4.5 Student Complaints

Federal Requirement 4.5: Student Complaints

The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints.

Compliance Partial Compliance Non-compliance

NARRATIVE

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USF Sarasota-Manatee) has established formal, written policies and procedures for addressing academic and non-academic student complaints and demonstrates compliance with those policies when resolving student complaints. Students taking courses in-person, online, or at an off-site location have access to the complaint process.

USF System Policies, Procedures, and Regulations

Various USF System policies and regulations define the procedures for asserting student complaints on academic matters. USF System Policy 30-053 Student Grievance Processes provides a listing of applicable System processes for specific student concerns, USF System Policy 10-002, Student Academic Grievance Procedure for Students ensures that all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at USF Sarasota-Manatee have an opportunity for an objective review of facts and events pertinent to the cause of an alleged academic grievance, and USF System Regulation 3.027, Academic Integrity of Students, describes the process for appealing academic integrity violations.

USF System Policy 0-007, Discrimination and Harrassment, USF System Policy 0-004, Sexual Harassment and USF System Policy 0-108, Disability and Accommodation prohibit discrimination and harassment against students, faculty, and employees. Supervisors, supervisory employees, faculty, and graduate students with instructional responsibilities are required to promptly report allegations, reports or instances of alleged discrimination and/or harassment by or against any University employee(s), student(s), or group(s) to the USF System Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity (DIEO). USF Sarasota-Manatee students have the right to file a complaint with the DIEO. Complaints that are filed are processed following the DIEO complaint procedures. These procedures allow for review, mediation, and investigation of complaints alleging discrimination and sexual harassment. A complete text of policies and procedures can be found on the DIEO website.

USF Sarasota-Manatee disseminates policies, regulations and procedures related to student complaints through various methods, including the websites of the General Counsel, the Student Webpage on the USF Sarasota-Manatee website, the Academic Catalog, the Student Handbook, and the syllabus template.

ACADEMIC PROCEDURES

USF Sarasota-Manatee developed procedures, within the guidelines of the USF System Policy 10-002 Student Academic Grievance Procedure for Students, specific to the institution’s unique titles and specific administrative levels. These procedures govern all USF Sarasota-Manatee colleges.

Resolution at the Course Level

  1. The student shall first make a reasonable effort to resolve his or her grievance with the instructor concerned, with the date of the incident triggering the start of the process (i.e. the issuance of a grade; the receipt of an assignment) and if the instructor determines it is feasible and may be productive, the instructor shall accommodate a reasonable request to discuss and attempt to resolve this issue.
  2. If the situation cannot be resolved or a meeting with the instructor is not feasible, the student shall file a notification letter within three (3) weeks of the triggering incident to the Dean of the College. This shall be a concise written statement of particulars and must include specific reference to the (a) published USF Policy, procedure, or official published catalog and the manner in which it was allegedly violated and the decision that affected the student’s academic record or status based on a violation of that specific written USF policy, procedure, or official published catalog (b) a description of the manner in which the student was treated in a substantially inequitable manner and a statement indicating the remedy sought (c) supporting documentation of all claims in the grievance and (d) the effort the student made to resolved the issue with the instructor.

Resolution at the College Level

  1. The Dean must determine if the matter is an Academic Grievance (a specific Policy violated or a student treated differently than others) or if the matter is a complaint regarding the course or instructor.
  1. (a) If the Dean determines that the matter is not an Academic Grievance, the Dean will discuss the complaint with the student and/or the faculty member and must advise the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs and recommend resolution if any. The Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs will then review the classification of the complaint as not subject to the Academic Grievance Process and advise the student and faculty member in writing of the Dean’s decision which may be to do one or more of the following:
  • Implement the recommendation of the College Dean (which can include dismissal).
  • Reject the classification and move the matter forward as an academic grievance.
  • Make referrals to appropriate Human Resources or employee supervisor/office for intervention and/or to appropriate USF offices (such as Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office (DEO)).

(b) If the Dean determines the matter is an Academic Grievance, the Dean shall provide a copy of the student’s statement to the instructor. The instructor may file a written response to the grievance and the Process will continue.

