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Grievance Hearing FAQ

What's the difference between a grievance and complaint?

When can students file a grievance?

Is there a deadline for requesting a hearing?

Are hearings automatic, once the written request is filed with the appropriate unit administrator?

Who serves on the hearing board?

What if I've had a run-in with a member of the hearing board--student or faculty? Can I request an alternate?

What's the difference between an academic grievance hearing and an academic disciplinary hearing?

Which hearing board has jurisdiction in disciplinary hearings?

Where can I read about academic grievance and disciplinary hearings procedures?

Am I allowed to see these unit procedures?

What is the University Ombudsperson's role in this process?

How do academic hearings differ from hearings that take place in the Office of Judicial Affairs?

What's the difference between a grievance and complaint?

Students may lodge a "grievance" if they believe an instructor, staff member or administrator has violated their student rights. Administrators, instructors or staff members may lodge a "complaint" against students who they believe have violated an MSU rule or regulation.

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When can students file a grievance?

Usually, students file grievances when they remain dissatisfied with the outcome of informal discussions, first with the individual who allegedly violated their rights and then with the chair of the department in which the alleged violation of student rights occurred. At this point, the process calls for students to file a written request for an academic grievance hearing. Either party may contact the Office of the Ombudsperson for neutral, confidential, independent and informal assistance any time during this process.

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Is there a deadline for requesting a hearing?

Yes, students have until the middle of the semester following the semester in which the alleged violation occurred to request a hearing, assuming the student is enrolled that semester.

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Are hearings automatic, once the written request is filed with the appropriate unit administrator?

No, the operative word is "request." The department chair/school director or college dean will forward the student's written request for a hearing to the chair of the unit's hearing board. The chair of the board then convenes the hearing board, which will determine if the request for a hearing has met the deadline and the requirements for submitting the request. If so, the hearing will be scheduled; if not, the student may appeal that decision to the next level hearing board.

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Who serves on the hearing board?

For hearings involving undergraduate or graduate students, the hearing board must include an equal number of voting students and faculty members.  The chair of the hearing board votes only in the event of a tie.

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What if I've had a run-in with a member of the hearing board--student or faculty? Can I request an alternate?

Yes.  You can request a change in the composition of the hearing board by notifying the chair of the hearing board of any potential conflict of interest between any member of the panel and you.  The chair will rule on your request.

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What's the difference between an academic grievance hearing and an academic disciplinary hearing?

Students initiate grievance hearings as the final step in trying to resolve their allegations of violations of their rights.  Deans initiate academic disciplinary hearings to impose additional sanctions on students who are "repeat offenders" or students who initially received a penalty grade for egregious acts of academic misconduct.  The Integrity of Scholarship and Grades policy requires first-time offenders to complete an Academic Integrity Education Program.  The additional sanctions may include, but is not limited to, probation, dismissal from your program, or suspension from the university.  Academic misconduct is defined as academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, cheating on an exam), violation of professional standards and falsification of academic or admission records.  (See also Protection of Scholarship and Grades 1.0.)

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Which hearing board has jurisdiction in disciplinary hearings?

Here's where it gets complicated, but the short answer is this: Undergraduate students may choose between an administrative hearing conducted by the associate provost for undergraduate education or having a hearing before the college hearing board in the college in which the student is enrolled.  Likewise, graduate students have a choice of an administrative hearing before the Dean of The Graduate School or a hearing before the hearing board of the college in which the student is enrolled.   Undergraduate students may request an appellant hearing before the University Academic Appeal Board; graduate students, before the University Graduate Judiciary.

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Where can I read about academic grievance and disciplinary hearings procedures?

Four important documents govern the "rules of the game":  Academic Freedom for Students at Michigan State University (also called the AFR, for Academic Freedom Report), the Graduate Rights and Responsibilities document (GSRR), the Medical Students Rights and Responsibilities document (MSRR), and the Integrity of Scholarship and Grades policy.  Each department, school and college must develop detailed hearing procedures based on these three documents.

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Am I allowed to see these unit procedures?

Yes, you should request a copy of the procedures from the appropriate unit before you decide to request a hearing, if only to know what you're getting into.

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What is the University Ombudsperson's role in this process?

Because the University Ombudsperson is neutral and impartial, he or she does not serve as your advocate in this process; instead, the ombudsperson will help you sort out your grievance and explain the process, up to and including a possible hearing.  This may help you decide whether you want to file a written request for a hearing--or not.  At the same time, the ombudsperson also will answer questions about the process raised by the chair of the hearing board and the person against whom a grievance was filed.

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How do academic hearings differ from hearings that take place in the Office of Judicial Affairs?

Think of it this way:  Academic hearings usually involve an allegation of a violation of students' academic rights as set down in the AFR, GSRR or MSRR.  These hearings take place in the student's department or college or a university-level academic hearing board.  Hearings that occur in the Office of Judicial Affairs usually involve a students' personal conduct, including violating university rules and regulations such as Acceptable Use of Computing System or unlawful possession of alcohol or drugs.

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Questions? Contact the Ombudsperson