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Student Complaint Policy and Procedures

Policy

Southwestern Oklahoma State University has several methods of providing students with the process to file an appeal, file a grievance, or file a complaint. The common elements of each process is that the process:

  1. Has a specific procedure in which the university responds to the appeal, grievance, or complaint
  2. Abides by university, state, federal, or Higher Learning Commission requirements
  3. Identifies an office or person who oversees the process and keeps an institutional record of the appeal, grievance, or complaint
  4. Sets a time limit by which the university must respond to the appeal, grievance, and complaint.

All procedures are reviewed by appropriate offices and the university’s Executive Compliance Committee, which meets each month to review university policies.

The following links provide the procedures in which a student may file an appeal, grievance, or complaint. Additionally, much of these procedures are located in the Student Handbook.

  • Higher Learning Commission Student Complaint Procedure
  • Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act Student Grievance Procedure
  • Sexual Harassment Complaint Process
  • Working Conditions Complaint Process
  • FERPA Complaint Process
  • Student Academic Appeals Procedure
  • Appeals Process for Student Conduct Sanctions

 Procedures

The following links and policies detail the different procedures for student complaints.

Higher Learning Commission Student Complaint Procedure:

https://www.swosu.edu/public/consumer-information.php 

  1. Students, faculty, staff and members of the public may submit a complaint about an HLC-accredited institution. SWOSU is accredited by HLC, which accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in a 19-state region.
  2. A complaint regarding an HLC-affiliated institution must be submitted using this form: https://www.hlcommission.org/Student-Resources/complaints.html
  3. HLC will initially review the complaint within 30 days of its receipt. The complainant will be notified upon conclusion of this initial review. This notification will provide information on any next steps, if applicable.
  4. If HLC determines a complaint warrants further consideration, the complaint, including related documentation as applicable, will be forwarded to the institution for review and response.
  5. The complaint is kept by SWOSU’s Associate Provost. Upon receipt of the complaint, the Associate Provost will review the complaint with the Executive Council and other appropriate personnel.
  6. The Associate Provost will provide HLC with a written response to the complaint within 30 days.
  7. All HLC Student Complaints are kept on file by the Associate Provost.

Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act Student Grievance Procedure

https://bulldog.swosu.edu/publications/handbooks/student/ada.php 

  1. The ADAAA Officer (SWOSU Dean of Students) assists students so that SWOSU can provide reasonable accommodation. Students must take the verifying documentation, provided by a qualified professional, to the Dean of Students. A full list of services to students with disabilities may be found on the Dean of Students’ (DOS) website.
  2. The student should meet with the Dean of Students to discuss needs and receive specific accommodation options. Students or the Dean of Students will then provide their accommodations to faculty and discuss how they will be adopted in class. Accommodations cannot be retroactive and begin only after verifying documentation from a qualified professional is received and reasonable time for accommodation development has been allowed.
  3. If a student with a disability believes that faculty members have not provided the appropriate accommodations, he or she may file a grievance with the Dean of Students. If a student does not believe their accommodation request has been fulfilled in a reasonable manner by the Dean of Students, the student may file an appeal with the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Sexual Harassment Complaint Process

https://bulldog.swosu.edu/publications/handbooks/student/code-of-conduct.php

This policy is in addition to the current Board and university policies concerning discrimination and applies to students, faculty, staff, guests and visitors. Complaints alleging prohibited sexual conduct with a student or employee, sexual violence, or other violation of the sexual harassment policy will be reviewed and investigated by the appropriate university office.

Complaints may be resolved informally or may proceed through the applicable formal complaint proceedings. Complaints may be filed in the following manner:

  1. Complaints against students or student organizations shall be filed with the Dean of Students for review and investigation. The Dean of Students may assist in the informal resolution of the complaint or in processing a complaint through HR, SWOSU deans, or any of SWOSU’s executive officers.
  2. Complaints against faculty or staff shall be filed with HR. The designated official may assist in the informal resolution of the complaint or in processing a formal complaint through the chain-of-command above their supervisor, up to and including the President. Additionally, the complaint may be taken to SWOSU’s executive officers.
  3. Complaints against visitors, guests, vendors, contractors or any other person should be directed to the Campus Police Department, HR, SWOSU deans or any of SWOSU’s executive officers.
  4. Any other appropriate process as established by SWOSU policy. 

