Grievance Policy and Procedures for Graduate Students
To allow graduate students who believe themselves to be unfairly or unlawfully treated in an academic matter to present a grievance to their academic department or program chair
Graduate students on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses
Graduate students who believe themselves to be unfairly or unlawfully treated in an academic matter may present a grievance to their academic department or program chair. Each academic unit and all graduate divisions have established grievance policies and procedures. Appeal of a grievance heard at one of these levels is made to the Judicial Board. The Office of Graduate Studies has established a set of guidelines for graduate student petitions in certain categories that may not be under the jurisdiction of other hearing bodies. The Executive Council of Graduate Faculty has identified two categories as the purview of Graduate Studies:
- Cases involving the graduate divisions of two or more schools or colleges and
- Cases involving the interpretation of Graduate Studies policy as it pertains to the graduate division of a school or college.
For disputes involving alleged academic misconduct or alleged violations of student rights, the initial hearing is normally held at the unit level. There is an option to hold an initial hearing at the Judicial Board level if both parties agree, or if either party petitions the Judicial Board chair to hold the hearing at the Judicial Board level and the petition is granted. The petition must state why a fair hearing cannot be obtained at the unit level; the opposing party has an opportunity to respond to the petition.
Procedures for Graduate Student Grievances
Pursuant to Article XII of the University Senate Code and Articles V and VI of the University Senate Rules and Regulations of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, the Office of Graduate Studies establishes the following procedures to hear the individual grievances of graduate students. Except as provided in USRR 6.5.4, no person shall be disciplined for using the grievance procedure or assisting another in using the grievance procedure. The Office of Graduate Studies shall provide a copy of this procedure to anyone who requests it.
A sub-committee of the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty is charged to establish policies governing the handling of individual grievances of graduate students brought to the attention of Graduate Studies, to carry out or delegate the investigation of individual grievances presented to Graduate Studies, and to make and report final recommendations to the Vice Provost of Graduate Studies with respect to individual grievances. Since the sub-committee has the responsibility to adjudicate and hence to hear grievances, it cannot function to develop evidence on behalf of either complainant or respondent. It is appropriate, however, for Graduate Studies, in its administrative capacity, to look into complaints prior to scheduling a grievance hearing, to interview parties, to secure documents, and to seek a conciliatory solution. Before pursuing formal grievance procedures, a grievant should ordinarily attempt to resolve the matter informally through direct or indirect consultation with the other party, through discussions with supervisory personnel, or through informal mediation. If the problem is not solved in this fashion, the Vice Provost shall refer the complainant to the sub-committee or, if appropriate, to another appropriate unit charged with jurisdiction to resolve the dispute. If it is referred to the sub-committee, Graduate Studies shall make available to the sub-committee what it has learned that bears on the complaint. This shall not be construed, however, to deny the right of a student to file a complaint directly with the sub-committee.
- To start the grievance process, the complainant must submit a written grievance to Graduate Studies. The complaint shall contain a statement of the facts underlying the complaint and specify the provision(s) of the Faculty Code of Conduct, the University Senate Code, the University Senate Rules and Regulations, the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, or other applicable rule, policy, regulation, or law allegedly violated. The complaint shall also indicate the witnesses or other evidence relied on by the complaining party. Copies of any documents relevant to the complaint shall be attached to the complaint.
- At the time the complaint is submitted to Graduate Studies, the complaining party shall provide a copy of the complaint, with accompanying documents, to the respondent(s).
- Upon receipt of the complaint, Graduate Studies shall contact the respondent to verify that the respondent has received a copy of the complaint and to provide the respondent with a copy of these procedures.
- Pursuant to University Senate Code Article XII, a respondent has the privilege of remaining silent and refusing to give evidence in response to a complaint. The respondent also has the right to respond and give evidence in response to the complaint.
- The respondent shall submit a written response to Graduate Studies within 14 calendar days of receiving the complaint. The response shall contain the respondent’s statement of the facts underlying the dispute as well as any other defenses to the allegations in the complaint. The response shall also identify the witnesses or other evidence relied on by the respondent and shall include copies of any documents relevant to the response. The respondent shall provide a complete copy of the response to the complaining party.
- Upon receipt of the response, Graduate Studies shall contact the complaining party to verify that a copy of the response has been provided.
- Upon receiving the complaint and response, or if the respondent fails to respond within the 14-day time period, Graduate Studies shall appoint a committee to consider the complaint. Normally, a complaint shall be heard by a sub-committee of the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty from among the members of the committee. The sub-committee members shall be disinterested parties who have not had previous involvement in the specific situation forming the basis of the complaint. In the summer, if the complainant requests a hearing before the full committee he or she must waive the right to timely hearing (see 11 below) and a hearing date will be scheduled early in the fall.
