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Formal Dispute Resolution Procedures

Recommended By: Academic Senate
Approved: Ruben Armiñana, President
Original Issue Date: April 1, 2008
Current Issue Date: December 15, 2010
Effective Date: December 15, 2010
Contact Office: Office of the Provost

Policy #2008-1

  1. I. INTRODUCTION

    A. This document describes the formal procedures at Sonoma State University for Grade Appeals, Student Grievances, and for faculty initiated Cheating and Plagiarism charges. If informal resolution fails, adjudication by the Dispute Resolution Board allows parties an official format for resolving disputes. While recognizing the importance of providing due process for all parties involved in these matters, Sonoma State emphasizes the use of informal resolution to all disputes.  Both parties may continue to seek informal resolution, even after initiating formal adjudication procedures. At the discretion of the Board, deadlines delineated in this policy may be extended.

    II. APPLICATION FOR ADJUDICATION
    A. The student or faculty member submits a request for a formal adjudication to the Chair of the Dispute Resolution Board through the Academic Senate office. The formal process is initiated by filling out a Grade Appeal Form, a Student Grievance Form, or a Cheating and Plagiarism Complaint Form.The student or faculty member may consult with or receive advice from any member of the campus community who is not a member of the Dispute Resolution Board in preparing his/her request.

    B. If the matter is a Grade Appeal, the formal request includes: the student’s name, major, email address, phone number; the course name, number and semester being appealed; all exams, papers, projects, and other work that were the basis for the grade assigned in the course; a statement of the standards employed by the instructor (such as a syllabus); a detailed description of the dispute; the name and contact information of the faculty member who assigned the grade; all documentation from the informal resolution process; and what grade the student believes is fair.

    C. If the matter is a Student Grievance, a formal request includes: the student’s name, major, email address, phone number, a detailed description of the dispute citing the policies or procedures violated or what constituted arbitrary, capricious, or unequal application of a policy or procedure; the name and contact information for the faculty, staff or administrator being grieved against; any evidence supporting the student’s case including witness statements; all documentation from the informal resolution process and what remedy the student seeks.

    D. If the matter is a faculty charge of Cheating or Plagiarism, the formal request includes: the faculty member’s name, email address, phone number and department; student’s name and email address; name and semester of course when cheating or plagiarism was suspected; evidence of the cheating or plagiarism, witness statements, if appropriate; all documentation from the informal resolution process and what academic and/or administrative sanctions the faculty member seeks.
    E. The Chair of the Dispute Resolution Board will review the materials submitted for completeness and determine whether the grievance or charge falls within the purview of the Dispute Resolution Board. The authority of the Dispute Resolution Board is limited to actions that are consistent with other campus and system policies. Disputes not within the scope of the Dispute Resolution Board will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs or other appropriate personnel. This review normally is completed within 10 academic days.
    F. After review, if appropriate, the Chair of the Dispute Resolution Board will forward the formal application for adjudication to the faculty, staff, administrator or student named in the grievance and request a formal written response within one week. The party filing the grievance may request a copy of the response after Board deliberations are complete.
    G. If the faculty, staff, administrator or student named in the grievance is unavailable or unable to meet the timeline for response, the grievance will be forwarded to their department Chair in the case of faculty, their appropriate administrator in the case of staff and their permanent address of record in the case of students.

    III. ADJUDICATION PROCESS

    A. The Dispute Resolution Board will  set specific meeting dates and submission dates for the academic year at its first organizational meeting of the Fall semester. These dates will be posted online at the Academic Senate website. The Board does not meet during the summer break or intersession.
    B. The Dispute Resolution Board may consult with any member or committee of the University community on any particular case, if the Board deems expert or specific information appropriate to a case.
    C. Members of the Dispute Resolution Board who may have a conflict of interest in a particular case shall recuse themselves.
    D. Students applying to the Dispute Resolution Board for a Grade Appeal or a Student Grievance or a faculty member submitting a charge of Cheating or Plagiarism may (but are not required to) make averbal statement of their case before the Dispute Resolution Board. The opposing party in the case shall also have the option (but not requirement) to make a verbal statement of their side of the case to the Dispute Resolution Board. If either party chooses to make a verbal statement to the Dispute Resolution Board the opposing party shall be given adequate notice to make a verbal statement, if they wish. Statements should be no longer than 10 minutes and presenters should be prepared to answer any questions the Board may have. Making a verbal statement before the Dispute Resolution Board does not waive the requirement to submit a written application. The presenter may not introduce new evidence during a verbal statement.
    E. After reviewing the case presented and the response submitted, the Dispute Resolution Board will take one of the following actions:
    1. If the grievance is a Grade Appeal, the Dispute Resolution Board may constitute an Assessment subcommittee from itself consisting of a student member, a faculty member, a student services professional member and an administrative member. The decision of the Assessment subcommittee or the Board shall not be subject to further review except in cases of allegations of improper procedure. The Assessment subcommittee or the Board will take one of the following actions:

