6.2 Student Grievance and Appeal Procedures

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this procedure is to afford graduate students in the School of Social Welfare an opportunity to resolve complaints about dismissal from graduate standing, placement on probationary status, denial of readmission, or other administrative or academic decisions that terminate or otherwise impede progress toward academic or professional degree goals. This procedure may also be used to resolve disputes over joint authorship of research in accordance with joint authorship policies of campus departments or units.

The scope of this procedure is limited to the matters listed above, and excludes complaints regarding denial of admission, student records, grades in courses of instruction, student employment, student discipline, and auxiliary student services (such as housing, child care, etc.).

  1. This procedure may not be used for complaints regarding actions based solely on faculty evaluation of the academic quality of a student’s performance, or decanal evaluation of a student’s appropriate academic progress, unless the complaint alleges that the actions may have been influenced by non-academic criteria.
  2. Grievances by students concerning grades are addressed according to the Academic Senate policies and procedures for grade appeals under Berkeley Division Regulation A207.

This procedure is provided for continuing and returning graduate students in the School of Social Welfare on the Berkeley campus. It may not be used by applicants for admission, or students registered in social welfare graduate courses through University Extension, the Graduate Theological Union, or other cross-registration agreements. A student may bring a complaint individually or may file a complaint jointly with other students when each claims injury as a result of the same alleged action(s).

Resolution Procedures in the School of Social Welfare

Informal Resolution Procedures

  1. Students are encouraged to first pursue informal resolution of a complaint by meeting with their faculty advisor, the Head Graduate Adviser, or the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs to discuss the complaint and explore possible avenues of resolution.
  2. Attempts at informal resolution within the School of Social Welfare must be initiated within 30 days from the time at which the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the action being appealed. The informal resolution process should be concluded within 60 days of initiation.
  3. If a satisfactory resolution has not been reached through informal resolution, the student may initiate a formal resolution process within the School of Social Welfare.

Formal Resolution Procedures in the School of Social Welfare

  1. A student who wishes to initiate a formal resolution of grievance must submit a written complaint to the Dean of the School of Social Welfare. The Dean must receive the written complaint within 15 days of the time the student is notified of the informal review process outcome, or if no informal review has been timely initiated, no more than 60 days from the time at which the student knew or could reasonably be expected to have known of the action being appealed.
  2. The complaint should indicate the action(s) being appealed, the date(s) the action(s) occurred, the grounds upon which the appeal is based, and the relief requested.
  3. The written statement should include notice to the Dean of Social Welfare if the student bringing the appeal will be represented by counsel or other representative. The letter should also include a description of the results of any informal resolution process, and any background information that the student deems pertinent to the case.
  4. For a complaint to be reviewed under the formal resolution process, it must be based on one or more of the following grounds:
    1. Procedural error or violation of official policy by academic or administrative personnel.
    2. Judgments improperly based upon non-academic criteria including, but not limited to, discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran.
    3. Special mitigating circumstances beyond the student’s control not properly taken into account in a decision affecting the student’s academic progress.
  5. Upon receipt of the written complaint, the Dean of the School of Social Welfare may meet with the complainant and attempt to resolve the problem, or may appoint an Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the complaint. The committee shall make a recommendation to the Dean for resolution of the complaint. The investigation may include an interview with the complainant, a review of any relevant written materials, and an effort to obtain information from available witnesses (i.e., interviews or written statements or documents). The committee’s investigation should be concluded and the student notified of the outcome within 90 days of initiation of the formal appeal. The Dean of the School of Social Welfare will notify the student in writing of the outcome.
  6. Time Limits: All time frames referred to in this procedure refer to calendar days. Summer and inter-semester recesses are not included within these time frames. The Dean of the School of Social Welfare may extend time limits for good cause upon notice to all parties involved.

Formal Grade Appeals

Per University policy, all grades except “Incomplete” and “In Progress” are considered final when assigned by an instructor at the end of a term. Grade changes are not permitted except in the case of clerical or procedural error. Grade changes may not be made on the basis of a reassessment of the quality of the student's work.

The only formal challenge of a grade permitted by University policy is when an instructor assigns a grade utilizing non-academic criteria (such as considerations of race, politics, religion, sex, or other factors not directly reflective of performance related to course requirements) or when sexual harassment or improper academic procedures unfairly affect a student’s grade.

Grievances about a grade should first be addressed with the instructor who assigned the grade in question. The student should first meet with the instructor to discuss the grievance and clarify reasons for the grade assignment. Students may also seek mediation assistance and advice from the Social Welfare MSW Program GSAO or Head Graduate Advisor, the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Services, or the Campus Ombudsperson. Keep in mind that these advisers do not have the authority to require an instructor to change a grade.

If informal mediation of a grade grievance does not result in satisfactory action, a student may submit a formal appeal to the Dean of the School of School Welfare, subject to the conditions outlined in this policy. Formal appeals must be directed to the Dean of the School of Social Welfare, 120 Haviland Hall. A written statement indicating the action being appealed, the grounds upon which the appeal is based, the relief requested, and any background information that the student deems pertinent to his or her case, must accompany the appeal. The appeal must be filed with the Dean within two semesters of the alleged offense.

When an appeal is filed, the Dean will appoint an ad hoc Grievance Committee composed of the Chair of the Faculty and two additional faculty members, one of whom shall be from a unit other than Social Welfare, and two students in good standing, appointed by the Graduate Assembly. The Grievance Committee will consider the written appeal of the student; obtain a written response from the instructor; and will provide all parties the opportunity to present additional information orally or in writing. The Grievance Committee will report its recommendations to the Dean as well as to the Berkeley Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction, including minority views, if any.

If the Committee on Courses finds in the student’s favor, it may change a failing grade to a P or S, drop the course retroactively, retain the course but eliminate the grade from the GPA, or adopt the letter grade, if any, recommended by four of the five members of the Grievance Committee. For further information please see the Academic Senate Procedures for Grade Appeals Based on the Alleged Use of Non-Academic Criteria.

Complaints Involving Discrimination

If a complainant alleges discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex, race, national origin, color, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, the department will notify and make referrals as necessary to the appropriate campus compliance officers prior to commencing informal or formal resolution.

Graduate Division Appeal Procedure

If a student is not satisfied with the resolution of a grievance under the School’s procedure, the complaint may be brought to the Graduate Division under the Graduate Student Appeal Procedure. A formal appeal under this procedure must be received in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division within fifteen days of when the student knew or could reasonably be expected to know of the final decision made by the Dean of the School of Social Welfare in regards to the student’s complaint.