Revisions to Student Grievance Procedures; Supersedes EM 92-011

Executive Memorandum 94-022

April 27, 1994

From: Manuel A. Esteban, President

Subject: Revision to Student Grievance Procedures; Supersedes EM 92-011

STUDENT GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

Statement of Purpose

The relationship of the student to California State University, Chico is one governed by statute, rules, and policies adopted by the California Legislature, the Trustees, the Chancellor, the campus President, and their duly authorized designees. The document establishes and describes procedures that are to be used for resolving student complaints and grievances arising from a student's claim that a member of the faculty, staff, or administration has in some material way failed to meet their official obligations as agents of the University, thus resulting in an unjust or adverse impact on the student. Only those claims arising from official actions taken by faculty, staff, or administrators on behalf of California State University, Chico can be considered legitimate, and the grievability of such claims is to be determined through the procedures specified in this document.

Procedures for informally resolving complaints or, when necessary, for resolving formal grievances are specified herein. Students are encouraged to resolve complaints informally, and to this end an impartial coordinator from the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs will provide students with assistance and guidance. Should informal attempts to resolve a complaint fail, formal grievance procedures may be invoked. In all cases, these procedures are designed to effect reasonable and orderly resolutions of student complaints and grievances in a fair, consistent, and timely manner. The procedures specified herein are to be followed when no other specific campus policy or procedure exists that would more appropriately and effectively bring about a resolution of a student's complaint or grievance.

Definitions

"Attorney" means a person admitted to the practice of law before any state or federal court.

"Complainant" means a student who has filed a complaint at the informal level.

"Coordinator" means Coordinator for Student Judicial Affairs, the member of the University staff assigned responsibility by the President for negotiating the informal resolution of disputes.

"Facilitator" means Formal Proceedings Facilitator, the member of the university staff assigned responsibility by the President for managing those cases in which informal resolution of differences has not been achieved and formal proceedings are invoked.

"Grievance" means a complaint that was not satisfactorily resolved at the informal level. The official action taken on behalf of CSU, Chico must have occurred when the individual was a registered student at the University.

"Grievance" means a student who has filed a complaint which is proceeding to the formal level and a grievance hearing. The student must be presently or previously enrolled at CSU, Chico.

"Instructional days" means days on which regularly scheduled classes or examinations are held at CSU, Chico.

"Notice of Inquiry" is a form designed by the Coordinator to record information to start the informal resolution procedures. The Notice of Inquiry will contain a description of the complaint and the desired outcome written by the affected student.

"President" means the President of CSU, Chico or his or her designee.

"Provost" means the Provost or his or her designee.

"The Request for a Formal Student Grievance Hearing Form" is a form designed by the Coordinator to record a description of the grievance and the desired outcome. The written Request for a Formal Student Grievance Hearing Form, including any supporting documentation, signals the start of the formal proceedings and must be written by the affected student.

"Respondent" means the faculty, staff member, or administrator (as determined by the Coordinator) against whom the grievance is filed.

"Student" means a person who has paid fees and is registered at California State University, Chico.

Decision Authority

Unless otherwise provided, the Coordinator is responsible for making procedural decisions during informal resolution.

Unless otherwise provided, the Facilitator is responsible for making procedural decisions during the formal proceedings. All parties involved, including the grievant and respondent, should consult directly with the Facilitator.

If the grievance involves a staff member or an administrative employee, throughout this document "full-time tenured faculty" must be substituted with "full-time permanent staff member," and "Department Chair" or "Dean" must be substituted with "appropriate supervisory personnel," Coordinator, Director, or Administrator as determined by the Coordinator.

If the grievance concerns an area within Administration or Student Affairs, the Provost must consult with the Vice President for Business and Finance or the Vice President for Student Affairs, respectively.

Recommendations resulting from the Grievance Hearing are forwarded to the Provost, who renders a decision based on those recommendations. This decision may be appealed to the President, whose decision is final.

Informal Resolution

Before filing a grievance, a student who has a complaint must follow these steps to attempt to resolve the matter informally. The student is encouraged to keep in constant contact with the Coordinator throughout the informal resolution.