  1. The Dean shall discuss the student’s statement as reference above jointly or individually with the student and the instructor to see if the grievance can be resolved. If the grievance can be resolved, the Dean shall provide a statement to that effect to the student and the instructor with a copy to the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs.
  1. If the grievance cannot be resolved, the Dean shall notify both the student and the instructor, informing the student of his/her right to file a written request back to the Dean within three weeks to advance the grievance to the University Level. Upon receipt of the student’s request to move the process to the University Level and the instructor’s response to the grievance (if provided), the Dean shall immediately notify the Regional Vice Chancellor of Student & Academic Affairs of the grievance, providing copies of the student’s initiating grievance statement, any instructor’s written response to the grievance, and the written request from the student to have the process advanced to the University Level. Should the student not file a written request to move the grievance to the University Level within the prescribed time, the grievance will end.

Resolution at the University Level

  1. Upon receipt of the grievance, the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affair & Student Affairs shall review the matter to confirm that it is an Academic Grievance. If the Regional Vice Chancellor determines the matter is not an Academic Grievance, the Regional Vice Chancellor may dismiss it (which is a final University Decision) and notify all parties in writing, or if the Regional Vice Chancellor determines that it is an Academic Grievance, within three weeks the Regional Vice Chancellor shall establish an Academic Grievance Committee. The member of the Committee shall be constituted as follows:

a. Three (3) faculty members and two (2) students (undergraduate or graduate as appropriate to the case) shall be selected by the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs..

b. Wherever practical, the Committee shall not include members of the faculty or students of the College directly involved with the grievance, or faculty or students of the student’s major department. However, for cases involving clinical or professional standard violations, the Committee shall include, when feasible, at least one member assigned to oversee, or with expertise in, a clinical area.

c. The student or instructor may request to attend a Committee meeting to present a final statement to the committee. The Chairperson will designate which meeting the student or instructor may attend to present any final statement to the Committee. Only the Committee may invite additional parties such as faculty or students from the department involved with the grievance or from the student’s major department or other outside part to provide expert or other relevant testimony in the proceedings.  The student or instructor may be present during the other’s final statement and may hear the additional information provided, however, neither may be present during the Committee’s deliberations.  The meeting time and place is to be set by the Committee.  Failure or an inability of the student or instructor to attend a meeting will not force the meeting to be rescheduled or cancelled.

d. The student or instructor may be accompanied by one individual (not to act as legal counsel or to participate in the meetings) if the student or instructor attends the meeting. The individual may be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

e. Students may not initiate contact regarding or relating to the grievance process or outcome with any member of the Committee outside this established process before, during or after the Committee review process and any such contact may be considered a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

  1. The Committee will operate in the following manner:

a. The Committee Chairperson will be appointed by the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs from among the three (3) faculty members appointed to the Committee. The Committee Chairperson shall be responsible for scheduling meetings, overseeing the deliberations of the committee and ensuring that full and fair consideration is provided to all parties. The Committee Chairperson shall vote on committee decisions only when required to break a tie.

All deliberations shall be in private and held confidential by all members of the Committee. The recommendation of the Committee shall be based on their interpretation of the evidence presented to it.

b. Within three (3) weeks of the Committee appointment, the Committee Chairperson shall deliver in writing to the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs a report of the findings and a recommended resolution.

c. Within three (3) weeks of receipt of the Committee recommendations, the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs shall provide a decision in writing to all parties (the student, the instructor, and the Dean). The Regional Vice Chancellor’s decision shall indicate whether the decision was consistent with the committee recommendation.

d. The Regional Vice Chancellor’s decision is a final decision and appealable by the instructor or student to the University level only in the event (1) the decision of the Regional Vice Chancellor is contrary to the recommendation of the Committee (which will be indicated in the Regional Vice Chancellor’s decision) or (2) if there is a specific and identified substantive procedural violation of these Student Academic Grievance Procedures. Such an appeal must be made in writing to the Regional Chancellor of USF Sarasota-Manatee within three weeks of receipt of the decision from the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs.

Resolution at the Institution Level

For this level of appeal process, the Regional Chancellor of USF Sarasota-Manatee serves as the delegated “administrative officer.” The process steps are outlined below:

