2017-18
Undergraduate Degree & Course Catalog

Academic Grievance Policy and Procedures for Undergraduate Students

It is an objective of the University at Buffalo to encourage the prompt consultative resolution of grievances of undergraduate students as they arise, and to provide orderly procedures for the formal consideration and resolution of complaints that cannot be resolved through consultation.

This set of procedures is designed to provide a well-defined, yet appropriately flexible structure that recognizes and reflects the issues unique to undergraduate education as well as academic areas common to all faculty-student or administrator-student relationships.

The following procedures provide a sequence of steps for the orderly and expeditious resolution of grievances initiated by undergraduate students. While recognizing and affirming the established principle that academic judgments and determinations are to be reached solely by academic professionals, it is the university’s intention to secure, to the maximum extent feasible, equitable treatment of every party to a dispute. To that end, those who oversee the grievance process are charged to pay heed not only to issues of procedural integrity, but also to considerations of substantive fairness.

Grievance Definitions and Limits

Definition. A grievance shall include, but is not restricted to, a complaint by an undergraduate student:

  • that he or she has been subjected to a violation, misinterpretation, or inequitable application of any of the regulations of the university, college or school, or department; or
  • that he or she has been treated unfairly or inequitably by reason of any act or condition that is contrary to established policy or practice governing or affecting undergraduate students at the University at Buffalo.

Time Limit. A grievance must be filed within one calendar year from the date of the alleged offense. The cognizant department chair, college or school dean, or the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education may extend this time limit upon demonstration of good cause.

Consultative Resolution

Virtually all disputes originate in the department or comparable administrative unit and should, if feasible, be resolved through consultation between the disputants. The parties should meet and exert a good faith effort to resolve the dispute amicably.

At the request of either or both parties, the consultation may be recorded by a departmental note-taker (a staff or faculty member, but not a student). If a departmental note-taker is present during the consultation, the student may have an additional note-taker of his/her choosing also in attendance. Neither note-taker may actively participate in the consultation between the parties to the grievance other than to request repetition or clarification of statements made by either party during the consultation session.

It may be useful for the student to seek first the assistance of a student advocate (available through the Office of Judicial Affairs), his or her advisor, department chair, or director of undergraduate studies acting as a mediator to aid in evenhandedly resolving the dispute.

Formal Resolution

I. Departmental Level Review

Step 1

The student who believes that the grievance is severe or has been unable to obtain an acceptable consultative resolution should submit in writing to the cognizant department chair a description of his or her complaint, including any evidentiary or supporting materials, and a request for a hearing. (If the department chair is a party against whom the grievance is brought, either as a teaching faculty member or as chair, or where the chair can demonstrate that it will best serve the interests of the parties, direct petition to the school or college level may be pursued.)

Step 2

The cognizant department chair shall give the Departmental Grievance Committee and each principal a copy of the written grievance, including any evidentiary or supporting materials, and a copy of the Academic Grievance Policy and Procedures for undergraduate students.

Upon initial review of the materials and statements presented by the grievant, if the Department Grievance Committee finds the grievance does not have reasonable supporting grounds, the Committee shall conclude the grievance is without merit. In this initial review the Committee may also consider materials or statements submitted by the teaching faculty member(s) against whom the grievance is lodged. If the grievance is found without merit, the Committee shall report this denial to the cognizant department chair. The Committee shall complete this initial review within 15 academic days* of its receipt of the grievance. The cognizant department chair shall then submit a Statement of Decision to the principals (via certified, return receipt mail), the cognizant college or school dean, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education within 10 academic days* of receipt of the Committee decision.

If the Department Grievance Committee finds the statement of grievance has reasonable supporting grounds, the Committee shall proceed with hearings as provided below.

Step 3

The Departmental Grievance Committee shall convene hearing(s) as necessary to allow both principals the opportunity to present their positions and shall allow each principal the right to question the presentation(s), written and verbal, of each principal and of others who contribute information to the Committee.

