Policies

12.01 Student Academic Grievance

Purpose

Provide a process for the redress of academic grievances for graduate and undergraduate students within the framework of academic freedom, the integrity of the course, and the prerogative of the faculty to assign grades.  

Policy and Procedures
  1. General Considerations

    The procedures described in this policy shall be the sole and exclusive means for the redress of a student’s academic grievance.

    Recognizing that grade determinations are an integral part of a faculty member’s academic freedom, administrative officers cannot substitute their judgment for that of the faculty concerning the assignment of a grade except as a result of the grievance process outlined in this policy or as defined by circumstances requiring an administrative grade change as documented in University policy regarding administrative grade changes.

    Grievances regarding make-up work for absences should refer to Section 7 of this document.  See below.

    Grievances involving alleged acts of discrimination or harassment of students based on age, color, creed, disability, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other basis protected by federal and/or Iowa law, should be reported to the Office of Compliance and Equity Management/Title IX Officer no later than the time at which the student files a formal grievance under Section C below.

    If the Office of Compliance and Equity Management (OCEM) receives a student complaint of discrimination that also involves an academic grievance, the academic matter will be referred to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and handled through this student academic grievance process. The OCEM will be notified of the findings of the Student Academic Appeals Board regarding the academic matter.

    If a faculty member or administrator fails to respond by any applicable deadline specified in this

    procedure, the student may move the grievance to the next step in the process.  If a student fails to respond by any applicable deadline specified in this procedure, the grievance shall be closed and documentation stating such shall be prepared by the relevant academic administrator, sent to the department and kept in the student’s departmental file for ten years.

    At any time during the informal or formal grievance process either party may elect to be accompanied to meetings or hearings by an advisor.  At the student’s request, the Dean of Students Office or Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) may designate a representative to accompany and assist the student. At the faculty member’s request, United Faculty may designate a representative to accompany and assist the faculty.

    Throughout this document, “class days” refers to university class days during the regular fall and spring semesters.

  2. Informal Procedures

    A student who feels academically aggrieved because of something that a faculty member has or has not done shall make every reasonable effort to resolve the grievance informally with the faculty member of record.

    1. The student must inform the faculty member of his/her grievance in writing, via electronic communication, within ten class days of the first day of the semester following the semester or summer session in which the alleged offense occurred.
    2. The faculty member must respond within ten class days from the date notification of the grievance is sent by the student unless both the student and the faculty member agree in writing to continue the informal process.

      If the student is an undergraduate, then the faculty member’s department head may act as a mediator to help the faculty member and student come to an informal resolution of the issue.

      If the student is a graduate student, the Associate Dean of the Graduate College or the faculty member’s department head may assume the mediator role as appropriate.

    3. If the student remains dissatisfied with the resolution of the grievance proposed by the faculty member or with the solution offered through the mediated process described above, the student may initiate the first stage of a formal appeal, using the procedures described under Section C below.
  3. Formal Procedures

    A student who is dissatisfied with the resolution of her/his grievance using the informal procedures specified in Section B above may initiate a formal process by completing the Appeal Form available in the following locations:

    The Appeal Form requires the student to state the specific nature of the grievance and to describe, in detail and through specific examples, how the faculty member's policy or conduct has affected the student’s academic outcomes. Only evidence pertinent to the grievance will be considered.

    If the student at any point in the grievance process wishes to withdraw his/her grievance, he/she must notify all parties involved of his/her intent to do so. A copy of this notification shall be kept in the student’s departmental file for ten years.

    If there is a dispute about the timeliness of sending the Appeal Form, the person responsible for

    sending the Appeal Form at that step has the burden of proving that the Form was sent within the time limit specified.

    Throughout this policy, whenever the use of e-mail or electronic transmission of a document is specified it indicates that the official, assigned UNI e-mail address for the student, faculty member or relevant administrator must be used for these communications.