  1. The student or instructor may appeal at the Institution Level within three (3) weeks of the receipt of a decision made at the College Level, when (1) the decision of the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs is contrary to the recommendations of the Grievance Committee (2) a party identifies a specific substantive procedural violation in the application of the Student Academic Grievance Procedure. Within three weeks of receipt of the appeal of the decision, the Administrative Officer shall determine that the appeal is merited (there is a recommendation at the University Level contrary to the Committee or the Administrative Officer concurs that there is cause to believe a substantive procedural violation in application of the Academic Grievance Procedure process may have occurred). If the Administrative Officer determines the appeal is merited, the Administrative Officer shall advise the student, the instructor and the Dean of the College accordingly and that notice shall be a final University Decision. If the appeal is determined to be merited, the Administrative Officer (who may consult with the Faculty Senate and Student Senate) shall appoint an Appeals Committee consisting of three (3) faculty members and two (2) students, undergraduate or graduate (as appropriate and to be determined by the Administrative Officer).
  2. The structure, functions, and operating procedures of the Appeals Committee will be the same as those of the College Committee (i.e. chaired by one of the appointed faculty members appointed by the Administrative Officer who will not vote except in the case of a tie, having no representation from either party’s respective departments, developing a recommendation to the Administrative Officer, etc.)
  3. Within three (3) weeks of receipt of the appointment, the Committee Chairperson shall deliver in writing to the Administrative Officer a report of the findings of the Committee and a recommended resolution.
  4. Within three (3) weeks of the receipt of the Committee recommendation, the Administrative Officer shall provide a decision in writing to all parties.
  5. If the Administrative Officer’s decision is that a grade chance is merited, the Administrative Officer shall initiate the grade change on the authority of the Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs and so inform all parties. In all academic grievance appeals, the Administrative Officer’s decision is a final University decision and not subject to further appeal within the USF System.

In those cases where the final University decision constitutes a dismissal or permanent separation from the University, a student may seek judicial review pursuant to Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.190(b)(3) by filing a petition for certiorari review with the appropriate circuit court within thirty (30) days of the final University decision. If a person seeks review with the court, a copy of the petition must also be provided to the University of South Florida Office of the General Counsel at University of South Florida, CGS 301, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33620-4301.

College and Academic & Student Affairs Complaint Log
Example of Student Complaint Process

Academic Integrity

USF System Regulation 3.027 Academic Integrity of Students regulates violations and appeals of academic integrity violations. The regulation describes the four levels of academic dishonesty and various recommended sanctions that may be applied to students for violation of academic integrity. Alleged violations of academic integrity determined by instructors in consultation with the accused student(s) follow the due process as outlined in USF System Regulation 3.027. If the student identifies that the determination of the academic integrity violation or related grade assignment or sanction either (1) had no faculty basis or could not be reasonably inferred by the facts as present or (2) violated USF System Regulation or Policy, the student may appeal after notice of the final academic sanction.    

Academic Regulations Committee

The USF Sarasota-Manatee Academic Regulations Committee (ARC), comprised of college representatives and advisory members, meets weekly to review petitions submitted by undergraduate students to waive academic regulations. Undergraduate students applying for reinstatement to USF Sarasota-Manatee after academic dismissal or leaving the university on academic probation or those requesting a waiver of academic deadlines must petition and receive approval from this committee. The USF Sarasota-Manatee ARC Petition, the ARC Medical form, the ARC Instructor form, and the ARC Reinstatement After Dismissal form are available on the USF Sarasota-Manatee website. Procedures for obtaining and submitting these forms are available on the USF Sarasota-Manatee Academic Advising website. The Academic Regulations Committee renders a decision that the student may appeal to the college dean. The Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs reviews the appeal and renders the final disposition.

Academic Regulations Committee Log Example
Academic Regulations Committee Example

NON-ACADEMIC PROCEDURES

Confidential Guidance on Processes or Access

The Office of the Student Ombudsman at USF Sarasota-Manatee provides a confidential, independent, informal, and neutral resource for students who have college related complaints and/or concerns of a non-legal nature. The Ombudsman serves as an alternative resource for students from the traditional channels of information and support. Contact information for the Student Ombudsman is posted on the Ombudsman’s Webpage of the USF Sarasota-Manatee website. Accountable to Regional Chancellor, the Ombudsman follows the following steps in addressing and resolving student complaints

  1. – Listen to complaint, concerns, problems, and disputes
  2. – Provide referrals
  3. – Identify relevant policies and procedures
  4. – Facilitate communication
  5. – Help with bureaucracy
  6. – Gather facts
  7. – Find solutions

Ombudsman Report Log

Record Retention

Records of student academic complaints are maintained in their respective areas. For example, records of academic complaints are housed in the colleges and Academic Affairs. The Student Ombudsman retains records of the non-academic complaints handled through their office. USF’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity is responsible for administering the complaint and investigation process for student complaints pertaining to discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence.

Additional USF Sarasota-Manatee records of student complaints can be made available to SACSCOC upon request.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION AND EVIDENCE

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