This policy is tailored to cover complaints related to academic services, administrative services and support services.
Types of Complaint
A student may have a complaint about an individual action or decision that affects only them, or a service or process that also affects other students. Students may be dissatisfied different issues such as:
When considering whether or not to proceed with a complaint or appeal, students may need to consider a range of factors and circumstances that can impose practical limitations on the potential scope and effectiveness of resolution processes. For example:
Disagreements: A student’s objection or disagreement with a particular University process or decision does not necessarily mean that that process or decision is unreasonable or unfair, and does not by itself constitute sufficient grounds for having it changed, or for appealing against a decision not to change it. 92
Academic Judgments: A student may believe that a particular assignment warrants a high mark, but if two academics with expertise in the relevant field agree that a lesser mark is appropriate, and the general processes involved in the marking and re-marking are fair and reasonable, then a University committee or other Faculty member is not usually in a position to overrule the academic judgments that determined the mark.
I. Underlying Principles
Procedural fairness: Student complaints and grievances are handled according to the principles of procedural fairness
Transparency: The processes for handling student complaints and appeals aim to be easily accessible to all staff and students, with transparent operation and outcomes, and capable of resolving complaints and appeals in a timely manner with clear deadlines for each stage of resolution. Reasons for each decision are provided to all parties.
Confidentiality: All information provided in the complaints process is strictly confidential and can be used only for the purposes for which it was collected.
Equity: Complaints are dealt with in an equitable and culturally sensitive manner, and are judged strictly on their merits.
Individual rights: This policy does not derogate the private or public rights of an individual to make or pursue a complaint through an external agency.
II. Procedural Elements
Summary of Complaints Process
Stage 1 - Informal discussion with the person who made the decision or provides the service.
Stage 2 - Written complaint to the person who made the decision or provides the service.
Stage 3 - Review of resolution offered by a more senior person in the area. Stage 4 – The Dean for a determination.
If not satisfied with the action of the dean, the student may, within five business days, appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Stage 1 - Informal Discussion
Students who are not satisfied with a particular University service can raise their concerns with the person or area responsible for providing it. This does not constitute a formal complaint. The vast majority of issues are resolved at this stage.
Stage 2 – Formal Written Complaints
I. Making a Complaint
II. Acknowledging Complaints
The acknowledgment will include:
III. Investigating Complaints
In addition to acknowledging it, Faculty members receiving a formal student complaint must also investigate it, using their personal and professional judgment to offer a resolution within the framework of guidelines in this policy.
• The Faculty member may consult with and seek advice from any appropriate department head or Faculty member, discussing the complaint as a “case in principle” where possible. However, the name of the student may need to be revealed in order to fully investigate and resolve the complaint; or the identity of the student may become obvious in describing the nature and/or circumstances of the complaint. Any Faculty member consulted regarding the complaint will be advised of the confidential nature of the information provided.
The decision offered will depend on the nature of the complaint and any special circumstances that exist, but will usually include at least one of the following components:
Providing more detailed information on why the original decision was made or process was used
Remedying an identified mistake
Revoking an initial decision
Waiving a debt or charge
V. Notification of Decision/Resolution
• The actual time student’s notification of the decision will depend on the nature and circumstances of the complaint and the complexity of the investigation, but will usually be within 15 business days of receiving the complaint. The notification will:
• Summarize the main reasons for the decision;
• Include the details of the decision;
• Refer to the most appropriate person or committee the student can approach to review the decision.
Stage 3 - Review
i. A student who is not satisfied with the resolution offered may request in writing, within 20 business days of receipt of written notice of the resolution, that a more senior Faculty member or committee review the case. A waiver of this timeline may be granted in special circumstances at the discretion of the person responsible for conducting the review.
ii. The Dean will usually conduct the review and report to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Stage 4 - Student Appeals Committee
All students who have followed the procedures have the right to appeal the outcome of local resolution and review, regardless of the details of the case. The Student Appeals Committee constitutes the final stage of students appeal within the university.
I. Lodging an Appeal
No appeal will be accepted unless the appellant has sought local resolution, and requested a review of the initial resolution.
A written, signed appeal must be lodged within 20 business days of the date of written notification of the outcome of the local-level review.
If the Appellant lodges the Student Appeal Form and submission after the 20 business days timeline, he/she must include a separate statement outlining the reasons for the delay and requesting a waiver of the timeline.
If the statement is accepted as a reasonable and adequate explanation for the delay, and/or considers the length of the delay as not significantly undermining procedural fairness to the respondent(s), and grants the waiver, the appeal will proceed according to the normal timelines.
If the statement is not accepted as a reasonable and adequate explanation for the delay, and/or considers the length of the delay as significantly undermining procedural fairness to the Respondent(s), and does not grant the waiver, the Secretary of the Student Appeals Committee will bring the appeal process to a halt and accordingly notify the Appellant(s) and Respondent(s).
II. Appeal Submissions
Appeal submissions must be reasonably comprehensive self-contained
Appeal submissions must include all of the following:
A clear statement of the decision or action being appealed against.
A clear statement of what appeal outcome or outcomes the Appellant wants or would be satisfied with.
Detailed statements on each of the central claims being made by the student.
The names and titles of all Faculty members or committees involved in the decisions or actions under appeal.
A brief summary of the relevant events leading up to the decisions or actions under appeal, in chronological order, with references to the relevant supporting document(s) provided in the appeal submission.
All of the available documentary or other evidence supporting each relevant event and each of the Appellant’s central claims.
III. Appeal Hearing Notification
• Within 5 business days of receipt of the completed, signed Student Appeal Form and submission, the Secretary will notify the Appellant and the Respondent of the composition of the Committee and the date and place of the hearing. Except with the express consent of both parties to the appeal, the hearing will be held on a weekday within a semester within 20 business days of receipt of the Student Appeal Form and submission. The Secretary will notify both the Appellant and the Respondent if either or both of these timelines have to be extended due to staff availability problems and/or scheduling conflicts, indicating when the hearing is expected to occur.
IV. Hearing an Appeal
V. Outcomes of Student Appeals Committee Hearings
Complaints or appeals are deemed to lack substance if they:
Students may withdraw a complaint or appeal at any stage in the process by writing or emailing to the person handling the complaint or appeal, who will notify relevant parties in writing that the complaint or appeal is concluded. If the complaint or appeal was against another person, that person may address a written statement to the person handling the complaint for circulation to Faculty involved in the case.
Victimization, Harassment and Influence
Actions that cause or have the potential to cause the victimization and/or harassment of any party to a student complaint or appeal are prohibited, and constitute misconduct.
Actions that influence or have the potential to influence the impartiality of any party to a student complaint or appeal are prohibited, and constitute misconduct.