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Graduate School

Appendix A: Graduate Student Rights and Grievance Procedures

Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities

Graduate Student Academic Grievance Procedures

A. Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities

1. Every graduate student has:

a. Freedom of inquiry, conscience, expression, and association and the right to petition for the redress of grievances, consistent with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

b. The right under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) to confidentiality in the student’s educational records.

c. The expectation of fair evaluation by faculty regarding assignments and academic work performed toward the completion of requirements for a particular course.

d. The right to reasonable due process in the conduct of proceedings pursuant to the provisions of this Appendix A or of any proceedings conducted under any other provisions of any other rule or regulation governing Kansas State University.

e. The expectation that the student will not suffer retaliation for seeking redress pursuant to the provisions of this Appendix A in good faith.

2. Every graduate student is responsible for:

a. The exercise of applicable rights and freedoms, as enumerated above, in a manner that does not substantially disrupt the operation of the institution nor infringe upon the rights of other students, faculty, or staff.

b. Completing the requirements and meeting the standards of any course in which he or she is enrolled.

c. Understanding the legal and ethical standards applicable to scholarship in general, and to the student's discipline specifically, as well as understanding the policies and procedures that the University has in place to ensure compliance with these standards.

d. Diligent pursuit and timely completion of all responsibilities associated with progress toward a degree.

B. Graduate Student Academic Grievance Procedures

The Graduate Handbook contains general rules and procedures governing graduate education developed by the Graduate Council. In addition, each graduate program may have more detailed departmental or program guidelines that specify how that degree program operates within general Graduate School policies, and what graduate students can expect during their graduate careers. To the extent departmental or program policies are inconsistent with Graduate School policy, the Graduate School policy is the superseding policy.

1. Scope of Authority

This policy is designed to resolve concerns and grievances brought by graduate students related to their graduate-level academic program, as more fully described below. This policy does not address concerns or grievances related to courses taken from instructors associated with consortiums or groups external to Kansas State University. In such cases, the grievance procedures of the external consortiums or groups must be used.

Non-academic conduct of graduate students is governed by the KSU Student Code of Conduct and the hearing procedures therein. The undergraduate grievance procedure, as described in Appendix V to the University Handbook, applies to any academic matter involving an undergraduate student taking graduate courses. The Veterinary Medicine academic grievance procedures govern academic matters involving courses within the College of Veterinary Medicine. The K-State Honor & Integrity System governs issues of academic integrity. All allegations of misconduct believed to constitute discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic or dating violence, or stalking are processed only under University Policy and Procedure Manual Chapter 3010.  Threats of violence or actual violence should be referred to the Office of Student Life, as well as to appropriate law enforcement.

2. Definition of Terms

a. Graduate Student - Under these procedures, a graduate student is any person who is enrolled as a graduate student at the time the alleged events leading to the grievance occurred.

b. Grievance - A grievance means a dispute concerning some aspect of a graduate student’s academic program. The subjects for grievances under this Appendix A shall include only disputes over grades, course requirements, graduation/degree program requirements, and thesis and dissertation committee and/or advisor decisions.

c. Respondent - The person(s) against whom a grievance is being brought.

d. Working Days - For the purpose of the grievance policy, the definition of a working day as defined in the University Handbook Appendix G. Section I, will be used. A "working day" is defined as any weekday on which classes are held that falls within the nine-month academic year (meaning the span of time beginning with the first day of fall classes through the last day of spring classes), including winter intersession class days, plus fall finals days and weekdays during spring break. All other days are excluded from the definition of “workday.”  But if feasible and agreed to by all of the parties, a hearing can be conducted and/or the process completed outside of the nine-month academic year.

e. Faculty advisor - A faculty member assigned by the graduate program director or department head to provide guidance to the graduate student until the appointment of the student’s supervisory committee.

f. Hearing advisor - The person who provides guidance to the student or respondent during the grievance process. Arrangement for and compensation of the hearing advisor, if applicable, is the responsibility of each party.

g. Consortium – A formal arrangement between Kansas State University and one or more accredited institutions of higher education that have formally approved degree programs or graduate certificates approved by the Graduate Council and Faculty Senate.

