Student Grievance Procedure

Purpose

This student grievance procedure ensures that students may present grievances to the university, that they know how to present grievances, and that the university will resolve grievances fairly and justly. A student may pursue a grievance if he or she believes that a member of the university community has violated his or her rights. This procedure applies to alleged discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, age, national origin, or disability, as well as problems arising in the relationship between a student and the university. The Office of Student Life provides guidance about the appropriate system for redress of particular complaints.

Students may voice general concerns at Southern Virginia University Student Association Senate meetings. Senate meetings are typically held every other Wednesday in the Main Hall Ballroom. Students may present individual grievances or recommendations directly to the SVUSA Senate.

Informal Resolution

First, students are encouraged to follow the pattern taught in Matthew 18:15-17 and to discuss a grievance with the person alleged to have caused it (hereafter, “the accused”). The student should seek to discuss the issue as soon as he or she experiences the grievance. Also, the student may wish to present the grievance in writing to the person alleged to have caused it. In either case, the accused should respond to the student promptly, either orally or in writing.

Formal Review

Students not wishing or not satisfied with an informal resolution may advance to the next step, which is to submit a formal written grievance to the Office of Student Life. The only exception to this policy is that academic grievances are handled through another process described below under “Academic Issues.” The chair or director (hereafter, the “administrator”) of the area where the accused works will also review the grievance. Students must submit the written grievance within forty-five (45) calendar days after they first became aware of the issues that gave rise to the grievance. If the grievance is against the chair or director of a department or area, the grievance will be addressed to his or her supervisor. The administrator and the Office of Student Life will conduct an investigation to resolve any disputes. The administrator will write a report of the investigation. The administrator shall then submit his or her written decision to the student, to the person alleged to have caused the grievance, and to the Office of Student Life within ten (10) calendar days of receipt of their report. The written determination shall include the reasons for the decision, shall indicate the action to be taken if any, and shall inform the student of the right to seek review by the appropriate vice president (or the president if the administrator is a vice president).

Considerations

Calculation of Time Limitations: If time limits in a procedure place the date for an appeal, decision, or any action on a weekend or university holiday, the university’s next regularly scheduled business day is the operative date. These procedural time limits, however, will not limit the university’s right immediately to withdraw a student from the university consistent with its administrative withdrawal policies.

Due Process: If an investigation requires a hearing, students are assured rights including the use of an advocate and the calling and confronting of witnesses. Evidence used to decide any complaint should be relevant, reliable, and obtained through reasonable and ethical means.

Non-Retaliation: Retaliation against any student for filing a grievance or against any other individual participating in the investigation is prohibited. Retaliation is against state and federal laws and university policy.  Those who retaliate face disciplinary action up to and including termination or sanctions in accordance with applicable student conduct and honor codes.  Anyone who has participated in a grievance process may file a grievance if he or she feels retaliation.

Administrative Review: Consistent with relevant standards of confidentiality and privacy, the university administration will periodically review written student grievances as a part of institutional assessment.

Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies: Southern Virginia University is accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education, located at 526 King St., Suite 203, Alexandria, VA 22314. The Academy’s telephone number is (703) 299-9030. Its web and email addresses are www.aale.org and aaleinfo@aale.org. The university is certified to operate and grant baccalaureate degrees by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), located at 101 N. 14th Street, Richmond, VA 23219. SCHEV’s telephone number is (804) 225-2600. SCHEV’s web address is www.schev.edu. Both of these agencies expect that any student bringing a grievance to their attention will have previously exhausted his or her administrative remedies within the university as outlined in these procedures.

Specific Grievance Issues

Academic Issues:Requests for exceptions to academic policy are made by formal petition to the Registrar using the Academic Exception Petition Form. Such appeals are reviewed by the Academic Affairs Council.

Outside of requests for exceptions, students must first meet promptly with the relevant course instructor to present a concern. If the grievance cannot be resolved informally with the instructor, it should be presented promptly in writing to the division chair responsible for the course in which the issue or concern surfaced. This written complaint should be copied simultaneously to the Office of the Provost. If the grievance is with a faculty member serving as division chair, then the written complaint should be lodged directly with the Office of the Provost. The provost or associate provost will act in the stead of the division chair.

Written complaints to the division chair will be responded to in writing within twenty-one (21) calendar days from the time that they are received. If the parties involved are not satisfied with the resolution of the complaint, an appeal lies with the Academic Affairs Council. A formal appeal must be made, in writing, within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date that the written decision of the division chair is sent out. The formal appeal is submitted to the Office of the Provost and must include a copy of the original written complaint, a copy of the written decision of the division chair, and an argument for why the decision of the division chair is in error. These materials will be calendared for consideration at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Academic Affairs Council. Any member of the Academic Affairs Council implicated in a formal grievance will recuse him- or herself from consideration of the appeal. The written determination of an academic grievance by the Academic Affairs Council is binding.

Honor Issues: If a student feels a sanction regarding an honor code violation is unjust or unfair, or that new evidence has emerged that has a bearing on the sanction, the student may appeal in writing within forty-eight (48) hours of receipt of notice to the Honor Council or the Executive Honor Council, as described in the Student Handbook.

If, after receiving the council’s letter setting forth a determination in the case, the student still has an issue with the sanction, he or she may appeal in writing to the Office of Student Life within three (3) calendar days of the Honor Council decision. The written determination by the Executive Honor Council regarding honor code sanctions is binding.

Housing Issues: If the issue concerns on-campus housing students must talk with the resident advisor or head resident advisor. If they cannot provide a resolution, students must submit a written grievance to the Office of Student Life detailing information about the situation and what has and has not been done to resolve the concern. If the Office of Student Life cannot resolve the issue, the student may present the issue in writing to the Vice President of Operations and Student Services. His or her written determination is binding.

Southern Virginia University does not currently designate university-approved off-campus housing or in any way negotiate with landlords about off-campus housing on behalf of students. If the issue concerns off-campus housing that is not owned or operated by the university, the student may ask the Office of Student Life for advice on how to resolve the issues such as security deposits, contract disputes, or maintenance/custodial services; however, this advice should not be construed as legal advice or as any way binding on the landlord.

Appeals to the President: Appeal to the president of the university is available only to students who have exhausted each step in the grievance process. All appeals to the president of the university must be made within fifteen (15) calendar days of the final decision in a student’s grievance procedure. The president will review the case for procedural error and will only overrule the prior decision if, in the president’s discretion, the prior decision is clearly erroneous.

These procedures were updated by the Southern Virginia University President’s Council on August 18, 2011.