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Student Handbook: School of Law Section

Non-Academic Student Grievance

The purpose of this Nonacademic Student Grievance Procedure is to provide for the resolution of student grievances, including allegations of discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct, as well as the denial of reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities (including whether the student is a qualified individual with a disability, the adequacy of the student's documentation regarding the student's disability, and decisions regarding the student's academic adjustment or auxiliary aid, including denial of requested and/or approved services). This procedure is applicable to nonacademic student grievances filed against faculty, staff, or any nonstudent third-party. This policy is not applicable to grievances filed against another student. To file a nonacademic grievance against another student, please see the "Student Life Policies" section of this handbook.

Nonretaliation

This procedure is designed to allow students to address complaints in a prompt, fair, consistent, and objective manner. Any act of reprisal by a University employee or by one acting on behalf of the University, including the intimidation of a grievant, respondent, or witness during the pendency of an investigation, will result in prompt disciplinary action.[1]

Initiating a Grievance Proceeding

Informal Resolution

Before initiating a formal grievance, a student has the option to – but is not required to -- discuss the matter in dispute with the person against whom the student has a grievance and seek a mutual resolution of concerns. The student may be encouraged to return to this informal level of resolution at any time during this procedure. It is the University's belief that most grievances can and will be resolved at this level.

Initiation of Complaint

If an informal resolution does not result, the student must submit a complaint to the grievance officer to initiate a formal grievance. Initially the student's concerns may be communicated orally; however, they must be in writing before any review or other action takes place.[2] This written complaint should be submitted as soon as possible after the student knows of the subject problem. The complaint should specify the University or School of Law policy, procedure, or norm violated and specifically set forth all relevant factual details.

The Dean of Students shall serve as the grievance officer concerning complaints against faculty, staff, or nonstudent third-parties. The Dean shall serve as the grievance officer concerning complaints about the Dean of Students, and in this instance, the Provost will serve as the reviewing officer if the case involves a request to appeal the grievance officer's decision. In matters involving complaints regarding the denial of an accommodation, the grievance officer (and any other decision-making individuals involved) will have the necessary training and expertise concerning (1) the student's disability, (2) the applicable University policies and procedures, (3) the applicable legal standards, and (4) the appropriate methods for resolution, including the scope of remedies available to the student, or shall seek consultation as necessary and appropriate.[3]

Review by Grievance Officer

The grievance officer shall read the complaint, all relevant records or other factual information, and all University policies and procedures as may be necessary to determine whether the complainant's allegations warrant implementing the remainder of the procedures outlined below. If, for example, the allegations in the complaint, even if true, would not constitute a violation of a University policy, procedure, or norm, then the grievance officer should inform the student in writing that the student's allegations are not subject to the grievance process.

If the grievance officer determines that the allegations in the complaint do warrant further investigation and consideration, then the grievance officer shall forward, via certified U.S. Mail, notice of the complaint and its substantive allegations to the person against whom the complaint is made ("respondent") and, if discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct is alleged, the University Equal Employment Officer and/or applicable Title IX Coordinator. This shall be done as soon as possible, but in no event later than 21 calendar days after the grievance officer receives the written complaint.

Written Response

The respondent shall be given 14 calendar days from receipt of the complaint to return a written response to the grievance officer. Necessary extensions may be granted at the discretion of the grievance officer.

Investigation

The grievance officer will initiate a reasonable investigation into the matter. The scope of any investigation shall be in the sole discretion of the grievance officer. The investigation may include, but is not limited to, meeting with the parties, talking with witnesses, and reviewing any supporting documents.

A student may elect to withdraw a complaint at any time; however, the University reserves the right to investigate all complaints where necessary to protect the interests of the University community.

Advisory Committee

If the grievance officer desires, he or she may appoint an ad hoc committee to assist in the investigation of the complaint and/or for advice concerning the handling of this matter. In such instances, the ad hoc committee should have the necessary training or expertise necessary to investigate the complaint and offer advice on the handling of the matter.

Decision

Within twenty-one (21) business days of a receipt of the written response, the grievance officer shall make a decision by a preponderance of the evidence based on the written complaint, the response, and any other information the grievance officer determines is relevant. The decision shall be in writing and consist of factual findings, conclusions, and a remedy if one is appropriate. The grievance officer will provide a copy of the decision to all parties. In instances where discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct is alleged, the grievance officer will provide a copy of the decision to the complainant and/or target of the alleged discrimination or harassment, the University Equal Employment Officer and/or Title IX Coordinator. The decision will explain the investigative process and contain a summary of the facts gathered, a determination as to whether discrimination or harassment occurred, the reasons for the decision and any appeal procedures. If discrimination or harassment is found to have occurred, the decision will also include any remedial or corrective actions that have, or will be, taken to prevent any retaliation or recurrence (1) institutionally and (2) directly relating to the complainant, including notice of all sanctions against the offender in order for the sanctions to be fully enforced.

Request for Appeal

Any party may submit a written request for appeal to the Dean of the School of Law ("reviewing officer") within 14 calendar days from the date of the decision. The request for appeal must specifically set forth all grounds for appeal. The nonappealing party must be given the opportunity to respond in writing to the request for appeal.

Grounds for Appeal

The reviewing officer shall be limited to addressing only the following questions:
1. Did the grievance officer consider all the important and appropriate facts in the investigation of this matter? 
2. Did the student prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" (that is, more likely than not) that the person against whom the student has a grievance in fact violated a University policy, procedure, or norm or otherwise engaged in any unlawful or illegal activity? 
3. Was the process carried out in a fair manner? 
4. Was the decision one that a reasonable person might have made? 
5. Was the grievance officer biased?

Final Decision

Within fifteen (15) business days from the date of receipt of the written appeal, the reviewing officer shall make a final decision based on the written complaint, the written response, the grievance officer's written decision, the written request for appeal, and any written response to the request for appeal. The decision of the reviewing officer shall be final. The reviewing officer will provide a copy of the decision to all parties, and where discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct is alleged, to the University Equal Employment Officer and/or Title IX Coordinator.

Retention of Records

All written decisions made and materials produced in connection with a grievance conducted under this procedure shall be retained by the grievance officer for seven years after graduation.

 [1] This procedure shall not be used to bring frivolous or malicious complaints. If a complaint has been made in bad faith, disciplinary action may be taken against the person bringing the complaint.

[2] Assistance will be provided to disabled students who are unable to write a complaint.

[3] Which information can be obtained through consultation with the University's Disability Services Office.