Graduate Student Grievance Procedure

Students who wish to appeal an academic matter, including terminations and dismissals, should consult the department handbook for procedures at the department level. Appeals beyond that level may go to the Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs and the CLA Graduate Committee and then to the Graduate School level (see “Academic Appeals to the Graduate Board”).

Procedures for Appealing Academic Matters

Students may appeal any academic matter in which they feel they have been treated unfairly, after having first attempted to resolve the issue through communication with the instructor or Graduate Director. A student may rescind the grievance at any point, thus halting the process. All appeals are in accordance with the general principles set forth in the Graduate School policies.

Initiating the Appeal

A student must first initiate the grievance procedure at the departmental level. This must be done no later than the semester following the disputed evaluation or other disputed decision (e.g. termination from program). It is the responsibility of the graduate student to follow the department’s established procedure for academic grievances.

Department Level

A student initiating an appeal or grievance should first formally notify the Graduate Director, who will then be responsible for carrying out the review according to departmental procedures.

Every department in the College of Liberal Arts with a graduate program must design procedures for the fair resolution of academic grievances and appeals. These procedures shall:

  • be public and disseminated in writing to all graduate students
  • designate a Departmental Faculty Appeals Officer (or committee) in charge of student grievances; this person or persons must not be a party to the dispute
  • allow for the departmental review and response within twenty one days of the initiation of the appeal
  • provide for the independent investigation and documentation of the case
  • mandate that the Department Faculty Appeals Officer communicate its decision on the grievance in writing to the student and to the Graduate Director
  • inform the student of the procedure to appeal the department’s decision to the Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs

The department may decide whether it wishes to employ a student or faculty ombudsperson, who can attempt to mediate a solution.

College Level

If the student is not satisfied with the outcome within the department and wishes to appeal further, he or she must appeal within ten days of notification to the Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs. The Associate Dean may refer the student to the CLA Graduate ombudsperson, who shall be one of the two students serving on the Graduate Committee. The ombudsperson must not be in the appealing student’s home department. In that case, the ombudsperson should attempt to ascertain the facts of the case, gather documents relating to the case, and reach a solution, meeting with the parties involved at the department level. The ombudsperson will report to Associate Dean and to the Graduate Committee within twenty-one days of assignment to the case.

The Graduate Committee will decide whether to conduct a further review of the case, with the option of calling in parties to the dispute. The Associate Dean will, in that case, solicit documents pertinent to the case (at a minimum, the original grievance to the department, documentation used by the department in deciding the appeal, the department’s written notification to the student of the department’s decision, and all reports relevant to the case). These documents will be provided to the members of the Graduate Committee’s Subcommittee on Appeals and Grievances, which shall consist of at least three members of the Graduate Committee. The Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs, or his or her designee, will be present at meetings. The Subcommittee will decide within twenty one days of its decision to review a case whether to uphold the department’s decision. The Associate Dean will notify the student, the department chair, and the Dean of the Subcommittee’s decision.

University Level

In cases of academic dismissal, if the student is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she must (within ten days) forward the appeal in writing to the Dean of the Graduate School. Petitions may be forwarded without departmental approval. Accumulated records shall be forwarded by the Associate Dean, together with an explanation of the recommendation. The Dean of the Graduate School will make a decision regarding the grievance, which decision shall be final and binding on all parties.


Any member of the CLA Graduate Committee who is also a member of the department from which the grievance arises shall withdraw from consideration of the grievance.

  • The Graduate Committee of the College of Liberal Arts will only consider appeals during the Fall and Spring semesters of the academic year. The calendar will be suspended from Graduation Day in Spring to the first day of Fall semester, AND from last day of Fall semester to first day of Spring, with the intervening dates not counting as part of the time limit on appeals.
  • All documents in the grievance or appeals process shall be treated confidentially. All records shall be cumulative and shall be forwarded to the next higher level of appeal.
  • Records of all conversations and transactions should be kept by the Department, the Student Ombudspersons, and the relevant Committees.
  • The Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs in CLA, with the advice of the CLA Graduate Committee, is the final authority on academic grievances and appeals, except in cases of academic dismissal, where the student may appeal the CLA decision to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Approved: December 1997, Updated: February 2006