Complaint, Appeal, and Hearing Procedures

The University of Connecticut is a community of scholars committed to integrity, freedom of inquiry and intellectual pursuit, respect for individuals and the rights of others, and tolerance for both individual differences and differing points of view. Accordingly, a fundamental responsibility of The Graduate School is to foster durable, harmonious, and productive working relationships among graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty members, staff, and administrators.

Attempts by all parties to resolve disputes are strongly encouraged before pursuing resolution through The Graduate School. Assistance with problem-solving and mediation toward resolution should be pursued at local levels (e.g., program, department, and/or school) and also is available through the University Ombuds: http://www.ombuds.uconn.edu/. In the event that a resolution is not reached following such good faith efforts, and as an action of last resort, either party may engage in the hearing procedure through The Graduate School. The Associate/Assistant Dean will ordinarily decline to convene a hearing committee unless there is evidence that prior attempts at resolution have failed. In rare cases, the actions or behaviors alleged in the complaint may be sufficiently extreme that it would be unreasonable to expect the Complainant to attempt a prior resolution.

The Assistant or Associate Dean (the “Hearing Officer”) will review the information submitted, may request additional clarification, and will consider all relevant information in determining whether the case should be referred to a Hearing Committee. In particular, evidence of “good faith effort” at mediation will be considered. Within twenty (20) business days of receiving the written request, the Hearing Officer will determine whether the case should be referred to a Hearing Committee.

If the case is forwarded for hearing, both parties will be notified of the reason for the hearing and scheduled hearing date. The hearing will be scheduled by the Hearing Officer no later than thirty (30) business days after notification to proceed with the hearing request.

If the Associate/Assistant Dean decides not to convene a Hearing Committee, the decision cannot be appealed. However, the Complainant will be encouraged to seek resolution through direct communication with the person(s) against whom the complaint is directed and/or through procedures available through the relevant graduate program, department, school or college, and university, as applicable. If these attempts at resolution fail, the Complainant may file a new complaint or appeal no sooner than thirty (30) business days after the notice declining convene a Hearing Committee was sent.

This document describes the procedure by which graduate students and postdoctoral scholars can seek resolution of conflicts resulting from their interactions with faculty, administrators, academic programs or departments, or other graduate students or postdoctoral scholars.

Filing A Complaint:

A graduate student or postdoctoral scholar may file a complaint with The Graduate School when they believe that actions or behaviors governed by this procedure have occurred and when all good faith efforts to resolve their complaint either through direct communication with the individual(s) involved or through applicable procedures in the graduate program, department, school, or college have failed.

To be addressed under this procedure, a complaint must be led using The Graduate School Complaint Form.

Categories of Complaints to which this procedure applies include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Unfair application of policies includes differential application of policies or regulations within a particular degree program or department that is not commensurate with individual differences in skills, contributions, or performance;
  2. A hostile environment involves personal conflict or behavior within a laboratory, degree program, or department that has the effect of interfering with a person’s performance; Note: A hostile environment claim may be referred to another office for resolution if it arises because a person is a member of a protected class under the University’s harassment policy.
  3. Unfair decisions relate to differential work assignments, allocation of research resources, allocation of financial support, or allocation of authorship that are not commensurate with individual differences in skills, contributions, or performance; and
  4. Interference or intimidation includes actions or behaviors that limit, impede, or delay a person’s completion of a task or degrade the person’s performance in any aspect of the person’s scholarly work.

The complaint form must include:

  1. A detailed description of the actions or behaviors governed by this procedure giving rise to the complaint, including documentary evidence (e.g., correspondence, notes, descriptions of interactions, and dates of occurrence) supporting the allegation;
  2. A description of actions already attempted to resolve the complaint (e.g., correspondence with the person(s) against whom the complaint is lodged; records of meetings with graduate program directors, department heads, or deans); and
  3. The names and signatures of those lodging the complaint.

Complaints to The Graduate School may not be filed anonymously. Anonymous complaints, may be filed through the Workplace Alert Program at: http://safeworkplace.uconn.edu/offices/. The Graduate School may or may not become involved in the resolution of these anonymous complaints. If The Graduate School does become involved, it may be unable to resolve the complaint unless the accuser discloses her/his identity.

The complaint process will follow the guidelines set forth in the Graduate School Hearing Procedure.

Consistent with the University’s Non-Retaliation Policy at: http://policy.uconn.edu/?p=415, retaliation against any person who makes or participates in the investigation of a complaint under this policy is strictly forbidden.

