Student Grievance Procedures
(Senate: 1/23/68, 11/9/71, 7/15/75, 10/5/77, 2/27/79, 3/11/80; 5/13/80, 12/2/80, 3/2/99, 5/31/05, 1/28/20; President: 3/26/68, 11/18/71, 12/31/75, 11/1/77, 3/8/79, 6/23/80, 12/9/80, 4/30/99, 1/11/07, 7/24/20; Editorial Amendment: 9/00, 1/21/15)Purpose
The purpose of this procedure is to set out the guidelines and standards for the filing of a grievance by a student. This procedure is intended to reflect the University's commitment to the principles, goals, and ideals described in Cal State LA’s mission statement and to its core values. It establishes due process and safeguards that will be followed by the University in the resolution of grievances.
This procedure places first priority on open, honest communication. No grievance procedure should take the place of negotiating in good faith.
A student grievance is a formal complaint by a student arising out of an alleged action of the faculty, administrative units, or staff of Cal State LA. Such action is alleged by the student to be:
- An unauthorized, unjustified, or unethical action(s), which adversely affects the status, rights, or privileges of the student
- In violation of official campus policies or procedures
- The arbitrary, capricious, and/or unequal application of official campus policies or procedures
This Student Grievance Procedure is not intended for issues that can be addressed by more specific policies, procedures and/or investigative processes. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- An academic decision or grade appeal. Students shall follow the process outlined in Cal State LA’s Grade Appeals/Academic Grievance policy.
- A student allegation of harassment and/or discrimination based on a legally protected status, and/or related retaliation. Such complaints shall be directed to the campus DHR (discrimination, harassment, or retaliation) administrator. The DHR administrator will determine the status of the complaint.
- Frivolous cases which are abusive of the process or seek retaliation.
- Student appeals relating to financial aid decisions, rules, and regulations. These shall be directed to the Financial Aid Office.
- Challenges to student records through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The University Registrar shall be responsible for handling such concerns.
- Grievance based on a student's judgment of an instructor's or administrator's competence; such judgments are solely the province of the academic department involved or of the administrator's supervisor.
- Complaints regarding the performance of a member of the faculty, staff, or administration. These concerns should be brought to the attention of the appropriate supervisor.
The Office of the Dean Students will help students understand the scope and details of the grievance procedure and may be called upon for assistance.
The student may withdraw the grievance at any stage, at which point the process will immediately terminate. During all stages of the grievance, the burden of proof will be on the student.
Appropriate administrator: The vice president of the division (or the division vice president’s designee) in which the named employee works. In the case of a faculty employee, the dean of the appropriate college (or the dean’s designee). The appropriate administrator will work with the named employee and the student to attempt to resolve the grievance to the satisfaction of both.
Committee: The University’s Student Grievance Committee (committee). As appointed by the Vice President for Student Life, the Assistant Dean of Students: Engagement and Wellness shall serve as the coordinator of the committee. The committee will conduct grievance hearings, deliberate, and issue findings of fact and recommendations for action fairly and expeditiously.
Coordinator of the Committee: The Assistant Dean of Students: Wellness and Engagement shall serve as coordinator of the committee. The coordinator shall serve as chair for and advise the committee and any panels on rules and procedures. The coordinator shall not vote and the coordinator shall remain neutral on the merits of the grievance. The coordinator will select panels from the committee; coordinate, and monitor the activities of the panels; schedule and chair panel hearings; and meet with the committee and panels as necessary. The coordinator will ensure that grievances are processed in accord with this grievance procedure and assist students in submitting grievances to the committee.
Day(s): Days the campus is open and the University is in operation.
Grievance: A grievance is a formal complaint by a student arising out of an alleged action of the faculty, administrative units, or staff of Cal State LA. Such action is alleged by the student to be:
- An unauthorized, unjustified or unethical action(s), which adversely affects the status, rights, or privileges of the student.
- In violation of official campus policies or procedures.
- The arbitrary, capricious, or unequal application of official campus policies or procedures.
