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Grievance Procedures, School of Social Welfare

Procedure
Purpose: 

To articulate the procedures for hearing grievances arising in Social Welfare.

Applies to: 

Students and faculty having grievances with the departments in Social Welfare.

Campus: 
Lawrence
Edwards
Policy Statement: 

Pursuant to Article XII of the University Senate Code (Code) and Articles V and VI of the University Senate Rules and Regulations (USRR) of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, the School of Social Welfare establishes the following procedures for the hearing of grievances within the School.  In all instances where questions arise relative to the application of these procedures, the matter(s) will be resolved by conformance with the Code and the USRR.  These procedures shall not be used to hear disputes assigned to other hearing bodies under USRR 6.4. Regarding the filing of grade appeals (USRR 2.3.5.1), see the School’s policy document “Grade Appeal Procedures.”

For disputes involving alleged academic misconduct or alleged violations of student rights, the initial hearing normally will be at the School level.  The option to hold an initial hearing at the Judicial Board level exists if both parties agree, or either party petitions the Judicial Board Chair to have 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 (USRR 6.4.3.1).

These procedures are not available to unclassified professional staff and university support staff who wish to grieve about employment-related issues such as performance of responsibilities, leaves and other related personnel matters as determined by the Department of Human Resource Management. Such grievances are heard under the Staff Grievance Procedure.

General Provisions

Purpose 

The purpose of these procedures is to resolve conflict situations within the School of Social Welfare and the University community.  The governance system does not command sanctions and has no enforcement powers.  Its aim, therefore, is to find the facts of a contested situation and to make reasonable and appropriate recommendations to those having the legal power and the responsibility to act.  Recommended action should be in the University community’s best interest and protective of the rights of the individuals involved (see USRR 6.1).

These procedures shall be the sole procedures available to faculty, staff and students at the School level.  Complaints in which the Dean is named as a respondent shall be processed under the Provost’s grievance procedures.  Except as provided in USRR 6.5.4, no person shall be disciplined for using the grievance procedures or assisting another in using the grievance procedures.

The collegial atmosphere of the University community and of the School of Social Welfare is best served through informal resolution of disputes.  Prior to pursuing formal grievance procedures, the grievant should attempt to resolve the matter informally through direct or indirect consultation with the other party or through discussions with one’s advisor or other supervisory personnel.  If resolution of the disagreement is not achieved at this informal level, participants shall be referred to mediation, where, in an atmosphere of respect and fair dealing and with the assistance of a neutral third party, they will have the opportunity to resolve the grievance in a non-adversarial process.

The School of Social Welfare shall provide a copy of these procedures to anyone who requests it and shall post these procedures on the School’s website.

Summary of Steps for Complainant to follow:

1.Read thoroughly the Grievance Procedures and relevant provisions of the University Senate Code, University Senate Rules and Regulations, and applicable University policies.

2.Consider mediation or other informal resolution of your dispute.

3.Within 6 months of action or event that is the basis for the complaint, submit the written complaint and accompanying documents to the Dean or Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee. Send a copy of the written complaint and accompanying documents to the respondent.

4.Prior to submitting the complaint, check that the complaint contains all of the requirements as set forth under Initial Process (1)

5.Attend the Grievance Hearing, in which you may represent yourself or be represented by an advisor or counsel of your choice. You may introduce testimony, submit documents, and question the other party’s witnesses.

Initial Process

1.To start the grievance process, the complainant must submit a written complaint to the Dean or Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee.  If submitted to the Dean, the Dean shall refer the complaint to the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee.  The complaint shall contain a statement of the facts underlying the complaint and shall specify the provision(s) of the Faculty Code of Conduct, University Senate Code, the University Senate Rules and Regulations, the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, or other applicable rule, regulation, or law allegedly violated.    The complainant shall indicate the injury suffered as a result of the challenged conduct, and the intended outcome that is sought. The complaint shall also indicate the witnesses or other evidence relied on by the complaining party, and copies of any documents relevant to the complaint shall be attached to the complaint. 

