Academic Grievance Procedure

(Effective January 1, 2002, revision of March 13, 2007)

Graduate students are associated in various ways with both the University of Iowa and the Iowa City communities, and therefore may share characteristics and responsibilities of many other groups.

Within the University, graduate students are first and foremost students, but many will, at some time in their graduate career, be employed as Teaching Assistants (TAs) or Research Assistants (RAs). A TA or RA works under the supervision of a faculty member and may be assigned duties such as teaching classes, supervising laboratories or studios, advising and counseling undergraduate students, grading course work, obtaining and analyzing data, etc.

Other graduate students find employment in a surprisingly large array of university programs and offices (not always related to their academic programs or goals) or in the community.

Still other graduate students may not be employed nor have responsibilities aside from those required by their department and degree program.

As members of the University of Iowa community, the University of Iowa Code of Student Life, published each year as an insert to The Daily Iowan, governs personal behavior of students (including graduate students). The Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College contains general rules and procedures governing graduate education. Each graduate program has more detailed Departmental or Program Guidelines which specify how that degree program operates within general Graduate College policies, and what graduate students can expect during their graduate career. There may also be College Academic Policies/Handbooks with information concerning the role of graduate students, particularly the instructional roles they may play.

The University has a collegial system of governance. This implies a shared interest among faculty, staff, and students (the University community), which is manifested in common interests and ways of debating issues and of internally resolving differences. The collegial system attempts to resolve issues at the lowest possible level and in a manner most consistent with the shared interests of all members of the community. Open and free communication is a hallmark of this system, which is meant to prevent issues from evolving into conflict or dispute. However, conflicts and disputes may develop, and students are encouraged to seek advice as soon as they occur. The collegial system of resolving difficulties and conflicts includes a set of informal steps: discourse between the involved individuals, followed, if necessary, by consideration by the department(s), the college(s), and finally an appropriate administrative officer. A complainant also may elect to proceed by one of several formal procedures, generally by filing a written grievance alleging a specific violation, misinterpretation, or improper application of specific rules, regulations, or procedures.

Although most students proceed without difficulty through their graduate degree program, others may experience difficulties with another student, faculty member, staff member, or supervisor; or with departmental rules or procedures. Because graduate students may serve in several possible roles, several different University rules and regulations, each with its own set of procedures for resolving complaints or grievances, may at times apply. It is important to note that those various formal procedures may have different time frames within which they must be filed.

The University of Iowa Operations Manual contains University rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, along with references to some of the procedures established by the Board of Regents which govern all of the Regents' institutions. Procedures for handling violations of the Operations Manual rules are codified under Section II, Ch. 29. Some of these rules are directly applicable to graduate students: For example, Section III, Ch. 30 contains the Student Employee Grievance Procedure governing non-academic employment of students (including graduate students); Section III, Ch. 15 governs Professional Ethics and Academic Responsibility of Faculty. (This section applies to graduate students both as students and as teachers. Conflicts between graduate students and faculty under this section are administered by the Office of the Provost.) Section III, Ch. 12.4 includes the Graduate Assistant Dismissal Procedure. In addition, the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity maintains procedures for handling complaints and grievances related to sexual harassment and discrimination. The Graduate College maintains the Graduate Academic Grievance Procedure (AGP) for resolving complaints and grievances relating to general academic issues.

For a graduate student, the particular grievance procedure to employ for a complaint will depend upon the area involved (student life, academic difficulties, employment, etc.). Generally, graduate students first explore how to pursue a grievance with their advisor or with an appropriate departmental administrator (department head or graduate coordinator). However, if students are uncomfortable or dissatisfied using this route, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the Graduate College will counsel them on the options available. In addition, the Counseling Service, the Office of the Ombudsperson, and the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity will counsel graduate students on a confidential basis and will assist them in selecting an appropriate grievance procedure.

The Graduate College administers the Academic Grievance Procedure (AGP) for pursuing resolution of complaints and grievances for most academic aspects of a graduate student's program. This includes issues related to the program of study and research, scholarship, or artistic production, which comprise the core of graduate degree programs. The objective of the AGP is to achieve a fair and equitable resolution of complaints or grievances at the earliest possible time and at the lowest possible level. A graduate student who elects to pursue a complaint or grievance through the Graduate College AGP is first advised by the Associate Dean of the different possible ways to proceed. The student then elects whether first to pursue a complaint using an informal process or whether to file a grievance and to proceed by a more formal process.

