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GRIEVANCES

 

Faculty Complaint, Grievance, and Appeal Procedures

            Each faculty member will have free access through proper channels to the offices of immediate and higher supervisors, Human Resources representatives, or other official alternate dispute resolution programs to discuss problems and complaints regarding the employment relationship.  (TAMUS Policy 32.01.01).  A faculty member of Texas A&M International University has the right under the statutes of Texas to present grievances concerning wages, hours of work, or terms and conditions of work, individually or through a representative, provided such representative does not claim the right to strike or bargain collectively. (TAMUS APRM B.4.5).

            Grievances or disputes involving faculty can be categorized by the participants to the disagreement.  These categories are:

 

            Faculty – Student

            Faculty – Faculty

            Faculty – Administrative service or Administration (hereafter Administrator).

 

            It is assumed that attempts at reconciliation and/or mitigation will occur immediately and the grievance or dispute procedures will not be activated.  Nevertheless, if the dispute or grievance cannot be resolved, the procedures outlined below will be followed.

            The time periods given in the procedure are deliberately brief in order that grievances may be resolved swiftly and in order to preserve the grievant’s right to other remedies within state and federal statutes of limitation.  The time limits within the faculty-student procedures are briefest of those described, so that students will be able to return to their studies with as little disruption as possible; however, all three parties in any given step (i.e., the grievant, the person against whom the complaint has been filed, and the mediator / mediating committee) may agree in writing to extend or shorten the deadline.  If the health or well-being of one of the parties is involved, the period of time allowed for each step will be accelerated (see below).  Whenever a step in the procedure is not accomplished within the given time period (or the time agreed upon by all parties), the matter will proceed immediately to the next step.

 

Faculty-Student

            Disputes over Academic Matters

 

            Faculty members are responsible for determining the curriculum of a course, for developing appropriate methods of evaluating student learning, for evaluating fairly, for upholding academic standards, and for enforcing policies concerning academic honesty.  Decisions made by faculty members regarding the quality or honesty of student work – especially decisions about course grades – are, as a matter of routine, accepted as authoritative and cannot be overturned by administrative officers.  Students, however, have a right to expect faculty members to have defensible course policies and to implement them in a reasonable,

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equitable manner.  Students who believe that they have grounds for challenging faculty members’ decisions regarding academic issues – excepting those pertaining to matters of academic freedom – may appeal using the procedure outlined below [based on one recommended by the American Association of University Professors in Policy Documents & Reports, 9th edition, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press and AAUP, 2001, pp. 113-14].  It should be noted that in cases of academic dishonesty students may be subject not only to grade sanctions in courses but to disciplinary action (see Student Violations of Academic Integrity under STUDENT AFFAIRS below).  Faculty members are required to report such serious breaches of academic honesty to their chair, their Dean, the Provost, the Honor Council, and the Vice President for Student Success.

            Grade sanctions may be imposed only by faculty members, but suspension or expulsion may be imposed only by the Provost, as specified in the Student Handbook.  As with disputes about course grades, students may appeal grade sanctions for academic dishonesty only by following the procedure outlined below.  However, if they wish to appeal the Provost’s decision to suspend or to expel them because of academic dishonesty, they must initiate their appeal with the President of the University following the procedure the President has established for such cases.

            Except under unusual circumstances, the process outlined below for student appeals of faculty academic decisions should be completed within three academic work weeks (15 working days) after the student’s first meeting with the faculty member to question the faculty member’s decision.

 

            1.         The student must first meet with the faculty member and discuss the faculty

                        member’s decision.  This meeting should occur as soon as possible after the

                        decision has been made, normally within one week of the student’s being notified

                        of the decision.  The faculty member is expected to listen to the student, to

                        provide an explanation for his or her decision, and to be willing to change the

                        grade or decision should the student’s argument be persuasive.  To change final

                        course grades, a faculty member must submit a “Grade Change Form” and attach

                        an accompanying memorandum justifying the decision to change the grade.  The

                        faculty member’s department chair and Dean must approve the change.

            2.        If the faculty member refuses to alter his or her decision or grade, the student may

                       then discuss the matter with the faculty member’s department chair or immediate

                       academic supervisor (hereafter, “chair” will be used to mean either the department

                       chair or the immediate academic supervisor).  If the chair believes that the

                       student’s claims may have merit, the chair would discuss the matter with the

                       faculty member.