    Pre-Hearing Stages of Formal Procedure

    1. The first stage of the formal appeal must be initiated within five class days following the completion of the informal appeal process. The formal process is initiated by the student sending the Appeal Form electronically to the faculty member who is involved in the grievance at the faculty member’s UNI e-mail address.
    2. The faculty member has ten class days from the initiation of the formal process to complete the response section of the Appeal Form and send it to the student electronically at the student’s  assigned, official UNI e-mail address. In the response the faculty member must either propose a means of redressing the grievance or give reasons why s/he believes the grievance is without merit or cannot be redressed.
    3. If the student is satisfied, s/he need take no further action. If no further action is taken within ten class days of the faculty member sending the completed Appeal Form, the student will be deemed to have agreed with the faculty member’s response. If the faculty member’s response proposes redress requiring an action by the faculty member or student then the responsible party has ten class days from the date the Appeal form is sent by the faculty member to the student to take such action.  If the faculty member fails to complete an action proposed in the agreed upon redress within ten class days then the student may resume the appeal process by sending the Appeal Form to the faculty member’s department head with an explanation for reviving the appeal. If the student fails to complete an action necessary to achieve the agreed upon redress within ten class days of the sending of the Appeal Form by the faculty member the grievance will be considered closed.
    4. If the student is dissatisfied with the faculty member’s response on the Appeal Form, the student must indicate her/his continuing disagreement on the Appeal Form and send it to the faculty member’s department head electronically within ten class days of the date the Form is sent by the faculty member to the student.
    5. Within ten class days (the consultation period) of the Appeal Form being sent by the student to the department head, the department head must consult with the student and the faculty member separately to discuss the basis for the grievance. Based on the Appeal Form and the consultations, the department head has two alternative courses of action.
      1. If the department head concludes the grievance is unfounded or without merit, s/he must complete the department head’s section of the Appeal Form, indicating the reasons for his/her judgment. The Appeal Form must be sent to the student electronically with a copy to the faculty member, within five class days of the expiration of the consultation period.  If the student is satisfied, s/he need take no further action.  If no further action is taken within ten class days of the department head sending the completed Appeal Form, the student will be deemed to have agreed with the department head’s response.
      2. If the department head concludes there are reasonable grounds for the student’s complaint, the department head may meet with the faculty member and student separately or together to facilitate resolution of the grievance to which all parties must agree.  Such facilitation must conclude within ten class days (the facilitation period) of the end of the consultation period, unless both the faculty member and student agree in writing to extend the time for facilitation.  In no case may the facilitation period exceed fifteen class days.  If a resolution is reached with which both parties agree, a written statement of resolution will be appended to the Appeal Form, which will be kept in the student’s departmental file for ten years.

        Alternatively, if the department head is unable to resolve the grievance by mutual agreement between the faculty member and the student within the specified facilitation period, the department head must complete the appropriate section of the Appeal Form indicating that no mutual resolution was possible and making any recommendations s/he has for resolution of the grievance. The department head must send the Form electronically to the student grievant, the faculty member and the appropriate dean within five class days of completion of the facilitation period.

      3. For undergraduates, the appropriate dean is the faculty member’s dean. For graduate students, the appropriate dean is the Dean of the Graduate College.
    6. Within ten class days (the consultation period) of the Appeal Form being sent by the department head to the dean, the dean must consult with the student and the faculty member separately to discuss the basis for the grievance. Based on the Appeal Form and the meeting with the student, the dean has two alternative courses of action.
      1. If the dean concludes the grievance is unfounded or without merit, s/he must complete the dean’s section of the Appeal Form, indicating the reasons for his/her judgment. The Appeal Form must be sent electronically to the student, to the faculty member and the faculty member’s department head within five class days of completion of the consultation.  If the student is satisfied, s/he need take no further action.  If no further action is taken within ten class days of the dean sending the completed Appeal Form, the student will be deemed to have agreed with the dean’s response.
      2. If the dean concludes there are reasonable grounds for the student’s complaint, the dean may either meet with the faculty member and student separately or together to facilitate resolution of the grievance to which all parties must agree. Such facilitation must conclude within ten class days (the facilitation period) of the end of the consultation period, unless both the faculty member and student agree in writing to extend the time for facilitation.  In no case may the facilitation period exceed fifteen class days.  If a resolution is reached with which both parties agree, a written statement of resolution will be appended to the Appeal Form, which will be kept in the student’s departmental file for ten years.
      3. Alternatively, if the dean is unable to resolve the grievance issue by mutual agreement between the faculty member and the student within the period of time specified in paragraph b. above, the dean must complete the appropriate section of the Appeal Form indicating that no mutual resolution was possible and making any recommendations s/he has for resolution of the grievance.  The dean must send the Form electronically to the student grievant, the faculty member, the faculty member’s department head, and the Executive Vice President and Provost within five class days of completion of the facilitation period.
    7. Upon receipt of the Appeal Form, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost will send a copy of the Form to the pool of potential Appeals Board members and will initiate the Academic Appeals Board process within ten class days of receipt of the Form.
  4. Student Academic Appeals Board
    1. Membership of the Board

      The Committee on Committees will hold elections each year to create a pool of ten faculty who can serve as appeal board members in the event a student files a grievance appeal with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. The pool shall consist of two faculty representatives who have been duly elected by and from the graduate instructional faculty of each undergraduate college and two representatives who have been elected at large. Faculty members are initially elected for a three-year term and may be elected for additional three-year terms. The faculty members shall be tenured at the rank of assistant professor or higher. The Chair of the Board shall be elected annually from among the pool of ten elected faculty members.