    a. Request additional information from the student and/or the instructor;

    b. Find that the student has grounds for complaint based on prejudice, caprice, or clerical error. If found, then the instructor of record will be asked to reevaluate the grade.  If the instructor refuses to reevaluate the grade or the instructor’s reevaluation results in the same grade, then the chair of the academic department that offered the class shall be asked to find a qualified faculty member with academic training comparable to the instructor of record to evaluate the student’s work and assign a grade.  If the instructor is a department chair, the dean of the college that offered the class shall be asked to find a qualified faculty member with academic training comparable to the instructor of record to evaluate the student’s work and assign a grade. If the instructor is a dean, the provost shall be asked to find a qualified faculty member with academic training comparable to the instructor of record to evaluate the student’s work and assign a grade. 

    c. Affirm the grade given by the instructor.

    2. If the case is a Student Grievance, the Dispute Resolution Board will meet to consider the case. A quorum of the Board shall include at least one faculty member, one student services professional member, one administrative member and one student member. The decision of the Dispute Resolution Board shall not be subject to further review except in cases of allegations of improper procedure. The Dispute Resolution Board will take one of the following actions:

    a. Request more information from the student or person named in the grievance;

    b. Award the remedy requested by the student;

    c. Award a different, but appropriate remedy to the student;

    d. Deny the remedy requested by the student;

    3. If the case is a faculty charge of Cheating or Plagiarism, the Dispute Resolution Board will meet to consider the charge. A quorum of the Board shall include at least one faculty member, one student services professional member, one administrative member and one student member. The decision of the Dispute Resolution Board shall not be subject to further review except in cases of allegations of improper procedure. The Dispute Resolution Board will take one of the following actions:

    a. Request more information from the faculty or student named in the charge;

    b. Award the academic sanction requested by the faculty. If the faculty member also seeks an administrative sanction the Board then forwards its decision, with a recommendation regarding the administrative sanction to the Office of Judicial Affairs.

    c. Award a different, but appropriate remedy to the faculty;

    d. Find no instance of cheating or plagiarism.

    F. The Chair of the Dispute Resolution Board will submit a report of the Board’s findings within 10 academic days of the adjudication to all parties involved. An explanation of the grounds for a decision and the evidence upon which it is based will be provided upon request. Requests should be sent to the Board within 5 academic days of receipt of a finding. In Cheating and Plagiarism cases where no administrative sanction is sought, the Chair of the Board will also submit the Board’s findings in the case to the Office of Judicial Affairs.

    G. If the Board requires more information regarding any case or deliberations cannot be completed in one meeting, the case can be continued to the next meeting of the Board. All parties to the case will be notified within 10 academic days of any continuance.

    H. Compliance with Board decisions or requests for more information are due within 5 academic days of receipt.

    IV. ALLEGATIONS OF IMPROPER PROCEDURE

    A.  Allegations of improper procedure on the part of the Dispute Resolution Board shall be submitted in writing by the student, faculty or person named in a grievance to the Chair of the Faculty within five (5) academic days of the decision of the Dispute Resolution Board. The Chair shall review the allegations and make a finding within twenty (20) academic days of receipt of a written allegation of improper procedure. If the allegations of improper procedure are found to have merit, the Chair will meet with the Chair of the Dispute Resolution Board and the President or designee as soon as possible to determine the appropriate remedy. The outcome of this meeting will be final.

     

    V.    ESTABLISHMENT AND REVISION OF GRADE APPEAL ADJUDICATION PROCEDURES

    A. Authority to establish and revise policies and procedures for grade appeals rests with the Sonoma State University Academic Senate.

    B. The President of Sonoma State University is responsible for ensuring that grade appeal policies and procedures, or their revisions, are in conformity with Executive Order No. -1037.

    VI.    ESTABLISHMENT AND REVISION OF STUDENT GRIEVANCE ADJUDICATION PROCEDURES

    A. Authority to establish and revise policies and procedures for student grievances rests with the Sonoma State University Academic Senate.

    VII. ESTABLISHMENT AND REVISION OF CHEATING AND PLAGIARISM CHARGES

    A. Authority to establish and revise policies and procedures for cheating and plagiarism cases rests with the Sonoma State University Academic Senate.

    B. The President of Sonoma State University is responsible for ensuring cheating and plagiarism policies and procedures, or their revisions, are in conformity with Executive Order No. 970.

For Forms and Guides related to these Procedures, please go to the 
Senate's Fairness Board page: (http://www.sonoma.edu/Senate/FairnessBoard/FairnessBoard.html