The hearing shall convene within 20 academic days* of the department’s receipt of the written grievance. The cognizant department will notify principals at least 72 hours prior to the hearing.

The hearing(s) shall be conducted in a fair and expeditious manner, but shall not be subject to the rules governing a legal proceeding. Each principal shall have the right to be present (under unusual circumstances, if either party is considered to pose a physical threat to the other or to the committee, the chair of the committee may request that either the student or instructor participate by phone) and to have one advisor present at all hearings. In no such case shall the advisor be an attorney, unless he or she is a member of the UB faculty who is not acting in a legal capacity on behalf of a principal. An advisor may not speak on behalf of or advocate for a principal or otherwise address members of the hearing committee. Hearing(s) shall be conducted in confidence.

Step 4

The Departmental Grievance Committee shall submit its recommendation(s) in writing, including findings and reasons for the recommendations, to the cognizant department chair within 10 academic days* of the final meeting of the committee.

Step 5

The cognizant department chair shall consider the committee’s findings and recommendations and render a final decision. This statement of decision and an indication of the student’s right to appeal the department chair’s decision (including time limit) shall be submitted, in writing, from the department chair to the principals (via certified, return receipt mail), the cognizant college or school dean, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education within 10 academic days* from receiving the Department Grievance Committee’s written recommendations.

Files shall be maintained in the offices of the cognizant dean and the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education.

II. School or College Level Appeal

Step 1

If either principal wishes to appeal the departmental ruling, a written statement of the appeal, including any additional evidentiary or supporting materials, shall be filed within 10 academic days* of receipt of the department chair’s statement of decision. The appeal shall be filed with the cognizant college or school dean. (If the dean is a party against whom the grievance is brought, either as a teaching faculty member or as dean, or where the dean can demonstrate that it will best serve the interests of the parties, a direct petition to the Vice Provostal level may be pursued.)

Step 2

Upon review of relevant materials, including all materials and statements presented during prior hearings, and materials and statements subsequently presented, if the cognizant college or school dean does not find that the statement of appeal provides reasonable grounds to appeal nor raises doubt concerning the adequacy of prior review, the dean may issue a formal decision regarding the appeal. In such a case, the dean shall submit a statement of decision to the principals (via certified, return receipt mail), the department chair, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education within 20 academic days* of receipt of the appeal.

Alternatively, if the dean deems it necessary or appropriate to consider further the circumstances of the appeal, he or she shall convene a Decanal Grievance Committee within 20 academic days* of receipt of the appeal. The Decanal Grievance Committee shall include two faculty members and two undergraduate students. In those college/schools comprised of multiple academic departments, the Decanal Grievance Committee shall not include representatives from the department(s) involved in the grievance.

Step 3

The cognizant dean shall give the Decanal Grievance Committee and each principal a copy of the Academic Grievance Policy and Procedures for undergraduate students, the original written grievance, the written appeal to the school or college level, any supplemental materials and statements, and all documentation and recommendations from the departmental proceedings.

Step 4

The Decanal Grievance Committee shall convene hearing(s) necessary to allow both principals the opportunity to present their positions and shall allow each principal the right to question the presentation(s), written or verbal, of the principals as well as others who contribute information to the committee. The principals must be given at least a 72-hour prior notice of the hearing.

The hearing(s) shall be conducted in a fair and expeditious manner, but shall not be subject to the rules governing a legal proceeding. Each principal shall have the right to be present (under unusual circumstances, if either party is considered to pose a physical threat to the other or to the committee, the chair of the committee may request that either the student or instructor participate by phone) and to have one advisor present at all hearings. In no such case shall the advisor be an attorney, unless he or she is a member of the UB faculty who is not acting in a legal capacity on behalf of a principal. An advisor may not speak on behalf of or advocate for a principal or otherwise address members of the hearing committee. Hearing(s) shall be conducted in confidence.