Grievant: The student(s) who file(s) a grievance.
Panel: The subset of the committee who will conduct the hearings. Must include 1 faculty, 1 student, 1 staff, and 1 administrator. In addition, the coordinator and MPP representative from Human Resources shall be present as a non-voting ex-officio member.
Parties: Parties to a grievance include the grievant(s), respondent(s), advisors for either of the former, members of the Student Grievance Committee, administrators processing the grievance, and those staff members with designated responsibilities for handling grievance materials.
Respondent(s): The person(s) or unit whose perceived actions or omissions gave rise to the grievance, or any person(s) designated by the University to respond to the grievance.
Unit: Any specified official institutional organization, e.g., a committee, program, administrative office, department or college.
Standing to File a Grievance
Any person, who was an undergraduate or graduate student, or enrolled in an Extended Education or Open University course at Cal State LA, at the time that the event or action which is the subject of the grievance occurred, may file a grievance. No student shall be penalized for submitting or proceeding with a grievance. No restraining, coercive, discriminatory, and/or retaliatory action shall be taken against a person because of initiating or participating in a grievance.
A grievance shall be filed no more than one hundred eighty days after the alleged occurrence of the action on which it is based, regardless of the date of the discovery of the action.
Confidentiality of Grievances
Except as necessary to process a grievance, the coordinator and the members of the committee shall maintain strict confidentiality as to all grievance matters and materials.
Advice & Counsel
Each party to a grievance may designate one person to be present for support during all stages of the grievance process, including the grievance hearing, but may not speak for the grievant or respondent. No person who is or ever has been licensed to practice law may participate in the hearing process, unless that person is the student or the respondent. The University’s Director of Student Support may serve as an advisor to the student throughout the grievance process, and provide information to the student about the grievance process and form prior to submitting a grievance.
Prior to initiating formal grievance procedures, the student(s) is required to make a good faith effort to informally resolve the dispute with the respondent. The Director of Student Support will provide guidance to the student on pursuing the informal process. If the student(s) is not satisfied with the outcome of communications with the respondent, the student is then required to attempt to informally resolve the grievance through either of the following channels:
- In the case of faculty: through the department chair, and if resolution cannot be attained, the college dean or the management personnel plan (MPP) employee responsible for the faculty member's unit.
- In the case of support staff or administrative personnel: through the employee's supervisor, and if resolution cannot be attained, the administrator of the unit or the management personnel plan employee responsible for the staff member's unit.
Formal Grievance Process
If the student feels that the informal process has not resolved the grievance issues satisfactorily, the student may then enter into a formal grievance process. The student shall obtain the formal student grievance form from the Office of the Dean of Students or an electronic copy from the website referenced below, complete it, and submit an original hard copy to the Dean of Students.
The statement of grievance form may be found on the student conduct office’s website under the non-academic grievances section.
The Dean of Students shall receive all student grievance forms and determine whether:
- The grievant meets standing to file a grievance, as defined in sec. 4.0
- The grievance falls within the scope defined in section 2.0
- The grievance is not a resubmission of a previously submitted or decided grievance.
If the Dean of Students determines the grievance should not go forward for any of the above reasons, and the student disagrees, the student may appeal the decision to the appropriate vice president.
If the Dean of Students determines that the grievance should go forward, the completed student grievance form shall be delivered to the coordinator of the Student Grievance Committee. Next steps are described below in section 8.30.
The Office of the Dean of Students may assist the student in preparing any necessary forms to ensure clarity and completeness. In the event that a student files a grievance that requires a review of his/her student records, the student waives his/her rights under the FERPA statutes to the extent that those records are released to the committee. The office shall also convene the meeting of the committee, provide the administrative support to implement this policy, and monitor all decisions for the appropriate administrator to assure actions are implemented in a timely fashion.
