having a significant personal or professional relationship with an invo