Note: These procedures do not apply to matters addressed by other existing University policies or procedures including, but not limited to, allegations of scholarly misconduct, conduct proscribed by The Student Code, harassment, complaints of retaliation and/or retaliation, and conflicts of interest. The Associate Dean/Assistant Dean of The Graduate School with jurisdiction (Storrs or UConn Health) may at their sole discretion determine that a complaint falls under the jurisdiction of the Responsibilities of Student Life: The Student Code, the Policy on Scholarly Integrity in Graduate Education and Research, the Policy Statement on Harassment, the Policy on Conflict of Interest in Research, or any other existing University policy that provides for resolution of complaints. Should the Hearing Officer determine that the complaint should be addressed through other procedures, she/he will notify the parties involved and refer the complaint to the appropriate University officials. UConn Health has a separate Office of Postdoctoral Affairs with jurisdiction over any complaints raised by postdoctoral fellows at the Health Center.

FILING AN APPEAL:

A graduate student or postdoctoral scholar may file an appeal with The Graduate School when they are in disagreement with actions taken or academic consequences imposed by an individual faculty member, graduate program, department, school, or college and when all good faith efforts to resolve their concern either through direct communication with the individual(s) involved or through applicable procedures in the graduate program, department, school, or college have failed.

An appeal must be filed in writing to The Graduate School using The Graduate School Appeal Form. All materials submitted during the appeal process should be clearly organized and labeled. Appeals will not be reviewed if the information is incomplete.

Categories of actions or academic consequences that an appeal might address includes, but is not limited to those listed below.

  1. Academic Dismissal
  2. Termination of Status
  3. Allegation of Scholarly Misconduct
  4. Academic Consequences imposed by allegation of Scholarly Misconduct

Please note, The Graduate School endorses the process for appealing a final course grade as described in the University Senate By-Laws. Information regarding this process can be found at: http://guide.uconn.edu/instruction/challenges-to-a-grade/.

The Appeal Form must include:

  1. A detailed description of the actions or academic consequences giving rise to the Appeal, including documentary evidence (e.g., correspondence, notes, descriptions of interactions, and dates of occurrence) supporting the allegation;
  2. A description of actions already attempted to resolve the concern (e.g., correspondence with the person(s) records of meetings with graduate program directors, department heads, or deans); and
  3. The names of those requesting the Appeal.
  4. For academic dismissal and termination of status appeal: Provide a description of a plan for removing barriers to successful program completion.

Timeline for filing an Appeal:

  1. Submit Appeal Form to The Graduate School within ten (10) business days of receipt of the notification of the action or academic consequence.
  2. The Graduate School will notify the major advisor and graduate program/department of the student’s intent to appeal the action or academic consequence within five (5) business days.

The appeal process will follow the guidelines set forth in The Graduate School Hearing Procedure.

Consistent with the University’s Non-Retaliation Policy at: http://policy.uconn.edu/?p=415, retaliation against any person who makes or participates in the investigation of an Appeal under this policy is strictly forbidden.

GRADUATE HEARING PROCEDURE:

When there is evidence that all good faith efforts to resolve disputes at the “local” level have failed, a complaint or appeal is filed with The Graduate School.

For cases forwarded for the consideration of the Hearing Committee, both parties will be notified of the reason for the hearing and scheduled hearing date. The hearing will be scheduled by The Graduate School no later than thirty (30) business days after notification that a complaint or appeal has been submitted.

For good cause shown, the Hearing Officer may reschedule the hearing at the request of either the person(s) filing the hearing request or the person(s) against whom the hearing is requested. If the person(s) filing the hearing request fails to appear at the hearing, the issue will be dismissed. If the person(s) against whom the hearing is requested fails to appear at the hearing, the Hearing Committee will hear evidence from the person(s) filing the hearing request and render its finding. A finding that arises from a party’s failure to appear at the hearing may be appealed in writing to The Graduate School, but only on the grounds that extreme circumstances prevented the party’s attendance at the hearing. If the request to appeal is accepted, the Hearing Officer will determine a new period within which a hearing must be held, and no further extensions will be granted.

The Hearing Committee is composed of three (3) voting members [two (2) members of the graduate faculty and one (1) graduate student]. The Hearing Officer (Associate or Assistant Dean) shall conduct the hearing as a non-voting member. No member of the Hearing Committee may be a member of the program/department of either party to the hearing, nor may any member of the Hearing Committee have personal or professional associations with the parties. Both parties will be notified in writing of the composition of the Hearing Committee at least ten (10) business days prior to the scheduled hearing, and any objections to the appointment of any committee member on the grounds that the member’s participation would jeopardize a fair hearing must be provided to the Graduate School no later than five (5) business days prior to the hearing date. The Hearing Officer will determine whether any objections have merit and make adjustments to the committee membership as appropriate.

