Student Grievance Policy

1. Introduction

Students of Savannah State University who believe they have been treated unfairly with respect to academic matters or are convinced that they have been discriminated against in any matter on the basis of race, color, handicap, religion, age, national origin or sex, may initiate and pursue the grievance procedure in accordance with the provisions of this document. Academic matters are those concerned with instructional activities, research activities, closely related to either of these functions, grading procedures, or decisions involving instruction or affecting academic freedom.

2. Preliminary Steps

To initiate or pursue a grievance, the following steps must be observed before the tenth week of the fall or spring semester which follows the term in which the alleged grievance occurred.

  • The student should first discuss the matter with the person or persons directly involved, in an attempt to resolve the grievance through informal discussion.
  • If there is no resolution, the student should discuss the matter with the department chairperson to whom those directly involved report (or if the department chairperson is directly involved, with the school dean; if the school dean is directly involved, with the Vice President for Academic Affairs who shall attempt to mediate an informal resolution.)
  • If there is no resolution through the department chairperson, the student should discuss the matter with the appropriate school dean (unless the school dean is directly involved), who shall attempt to mediate an informal resolution.
  • If reconciliation has still not been achieved the student shall submit to the Student Grievance Committee through the Vice President for Academic Affairs a written statement of the grievance. The statement shall contain:
    • a brief narrative of the condition giving rise to the grievance:
    • a designation of the parties involved; and
    • a statement of the remedy requested.

3. Formation of the Committee

At the beginning of each academic year each school shall choose from among its faculty two representatives to serve on the Student Grievance Committee pool for that year.

  • The members of the pool shall choose one of their number to serve as Chairperson of the Student Grievance Committee for the academic year, and one to serve as Vice-Chairperson. The Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson shall not be from the same department/school.
  • At the beginning of each academic year the Executive Committee of Student Government shall select two undergraduate students to serve on the Student Grievance Committee pool for that year. Two graduate students will be selected by the Graduate Program Directors.
  • Upon receipt of a written statement of a grievance, the Vice President of Academic Affairs shall notify the Committee Chairperson (or Vice-Chairperson if the grievance involves the Chairperson's department.) The committee is composed of a Chairperson (or Vice-Chairperson, as appropriate), three faculty members in the pool from disciplines most closely related to the discipline concerned in the grievance (however, no faculty member shall be selected from the department involved in the grievance), and a student. The student member shall be from the same academic level (graduate or undergraduate) as the student bringing in the grievance, but the student member shall not be enrolled in the same department as the grievant.

4. Committee Action

Upon receipt of the written statement of an academic grievance, the Student Grievance committee shall:

  • Determine prior to considering the grievance whether discussions between the student, persons directly involved, department chairperson, and school dean have been exhausted in attempting to resolve the grievance informally.
  • Notify the parties named in the statement of the receipt of a grievance naming them; and send a copy of the statement to the named parties and to all committee members.
  • Notify the grievant and respondent of their rights to challenge committee members for cause, and request early notification of challenge(s) to expedite the grievance procedures. Included in this notification will be a list of the names of committee members. Any committee members removed for cause shall be replaced by alternate delegates selected as in paragraph 3 (d).
  • Meet within ten (10) days after receiving the written statement to review the written statement and render a decision as to whether sufficient grounds are present to warrant a hearing.
  • Notify the grievant and the named parties of its decision in writing.
  • If a hearing will be held, notify in writing all parties involved, including any witnesses, of the date, time and place of the hearings at least ten (10) days prior to the hearing date set. The hearing date shall be within twenty (20) days of the decision to hold a hearing reached pursuant to paragraph 4 (d).
  • Inform the parties that the burden of proof rests with the grievant, and that each party may be accompanied to the hearing by an advisor, who may actually participate in the hearing only if specifically addressed by the Committee.
  • Request in writing from all parties involved any pertinent material deemed necessary for review by the committee prior to the hearing. These materials, plus any additional materials either party chooses to submit, must be submitted to the committee no later than four (4) days prior to the hearing. Any person named in a grievance may submit a written statement to the committee outlining issues from their perspective.
  • All communications among the committee, the grievant(s) and person(s) named in the statement of grievance will be confidential. Every effort will be made by committee members to maintain confidentiality throughout the entire grievance process.

5. Hearing Process

All hearings conducted by the Student Grievance Committee shall be conducted confidentially in the following manner:

  • The grievant(s) and respondent(s) must be present during the information gathering portion of the hearing. Witnesses will be available, and called when needed. The committee reserves the right to allow the presence of a secretary or technical assistant.
  • All statements during the information exchange phase of the hearing will be tape recorded. This record will be preserved for one (1) year and shall be confidential. After one (1) year, the recording shall be destroyed unless litigation is pending in the matter.
  • Any committee member may question any of the participants at the hearing, at any time during the proceedings.
  • The grievant will present his/her statements and/or witnesses to the committee.
  • The respondent will have the opportunity to question the grievant(s) and witnesses about their statements.
  • After all information is exchanged, all persons, other than the committee members and the recording secretary, will leave the committee room. The grievant(s), respondent(s) and witnesses will continue to be available to the committee should further information be needed.
  • The Committee will meet in closed session to decide upon its recommendation(s) to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
  • The Committee shall submit its report with recommendation(s), to the grievant(s), respondent(s) and Vice President for Academic Affairs. If the grievance directly involves the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the report and recommendation(s) of the Student Grievance Committee shall be referred to the President.
  • The student's grievance will not be included as part of the student's record, unless it results in a change in student status or the student voluntarily inserts the information.

6. Decision

The Vice President for Academic Affairs shall approve or reject the committee's recommendation(s) within twenty-eight (28) days after it is received, unless the Vice President for Academic Affairs feels that more information is necessary, in which case the Dean may resubmit the case to the Committee for further findings prior to decision. If the decision of the Vice President for Academic Affairs is not in accord with the committee's recommendation(s), he shall state the reasons for that decision, in writing, to all persons directly involved in the grievance to the committee. The Vice President for Academic Affairs shall then take appropriate action to implement his decision.

7. Rehearing

The Committee, within twenty-one (21) days after the Vice President for Academic Affairs' decision, may be petitioned by the grievant(s) or respondent(s) to reconsider its decision based upon evidence clearly not available at the original hearing. Such a rehearing is discretionary and shall be made only upon majority vote of the members of the hearing committee.

8. Grievances Involving Grades

If the grievance concerns an appeal of a grade, the following additional provisions shall apply:

  1. The Committee shall not substitute its judgment for that of the instructor concerning the substantive quality of the student's academic performance.
  2. However, if the Committee finds violation of the provisions of Chapter 7, Faculty Related Policies and Procedures of the Savannah State University Policy and Procedure Manual, or other instructional irregularities to have existed which might reasonably have had a detrimental effect on the student's grade, the Committee may determine that a passing grade be changed to "P" that a grade of "F" be changed to "W" (Withdrawal) or that "I" (Incomplete) be substituted for the grade given. The instructor is first provided opportunity to comply with the decision of the Committee. If the instructor indicates non-compliance with the decision of the Committee, the Committee by its own authority may effect change for the student's record.
  3. It is recognized that the changing of a grade to "P" may, on occasion, necessitate waiving the present regulations with respect to the pass/fail option. Under such circumstances the Committee is empowered to make such a waiver.