Graduate students

Academic Appeal Policy, Graduate

Policy Number: 100103

Current Policy

Category: Academic » Appeals

 

Policy

University Graduate Committee UGCHP

The University Graduate Committee Hearing Panel (UGCHP) serves as the hearing body for appeals brought forth by graduate students involving certain academic issues and decisions within the purview of the Graduate College and its policies and procedures.  UGCHP is a five-member panel including four (4) faculty members of the University Graduate Committee (UGC) and one (1) student member from the Graduate Student Government (GSG).  The Associate Dean of the Graduate College serves as Chair.

The chairperson, in consultation with the Dean of the Graduate College, shall identify the members of the UGCHP as needed, ensuring impartiality for all parties involved in the appeal. Each member of the UGCHP shall declare that no conflict of interest exists between the member and any party involved in the appeal.

The UGCHP will hear appeals involving (but not limited to) the following:

  • Dismissal from a program for academic reasons.
  • Procedural matters related to admissions, academic progress, thesis and dissertation, and/or comprehensive exams.
  • Any academic issues not addressed by other university policies or procedures.

The UGCHP will not hear appeals related to grievances and violations in which a separate university-wide process exists. These situations include:

  • Grade appeals.
  • Violations of NAU’s Student Code of Conduct.
  • Violations of NAU’s Academic Integrity policies.
  • Discipline-specific ethical standards.
  • Issues of Research Misconduct.

The UGCHP will not typically review academic decisions that are based upon the disciplinary expertise of faculty in a particular field, such as whether or not a student has passed a comprehensive examination, successfully defended a thesis or dissertation, or whether or not a student who meets the university’s minimum requirements should be admitted to the Graduate College to pursue a particular program.  However, it may examine the equitability of processes in which academic decisions have been arrived at, to ensure that academic unit’s decisions are not capricious or arbitrary in nature.

The UGCHP will only hear appeals during Fall and Spring semesters.  A graduate student must initiate this process within one year of the grievable issue’s occurrence. In the event that the faculty member involved with the issue is no longer with the university, the chair, director, or dean of the student’s academic unit will assign a proxy in place of the original faculty member.

General Procedure

Steps To Implement Policy:

Step 1

A specific problem or grievance between an individual faculty member and graduate student shall be discussed directly with the faculty member(s) in whose class or under whose supervision the problem originated. If the practicality of meeting face-to-face places an undue hardship on the student (e.g. financial, travel out of town beyond 50 miles, etc…), the meeting may be held via telephone conference, Skype, or video conference. (If the appeal is regarding a decision of a department or unit—e.g. comprehensive exams, begin with step 2).

Step 2

If the conference with the faculty member(s) does not resolve the issue, the student will request a conference with the faculty member(s) and the academic unit administrator where the class is offered or the problem/grievance occurred. If the matter regards department or unit policy, the student will request a conference with the academic unit administrator where the problem/grievance occured. The request will be made within three working days of the initial conference between the student and faculty member. The conference with the academic unit administrator will take place within five working days of the request. If the faculty member is the academic unit administrator, skip this step and go to step 3.

Within 5 working days of the conclusion of the conference, the academic unit administrator shall send an email and/or letter to the student and faculty member documenting that the meeting occurred, confirming the decision that was made, and referring the student to step 3 in this process if the student feels the problem is not resolved.

Step 3

If the student believes that the academic unit’s decision did not resolve the issue, the student may file a written appeal to the Graduate College Dean within 10 working days from the email/letter date sent by the chair/director of the academic unit.

This written request must contain:

  • identification of the faculty member and/or academic unit involved;
  • a description of the action or actions the student considers arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to university policy;
  • supporting evidence or materials (if applicable);
  • a copy of the written response from step 2 (above);
  • an explanation specifying the points on which the  student disagrees with the decision of the administrator of the academic unit.

The Graduate Dean will issue a written reply to the student within 15 working days of the receipt of the student’s written request and will convene the UGCHP to review the appeal. All previous materials submitted by the graduate student will be part of the evidence presented to the UGCHP.  The UGCHP will review the written decisions and any written responses to prior decisions to determine whether the action(s) being appealed were arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to university policy. The UGCHP then has 20 working days after receipt of the materials to determine whether a formal hearing is appropriate. An affirmative vote by at least three members of the panel will be required to hear the appeal. If there is a decision to hold a hearing, the UGCHP has 10 working days to arrange the hearing.