The hearing is not a court proceeding and will not be bound by the procedures and rules of evidence of a court of law. The Hearing Committee will determine whether the issue has merit, and will determine the appropriate response if merit is found. The Hearing Committee’s decision shall be made by majority vote. The hearing will occur in private and will be audio recorded. The Graduate School will maintain the audio recording as required by Connecticut state law and it is the property of the University. Hearing participants are prohibited from making their own recording. Upon written request, a respondent or complainant may review the audio recording and make appropriate arrangements for it to be transcribed on University premises. Arrangements for a transcriber and all associated cost involved in the transcription will be the responsibility of the requesting individual.

Either party may invite one (1) person to attend the hearing as a support person. The support person may be consulted throughout the hearing, but is not permitted to directly participate in the hearing. Either party may invite witnesses to provide directly related information and must submit the names of support persons and witnesses to The Graduate School at least ten (10) business days in advance of the hearing. The Graduate School will provide a list of all persons expected to be present to the Hearing Committee and both parties at least five (5) business days before the scheduled hearing date.

All documentary evidence to be submitted should be clearly identified and provided to The Graduate School at least ten (10) business days before the hearing. New evidence will be allowed at the hearing at the sole discretion of the Hearing Officer. The party seeking to introduce new evidence must provide at least five (5) additional copies of evidence for review. In all cases, the evidence must be clearly organized and labeled. The Graduate School will maintain one (1) complete copy of all evidence submitted.

Witnesses will be present in the hearing room only during the period in which their statement is provided.

The Hearing Officer will conduct the hearing in accordance with the following procedures:

  1. The Hearing Officer will identify the person(s) filing the Appeal or Complaint, all persons involved in the case hearing and the members of the Hearing Committee.
  2. The Hearing Officer will state the issue, as set forth in the notification sent to both parties.
  3. Each party will be offered the opportunity to make brief opening statements. Each opening statement should consist of a brief summary and should not involve lengthy discussion or presentation of evidence. The person who has initiated the Appeal or Complaint will present their information first.
  4. Each party will be offered opportunity to present evidence to support her/his position, which may include written statements, personal oral statements, witness oral statements, and physical exhibits. The person who has initiated the Appeal or Complaint will present their information first. Witnesses will be present in the hearing room only during the period in which their statement is provided.
  5. The Hearing Committee will be offered the opportunity to question both parties and all witnesses. The Hearing Officer will determine the order in which witnesses will provide their statements.
  6. Both parties will have the opportunity to present a closing statement. The person who has initiated the Appeal or Complaint will present their closing statement first. At the conclusion of closing statements, the hearing will conclude and immediately following the hearing the Hearing Committee will privately deliberate and render a decision. The Hearing Committee’s decision will specify clearly (1) whether the issue has merit (2) and a recommendation for the appropriate course of action.

During the hearing either party:

  • May decline to make statements. A refusal to answer questions shall not be interpreted unfavorably with respect to that party’s position; and
  • May decline to appear at the hearing. The refusal of person(s) against whom the issue is lodged shall not be interpreted as evidence that the issue is valid.

The decision will be sent to both parties, the major advisor, the graduate program coordinator and/or department head, the Dean of the school or college in which the issue occurred, and to the Dean of The Graduate School within ten (10) business days from the date of the hearing. The notice will be sent to all parties via their official University email address, and if appropriate, by first class mail, postage prepaid, to the mailing address on file with the University.

Final Appeal Process:

A written appeal can be filed with the Dean of The Graduate School within ten (10) business days after email notification of the Hearing Committee’s decision is sent. An appeal is not a new hearing. It is a review of the record of the original hearing. In order to prepare an appeal, the person filing the final appeal request shall have the right to review the records of the hearing, including the audio recording. This review of records, including the audio recording, is limited to the purpose for preparation of the appeal only.

An appeal may be sought on the following three (3) grounds:

  1. On a claim of error in the hearing procedure;
  2. On a claim of new evidence or information material to the case that was not available at the time of the hearing; and
  3. On a claim of substantive error arising from misinterpretation of evidence presented at the hearing.

The Dean of The Graduate School has thirty (30) business days to consider and provide an outcome of the final appeal request. The Dean of The Graduate School approves or denies a final appeal. If a final appeal is approved, the Dean of The Graduate School may determine an appropriate course of action or return the case to the Hearing Committee with instructions to guide additional deliberations.

The decision of the Dean of The Graduate School concerning a final appeal is final.

A version of this policy was first approved and adopted by the Board of Trustees on November 10, 1998. It was amended on April 24, 2013. This version was approved and adopted by the Board of Trustees on March 26, 2014.

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