Grievance Procedure for Graduate Students

Approved by the General Committee, April 6, 2020.

This procedure provides a mechanism through which grievances can be fully investigated and decisions rendered. It covers grievances that involve serious disagreement between individual graduate students and faculty on issues relating to graduate education and support. If several graduate students share a common grievance, they may file a grievance jointly and pursue it according to the procedure below.

The first step of this procedure is for the student filing the grievance to contact the subject of the grievance so the involved parties attempt to solve the problem directly; the second step of the procedure is to engage the faculty director of graduate studies (DGS). However, it does not follow that every conversation among two disagreeing parties or with a DGS is an official “grievance” as described under this procedure. Rather, the vast majority of disagreements among students and faculty are resolved through discussion, sometimes with DGS assistance, without invoking this official grievance procedure. Only when serious disagreements arise that cannot be resolved by the parties without additional help will this grievance procedure be invoked. Specifically, a graduate student will not be able to engage Step 3 until Steps 1 and 2 have been completed per this procedure.

These grievance procedures apply to a broad range of subtle and sensitive matters having to do with issues such as alleged inequitable enforcement of graduate program requirements or unfair treatment of students, alleged violations of terms of written agreements related to a graduate student’s enrollment in a program, disagreements over the handling of unsatisfactory assistantship performance as in University Policy 1.3, disputes over order of authorship in joint publications, and other matters. However, the grievance procedure is not a mechanism for appealing academic decisions (e.g., decisions made by graduate faculty about a graduate student’s academic or research performance or progress; decisions about removing funding as a result of insufficient academic progress by a student when the awarding of funding was conditioned on such progress; or decision by a graduate faculty member to resign as special committee chair). Academic decisions rest with the responsible graduate faculty. The grievance procedure is not a mechanism to address disputes or disagreements between students.

Grievance matters should be handled with sensitivity. Educational records should be handled in accordance with the university’s FERPA policy. The graduate student shall suffer no retaliation for using the grievance procedure. The student’s supervisor(s) shall make reasonable allowance to adjust schedules to allow attendance at meetings associated with the grievance procedure. If the student fails to respond within the time limits described herein, then the issue will be presumed settled and the grievance will be closed.

When another university or Graduate School procedure exists to address a specific complaint or issue (i.e., academic misconduct), then that procedure should be used and not the grievance procedure. Additionally, this procedure is not a mechanism for resolving complaints alleging discrimination or harassment based on a protected-class status. Students should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX to understand the mechanisms available to answer such concerns.

In cases where it is unclear which university procedure applies, students should consult with the associate dean for academics in the Graduate School for guidance. The associate dean for academics has the discretion to decide whether the grievance procedure is available in a particular case. That decision is not subject to further review. To discuss the procedure, contact

Procedural Steps