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Federal Requirement 4.5

NOTE: Please be advised that some information may not be available from within the SACS 2010 Accreditation Report website as links and content may have moved since the report was created. Contact information may have also changed. 

Overview

Federal Requirement 4.5 The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints.

 

_x____ Compliance _____ Partial Compliance _____ Non-compliance

 

Judgment of Compliance

 

GC is in compliance with this standard and can demonstrate through the narrative and documentation that it has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and implements them consistently.

 

Explanation

 

GC maintains complaint and grievance policies and implements them consistently. At GC, written student complaints and grievances may be submitted for a variety of concerns.  For the purposes of this document, these concerns are divided into four categories: 1) Academic Grievances or Appeals, 2) Non-Academic Grievances or Appeals, and 3) Harassment or Discrimination Complaints.  In addition, GC receives a variety of academic petitions, non-academic petitions, and disciplinary appeals, which are not interpreted as complaints, but as a means to appeal or seek exceptions to established and fairly administered policies.  The following examples illustrate the ways GC implements the policies.

 

An academic grievance or appeal is defined as "an allegation by a student of substantial and/or unjustified deviation, to the student's detriment, from policies, procedures and/or requirements regarding admission, grading policies, special agreements, instructor's requirements and academic requirements of the University" (GC Undergraduate and Graduate Catalog; Academic Policies; Academic Grievances and Appeals).  Procedures for filing an academic grievance or appeal are provided in the Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs.  In these matters, the student submits a written grievance to the academic or administrative official responsible for the action that forms the basis of the appeal or to his or her supervisor.  The respondent then meets with the student or responds in writing, as requested by the student.  If the student finds the results of that interaction unsatisfactory, he or she has the right to appeal in writing to the respondent's supervisor, up to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, whose decision is final on behalf of the University.  Each response must take place within ten days of the respondent's receipt of the complaint.  The following cases illustrate how these grievances are handled:

 

       A student appeals a grade earned in a class because she believes the attendance policy in the course was administered unfairly and adversely affected her final grade.  The student submits a written appeal to the instructor of the course.  The instructor responds in writing and declines to change the grade.  The student then appeals to the instructor's department chair.  The department chair also denies the appeal.  The student has the right to appeal to the dean, and then, if the desired outcome is not achieved, to the Provost, but she decides not to do so.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 1.

 

       Students collectively file a complaint with a department chair regarding the lack of timely feedback on assignments from an instructor in the department.  In this case, the department chair and coordinator for that curricular area decide to meet separately with the students who filed the complaint and the faculty member in question.  Documentation of those interactions and follow-up with the students is maintained and filed in the department office, and the results of those interactions provide the students with a satisfactory outcome.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 2.

 

A non-academic grievance or appeal is defined as "an allegation by a student concerning (1) a University employee, (2) administrative policies, procedures, regulations or requirements of the University, (3) student employment, or (4) a University program, service or activity" (Undergraduate and Graduate Catalog; Academic Policies; Non-Academic Grievances and Appeals).  Procedures for filing a non-academic grievance or appeal are addressed in the GC Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs (Academic Policies; Non-Academic Grievances and Appeals) and in the Student Handbook.  These grievances may be addressed to departments in written form and are typically submitted to the individual whose action forms the basis for the grievance, although, in instances of serious infractions, the student may file a grievance directly with the individual's supervisor or dean.  Examples of complaints in this category range from customer service related concerns to issues of unfairness in the administration of University policy.  The Student Government Association, the Office of Counseling Services, and the Office of Student Affairs are available as resources for students when filing this type of complaint.  The following cases illustrate how these grievances and appeals are handled:

 

       A student receives what he believes to be poor customer service from a campus office, and sends an email to that department's supervisor detailing the interactions and asking for assistance.  The supervisor responds with an offer of assistance and asks for more information so she can follow-up on the complaint.  The student provides that information, and later submits a follow-up email explaining that the situation has been resolved and thanking the supervisor for her assistance. Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 3.

 

       A campus organization was denied their request for priority registration through the campus's priority registration review process.  The captain of the organization requests a meeting with the University Registrar, who chairs that process.  During that meeting, the priority registration policy is reviewed, and the organization proposes reasons why the decision is unfair.  After the meeting, the additional evidence presented by the group is reviewed and investigated, and the decision to deny the group priority registration is upheld.  The group has the option to appeal to the Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management, but chooses not to do so.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 4.