3. Guidelines for Administrative Review and Conflict Resolution

a. The graduate student should attempt to resolve any grievance first with the respondent, i.e., the faculty member, supervisory committee, or administrator involved.

b. If the grievance remains unresolved, and regardless of whether the graduate student received a response from the respondent, the graduate student must provide a complete written description of the grievance to the applicable administrator (typically the department head/chairperson) within thirty (30) working days from the date the alleged grievable event(s) occurred. The written description should include all issues of concern to the graduate student. Issues not raised in this written description may not be included in a grievance hearing pertaining to the event in question. Proposed remedies may also be included in the written description. If the graduate student fails to submit the written description timely, the graduate student forfeits any further process under this Appendix A. 

If the respondent is a department head/chairperson, other administrators, or graduate director, the graduate student should provide the written description to the respondent’s immediate administrative supervisor.

Once the written description is submitted, the applicable administrator will investigate and arrange a meeting with the graduate student to discuss and attempt to resolve the issues.  The administrator may discuss the issues and explore potential resolutions with relevant persons, including but not limited to the respondent, department head, dean, or Graduate School personnel.

Except under extenuating circumstances, the administrator will contact the graduate student within five (5) working days after receiving the written description to schedule a meeting. A good faith effort should be made to hold the meeting in a timely manner. Within fifteen (15) working days after the meeting, the administrator will provide the graduate student with a written response. The written response should include the original date when the student submitted their grievance, the decision of the responsible administrator, and the steps and rationale used to arrive at a decision. If additional time is needed, this document will include a timeline of when the final decision will be made.

Copies of the written response will be provided to the graduate student, respondent, department head, and Academic Dean involved in this process. The official copy shall be sent to the Graduate School to be retained in the student's file.

c. If this conflict resolution process is not successful, the Academic Dean and the Associate Dean of the Graduate School will confer within ten (10) working days following receipt of the written response to determine if further conflict resolution steps should be pursued. The outcome of this conference will be shared in writing with the same persons who received the written response in 3b.

4. Formal Grievance Procedure

a. To the extent that the grievable issues are not resolved by the above process and the graduate student chooses to pursue the matter further, the graduate student must submit a written statement and the Notice of Grievance form to the Associate Dean of the Graduate School within ten (10) working days after the receipt of the written outcome of 3c. A Notice of Grievance form is available in the Graduate School or on the Graduate School website.

The written grievance shall include a clear, concise statement regarding the nature of the issues to be resolved, which may include the policy or policies/procedures thought to be violated, and the redress requested.  If an issue was not presented during the 3b process, then that issue may not be considered during the formal grievance process.

Within five (5) working days, the Associate Dean of the Graduate School shall forward a copy of the written statement and Notice of Grievance to the respondent. Within ten (10) working days after receipt of the grievance, the respondent must provide the Associate Dean of the Graduate School with his or her written response.

The deadlines for the graduate student and respondent in 4a may be extended once, for up to ten (10) working days, for good cause as determined by the Associate Dean of the Graduate School.  The request for a written extension must be made to the Associate Dean in writing at least 48 hours before the applicable deadline expires.  The Associate Dean may consult with both parties before ruling on an extension.  The Associate Dean may also stay the proceedings at any point for up to thirty (30) working days in the Associate Dean’s sole discretion.

b. Upon receipt of the respondent’s written response, the Associate Dean of the Graduate School shall, within ten (10) working days, appoint an ad hoc grievance committee to hear and make a recommendation to the Dean of the Graduate School regarding the grievance. The Associate Dean of the Graduate School shall appoint, from the membership of the Graduate Council, a committee chair (non-voting vote, unless necessary to break a tie), and two committee members. A member of the Graduate School staff will be selected as secretary (non-voting). Two graduate students will be appointed as committee members from a slate of nominees selected by the Graduate Student Council.