- Pursuant to USRR 188.8.131.52, the chair of the sub-committee may contact other hearing bodies within the University to determine whether a grievance or complaint involving the underlying occurrence or events is currently pending before or has been decided by any other hearing body.
- Time limits: To use this procedure, the complainant must file the written complaint with Graduate Studies within six months from the action or event that forms the basis of the complaint. The six-month time period shall be calculated using calendar days (including weekends and days during which classes are not in session).
- Upon receiving the complaint, if the chair of the sub-committee determines that the any of the following grounds exist, the committee chair may recommend to the Vice Provost that the complaint be dismissed without further proceedings. The grounds for such dismissal are:
- the grievance or another grievance involving substantially the same underlying occurrence or events has already been, or is being, adjudicated by proper University procedures;
- the grievance has not been filed in a timely fashion;
- Graduate Studies lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter or any of the parties;
- the grievance fails to allege a violation of a University rule;
- the party filing the grievance lacks standing because the grievant has not suffered a distinct injury as a result of the challenged conduct and has not been empowered to bring the complaint on behalf of the University; or
- the party filing the grievance has been denied the right to file grievances pursuant to USRR 6.5.4.
- If the chair of the sub-committee determines that a grievance on its face properly should be heard by another body, the chair will recommend that the Vice Provost send the grievance to the appropriate hearing body without further proceedings in Graduate Studies. The Vice Provost of Graduate Studies will send a copy of the referral to the complainant(s) and any responding parties.
- If not previously attempted, prior to scheduling a hearing, the parties shall participate in mediation of the dispute unless either party waives mediation. Mediation shall be governed by USRR 6.2.3.
- If mediation is successful, the mediator will forward to the Vice Provost, the committee chair, and all parties a letter describing the outcome of the mediation and the terms upon which the parties have agreed to resolve the dispute. This letter shall be a recommendation to the Vice Provost. The Vice Provost will notify the mediator, the sub-committee chair, and the parties that the recommendation has been accepted, modified, or rejected.
- If mediation is not successful, the mediator will notify the Vice Provost, the sub-committee chair, and the parties that mediation has terminated. If mediation is not successful, or if it is waived by either party, the grievance sub-committee will schedule a hearing no later than 30 calendar days from the written submission of the complaint. The 30-day period may be extended for good cause as determined by the chair of the committee. The 30-day period shall be suspended during the mediation process. The hearing will be closed unless all parties agree that it shall be public.
- All parties may represent themselves or be represented by an advisor or counsel of their choice.
- Each party has the right to introduce all relevant testimony and documents if the documents have been provided with the complaint or response.
- Each party shall be entitled to question the other party’s witnesses. The committee may question all witnesses.
- Witnesses other than parties shall leave the hearing room when they are not testifying.
- The chair of the sub-committee shall have the right to place reasonable time limits on each party’s presentation.
- The chair of the sub-committee shall have the authority and responsibility to keep order, rule on questions of evidence and relevance, and shall possess other reasonable powers necessary for a fair and orderly hearing.
- The hearing shall not be governed by the rules of evidence, but the chair of the sub-committee may exclude information the chair deems irrelevant, unnecessary, or duplicative. Statements or admissions made as part of the mediation process are not admissible.
- The sub-committee will make an audiotape of the hearing but not of the deliberations of the sub-committee. The audiotape will be available to the parties, their authorized representatives, the committee, and the Vice Provost. If a party desires a copy of the audiotape or a transcript of the tape, that party will pay for the cost of such copy or transcript. In the event of an appeal, the audiotape will be provided to the appellate body as part of the record of the case.
- After the presentation of evidence and arguments, the committee will excuse the parties and deliberate. The sub-committee’s decision will be a written recommendation to the Vice Provost. The committee shall base its recommendations solely upon the information presented at the hearing.
- The sub-committee will send its written recommendation to the Vice Provost and the parties as soon possible and no later than 14 calendar days after the end of the hearing.
- Within 14 calendar days of receiving the committee recommendation, the Vice Provost will notify the parties of the acceptance, modification, or rejection of the recommendation. The Vice Provost will advise the parties of the procedure available to appeal the decision.
These procedures have been reviewed by Graduate Council Executive Committee and the Office of the University General Counsel and are effective immediately.
06/25/2020: Changed Dean of Graduate Studies to Vice Provost of Graduate Studies.
05/10/2019: Updated Related Procedures section
07/20/2016: Updated University Senate Code Article reference number.
06/08/2016: Technical edits to comply with gender neutralization decision and guidelines. - ARG
02/13/2015: Policy formatting cleanup (e.g., bolding, spacing).
02/11/2015: Policy and procedures reviewed by Graduate Studies, only minor edits were required.
03/14/2008: Added to KU Policy Library by Absinthe Algaier.