The College of Education defines a legitimate grievance as a circumstance that can be substantiated and is regarded by the student as a just cause for complaint. A grievance can be relevant to any incident involving a classroom instructor, faculty advisor, internship supervisor, administrator or faculty member in the College of Education. A grievance is a claim that an academic action or decision involved alleged unfair or irresponsible behavior including violations of department, College or University policies. The College of Education and University have established procedures beginning at the department level for settling academic grievances.
Because assigning a grade or evaluating a student's work performance involves the faculty's professional judgment and is an integral part of the faculty's teaching responsibilities, disagreement with an instructor concerning a grade or evaluation is not a justifiable grievance to be considered under this policy unless other legitimate grievances, such as arithmetic errors or bias, are believed to have affected that grade or evaluation.
Procedures Used to Initiate Grievance:
Step 1: Informal Processes
The College encourages students to make every effort to resolve their problems and concerns directly and informally with the faculty members or other involved parties. The student must request, in an email, a meeting with the party(ies) involved within 30 class days (class days do not include official University-approved holidays) of the point of time when the grievant has knowledge or should have had knowledge of the problem being grieved. The meeting should take place within 10 class days from the reception of the student’s email. If appropriate or necessary the Department Chair shall participate in the informal effort to resolve the grievance. In some cases the student may wish to discuss the problem initially with the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies; however, contacting the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies does not serve as a substitute for meeting with the party(ies) involved within 30 class days. If appropriate, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies will initiate an informal discussion among the involved parties to attempt resolution at the informal stage.
Step 2: Formal Procedures at the Department Level
If informal discussions do not result in a resolution of the problem, the student may initiate the formal grievance procedure by submitting a written complaint appropriate to the nature of the complaint. A formal complaint must be filed using the College of Education Student Grievance Form and must be submitted within 10 class days after the decision is made that the grievance cannot be settled informally. Should the department chair be named in the grievance, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies will appoint a faculty member in the department to conduct the departmental grievance process. The department chair or Associate Dean will utilize existing departmental grievance procedures and will inform the student of a decision within 15 class days. A copy of the Departmental Student Grievance Report will be filed in the department and will be forwarded to the College if the decision is appealed to the level.
The student may also initiate the grievance procedure by submitting the College of Education Student Grievance Form to the College instead of the department. A decision will be made by the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies whether to refer the problem to the department for resolution or to proceed with the grievance process at the higher level.
Step 3: Formal Procedures at the College Level
If, after utilizing the procedures outlined in Step 2, the student’s problem is not resolved, the student has a right to file a grievance at the College level within 15 class days following the decision rendered by the department chairperson. The Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies will appoint an ad hoc panel to conduct a hearing. The ad hoc panel will consist of five members, two of whom are students. The ad hoc panel will be selected from a pool of faculty and students in the standing Student Grievance Committee appointed by the Associate Dean which consists of at least eight faculty members and at least twelve students. A faculty member will serve as chair (appointed by the Associate Dean) of the ad hoc panel and will conduct the hearing according to the Guidelines for the Conduct of Student Grievance Hearings. After the hearing, the ad hoc panel will meet in closed session to determine its recommendations. The recommendations of the ad hoc panel will be forwarded to the Dean of the College by the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. The Dean or Designee will inform the student of the College’s decision. If either party intends to have legal counsel attend the hearing, the departmental hearing officer must be notified at least three class days before the hearing. The hearing cannot be held with such counsel in attendance unless a representative from University of Houston legal counsel is also present. If either party will be advised by legal counsel, the legal counsel may attend the hearing but shall not directly participate in the hearing or enter into discussion with the parties present.
COLLEGE GUIDELINES FOR CONDUCT OF FORMAL STUDENT GRIEVANCE HEARINGS AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL
Step 4: Appeal of the College’s Decision
If the student does not find the decision rendered by the College satisfactory, the student should consult with the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for information regarding further grievance procedures that may be followed at the University level.
- A copy of the Student Grievance Form filed by the student will be forwarded to the department(s) and parties involved by the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies.
- Within ten (10) class days of receipt of the student’s grievance form, the department(s) will submit any prior responses to the student’s complaint, a list of any witnesses it anticipates involving in the hearing, and copies of any documents to be used at the hearing. Similarly, within ten (10) class days of filing the grievance form, the student will submit a list of any witnesses and copies of any documents the student anticipates involving in the hearing. Each party will receive a copy of the materials and list of witnesses submitted by the other party.
- An ad hoc panel will be appointed by the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. The panel members will be selected from the pool of members on the College Student Grievance Committee and will consist of five members, three of which will be students. One of the faculty members will be appointed to serve as chair of the grievance panel. The department(s) and the student will be notified of the membership of the panel within five (5) class days of receipt of the student’s grievance form. Either party has five (5) class days to request that panel member(s) be disqualified for bias. The Associate Dean will consider such requests and make a final decision regarding membership of the panel.
- The Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies will forward all materials to the hearing panel and will schedule an evidentiary hearing within twenty (20) class days of receipt of all written information. All parties involved will be notified as to date, time, and location of the hearing.
- The chair of the grievance panel will serve as hearing officer and conduct the hearing utilizing the following format:
- The petitioner and the respondent will each provide a brief opening statement.
- Each party will make a presentation of position and evidence, beginning with the petitioner. Witnesses may be called at this time. Questioning will be restricted to members of the hearing panel and the hearing officer. Questions by the involved parties to the witnesses will be addressed through the hearing officer.
- Each party will have the opportunity for rebuttal during which additional evidence may be introduced to refute points made by the other party.
- Each party will make a brief summary statement. If either party will be advised by legal counsel, this individual may attend the hearing but shall not directly participate in the hearing or enter into discussion with the parties present.
- Attendance at evidentiary hearings is limited to the hearing officer, panel members, the petitioner, the legal counsel, the respondent, and their respective witnesses. Witnesses may be present only during their own testimony.
- Attendance at evidentiary hearings is limited to individuals who can be physically present. Phone and videoconferencing are not options for individuals to attend a hearing.
- After the hearing the panel will meet in closed session to determine its recommendations that will be forwarded to the Dean or Dean’s Designee. The written recommendations will include a finding of fact regarding the incident and application of College or University policy. The Dean or Dean’s Designee will inform all parties of a decision within five (5) class days after the hearing.
- If either party intends to have legal counsel attend the hearing, the departmental hearing officer must be notified at least three class days before the hearing. The hearing cannot be held with such counsel in attendance unless a representative from University of Houston legal counsel is also present. If either party will be advised by legal counsel, this individual may attend the hearing but shall not directly participate in the hearing or enter into discussion with the parties present.
Class days, for purposes of this policy, are defined as days the University of Houston is open and classes are meeting (excluding weekends) as posted in the academic calendar, excluding professional colleges and programs.