      All student members shall be appointed by the Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) Senate. Student members are appointed for one-year terms; students may be reappointed for additional one year terms. The President of the NISG will notify the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost of the names and contact information of the students who have been appointed at the start of each academic year.

      The Student Academic Appeals Board has final student/faculty authority for adjudicating student academic appeals, except as provided in Part E of this policy.

      A student academic appeal will be heard by a panel consisting of five faculty members drawn from the pool and four students who are of the same status, undergraduate or graduate, as the student who is making the appeal to the Board.

      When notified of an appeal by the Provost’s office, the Chair will randomly select four faculty members from the pool to constitute the panel and will notify the designated administrative assistant for the Board in the provost’s office, who will contact the selected panel members. The president or vice president of NISG will also notify the designated administrative assistant with the names of the designated student representatives for the panel.

      If a faculty member or student who has been selected for the panel has a conflict of interest, s/he shall recuse him/herself from the Board and not be involved in deliberations involving the Appeal. A conflict of interest for faculty members in the pool is created when the grievance is against a faculty member in the same department, one with whom the faculty member collaborates on scholarly work, or to whom the faculty member is related by blood, marriage or other personal relationship or if the grievant is an advisee, current student of the panel member or is related by blood, marriage or other personal relationship. A conflict of interest for a student panel member is created when s/he has a familial, romantic or friend relationship with the grievant or is in a course with the faculty member, is advised by the faculty member or is related by blood, marriage or other personal relationship to the faculty member.

      If a member of the faculty or student pool is unable to fulfill her/his duties or if the faculty or student member has been derelict in his/her duties such as by nonattendance at hearings which have been confirmed, then, as applicable, either – (1) the faculty member may be permanently removed from the pool by a majority vote of the faculty members, including the Chair of the Board, or (2) the student member may be permanently removed from the pool by a majority vote of the student members and the Chair of the Board. If a faculty or student member is permanently removed, the body responsible for electing or appointing that person will be notified by the Chair of the Board of the need for a replacement.

    2. Student Appeal Board Procedures

      The Executive Vice President and Provost or his/her designee places a case on the Board docket, arranges the time and place for the hearing, and provides the materials for Board review prior to the hearing. Notice of the hearing and rules governing the Board are made available in advance to both parties. The hearing will be held within twenty class days after the appeal has been filed with the Office. The Board Chair in consultation with the Provost or designee has discretionary power to delay the hearing due to mitigating circumstances.

      Hearings are closed to the public. Only those individuals with a specific role in the hearing, as described in these procedures, may be present at the hearing. In addition to the parties to the grievance, their witnesses and advisors, and the members of the appeal board, a staff member from the Executive Vice President and Provost’s office will be present at the hearing to make an audio recording of the proceedings and the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs or designee will be present to answer procedural questions. In the event that a student or faculty member brings an attorney as an advisor, then the University Counsel will also be present at the hearing.

      The audio recording is a confidential record and will not be disclosed except as required by law. After resolution of the appeal, the recording will be maintained in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost for a period of seven years.

      If the faculty member and/or the student prepares a written statement for presentation at the hearing, the other party to the grievance will be provided with a copy of the written statement at least two class days prior to the hearing.

      Both parties to the appeal have the right to present additional evidence to the Board, subject only to the Board's judgment that such evidence is relevant to the case. Additional evidence may include testimony by members of the university community (students, faculty, staff). In making judgments on the relevance of such evidence including testimony, the Board will, consistent with the gravity of such proceedings, admit such evidence unless it is clearly not relevant to determining the outcome of the appeal. Generally, parties are limited to fifteen minutes for presentation of their case.

      The student may be accompanied to the appeals hearing by an advisor, who may be an attorney. If a student will be advised by an attorney, written notice must be provided to the Executive Vice President and Provost or his/her designee at least two class days before the hearing. The Chair of the Board will be notified by the Executive Vice President and Provost or designee. The advisor cannot address the review panel, examine witnesses, ask questions of any participants or otherwise interrupt or interfere with the conduct of the hearing. A student may ask for one recess, not to exceed ten minutes in length, to consult with her/his advisor outside the hearing room. It is the student's responsibility to make the advisor aware of her/his role in the appeal process. The Chair of the Board may exclude the advisor from the hearing if s/he does not comply with these rules.

      The faculty member may also be accompanied to the hearing by an advisor, such as a representative from United Faculty or by a private attorney. The advisor cannot address the review panel, examine witnesses, ask questions of any participants or otherwise interrupt or interfere with the conduct of the hearing. A faculty member may ask for one recess, not to exceed ten minutes in length, to consult with her/his advisor outside the hearing room. It is the faculty member’s responsibility to make the advisor aware of her/his role in the appeal process. The Chair of the Board may exclude the advisor from the hearing if s/he does not comply with these rules.