Final recommendations from the UGCHP will be made within three working days after review of the materials or following the conclusion of the hearing. This recommendation shall be in writing and shall be transmitted to the Graduate College Dean, whose decision shall be final.

University Graduate Committee Hearing Panel (UGCHP) Process

The chairperson of the UGCHP (Graduate College Associate Dean) will prepare and send a written notice to the student and faculty member no less than seven (7) days prior to the date set for the hearing. The notice shall include:

  • a statement of the date, time, and location of the hearing;
  • a written statement of the purpose of the hearing;
  • a copy of the Graduate College Academic Appeal Process and UGCHP guidelines;
  • a list of the names of all UGCHP members and contact information of the chairperson.

If the practicality of meeting in-person for the hearing places an undue hardship on the student or faculty member (e.g. financial, travel out of town beyond 50 miles, etc…), the meeting may be held via telephone conference, Skype, or video conference.  In such cases, accommodations will be made in writing at least five (5) days prior to the date set for the hearing.

Conduct of the Hearing

The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the grievable actions in the appeal process brought forward by the student were arbitrary, capricious or contrary to university policy. In order to reserve the confidential nature of the appeal process, and to protect the privacy of the student and faculty member, the hearing shall be closed. The chairperson of the UGCHP shall preside at the hearing and shall rule upon all procedural matters. The formal rules of evidence shall not apply, although objections concerning the introduction of specific statements or documents may be considered by the chairperson. Irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious information shall be excluded. The student and faculty member may each select an adviser to assist them during the hearing. The adviser may be a faculty or staff member, student, or other representative of the student. The adviser shall be limited to advising the student and shall not participate directly in the hearing. The adviser may not appear in lieu of a student or speak on behalf of the student. The adviser shall not serve as an attorney.

Minutes of the hearing shall be made and kept in the office of the Graduate College. Both parties (faculty and student) will be sent copies of the minutes and given an opportunity to propose corrections. Both parties will be asked to agree that the minutes are an accurate representation of what was said during the hearing. Incase of a disagreement, the decision of the chair of the UGCHP is final.

The student who requested the hearing shall present statements or written information on the student’s own behalf. Written information supplied by the student should include any documentation supporting the grievance used in previous steps of the appeals process. A student who fails to appear at the hearing will be deemed to have abandoned the appeals request, unless the student can demonstrate that an extraordinary circumstance prevented an appearance.

Order of Presentation

  • The chair of the UGCHP shall present an opening statement summarizing the events to date and outline the order of the proceedings.
  • The student will make an opening statement and present their  case. The student can be questioned by members of the UGCHP at the conclusion of the presentation.
  • The faculty member will make an opening statement and present their  case. The faculty member can be questioned by members of the UGCHP at the conclusion of the presentation.
  • Throughout the proceeding, the parties may introduce written documents as evidence. All documents admitted shall be marked as exhibits, and may be referenced and reviewed by the UGCHP in reaching its decision.
  • Following the presentations and questions, the parties will be allowed to present closing statements summarizing the evidence presented. The student presents a closing statement first, followed by the faculty member.

UGCHP Deliberations and Recommendation

  • Only members of the UGCHP may be present during the deliberations.
  • Following the presentation of evidence and closing statements, the members of the UGCHP shall discuss the evidence that has been presented and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence..
  • Based upon the evidence presented during the hearing, the UGCHP will formulate a recommendation to the Graduate College Dean. At least three votes are necessary to make any recommendation.
  • The UGCHP shall render its recommendation following the hearing, and shall communicate the recommendation to the student, faculty member(s) and Graduate College Dean in writing no later than three (3) days following the conclusion of the hearing. The written recommendation shall include findings of fact, a statement of the reasons for the recommendation, and the signature of the UGCHP chairperson.

Review and Decision by the Graduate College Dean

The Graduate College Dean’s reply will outline the findings of the UGCHP and the final decision concerning the issue, in writing, within five (5) working days of receiving the UGCHP recommendation. Copies of the written decision shall be provided to the student and others who have been involved in the appeal process to this stage.

If an extension of time is needed during any phase of the process, the party requesting the extension shall petition the Graduate College Dean and present reasons why the deadline cannot be met. The Graduate College Dean will notify all involved parties regarding the granting or denial of the request for an extension with the goal of ensuring fairness and a timely resolution of the problem.

 


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