            3.        If the student is not satisfied with the chair’s assessment of the issue or if the

                       faculty member refuses to alter his or her decision after discussing it with the

                       chair, the student may then request that an ad hoc committee of faculty members

                       review the matter.  This committee would consist of three tenured faculty

                       members within the same discipline or department.  If in some unusual case

                       the chair determines that a sufficient number of tenured faculty members cannot be

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                      selected from the same discipline or department, then the chair may add tenured

                      faculty members from closely related disciplines.  From the pool of eligible

                      tenured faculty members designated by the chair, the faculty member, the student,

                      and the chair would each nominate one faculty member to serve on the

                      committee.

            4.       The ad hoc committee of faculty members would hear from the student, the

                      faculty member, and the chair and examine relevant documents.  If the committee

                      concludes that the faculty member’s original decision was justified, then the

                      committee would provide the student with a written statement explaining the

                      reasons for the committee’s decision.  The student may request in writing that the

                      committee reconsider its decision and provide reasons for so doing.  If the

                      committee refuses to reconsider or if it reaffirms its original recommendation,

                      then the matter is considered settled and the faculty member’s original decision

                      stands.  If the committee concludes that the faculty member should alter his or her

                      original decision, the committee would provide the faculty member with a written

                      recommendation explaining the committee’s reasons.  If the faculty member

                      disagrees with the committee’s recommendation, he or she must provide the

                      committee with a written explanation for the refusal.

            5.       If after considering the faculty member’s explanation for refusing to alter his or

                      her decision the ad hoc committee is still persuaded that in the interest of justice

                      to the student the decision should be overturned, then the committee may

                      recommend in writing to the chair that the faculty member’s decision be

                      overturned.  The committee may also make this recommendation to the chair if

                      the faculty member fails to alter his or her decision and also fails to respond to the

                      committee’s original recommendation.  The faculty member would receive a copy

                      of the recommendation to the chair and would have a final opportunity to alter his

                      or her original decision.  If the faculty member does not do so, then the chair, and

                      only the chair, would be empowered by the written recommendation of the

                      committee to override the faculty member’s original decision, and, if pertinent to

                      the case, to alter the student’s course grade.  In order to certify that the grade

                      dispute process outlined above has been followed appropriately, the Dean of the

                      college or the school and the Provost will review all decisions by chairs to change

                      grades against the will of a faculty member.

 

            Grievances

            Conflicts between faculty members and students that do not relate to faculty decisions regarding such academic issues as course policies and grades will be considered the subject of grievances.  The process for resolving grievances between faculty members and students is as follows.

 

            1.      Before a grievance is filed, the aggrieved faculty member or student must make a

                     good faith effort to meet with the other party about his or her concerns.  If the

                     other party is unwilling to meet, if the aggrieved party has reasonable concerns

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                     about his or her physical safety, or if the meeting produces no resolution to the

                     conflict, then the aggrieved party may initiate a grievance by following the steps

                     outlined below.

            2.      If the grievant is a faculty member, he or she will file a written complaint with the

                     Associate Vice President for Student Affairs.  If the grievant is a student, he or

                     she will file a written complaint with the faculty member’s department or division

                     chair.  In either case, both parties will receive a written acknowledgement of the

                     complaint within five working days.

            3.     The student and faculty member will meet with the Associate Vice President for

                    Student Affairs (or a designated staff member from Student Affairs) and the

                    faculty member’s chair.  Both the faculty member and the student must be

                    present, unless one party waives that right.  This meeting will take place within

                    five working days of the acknowledgement of the grievance.

            4.     If the complaint remains unresolved after meeting with the department chair and

                    the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, then within five working days of

                    the meeting with the chair and the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs,

                    both the student and the faculty member will meet with either the Dean of the

                    respective college (or academic administrator to whom the chair reports) if the

                    grievant is a student, or with the Vice President for Student Success if the grievant

                    is a faculty member.  Both the faculty member and the student must be present,

                    unless one party waives that right.

            5.    If the complaint remains unresolved after that meeting, it will then be heard

                   within five working days by an ad hoc committee consisting of the faculty

                   member’s department or division chair, the Associate Vice President for Student

                   Affairs (or a designated staff member from Student Affairs), a member of the

                   Student Government Association selected by the President of the Student

                   Government Association, a member of the Faculty Senate selected by the Faculty

                   Senate President, and a person selected by the non-grieving party from his or her

                   peers.  The chair of the committee will be the Associate Vice President for

                   Student Affairs (or the Vice President for Student Success’s designate) if the

                   grievant is a faculty member, or the department chair if the grievant is a student. 