c. The hearing shall be scheduled within thirty (30) working days after the appointment of the ad hoc grievance committee barring extenuating circumstances.

d. The hearing is not a courtroom process; however, either party may arrange for a certified court reporter to transcribe the hearing at that party’s expense. A party wishing to have a court reporter must notify the committee chair at least five (5) working days before the hearing. If a transcription is made by either party, the transcription is the property of Kansas State University but the parties shall have access to the transcription. The committee will not use the transcription in its deliberations.

e. A student with a disability requiring special accommodations should communicate the specific needs to the Associate Dean at least five (5) working days prior to the scheduled hearing.

f. Guidelines for ad hoc grievance committee hearings

1. Pre-hearing procedures

a. Notice of the time and place of the hearing shall be given by the chair to the graduate student and the respondent not less than ten (10) working days prior to the hearing.

b. The notice shall include the written grievance and the written response of the respondent.

c. A copy of the procedures guiding the hearings as outlined in Step 2 Hearing (4d2, below) shall accompany the notice.

d. The following must be submitted by each party to the chair at least five (5) working days prior to the hearing:

i. Seven copies of all written supporting documentation that the party will present at the hearing,

ii. A list of witnesses to be called by the party (each party is responsible for ensuring that his/her witnesses are at the hearing), and

iii The name of any hearing advisor who will accompany the party to the hearing and whether the advisor is an attorney. The hearing advisor may advise the party but Not otherwise participate in the proceedings. If one or more advisors are attorneys, the committee chair will contact the Office of General Counsel regarding the need for representation.

iv. The name of any certified court reporter who will accompany the party to the hearing, if applicable.

e. The chair will provide a copy of the documents and information listed in 1d to the graduate student and respondent at least three (3) working days prior to the hearing.

2. Hearing

a. The hearing is an administrative process and will follow the procedures outlined in this section. The committee chair will have complete discretion in deciding any procedural or evidentiary questions that arise during the hearing.

b. At the discretion of the committee, arrangements may be made for parties involved to participate from a distance, such as by telephone or video conference. This is not the preferred way to conduct the hearing, however.

c. At the hearing, each party may be accompanied by a hearing advisor who may advise the party but may not otherwise participate in the hearing.

d. All hearings shall be closed except for parties to the grievance and their hearing advisors unless the graduate student requests that the hearing be open. All parties are advised that the committee routinely makes an audio recording of the hearing for its own use.

e. The committee will permit each party to present a brief opening statement of no more than 10 minutes.

f. The evidence shall be presented by the graduate student and then by the respondent at the hearing.

g. The parties and the committee shall have the opportunity to question all witnesses.

h. The committee will accept any evidence, information, or testimony that the committee feels is pertinent to the grievance and will help the committee understand and evaluate the issue(s) before it. The committee chair will determine the relevance and materiality of the evidence offered. Legal rules of evidence shall not apply.

i. Following the presentation of evidence, the committee will permit each party to present a brief closing statement of no more than 10 minutes.

j. The committee will meet in closed session to deliberate and to recommend action to the Dean of the Graduate School on the grievance.

k. Within ten (10) working days from the conclusion of the hearing, the committee will prepare a report that will serve as its recommendation to the Dean of the Graduate School. The report will contain the factual findings and recommendations of the committee and the reasons for the recommendation.

l. The Dean of the Graduate School shall make a final determination on the grievance within ten (10) working days of receiving the committee’s recommendation. The Dean will send copies of the final determination and notification of subsequent actions to the committee and the parties.  The Dean’s final determination is final within the University.

m. The complete record, including the report to the Dean of the Graduate School, the evidence obtained during the hearing, any recordings and/or transcriptions of the hearing, and the Dean’s final determination shall be placed in a file by the grievance committee chair. This file shall be retained in the Graduate School for at least three years following the conclusion of the grievance hearing. Each party may, at its own expense, copy the record or any part thereof at a place and time to be determined by the Dean of the Graduate School.

5. Enforcement of the Graduate School's Decision

The Dean of the Graduate School has the authority and responsibility to enforce the final determination.