Working Conditions Complaint Process

https://bulldog.swosu.edu/publications/handbooks/staff/conduct-discipline.php#grievance 

Individuals are available to advise and assist employees who have a question, problem or complaint about working conditions. Most concerns can be resolved by informal discussions between the parties involved. Employees may prefer to seek assistance from their supervisor on such matters.  Additionally, HR is available to assist employees.

Informal Grievance: Employees are encouraged to resolve matters in an informal manner.  The following steps are suggested to resolve questions or employment dissatisfaction in an informal manner:

SWOSU uses an open door policy to resolve issues that cause concern with work conditions, university policy, safety and other matters. It is often the case that the supervisor closest to the matter is best suited to resolve the issue. Thus, individuals are encouraged to seek direction from their immediate supervisor to resolve concerns as they arise. However, should an employee’s supervisor not address the matter to an individual’s satisfaction or should an individual prefer, they may contact an administrator in their supervisors chain-of-command, HR and/or a senior administrator.

Formal Grievance: A formal complaint may be presented due to the dissatisfaction that occurs when an employee believes a condition of their employment is unjust, inequitable or a substantial hindrance to effective operation. The employee shall present the facts, in writing, to the Assistant Vice President for Human Resources.  A formal complaint must contain the following:

  • a clear, detailed, signed and dated statement of the complaint,
  • a summary outlining with whom the points of dissatisfaction were discussed and what results were realized from these discussions and
  • the specific remedial action or relief sought.

The Assistant Vice President for Human Resources or appropriate designee will consider the formal grievance.  A written response will be provided to the employee.  Should the employee so desire, an appeal may be filed with the Vice President of Administration and Finance within 10 working days.  Should the Assistant Vice President for Human Resources or the Vice President of Administration and Finance be named in the formal grievance and/or have such a relationship with the accused or the accuser that a report could legitimately be contested on the grounds of bias, an alternate decision maker shall be appointed.

Knowingly providing false information or failure to cooperate with a SWOSU review may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Retaliation: An attempt to penalize or retaliate against a person for filing a complaint or participating in the investigation of a complaint will be treated as a separate and distinct violation of SWOSU policy.  As such, appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment, may occur.

FERPA Complaint Process

https://bulldog.swosu.edu/student-services/dean-students/ferpa.php

The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Southwestern Oklahoma State University to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA are:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-4605
202-260-3887

Student Academic Appeals Procedure

https://bulldog.swosu.edu/publications/handbooks/student/academic-issues.php

The student must exhaust all appeal requirements of the academic department from which the appeal is made before the student may file an appeal with the Academic Appeals Committee. Any appeal made by a student to the committee will be denied by the committee if the student has not exhausted all departmental appeal procedures.

  1. With the exception of a Request to Change a Grade to a Withdrawal (W), the student must exhaust the following university administrative remedies before filing a written Application for Academic Appeal of a course grade unless they are included in the departmental appeals procedure:
    • The student must discuss the issue with the course instructor. If the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the student, the student must proceed to the next step.
    • The student must discuss the issue with the chair of the appropriate department. If the instructor assigning the grade has left the university before the start of the appeal, the department chairperson shall represent the instructor in the appeal process. If the chair of the department is directly involved in the matter, or if the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the student, the student must proceed to the next step.
    • The student must discuss the issue with the associate dean/dean of the school in which the course is taught. If the dean is directly involved in the matter, or if the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the student, the student may file a written Application for Academic Appeal.

The policy in its entirety may be found online in the Academic Appeals Procedure. (www.swosu.edu/students/fpp.aspx)

Appeals Process for Student Conduct Sanctions

https://bulldog.swosu.edu/publications/handbooks/student/code-of-conduct.php

Appeal Request

The decision of the Investigator in Non-Academic Misconduct investigations shall be final and not appealable except in cases of suspension, expulsion or degree revocation which may be appealed to a Committee on student conduct.

