Information on Academic Disputes and Formal Grievance Policy

Information on Academic Disputes and Formal Grievance Policy

The University of Chicago is a community of scholars dedicated to research, academic excellence, and the pursuit and cultivation of learning. Every member of the University—student, faculty, and staff—makes a commitment to strive for personal and academic integrity; to treat others with dignity and respect; to honor the rights and property of others; to take responsibility for individual and group behavior; and to act as a responsible citizen in a free academic community and in the larger society.

From the Student Manual of University Policies and Regulations:

The Division of the Humanities aspires to be a community in which the commitments of a free academic community are upheld and in which students and faculty cultivate excellent relations. If questions or grievances about an academic matter arise that need to be addressed the following procedures are recommended. Students should bring concerns about an academic matter forward in a timely manner, and the concern should be responded to as expeditiously as is feasible. Academic matters include but are not limited to such matters as course grades, teaching assignments, publication rights, timely feedback on academic work, timeliness of letters of recommendation, and application of policies and practices.

Complaints or Disputes about Grades and Academic Evaluations

Faculty have the authority and the responsibility to assess the academic performance of their students. Only the instructor who gave the course, examination, or evaluation has the authority to change the assessment of the students' performance. Similarly, the evaluation of students' academic progress and standing in the program is the prerogative of the department faculty.

Learning how to communicate with instructors and other faculty about confusion or concern around fairness in grading and evaluation is an important skill, and students may respectfully request explanations of grading decisions and feedback about how performance can be improved. If a student feels that a grade has been assigned unfairly or improperly, they should discuss their concerns with the instructor directly, consult with advisers within their program or department, or bring concerns to and seek advice from the Dean of Students. If a department has a prescribed formal grade appeal process, students can follow those procedures to contest a grade.

A grade dispute or complaints about other academic evaluations may be evidence in support of a formal grievance, but these complaints cannot constitute a formal grievance on their own.

Abuse of Authority - Formal Grievance Policy and Process

The formal grievance policy establishes a process by which currently enrolled graduate students in the Division of the Humanities and those on an approved leave of absence can file a formal grievance alleging abuse of authority by faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, or staff.

The policy also offers options for resolution through informal means and information about offices and individuals who can support students in resolving conflicts or addressing concerns. Informal resolution is available to all students and should be the first recourse for addressing all conflicts, concerns, or complaints. A concern does not have to involve allegations of abuse of authority in order for it to be resolved through informal methods. Likewise, complaints that do involve allegations of abuse of authority can often be addressed informally without needing to go through a formal grievance process. Absent exceptional circumstances, the Division of the Humanities requires that students attempt informal resolution before proceeding to file a formal grievance and will support students in these attempts.
In the case where a Humanities student has a potential grievance alleging abuse of authority by someone outside of the Division of the Humanities, students should follow the grievance policy of the Humanities Division. 

In extraordinary circumstances, students may request that a grievance case be handled by the Office of the Provost. If a student wishes to submit a grievance case to be handled by the Provost’s Office, they must provide supporting rationale for why their case cannot be fairly heard within the Division of the Humanities. Please consult the University Grievance Policy for Graduate Students for more information.

To submit a formal grievance complaint alleging abuse of authority, please review the attached policy document and click here

Related University Policies

Allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and unlawful discrimination are addressed exclusively under the University's Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct and Policy on Title IX Sexual Harassment. More information about these policies and options for reporting and support are available through the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs.

Complaints about student conduct involving possible violation of University policies and regulations and other breaches of standards of behavior should always be brought to the attention of the Dean of Students. For more information, please see University Disciplinary Systems and Disciplinary System for Disruptive Conduct.

Allegations of academic fraud (e.g. plagiarism; fabrication or falsification of evidence, data, or results; the suppression of relevant evidence or data; the conscious misrepresentation of sources; the theft of ideas; or the intentional misappropriation of the research work or data of others) should also be brought forward in accordance with procedures established in the University’s Policy on Academic Fraud.

Issues related to the conduct of members of the University of Chicago Police Department should always be directed to the University’s Safety & Security Complaint Process.

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