Informal Academic Complaint Procedure of the Graduate College
Academic complaints generally involve students experiencing difficulty in their academic program, or disputes concerning students' status or progress in their academic programs. Generally, graduate students should bring complaints to the Graduate College only after attempts have been made to resolve them in a collegial manner at the department/program level using established department/program procedures. However, if for any reason a graduate student feels uncomfortable pursuing a complaint through his/her department/program, the complaint may be brought directly to the Graduate College.

Students should always seek resolution via the Informal Academic Complaint Procedure before initiating the Formal Academic Grievance Procedure. To begin the informal process, the student should approach the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the Graduate College, who will serve as a mediator. S/he will work diligently to help all parties resolve the complaint in a mutually-agreeable fashion. This process may take an indeterminate time. Generally, the Associate Dean provides information to the parties on the progress of the negotiations at regular intervals.

Formal Academic Grievance Procedure (AGP) of the Graduate College
A Formal Academic Grievance is filed only if the Informal Academic Complaint Procedure has failed. When a Formal Academic Grievance is filed, a formal procedure is used to obtain information and to reach a decision.

A grievance is a written allegation that there has been a violation, misinterpretation, or improper application of University, Graduate College, or Department/Program rules, regulations, or policies governing a graduate academic program. No grievance may be filed later than two years from the event which gave rise to the complaint.

Step 1: The AGP is initiated by a statement of allegations submitted to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the Graduate College. This statement should clearly and completely state the allegation(s), including times, places, and individuals concerned, and must be signed and dated by the complainant. The information provided should form the basis for a thorough investigation of the allegation(s). The statement should also contain a preferred remedy.

The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will send a copy of the statement of allegations to the Department/Program for comment, which could be either agreement or rebuttal. The Department/Program will be asked to respond to the allegations within ten working days (excluding break periods between academic sessions). If the complainant is dissatisfied with the response of the Department/Program, he/she can appeal the decision to the Graduate College. The appeal should be a written statement to the Associate Dean indicating the basis on which the student believes the Departmental/Program response is unsatisfactory, and must be filed within 25 working days of the Department/Program response.

Step 2: The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Graduate College, who should already be familiar with the case as a result of the Informal Academic Complaint Procedure, or an appropriate designee, will undertake to ensure that all relevant information pertinent to the AGP has been collected into a file. Depending upon the exact situation, the Associate Dean may need to summarize the results of his or her discussions with the concerned individuals. This must be done without prejudice. The Associate Dean will then submit the file to the Dean of the Graduate College. Step 2 will ordinarily be completed within ten days.

Step 3: The Dean will review the contents of the file. The Dean will ordinarily ask the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs to appoint an Inquiry Committee, although the Dean may render a decision without appointing a committee if s/he feels that the case is sufficiently clear cut. If the Dean renders a decision without appointing an Inquiry Committee, the student may appeal within twenty days and request an inquiry (Step 4).

Step 4: The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will appoint an Inquiry Committee composed of at least two faculty members and at least one graduate student (often members of the Graduate Council). The Inquiry Committee will review the report of the investigation, request any additional documents the Committee believes germane to the inquiry and conduct a hearing to receive any additional testimony the student may wish to present or the Committee may wish to solicit. Students may attend the hearing alone or elect to be accompanied by either an attorney or a representative of the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson. If the student wishes to be accompanied by an attorney, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs must receive written notice to that effect seven (7) calendar days in advance. Failure to comply with the foregoing notification requirement may result in the postponement of the student’s hearing with the Inquiry Committee. Upon the receipt of written notice, the Associate Dean will make arrangements for a representative of the Office of the General Counsel to assist the Inquiry Committee in the conduct of the hearing. The first meeting of the Inquiry Committee may be convened by either the Dean or the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. After that, the Committee will organize its own activities.

The Committee may rule on the relevance of information or testimony and otherwise conduct the hearing. The Committee may close part or all of the hearing, so as to (1) ascertain the truth, (2) conserve time, and (3) protect confidentiality and privacy of members of the University community. The Committee will make a record of the hearing. The Inquiry Committee will report to the Dean on progress at intervals of about ten working days, and will ordinarily make a recommendation to the Dean within twenty-five working days (excluding break periods between academic sessions).

The Dean may accept or reject the recommendation, or may request the Inquiry Committee to explore other issues surrounding the grievance.

The decision of the Dean is final unless appealed to the Provost within twenty working days.

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