Appeals will be granted only under the following circumstances:

  1. A procedural or substantive error occurred in either the investigative or adjudicatory process that significantly impacted the outcome of the Hearing (e.g. substantial bias, material deviation from established procedures, the findings and decision are contrary to the great weight of the evidence, etc.); or
  2. The sanctions imposed are substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation found.

Appeal Process

To initiate an appeal, a student must make the request. The request and reason for appeal shall be submitted to the Investigator in writing, or delivered via facsimile or email, and include the date of submission. The appeal request must be delivered to the Investigator within 3 days after the disciplinary decision was sent by the university.

The Investigator will provide the student appeal request and the corresponding report to the Vice President for Student Affairs and all members of the Appeals Committee at least 5 days prior to the appeal Hearing. Within thirty (30) days of a request, a Hearing will be scheduled unless unanticipated circumstances prevent this.

If the student appeals a decision of suspension, expulsion, degree revocation, or rescission of credit, the decision will not become effective until after a Hearing before the Committee unless a temporary suspension remains in place in accordance with the policies herein.

Non-Academic Misconduct Hearing Appeals Committee

The Appeals Committee will have no less than three members. The Committee will include the Vice President of Student Affairs as the Committee Chair. Two other members may include any number of other administrators, faculty, and staff, and may include no more than one student. The chair of the Committee will decide any questions or objections to Hearing procedures that are raised during the Hearing.

Hearing Advisor

During the Hearing, a Complainant and Respondent may be accompanied by an advisor of the student’s choice so long as the availability of the advisor does not hamper the timeliness of the Hearing. The student may choose to have an attorney serve as advisor; however, the advisor does not represent the student in a student conduct Hearing and students will be expected to provide their own testimony.

The Committee may be accompanied by a Hearing Advisor. The Hearing Advisor will not question witnesses or evaluate evidence. The Hearing Advisor shall be responsible for the effective implementation of policies and procedures throughout the Hearing.

Appeal Hearing Procedure

No more than thirty (30) days following the request of an appeal, the Committee shall convene for an appeal hearing. All hearings are closed and information presented in them and all supporting documents are confidential.

No request for new witnesses and/or evidence may be presented at the Hearing unless the Chair receives notification and approves the request at least 5 days prior to the scheduled Hearing. During the Hearing, the student has the opportunity to offer information on their own behalf and to review all information, statements, or evidence presented.

This Hearing will have the following procedure:

  1. The Chair will explain to the appealing student their rights under the terms and conditions of the Hearing rules and regulations. The Chair will then read a statement explaining the allegations made as well as the misconduct violation and its definition. The Chair will then read the Preponderance of Evidence definition used when determining outcomes of misconduct.
  2. The Chair will then explain the Hearing procedure.
  3. The Investigator will describe the evidence collected, the rationale used to make their determination, and the rationale used when determining the sanctions assigned.
  4. The appealing student will then have an opportunity to ask questions of the Investigator and their investigation process.
  5. The Committee may ask questions of the Investigator and the appealing student.
  6. The appealing student will then describe their reason for appeal. The appellant may then question any witnesses. The Committee will have an opportunity to question witnesses presented by the appellant.
  7. The Committee may then ask any questions of the Investigator and the appealing student.
  8. Witnesses and other students involved during the conduct investigation may then be called and questioned by the Committee. The appellant will have an opportunity to question witnesses presented by the Committee.
  9. After the chair has determined that all necessary information has been presented and questions answered, the Committee will go into closed session and all other persons will be excused. The chair may reconvene the Hearing if the Committee decides that essential information has not been presented. The Committee will determine whether or not it believes the accused student is responsible for a violation of the regulations and, if so, whether the penalties determined by the Investigator are reasonable. The Committee Hearing will result in one of two outcomes:
  10. that the Investigator’s determination is affirmed; or
  11. that the Investigator’s determination is modified or reversed.

The Committee’s decision shall be final unless, within 3 days following the entry thereof, the student lodges an appeal with the president of the university. Appeals with the president shall relate to procedural matters only.

As an additional option, students can see the SWOUS Dean of Students, Joshua Engle. He can be reached by e-mail at Joshua.engle@swosu.edu, in STF 214, or by phone at 580-774-3767, or the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Ruth Boyd, at ruth.boyd@swosu.edu, in HAB 208-B, or by phone at 580-774-7172.