Time Limits: To use these procedures, the complainant must file the written complaint 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). The Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee shall accept complaints during the period from May 15 to August 15, but need not take action on them during that period. Nothing in these procedures prevents the Chair from referring the parties to mediation and/or the grievance committee from hearing or otherwise acting on the complaint during this time if none of the participants’ rights are violated by doing so.

2.  At the time the complaint is submitted to the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, the complaining party shall also provide a copy of the complaint, with accompanying documents, to the Dean and to the party/parties (respondent(s)) charged in the complaint.

3. Upon receipt of the complaint, the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee shall contact the respondent(s) to verify that the respondent(s) have received a copy of the written complaint and accompanying documents. The Chair also will provide the respondent with a copy of these procedures.

4. Pursuant to USRR 6.8.4.2, the Chair of the 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.

5.  Upon receiving the complaint, if the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee determines that any of the following grounds exist, the Chair may recommend to the Dean that the complaint be dismissed without further proceedings. The grounds for such dismissal are: (a) the grievance or another grievance involving substantially the same underlying occurrence or events has already been, or is being, adjudicated by proper University procedures; (b) the grievance has not been filed in a timely fashion; (c) the committee lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter or any of the parties; (d) the grievance fails to allege a violation of a School or University rule; (e) the party filing the grievance lacks standing because the party 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 (f) the party filing the grievance has been denied the right to file grievances pursuant to USRR, 6.5.4.  Upon receiving such recommendation, the Dean may decide to accept the recommendation and inform the parties of the decision, or reject it and refer the matter back for further proceedings.

6. If the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee determines that a grievance on its face properly should be heard by another body, the Chair may send the grievance to the appropriate hearing body without further proceedings in the School. The Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee will send a copy of the referral to the complainant(s) and any responding parties.

7. Pursuant to University Senate Code Article XII.2.IVe, 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.

8.  If the respondent chooses to respond, the respondent shall submit a written response to the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee within 14 calendar days of receiving the complaint. The response shall contain the respondent’s statement of the facts underlying the dispute and any defenses to the allegations made in the complaint. The response shall indicate the witnesses or other evidence relied on by the respondent and copies of any documents relevant to the response shall be attached. The respondent shall provide a complete copy of the response and supporting documents to the complaining party.

9.  Upon receipt of the response, the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee shall contact the complaining party to verify a copy of the response has been provided.

Mediation

10. Unless either party to the dispute waives mediation, mediation shall occur prior to a hearing on the dispute. Mediation shall be governed by USRR 6.2.3. A mediator shall be selected by the parties either from a list of trained and/or experienced mediators maintained by the University Ombudsman and the Judicial Board Chair, or the parties may agree on another individual to serve as a mediator. If the parties cannot agree on a mediator, they may request that the School’s Associate Dean for Academic Programs or the Ombudsman select the mediator. The procedures to be followed in mediation shall be determined by the mediator in consultation with the parties.

11. If mediation is successful, the mediator will forward to the Dean, the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, and all parties a letter indicating the outcome of the mediation and the terms upon which the parties agreed to resolve the dispute. This letter shall be a recommendation to the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee. The Chair will notify the mediator and the parties that the recommendation has been accepted, modified, or rejected.

12. If mediation is not successful, the mediator will notify the Dean, the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, and the parties that mediation has terminated. If mediation is not successful, or if it is waived by either party, the grievance committee will schedule a hearing no later than 30 calendar days from the written submission of the complaint. The 30-day period and all other time periods set forth in these procedures may be extended for good cause as reasonably 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.

