Graduate students

Academic Appeal Policy and UGCHP - Graduate

Policy Number: 100103

Current Policy

Category: Academic » Appeals

 

Policy

Appeals may be brought forth by graduate students involving certain academic issues and academic decisions within the purview of the Graduate College and its policies and procedures.  

The graduate student will use this appeal process for situations 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.

* Please see Academic Continuation, Probation, and Dismissal, and Readmission- Graduate (NAU Policy 100319) ,for procedures and policies specific to program dismissals. 

The graduate student will not use this appeal process for situations related to grievances and violations for which a separate university-wide process exists. These situations include (but are not limited to):

  • 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.
  • Issues that fall under the purview of NAU’s Office of Equity and Access 

Grounds for Appeal/Burden of Proof

In every appeal, the burden of proof rests upon the student to show reason why an appeal should be heard. These appeals should only be considered in instances where:

  • The faculty, department, school, or other academic unit deviated substantially from accepted and specified standards as established by the University, Graduate College, or academic unit;
  • There was a capricious or arbitrary application of standards towards a student;
  • Proper due process was denied to the student 

Time Limit on Appeal

A graduate student must initiate the appeal process no later than the end of the next regular term (Fall or Spring) following the date in which the appealable issue occurred. In the event that the faculty member(s) 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.

Extension of Time

If an extension of time is needed during any phase of the process once the appeal process has been initiated, 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. If an extension of time is needed by the Graduate College, that notification will come to all parties involved, identifying the number of additional days granted with the goal of ensuring fairness and a timely resolution of the problem. 

Definitions

Throughout this policy, the terms “Graduate College Dean” and “Graduate College Associate Dean” includes their designees.

General Procedure

Steps To Implement The Policy:

Step 1

A specific problem or grievance between an individual faculty member and graduate student shall be discussed between the student and 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 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 fails to resolve the situation and an appeal is warranted in accordance with this policy, 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 occurred. The request must be made within three business days of the initial conference between the student and faculty member. A written justification and rationale must accompany the student’s request, outlining why the previous decision fails to resolve the situation and an appeal is warranted in accordance with this policy. 

The conference with the academic unit administrator will take place within five business days of the request. If the faculty member is the academic unit administrator, skip this step and go to step 3. 

Within 5 business 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 and confirming a final decision from the academic unit. 

Step 3

If the conference between the student and the academic unit administrator fails to resolve the situation and an appeal is warranted in accordance with this policy, the student will request a conference with the Graduate College Associate Dean. 

In cases involving a dismissal from a graduate program, the student may appeal the dismissal by submitting a written appeal to the Graduate College Associate Dean within 10 business days after the student has received an official dismissal notification from the Graduate College.

This written appeal must contain:

  • identification of the faculty member and/or academic unit involved;
  • a written justification and rationale outlining how:
    • The faculty, department, school, or other academic unit deviated substantially from accepted and specified standards as established by the University, Graduate College, or academic unit;
    • There was a capricious or arbitrary application of standards towards a student;
    • Proper due process was denied to the student.
  • supporting evidence or materials (if applicable);
  • a copy of the written response from step 2 (if applicable);

Along with this written appeal, the student will request a conference with the Graduate College Associate Dean. After receipt of the student’s request for a meeting, the Graduate College Associate Dean will arrange a meeting with the student within five business days. At the conclusion of this meeting, the Graduate College Associate Dean shall send an email and/or letter to the student documenting that the meeting occurred and render a decision. 

Step 4

After the Graduate College Associate Dean has issued a decision, the student may request an appeal to the University Graduate Committee Hearing Panel (UGCHP) if the previous decision fails to resolve the situation and an appeal is warranted in accordance with this policy.  The student may file this written appeal to the Graduate College Dean within 5 business days from the date on the email/letter outlining the Step 3 decision. The Graduate College Dean will then convene the UGCHP to review the appeal. 

University Graduate Committee Hearing Panel (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 academic 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 Dean of the Graduate College shall identify the members of the UGCHP, 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 Graduate College Dean will appoint one of the selected four faculty members to serve as Chair. The Graduate College will supply the UGCHP with organizational and staff support as needed. 

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 for which a separate university-wide process exists. These situations include (but are not limited to):

  • 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.
  • Issues that fall under the purview of NAU’s Office of Equity and Access 

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. 

University Graduate Committee Hearing Panel (UGCHP) Process

The UGCHP will review the written decisions and any written responses to prior decisions to determine whether the action(s) being appealed fall within the scope of appealable actions as outlined in this policy. The UGCHP then has 20 business 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 business days to arrange the hearing.

The chairperson of the UGCHP 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 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 faculty, department, school, or other academic unit deviated substantially from accepted and specified standards as established by the University, Graduate College, or academic unit; there was a capricious or arbitrary application of standards towards a student; or proper due process was denied to the student.

The following practices will apply to the conduct of the hearing:

  • 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.
    • The hearing shall be recorded and this recording will be kept in the office of the Graduate College.
    • 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 summarize the events to date and outline the order of the proceedings.
  • 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 their presentation.
  • 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 their presentation.
  • The student and faculty member will each be allowed to make one rebuttal after both have presented their case, with the student’s rebuttal last.
  • 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.
  • Each party may submit questions for the UGCHP to ask during the hearing. The UGCHP will exclude questions either party submits that are repetitive, immaterial, or otherwise not pertinent to the case. The UGCHP will discuss which questions to include in the hearing, and UGCHP Chair will make the final decision.
  • Following the presentations and questions, the parties will be allowed to present closing statements summarizing the evidence presented. The faculty member presents a closing statement first, followed by the student. 

UGCHP Deliberations and Recommendation

  • Only members of the UGCHP may be present during the deliberations.
  • 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.
  • Final recommendations from the UGCHP will be made within three business days after review of the materials and following the conclusion of the hearing. This recommendation shall be in writing and shall be transmitted to the Graduate College Dean.
  • The written recommendation shall include findings of fact, a statement of the reasons for the recommendation, and the signature of the UGCHP chairperson. 

Graduate College Dean’s Review and Final Decision

The Graduate College Dean will outline the findings of the UGCHP and render a final decision concerning the issue, in writing, within five (5) business 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. The Graduate College Dean’s decision is the final decision, as the Dean’s decision cannot be appealed.


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