Grievable Action

  • Limits - A Notice of Inquiry must be filed with the Coordinator within thirty 30 instructional days after the student has discovered or reasonably should have discovered the grievable action.
  • Additional Time Limits The Coordinator, under extraordinary circumstances, may extend the time limit, but for not more than one calendar year from the date of the discovery of the grievable action.

Limitations

  • Nothing from these proceedings can be entered into the personnel files of the parties involved.
  • Remedies indicated by these proceedings will be implemented as directed by the President.
  • These procedures cannot be used for actions for which other remedies are being sought.
  • These procedures cannot be used for actions arising out of previous grievances.
  • These procedures cannot be used in allegations of professional misconduct which require formal personnel action as specified in a university employee personnel policy.

The student must meet with the Coordinator to file a Notice of Inquiry (see IV.A.1).

The Coordinator informs the student of the steps in attempting an informal resolution.

The Coordinator will determine who the respondent will be and will notify the respondent that a complaint has been launched against him or her and forward appropriate documents explaining the nature of the complaint. The respondent may choose to contact the Coordinator of Judicial Affairs for an explanation of rights and proceedings.

The student should meet with the respondent to attempt to resolve the matter informally. The Coordinator may be present during the meeting between the respondent and the student.

If the matter remains unresolved, the student must meet with the appropriate department chair and attempt to resolve the matter informally.

If the matter still remains unresolved, the student must meet with the appropriate college dean and attempt to resolve the matter informally.

If the dean is unable to resolve the matter informally, the student may then invoke the formal Grievance Proceedings. In this case, the grievant and respondent shall each contact the Coordinator for information on the formal grievance proceedings.

Formal Proceedings

Grievability will be determined by the Formal Grievance Hearing Committee.

Grievability

  • The grievant must show that he or she has been adversely affected by the action
  • The grievant must show that the remedy sought will not effectively result in (1) special favoritism for him or her and (2) prejudice against others.
  • The grievant must demonstrate with reasonable certainty that an official action was taken which was either unreasonable or not generally or specifically authorized
  • If the action follows a written policy, the grievant must demonstrate that the policy is either unreasonable or not generally or specifically authorized
  • If the action is not related to any written policy, the grievant must demonstrate that the action is either unreasonable or not generally or specifically authorized
  • If the action is not related to any policy and a policy may be implied, the grievant must demonstrate that the implied policy is either unreasonable or not generally or specifically authorized, and further, the lack of such policy does not, standing alone, imply grievability of the action.
  • No one may seek to establish university policy through the grievance process.

Filing of Grievance and Rebuttal

  • The Coordinator must provide both grievant and respondent with copies of these procedures and be available for instruction in or interpretation of these procedures.
  • To initiate a grievance, the affected student must complete the Request for a Formal Student Grievance Hearing Form and deliver it to the Coordinator, who will immediately transmit sealed copies to the respondent, the Facilitator, the Department Chair, and the Dean.
  • At any point in the proceedings, the grievant may withdraw the grievance or accept an informal solution.
  • After receiving the written Grievance Form, the Dean must notify the Coordinator in writing within five instructional days that all informal means for resolving the complaint have been exhausted.
  • The respondent will provide the grievant with a written answer to the grievance, with a copy sent to the Coordinator within five instructional days of receipt of the Grievance Form.
  • After receiving notification from the Dean that all informal means for resolving the complaint have been exhausted, and after receiving the written answer from the respondent to the grievance, the Coordinator will forward all materials to the Facilitator and notify the Facilitator that formal grievance proceedings can begin.

Representation

The grievant and the respondent may each name a representative from the campus to accompany him or her in the grievance hearing. The name of the representative must be given to the Facilitator prior to the grievance hearing. Attorneys may not appear in the proceedings as representatives. However, if either the grievant or respondent is an attorney, both parties may be represented by attorneys who need not be from the campus. A party being represented by an attorney may seek no reimbursement of attorney's fees.