Considering a Grievance
Upon receiving a formal grievance (student grievance form) from the Office of the Dean of Students, the coordinator of the student Grievance Committee shall forward the grievance to the whole committee, and the committee shall meet and determine whether there is adequate cause for hearing. Deliberation by the committee and any consequent hearings shall begin within ten (10) working days of the filing of the grievance with the Dean of Students.
The grievant will be notified by the coordinator regarding the decision to dismiss the case or to proceed to a hearing.
The coordinator or assigned party shall reserve the appropriate facility and notify all parties involved of the hearing date(s) and location.
A hearing panel is designated by the coordinator based on availability, provided there are no conflicts of interest. For a formal grievance hearing to proceed, the hearing panel must have one (1) member each of the following representative groups making up the committee: students, faculty, staff, and administration. There must be at least four (4) committee members present. In addition, the coordinator of the committee as chair, and an MPP representative from Human Resources or designee, shall also be present.
The hearing is considered a fact-finding/information gathering proceeding, not a judicial process.
The hearing process shall proceed as follows:
- The committee shall determine who shall be involved in the hearing process. A conflict of interest exists for a potential panel member if he/she is the respondent, a witness to any of the events, a relative of anyone involved, and or works in the same department or unit as the named employee. A panel member who has a conflict of interest shall immediately notify the coordinator, so that a replacement may be selected.
- The grievant and the respondent may be present for the hearing process.
- The committee may seek advice from experts from the appropriate area.
- The committee may invite persons having information related to the grievance to participate in the hearing.
- There shall be no confrontation or cross-examination of witnesses. Committee members possess the sole right to ask questions. The grievant and respondent may provide a list of questions for the panel to consider.
- Only the panel, the grievant, the respondent, and those currently providing information may be present during that portion of the hearing.
- The coordinator shall preside at the hearing. The coordinator shall select a recorder to take minutes. Those minutes shall be the official record and shall reside in the Office of the Dean of Students.
The committee shall deliver a written report for each grievance to the appropriate administrator within ten (10) business days of completing its hearing. The report shall include both a finding of fact and the recommendation of the committee for an appropriate remedy, if found necessary.
The appropriate administrator shall render the final decision within ten (10) business days of receiving the Student Grievance Committee’s report. The decision shall be in writing and shall state the reasons for the decision. The decision shall be sent to the grievant and the respondent.
It is expected that the appropriate administrator shall give great weight to the recommendations of the committee. However, if these recommendations are not implemented, an explanation of this decision shall be provided to all of the aforementioned parties.
The party responsible for implementing the recommendation shall take action solely based on the factual findings and recommendations provided by the appropriate administrator. The party responsible for implementing the recommendation shall not re-investigate the complaint. Further, the party shall promptly notify the Office of the Dean of Students of the course of action taken. If, within a reasonable timeframe, remedial action has not been taken, the Office of the Dean of Students may request the appropriate administrator, or other appropriate officials, to expedite resolution of the situation.
Within ten (10) days of the decision of the appropriate administrator, either party to the grievance may appeal the decision to the president or his/her designated representative. The notice of appeal shall clearly state the grounds for appeal. The appeal must describe a substantial procedural error or some other significant factor that seriously prejudiced the outcome of the hearing.
The President may accept, reject, or modify the recommendations from the appropriate administrator based solely on procedural improprieties, California State University policy, or state or federal law. This decision shall be in writing and based on the record of the hearing. There shall be no new hearing or new evidence presented. This decision is final and shall conclude the University's review of the matter.
Maintenance of Records/Annual Reporting
The Office of the Dean of Students shall be responsible for maintaining all records and materials developed in the course of the grievance investigation and hearing. These files are confidential and shall not be divulged or released unless required by law or California State University policy. The records for each grievance shall be maintained for a period of four years after the final action has been rendered.
The Office of the Dean of Students shall submit an annual report to the president's cabinet on the number of cases heard and the disposition of the cases, taking all necessary steps to protect confidentiality. The report may contain recommended changes in campus policy designed to prevent repetition of actions that are shown by the findings of fact to be unauthorized and/or unjustified and that adversely affect the status, rights, or privileges of the students.