      Both parties to the appeal have the right to ask questions of the other during the hearing. Questions must be relevant to the issues of the appeal.

      The members of the Board may question both parties to the appeal. Questions must be relevant to the issues of the appeal.

      Whenever the Appeals Board feels the need for expert advice within a particular area of scholarship, the Board shall have the authority and the University shall provide the necessary means, to seek the advice from experts whether associated with the University or not.

      Upon request from the Board, the faculty member shall make available any records which are pertinent to the appeal. The confidentiality of these records will be safeguarded. Failure to provide the records without sufficient cause may result in a finding in favor of the student at the discretion of the Appeals Board.

      The student bears the burden of persuasion. Board members will be persuaded by clear and convincing evidence that the faculty member has acted arbitrarily or unfairly. “Clear and convincing” evidence means that Board members must believe that the facts alleged are highly probably or reasonably certain.

      Appeals are decided by a majority vote of a quorum of the Board. A quorum consists of six members, excluding the Chair, at least three of whom must be faculty.

      The Board’s ruling and the reasons for the decision are reported in writing to both parties, to the faculty member’s department head and dean (and Dean of the Graduate College as appropriate), and to the Executive Vice President and Provost.

    If the Appeals Board makes a decision that a grade must be changed, the Registrar receives a copy of the decision authorizing a change in the grade on the student's official records. If the grade change decision by the Appeals Board affects a decision by the Committee on Admission, Readmission and Retention (CARR) regarding suspension of a student from the University, the CARR should also receive a copy of the decision so that it can reevaluate the suspension decision.

  5. Appeal Based on Violations of Student Academic Appeals Board Procedures

    Within fifteen class days of being notified of the Board's decision, either party may appeal the decision of the Board on the grounds that stated procedures were not followed. An appeal is initiated by filing a written statement with the Office of the President of the university which clearly outlines the claimed violations of procedure and indicates how the procedural violation prejudiced the decision of the Board. The President or her/his designee will examine the transcript of the Board proceedings created from the recording and all exhibits entered as evidence to make a decision. A decision must be made and communicated within ten working days of the receipt of the appeal. The President or designee may either remand the case back to the Board with direction to reconsider the case in the light of the specified procedural problems or uphold the Board's decision as procedurally sound. The substance of the Academic Appeals Board’s decision cannot be appealed.

  6. Extension of Time Limits

    It may be necessary, in the interest of justice, to extend a specified time limit when the parties involved in a grievance cannot be reached in a timely fashion by telephone, mail, email or other form of communication, or when the principal(s) may be absent from the campus or temporarily indisposed due to illness, accident, injury or other extenuating circumstances. Time limits may be extended in these circumstances by the Executive Vice President and Provost or his/her designee, as appropriate.

  7. Special Procedures for Make-Up Work Grievances Arising from Absences

    Should an instructor refuse to allow a student to make up missed work, the instructor’s decision can be appealed by the student using the grievance process outlined below. This process reflects the constraints that both instructors and students face in dealing with the timely make up of missed work:

    1. The student must contact the instructor, the instructor’s department head, the instructor’s dean, and a Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) Executive Officer in writing electronically requesting a review of the instructor’s decision within three (3) class days of the denial of make-up work. 

      The NISG Executive Officer will organize a meeting between the student, the instructor, the instructor’s department head, and a minimum of two (2) tenured faculty members drawn from the pool of faculty elected to serve on the Academic Appeals Board and one student who has been appointed to the Academic Appeals Board within two (2) class days of receipt of the letter. The meeting shall take place within five class days of the receipt of the appeal letter. At the meeting the NISG Executive Officer will attempt to facilitate an informal resolution of the situation.

    2. If no informal resolution is reached at the meeting, the three person committee (two faculty members and the student representative) shall designate a chair of the committee, and review the cause of the absence and the instructor’s reasons for denial and stated policies regarding attendance and make up work. This committee will render a final decision on whether the student will be allowed to make up missed work within two class days of the meeting. This decision is final and binding upon the instructor and the student. Any make-up work or exam must be equivalent in academic demand to the original assignment or exam, although it may differ in form.
    3. The specific findings of the committee will be strictly confidential, and reported only to the student, instructor, department head, and instructor’s dean to ensure that the committee’s decision is acted upon in cases where a student’s appeal is granted.

      Failure of a faculty member to comply with the committee’s decision to allow make-up work will provide the student with grounds for an academic grievance in accordance with the terms of this policy.

Faculty Senate, approved April 16, 2012
President’s Cabinet, approved August 6, 2012