Naming of Witnesses

  • Grievance and respondent are responsible for obtaining their own witnesses and documentation. Participation in this process by prospective witnesses is voluntary.
  • The names of witnesses, if any, for either party and signed statements of their willingness to testify at the hearing must be submitted in writing to the Facilitator at the meeting of the selection of the Grievance Hearing Committee.
  • The names of witnesses will be shared by the grievant and the respondent.
  • The representative for the grievant or respondent may not be a witness.
  • Every effort should be made to ensure the witnesses appear in person. However, if the witness cannot be present, written evidence must be submitted. The witness submitting written evidence must sign the following statement: "I hereby declare that the foregoing is true and correct and that this declaration is executed at (location of signing) on (date of signing)."
  • Witnesses who will be presenting evidence in person to the committee must submit to the Facilitator, forty eight hours prior to the grievance, a summary of witnesses' testimony including its source along with any other written evidence they may be submitting. If evidence is not submitted to the Facilitator forty eight hours prior to the start of the hearing, then the evidence should not be admitted unless the Facilitator rules on the admissibility of the evidence out of the committee's presence.
  • An exhibit or witness declaration should be labeled and an index of all the evidence being presented should be prepared by the grievant and the respondent and presented to the Facilitator prior to the hearing.
  • Copies of materials witnesses will be referring to (regulations, statements in catalogs, or student handbooks, etc. ) should be included as exhibits.

Selection of Grievance Hearing Pool

  • The Grievance Hearing Pool will consist of forty eight members: a total of sixteen full-time tenured faculty selected to represent all the academic units; sixteen students selected from the most recent five percent random sample who have completed twenty-four units at CSU, Chico and who are not on academic or disciplinary probation; and sixteen full-time permanent staff. The Grievance Hearing Pool shall be selected at the beginning of each academic year and members shall be notified of their responsibilities in the event they are selected to serve on the committee.
  • Academic deans, in consultation with their chairs, will select sixteen faculty members. The Coordinator will select the sixteen student members. The Staff Council will select the sixteen staff members. Faculty and staff members will be appointed for the academic year on a two-year rotating term. Student members will be selected at the beginning of each formal grievance hearing.

Formation of the Grievance Hearing Committee and Eligibility

  • The Facilitator will hold a meeting to select the panel for the Grievance Hearing Committee after the response to the Request for a Formal Student Grievance Hearing Form is received from the respondent. The grievant and respondent must attend this meeting.
  • Grievance Hearing Membership. Each Grievance Hearing Committee will consist of four members selected from the Grievance Hearing Pool consisting of two faculty members and two students. In the event the grievance is against staff, two staff members will be selected from the Grievance Hearing Pool in place of the two faculty members.
  • If the grievance involves grading, the committee will consist of the two students and two faculty members only.
  • The following persons cannot serve on the Grievance Hearing Committee: (1) friends of either party; (2) persons involved with the grievance; (3) any person who is serving as an advocate for faculty, staff, students, or administration; (4) staff members, administrators, and nonteaching faculty when the grievance involves a grading dispute.
  • Challenges
  • Each party to the grievance is permitted to exercise challenges for cause to the proposed committee membership; the Facilitator must grant or deny the challenge.
  • Committee Formation The first two faculty names or the first two staff names (when appropriate) and the first two student names to survive challenge and who are available at the time of the hearing form the Grievance Hearing Committee. The remaining names are alternates. If an original committee member cannot or will not serve, a replacement is made by taking the first alternate who is available in the respective category to fill the vacancy. If a committee cannot be formed, the Facilitator, the grievant, and the respondent will meet again to select a new committee.

Grievance Hearing Procedures

Hearing Date

  • Grievance hearings are held only during the fall and spring semesters. If the grievance was filed less than five weeks before the first day of finals, the hearing may be held early in the following semester. Under extraordinary circumstances, at the discretion of the Facilitator, an exception may be allowed if it is requested by the grievant and the respondent, provided that the committee and witnesses, if any, are available.
  • The Facilitator must inform the grievant, respondent, the Dean, and the Department Chair of the time, date, and location of the hearing as well as information on other matters which affect the hearing.
  • The committee may be convened by the Facilitator one-half hour before the hearing for briefing or other purposes.
  • The committee will normally convene within five instructional days of its selection.

Quorum

Three of the four members of the committee constitute a quorum. When the grievance involves grading, both faculty members must be present to constitute a forum.

Closed Hearing

Attendance in the closed hearing is limited to the grievant, the respondent, and their representatives, if any, witnesses while giving evidence, the Facilitator, the committee, and the recording machine operator. The content of the proceedings and the committee recommendations resulting therefrom must not be made public by any participant in the hearing. In the event these matters should become public, however, such public statements as are appropriate may be made by the President. This policy of confidentiality does not preclude subsequent action following appropriate procedures on the basis of evidence developed at the hearing.