                   The chair of the committee will ensure that the committee is formed appropriately

                   and meets on schedule.  After hearing from both sides in the dispute and

                   examining whatever documentation has been provided by the parties involved, the

                   ad hoc committee will make its recommendation in writing to either the Provost

                   or the Vice President for Student Success, as appropriate.  Both parties involved

                   in the complaint should receive the written recommendation within three working

                   days after the committee concludes its deliberations.

            6.    The Provost or the Vice President for Student Success will notify in writing both

                   parties of his or her final decision to resolve the grievance within three working

                   days of receiving the committee’s recommendation.

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            7.   If the complaint is unresolved to the satisfaction of either party, he or she may

                  appeal in writing to the President within three working days after receipt of the

                  written decision of the Provost or the Vice President for Student Success.  Should

                  the President choose to do so, he or she may seek the advice of a University

                  Grievance Committee.  In the special case of faculty-student grievances, the

                  President may expand the University Grievance Committee to balance faculty

                  representation with an appropriate number of representatives selected from the

                  Student Government Association or from the professional staff in Student Affairs

                  or some combination of both.  The President’s decision is final.

 

Faculty-Faculty

            The grievant will file a written complaint with the next immediate academic superior to both parties as detailed below.  A complaint form, indicating the parties involved and the basic nature of the complaint, is available on the Provost’s website.

 

            1.      If both faculty members are members of the same department or division, then the

                     complaint would go to the chair.  If the faculty members reside in different colleges,

                     then the complaint would immediately go to the Provost.

            2.      If one of the faculty members is the department or division chair, then the

                    complaint would go to the Dean of the college wherein the department or

                    division resides.

            3.     If one of the faculty members is the Dean of the college, then the complaint

                    would go to the Provost.

            4.     If the Provost is one of the parties to the complaint, then a Grievance Committee

                   must be formed to hear the complaint, following the procedure detailed under

                   item 6 below.

            5.    The original recipient of the complaint will have fifteen working days in which to

                   meet with the parties.  If a satisfactory resolution is not found, the grievance may

                   be appealed to the next line of authority, until it has been heard by the Provost. 

                   No step may take more than fifteen working days.  If the health of one of the

                   parties is at stake, then the period allotted to each step of the process will be no

                   more than five working days.

            6.    If a complaint cannot be resolved informally, then a Grievance Committee must

                  be formed from the University Grievance Pool.  Each party will select two

                  committee members from the pool, and the Faculty Senate President will select

                  the fifth member.  Faculty from the same college as either of the parties are not

                  eligible to serve on a Grievance Committee, and faculty members with personal

                  involvement in the grievance or other conflicts of interest should recuse

                  themselves.

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            If a complaint reaches a Grievance Committee, the committee will hear appropriate evidence and witnesses.  Both parties may be represented; however, the committee may define the role of the representatives as appropriate.  In addition to the original complaint form, the grievant must provide a written dossier explaining the nature of the grievance and presenting any pertinent evidence, and the party grieved against may also provide a dossier.  The contents of these dossiers will be made available to the opposing parties in the grievance as well as their representatives, if any.  If either party wishes to add new evidence after the committee has commenced its hearings (but before it has made its recommendations), the committee may allow the additional evidence to be heard if relevant (subject to the stipulations above).

 

The committee will write its recommendations and submit them to the President.  It will advise the parties to the grievance of its recommendation, in writing, within five working days after the hearings are completed.  The Faculty Senate will maintain records of the hearing for a period of not less than ten years.

 

Faculty-Administrator

            In the event of a faculty-administrator grievance, a Grievance Committee must be formed immediately following the procedure described under item 6 above.  The grievant must complete a complaint form as for a Faculty-Faculty grievance, and in general the procedure follows the procedure described above under Faculty-Faculty grievances once the Grievance Committee has been formed.  Note that grievances involving administrators with faculty status, such as Deans and department chairs, are resolved as Faculty-Faculty grievances (above).  If for example a faculty member has a complaint against his department or division chair, the complaint goes to the Dean and then the Provost before a Grievance Committee is formed.