Step 5

The Decanal Grievance Committee shall submit its recommendation(s) in writing, including findings and reasons for the recommendations, to the cognizant college or school dean within 10 academic days* of the final meeting of the committee.

Step 6

The cognizant dean shall consider the committee’s findings and recommendations and render a final decision. This statement of decision and a statement of the student’s right to appeal the dean’s decision (including time limit) shall be submitted in writing from the dean to the principals (via certified, return receipt mail), the department chair, and the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education within 10 academic days* from receiving the Decanal Grievance Committee’s written recommendations.

Files shall be maintained in the offices of the cognizant dean and the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education.

III. Vice Provost Level Appeal

On rare occasions, when all established procedures within a college or school have been exhausted, it may be appropriate for the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education to consider a final university appeal. In general, the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education will consider only those appeals that document violations of applicable due process in prior proceedings or which establish sound cause to believe that prior proceedings have resulted in a decision contrary to law, the Polices of the SUNY Board of Trustees, or policies of the University at Buffalo. In general, the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education will not consider appeals that merely challenge the appropriateness of a judgment reached following a full and fair review of a matter by the department and the dean of the college or school.

Step 1

If either principal wishes to appeal the decision(s) of the college or school dean, the written statement of appeal, including any additional evidentiary or supporting materials, shall be filed within 10 academic days* of receipt of the statement of decision. The appeal shall be filed with the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education.

Step 2

Upon review of relevant materials, including all materials and statements presented during prior hearings, and any materials and statements subsequently presented, if the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education does not find that the statement of appeal provides reasonable grounds to appeal nor raises doubt concerning the adequacy of prior review, the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education may issue a formal decision regarding the appeal. In such a case, the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education will submit a statement of decision to the principals (via certified, return receipt mail), the department chair, and cognizant dean within 20 academic days* of receipt of the appeal.

Alternatively, if the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education deems it necessary or appropriate to consider further the circumstances of the appeal, he or she shall convene a Vice Provostal Grievance Committee within 20 academic days* of receipt of the appeal.

Step 3

The Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education shall give the Vice Provostal Grievance Committee and each principal a copy of the Academic Grievance Policy and Procedures, the original written grievance, the written appeals to the school/college and the Vice Provostal levels, any supplemental materials and statements, and all documentation and recommendations from the departmental and decanal proceedings. The Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education will notify principals at least 72 hours prior to the hearing.

Step 4

The Vice Provostal Grievance Committee shall convene hearing(s) as necessary to allow both principals the opportunity to present their positions and shall allow each principal the right to question the presentation(s), written or verbal, of the principals as well as others who contribute information to the committee.

The hearing(s) shall be conducted in a fair and expeditious manner, but shall not be subject to the rules governing a legal proceeding. Each principal shall have the right to be present (under unusual circumstances, if either party is considered to pose a physical threat to the other or to the committee, the chair of the committee may request that either the student or instructor participate by phone) and to have one advisor present at all hearings. In no such case shall the advisor be an attorney, unless he or she is a member of the UB faculty who is not acting in a legal capacity on behalf of a principal. An advisor may not speak on behalf of or advocate for a principal or otherwise address members of the hearing committee. Hearing(s) shall be conducted in confidence.

Step 5

The Vice Provostal Grievance Committee shall submit its letter of recommendations, including findings and reasons for recommendations, to the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education within 10 academic days* after the final meeting of the committee.

Step 6

The Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education shall consider the committee’s findings and recommendations and render a final university decision/determination. The Vice Provost’s statement of decision shall be submitted in writing to the principals (via certified, return receipt mail), the department chair, and the cognizant academic dean within 10 academic days* from receiving the Vice Provostal Grievance Committee’s written recommendations.

The determination/decision of the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education constitutes the final step in the university review process and may not be further appealed.

Files shall be maintained in the office of the cognizant dean and the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education.

*Notes: Academic days are defined as weekdays when classes are in session, not including the summer or winter sessions.

Published: June 23, 2017 10:21:25 AM