Grievance Hearing

13. Upon the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee receiving the complaint and response (if the respondent chooses to do so), determining that the grievance should not be dismissed or transferred for reasons set forth in paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 above, and after exhausting the mediation option, the Faculty Executive Committee will consider the complaint and conduct a hearing as outlined below. The Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee shall serve as the Chair of the grievance committee. The Chair shall appoint two other members from the five member Faculty Executive Committee in order to comprise a grievance committee composed of three faculty members. These three members of the grievance committee shall be disinterested (i.e. have no conflict of interest) with regard to the grievance.                                       

14.  If a grievance committee member recuses him or herself, the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee will appoint another Faculty Executive Committee member to complete the grievance committee.  If the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee is the respondent, or recuses him or herself, then the remaining disinterested Faculty Executive Committee members will select a Chair of the grievance committee from among themselves, and this person will appoint two disinterested Faculty Executive Committee members to complete the grievance committee. In the event that there are not three disinterested faculty members on the Faculty Executive Committee, the Chair of the grievance committee will appoint a disinterested member from the broader faculty.

15. Each party may represent him or herself or be represented by an advisor or counsel of his or her choice.

16. Each party has the right to introduce all relevant testimony and documents if the documents have been provided with the complaint or response. The complainant shall have the burden of persuading the grievance committee of the facts upon which the grievance is based. In reaching its decision, the grievance committee will use the preponderance of the evidence standard to decide the case—meaning the facts must be proven more likely to be true than not true, as stated in Senate Code Article XII, Section 2.X.

17. Each party shall be entitled to question the other party and the other party’s witnesses. The committee may question all witnesses.

18. Witnesses other than parties shall leave the hearing room when they are not testifying.

19. The Chair of the grievance committee, at his/her discretion, may place reasonable time limits on each party’s presentation of evidence and arguments.

20. The Chair of the grievance 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.

21. The hearing shall not be governed by the rules of evidence, but the Chair of the grievance committee may exclude evidence s/he deems irrelevant, unnecessary, or duplicative. Statements or admissions made as part of the mediation process are not admissible.

22. The grievance committee will make an audio-recording of the hearing but not of the deliberations of the grievance committee. The audio-recording will be available to the parties, their authorized representatives, the members of the committee, the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, and the Dean. If a party desires a copy of the audio-recording or a transcript of the recording, that party will pay for the cost of such copy or transcript. In the event of an appeal, the audio-recording will be provided to the appellate body as part of the record of the case.

23. After presentation of evidence and arguments, the grievance committee will excuse the parties and deliberate. The grievance committee’s decision will be a written recommendation to the Dean. The grievance committee shall base its recommendations solely on the information presented at the hearing. Other than during the hearing, members of the grievance committee shall avoid communication with a party or witness pertaining to the substance of a matter before the committee unless all the parties are informed of the nature and content of the contact. The committee Chair, however, may assist parties by providing information regarding the hearing procedures.

24. The grievance committee will send its written recommendation to the Dean and the parties as soon as possible and no later than 14 calendar days after the end of the hearing.

25. The Dean may accept, modify, or reject the recommendation of the committee and shall provide written notice by mail of the decision to all parties and the committee within 14 calendar days of receiving the committee recommendation. The Dean will advise the parties of the procedures available to appeal the decision.

26. The Dean’s Office will retain an electronic file of all materials relevant to the grievance for a period of five years, after which it will be destroyed.

Exclusions or Special Circumstances: 

These procedures are not available to unclassified professional staff and university support staff who wish to grieve about employment-related issues such as performance of responsibilities, leaves and other related personnel matters as determined by the Department of Human Resource Management. Such grievances are heard under the Grievance Procedure for Staff

Contact: 

University of Kansas
School of Social Welfare
1545 Lilac Lane
Twente Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045-3129
Phone: 785-864-4720

Approved by: 
School of Social Welfare Faculty
Approved on: 
Friday, May 5, 2017
Effective on: 
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Review Cycle: 
Annual (As Needed)
Keywords: 
grievance, social welfare
Review, Approval & Change History: 

01/17/2018: Updated to reflect new staff grievance procedure.
11/22/2017: Uploaded new policy that was approved May 2017.
01/22/2014: Technical edits.

School/College Policy Categories: 
Grievance & Appeals

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