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12.18 Graduate School Grievance Policy

Introduction

This document describes the grievance procedures available to students of the University of the Pacific who are enrolled in graduate-level degree programs and post-doctoral scholars. These procedures do not apply to students of the McGeorge School of Law, the School of Dentistry, or of the Doctor of Pharmacy degree program in the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

These procedures are intended to address issues that arise from, are related to, or have direct impact on the academic activities of the student, such as assignment and evaluation of academic work in the course of attempting to fulfill the requirements of a particular course or degree. These procedures are intended to afford students and the University an opportunity to resolve grievances in an equitable manner.

Definition of a Grievance

Any graduate student or post-doctoral scholar who believes that he or she has been subjected to an improper decision on an academic matter is entitled to file a grievance.

A grievance is a complaint in writing filed with the Dean of Graduate Studies concerning a decision, made by a person or group of persons acting in an official University capacity, that directly and adversely affects the student or post­doctoral fellow as an individual in his or her academic capacity. A grievance does not properly challenge dissatisfaction with a University policy of general application on the grounds that the policy is unfair or inadvisable, nor should a grievance challenge individual school, department, or program academic policies, as long as those policies are not in contravention of general University policy.

A grievance regarding an academic matter usually falls into one of three general categories:

  1. Those that derive from application of or decisions that are affected by a University policy, which may apply to students in addition to University graduate students. Examples are grades and attendance.
  2. Those that derive from matters addressed by policies of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies which apply specifically to graduate students.
  3. Those that derive from matters addressed by policies, procedures or practices of a department or comparable University administrative unit.

NOTE: If a graduate student believes that behavior in violation of the University’s Policy against Sexual and Other Unlawful Harassment has occurred, the student should notify, in writing if possible, either the Director of Human Resources of the University or the Dean of Graduate Studies. Additionally, there are grievance procedures to resolve alleged acts of discrimination outlined in the University’s policy statement on Prohibited Discrimination. Any person having a complaint of violation of this policy statement should contact the Director of Human Resources. The University’s Policy against Sexual and Other Unlawful Harassment is annually distributed to each graduate student and is available in the Department of Human Resources.

Right to Participate in Grievances without Retaliation

No graduate student, graduate student’s representative, or other member of the University community who assists or participates in these procedures shall be subject to adverse action by the University, based on their activity in good faith in the course of filing or participating in the grievance procedure.

Time Limits to File a Grievance

It is the responsibility of the grieving graduate student to initiate any grievance within 60 days of the end of the academic term in which notice to the student of the adverse decision occurred, or when the decision should reasonably have been discovered. A delay in filing a grievance may constitute grounds for denial of the grievance in consideration of the matter as a whole by the University.

Informal Resolution Efforts Prior to Filing a Grievance

It is preferable that before a grievance is filed, a problem be resolved on an informal basis (that is, without the filing of a grievance). Candid and informal discussions are recommended between the aggrieved graduate student and the instructor, major professor, graduate committee, department chair, or graduate program director.

The level at which the informal discussion begins will depend upon the nature of the complaint. A course grade complaint must start with the instructor involved. Informal resolution of a problem dealing with research expectations, qualifying exams, or work assignments, should start with the major professor (or academic advisor) and should include discussion with the student’s graduate committee where such a committee has been formed.
Resolution of a complaint regarding departmental policy must be initiated with the department chair with the individual at the next administrative level, for example, the chair or director of the relevant department or program. Where possible, resolution by informal efforts should be confirmed in writing signed by a department chair or above.

Step 1 – Initiation of a Grievance by Filing with the Dean of Graduate Studies

A grievance is initiated by filing a concise written statement, identifying the specific actions complained of, the persons responsible for such actions, the harm to the grievant, and the information that the grievant believes is relevant to the grievance. The statement should also include a description of the remedy sought and the informal efforts taken to date to resolve the matter. The grievance shall be filed with the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies.

The Dean of Graduate Studies will determine the appropriate method by which the grievance will be resolved. The Dean will proceed in one of the following ways:

  1. resolve the matter by written determination of the Dean, which may but need not be preceded by the Dean's conferring with the grievant, faculty member(s) and/or other individuals;

or

  1. refer the matter to other University resources for preliminary fact gathering (for example, where the matter concerns an issue addressed by the University’s Policy Against Sexual and Other Unlawful Harassment), following which the Dean will resolve the matter by written determination.  

The Dean’s determination will be based on the following issues:

  1. Were the proper facts and criteria relied upon in reaching the decision being grieved?
  2. Were improper or irrelevant facts or criteria relied upon in reaching the decision being grieved? If so, was there any significant adverse effect upon the grievant?
  3. Were there any procedural irregularities that substantially affected the outcome of the matters, with significant adverse effect upon the grievant?
  4. If proper facts, criteria, and procedures were utilized, was the decision one that a person in the position of the decision-maker might reasonably have made?

Normally, no more than 60 days should elapse between the filing of a grievance and the determination of the Dean. The determination of the Dean shall be considered final and binding, unless timely written notice of appeal is filed with the Dean within 20 days of issuance of the determination of the Dean, with a copy to the Office of the Provost. If an appeal is filed, the grievance resolution continues with Step 2.

Step 2 – Appeal of Resolution by the Dean of Graduate Studies

If an appeal is filed as described above, the Graduate Dean requests that the Chair of the CGS convene within 30 calendar days, a graduate student grievance advisory panel (“panel”). The panel will consist of two full-time Pacific faculty members and a graduate student enrolled at Pacific, none of which are interested parties based on prior involvement with the matters or persons involved. For good cause shown to the Chair, the grievant may timely request replacement of a panel member, including the replacement of the student member of the panel with another impartial faculty member if the grievant feels a student member is inappropriate for the circumstances. The panel will gather information in a manner that it determines appropriate to achieve an informed recommendation to the Dean. The same issues listed for the Dean’s determination in Step 1 will be the basis for the panel’s recommendation. The panel can either confirm the original grievance resolution from Dean of Graduate Studies, or recommend an alternative. The CGS Chair and Dean of Graduate Studies shall review the recommendations of the panel and promptly thereafter issue a written determination to the grievant. The determination of the appeal will be considered final and binding unless an appeal is filed with the Office of the Provost within 20 days after receiving the final determination of the grievance. If an appeal is filed, the grievance continues with Step 3.

Step 3 – Final Appeal to the Office of the Provost

An appeal of the determination in Step 2 is initiated by filing a concise written statement of appeal, identifying the specific grounds for appeal. The statement of appeal should identify grounds upon which the grievant believes that the determination failed to conform to University policy.

The Provost may determine the appeal, or the Provost may delegate to an assistant or associate provost the determination of the appeal. In either event, the determination of the appeal shall be final and binding on the grievant. Normally no more than 45 days should elapse between the filing of the appeal and its determination. The determination of appeal will resolve the issue whether resolution of the grievance did or did not conform to University policy.