 

A harassment or discrimination complaint is defined as any complaint filed under the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1972, or any federal laws or policies related to harassment of any kind.  These complaints are placed in a different category than a non-academic grievance or appeal because of the potential impact of the action, and the legal rights and ramifications to those involved.  Harassment and non-discrimination policies are posted on the University's web site, and in the Student Handbook.  Georgia College aligns its policies with the policies of the University System of Georgia, whose policies are also available online.   The following examples illustrate how these complaints are handled.

 

       A student files a sexual harassment complaint by submitting a letter of grievance to the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, in accordance with the University's Sexual Harassment Policy.  Because this request is filed after the ten day reporting period, the student also requests permission from the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students for an extension of the reporting period, and this request is approved.  The student then meets with the Director of Institutional Equity, who begins a formal investigation into the complaint.  The investigation includes online interviews with other students, and consultation with the faculty member's supervisor and the University's legal advisor.  The investigation results in a formal reprimand to the faculty member, which is written by his dean.  The student is later informed of the outcome during a personal meeting with the Director of Institutional Equity.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 5.

 

       During a pre-matriculation visit to campus, a student with a documented physical disability finds that the accommodations available in her residence hall room will not sufficiently address her needs.  She files a written request with the Director of Disability Services for additional accommodations to be made to her room.  The Director of Disability Services consults with vocational rehabilitation professionals regarding the requested adjustments, works collaboratively with University Housing and Facilities to make required changes to the student's room, and monitors and documents the process to ensure ADA compliance. The Directory of Disability Services communicates throughout the process with the student, and the student expresses satisfaction with the changes after move-in.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 6.


Academic petitions are requests that seek an exception to academic policy that has been established by the faculty of the University.  These petitions are not filed to report a specific grievance or issue of unfairness, but "to remedy undue hardship and specific inequities that may adversely affect the student's ability to fulfill the academic requirements of the University" (GC Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs; Academic Policies: Petitions).  Academic petitions may also be used "to secure approval of special agreements between faculty and students on academic matters and to provide for emergency situations caused by unforeseen complications in fulfilling academic requirements" (GC Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs; Academic Policies: Petitions).  Procedures for filing an academic petition are included in the Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs (GC Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs; Academic Policies; Petitions).  A petition form is required for these requests.  The routing process is based on the type of petition and the level of review required.  In the case of policies specific to a certain major or minor program, the department chair's approval is the highest approval required.  In the case of appeals concerning the core curriculum or campus-wide academic policy, the student's dean's approval is required, along with subsequent review by the Registrar to ensure that granting the petition violates no University System policies.  Forms to facilitate the processing of such petitions are available online and in the offices of appropriate colleges, schools, and departments.  The following cases illustrate how these appeals are handled:

 

       A student who was placed on academic dismissal petitions to remain enrolled.  The petition and supporting documentation are submitted to the student's advisor, the student's department chair, and the student's dean.  After all parties have approved the request, it is then forwarded to the Registrar, who also reviews the petition since it involves an exemption to campus-wide policy.  After approval by the Registrar, the petition is posted to the student's records, and all parties, including the student, receive copies of the approved petition from the Registrar's Office.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 7.  

      

         A graduate student petitions for entry into a graduate program prior to completing a required writing examination.  The petition is approved by the student's advisor, department chair, and dean.  Because this instance involves policy relating to graduate admissions, the request is forwarded to the Graduate Office for processing, and all parties, including the student, receive copies of the approved petition form from the Graduate Office.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 8.

 

Non-academic petitions are defined as those appeals on matters that do not directly impact a student's academic work or progress.  These petitions are not filed to report a specific grievance or issue of unfairness, but to request an exception to policy, generally as a result of a student hardship or extraordinary circumstance. The process for filing these types of petitions is outlined in the Student Handbook, Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs, and/or the University web site.  In most cases, specific forms are also required for these types of petitions to ensure that all necessary information is submitted; each form is referenced in the appropriate policy.  The routing process is based on the type of petition, and the level of review required by the specific policy.  Such appeals could originate from a wide variety of circumstances, including parking fines, in-state residency status, housing fines, and financial aid.  The following cases illustrate how these appeals are handled:

 

       A student is denied federal financial aid for failure to meet the incremental progress requirement.  She appeals the decision by petitioning to the Director of Financial Aid, who convenes a committee to review the request.  After the request is approved with a set of stipulations, the Director of Financial Aid informs the student of the decision and the stipulations in writing.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 9.