Facilitation

The Facilitator must present all written material for the committee to study and provide relevant information if so requested by the committee. The Facilitator chairs the hearing and makes rulings on procedural matters. In the event of a tie vote, the Facilitator will vote to break the tie. All testimony will be recorded. The recording will remain on file.

Process

  • The Facilitator shall be responsible for conducting the hearing in such a manner that the rights of the grievant and the respondent are observed throughout and that fair play and due process are accorded all parties.
  • The hearing shall not be conducted according to technical rules relating to evidence and witnesses or rigid procedural guidelines. The Facilitator shall admit evidence on which responsible persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs, but shall exclude evidence that is irrelevant, inappropriate, or unduly repetitious.

Witnesses

  • Each witness must leave the room after giving evidence and must not hold discussions with others.
  • At the request of the committee, a witness may be recalled only to provide clarification. The Facilitator must make a decision on the importance of the potential testimony against the inconvenience of recalling excused witnesses.
  • Additional witnesses, beyond those previously named by the grievant and the respondent, may not be called to present evidence at the hearing unless approved by the Facilitator.

Committee Deliberation

  • Deliberation occurs among committee members only. The Facilitator may be present for consultation. However, when the grievance involves a grade dispute and the committee finds in favor of the student, student members of the committee may not participate in the deliberations to determine the final grade to be assigned.
  • Committee members must consider the case based only on evidence accepted at the hearing.
  • A committee member seeks procedural advice only from the Facilitator.
  • The Facilitator must not allow unreasonable or unnecessary coercion of any member of the committee by another member.
  • The Committee will, by secret ballot, determine the grievability of the grievance using the guidelines established in Section V.B. on grievability. The Facilitator is responsible for ensuring that each member clearly understands the guidelines given in Section V.B. on grievability. The Facilitator records the vote.
  • The Facilitator must write a report consisting of the finding of facts and recommendations made by the Grievance Hearing Committee to the Provost. This report will be signed by all the committee members. Dissenting committee members may write a minority report.
  • The recommendations and all materials on file form the report to be submitted to the Provost within five instructional days after writing of the report.

Decision by Provost

Within five instructional days from receipt of the committee's report, the Provost makes a decision on the grievance. Written copies of the committee's report and the decision must be furnished to the grievant and the respondent. The Department Chair and the Dean will receive written copies of the decision. In the event that a grade change has been recommended, the Provost will then replace the instructor of record as the initiator of the change of grade form. The grade change procedure will then continue as noted in Section X of The Grading Policy, EM 92-013. 2.

Decisions not implementing the recommendations of the committee must contain reasons for that lack of implementation.

Appeal Procedures

Either the grievant or the respondent may appeal the decision of the Provost.

The party wishing to appeal the decision must deliver a written appeal to the President with copies to the other party and to the Facilitator. This appeal must be delivered within five instructional days from the date of the decision of the Provost.

The appeal must specify the following:

  • That it is an appeal
  • The name of the appellant
  • The reasons for the appeal and the facts supporting those reasons.

Within five instructional days of receipt of a copy of the appeal, the Facilitator must forward all grievance materials to the President.

Within five instructional days of receipt of the appeal, the other party may deliver a written response to the appeal to the President, with copies to the appellant and to the Facilitator, setting forth the reasons why the appeal should be denied and any facts supporting those reasons.

Normally, within ten instructional days of receipt of the appeal, the President renders a decision thereon, which is final for all purposes.

Tapes pertaining to the Hearing will be available in the Office of the Coordinator for Student Judicial Affairs. Requests for copies of the tapes must be made three working days in advance. There will be a charge for the tapes. Only the grievant or respondent may request tapes and the use of the tapes shall be limited to subsequent administrative and judicial proceedings held in connection with the matter.

Other Provisions

Ordinarily, the outcome of the formal Grievance Hearing shall not be overturned because of technical departure from the procedures or because of errors in their application. However, if technical departures or errors were such that a fair and just determination of the issues might have been compromised the President may reject the recommendation or call for a new hearing.