       A student who is classified as an out-of-state student appeals for in-state residency status by submitting the Petition for Georgia Residence Classification, along with supporting documentation, to the Office of Admissions.  The appeal is reviewed by directors from three different areas, and, in accordance with University System of Georgia policy, a decision is made by the majority vote of those three members.  The petition is denied.  The student is notified of the decision in a written letter from the Director of Admissions.  The student later submits a new request for residency, and the second petition is denied.  The student is also notified of the decision in a written letter from the Director of Admissions, and the student chooses to appeal the decision to the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, who convenes an appeals committee to review the request.  The original decision is upheld.  The Vice President of Student Affairs provides a response to both the student and the Director of Admissions.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 10.  

 

Disciplinary appeals are appeals of Student Conduct Board decisions regarding disciplinary actions regarding violations of the Student Conduct Code.  These types of appeals may also result from disciplinary sanctions that are given through University Housing, and may be appealed to the Student Conduct Board as the first step in the appeals process.  Students filing this type of appeal must submit a letter in writing to the appellate authority, who is, in most cases, the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students.   The Vice President of Student Affairs convenes a review committee to consider the appeal, and informs the student of the decision in writing.  For example:

 

       A student is charged with lying under the Student Conduct Code after she admits forging her advisor and department chair's signatures on several registration documents.  In accordance with University policy, a hearing is scheduled, which the student chooses not to attend. The student is found guilty of the offense.  The student appeals to the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, who convenes an appeals committee to review the case.  The appeals committee upholds the previous decision, and the student is informed of this decision in writing.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 11.

 

       A student receives a citation from University Housing for violation of the University's alcohol and noise policy.  In accordance with University policy, the incident is recorded by the Resident Assistant on duty and reviewed by the Hall Director.  The student receives a request from the Hall Director to meet with him to discuss the situation.  Following that meeting, the student received sanctions from the Hall Director, which were conveyed to the student in writing, along with the process to appeal those sanctions.  The student chose to appeal the sanctions to University Housing's Assistant Director for Residence Education, who upheld the initial decision.  The student was again notified in writing, and given the opportunity to appeal to the Director of University Housing.  The student chose not to pursue the matter further.  Documentation of this process is provided in Sample Document 12.

 

In all of these cases, Georgia College seeks to balance the needs and rights of the student with the need for the institution to maintain integrity through adherence to federal laws and University policies.  Sufficient processes exist in all cases for the student to file a complaint or grievance, to petition an existing requirement, and to appeal the decision of the respondent. 

 

Supporting Documentation

*Appeal section from the Catalog (go to academic policies/appeals)

*Comprehensive resource list identifying publicized complaint and grievance policies and procedures along with documents (see GC comprehensive resource list on the documentation folder under the subfolder labeled GC Comprehensive resource list.)

 12 sample documents were provided illustrating application of procedures to specific cases.   To protect privacy, these are not available via the web site. 

The cases provided include:

Academic Grievances or Appeals

*Grade appeal (1)

*Complaint about lack of feedback (2)

 

Non-Academic Grievances or Appeals

*Complaint about poor customer service (3)

*Student appeals denial of priority registration (4)

 

Harassment or Discrimination Complaints

 *Student files a sexual harassment complaint against a professor (5)

 *Student with a documented disability requests adjustments in physical facilities (6)

 

Academic Petitions

 *Student placed on academic dismissal petitions to remain enrolled (7)

 *Graduate student petitions for entry into a graduate program prior to completing required writing examination (8)

 

Non-Academic Petitions

*Petition appealing denial of federal financial aid for not meeting incremental progress requirements (9)

*Petition appealing residency status (10)

 

Disciplinary Appeals

 *Appeal of verdict concerning violation of Student Conduct Code (11)

 *Appeal of sanctions for behavior in university housing (12)
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