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Official policies of St. Mary's University

Student Grievance Policy

Approver(s):

Executive Council

Authorizes release:

Vice President for Student Development

Responsible office:

Dean of Students

Review cycle:

Annually or as required

Adopted:

June 2006

Last update:

October 2016

Next review:

June 2017

St. Mary’s University is committed to a policy of treating all members of the University Community fairly in regard to their personal and professional concerns.

The primary objective of a student grievance procedure is to insure that concerns are promptly dealt with and resolutions reached in a fair and just manner. It is essential that each student be given adequate opportunity to bring complaints and problems to the attention of university administration with the assurance that each will be given fair treatment. As such, any student at St. Mary’s University may file a grievance through this student grievance procedure.

Definitions

A grievance is defined as dissatisfaction occurring when a student believes that any decision, act, or condition affecting him or her is illegal, unjust, or creates unnecessary hardship. Such grievances may concern, but are not limited to, the following: academic problems; mistreatment by any university employee; wrongful assessment of fees; records and registration errors; student employment; and discrimination because of race, national origin, sex, marital status, religion, age, or disability. Complaints covered by policies already in place (i.e. sexual harassment, grade issues, financial aid, etc.) are excluded from this policy.

The term “student” includes all persons taking courses at St. Mary’s University, both full-time and part-time, pursuing undergraduate, graduate, law or professional studies and those who attend post-secondary institutions other than St. Mary’s University and/or who reside in St. Mary’s University residence halls. Persons who are not officially enrolled for a particular term but who have a continuing relationship with St. Mary’s University are considered students.

Grievance Procedure

Prior to invoking the procedures described below, the student is strongly encouraged to discuss his or her grievance with the person(s) alleged to have caused the grievance. The discussion should be held as soon as the student first becomes aware of the act or condition that is the basis of the grievance. Additionally, or in the alternative, the student may wish to present his or her grievance in writing to the person(s) alleged to have caused the grievance. In either case, the person alleged to have caused the grievance must respond to the student either orally or in writing. However, any St. Mary’s University student who believes that he/she has not been treated fairly may make use of the student grievance procedure within ten (10) working days of the incident. Student grievances which are filed after more than ten (10) working days from the initial incident will not be accepted and are deemed to be waived.

Level One: Initial Review

If a student decides not to present his or her grievance to the person(s) alleged to have caused the grievance, or if the student is not satisfied with the response, he or she may present the grievance in writing to the next level supervisor within ten (10) working days of the incident.

The grievant must file a written request for a hearing, along with a complete written statement of the alleged grievance. The statement should include the name of the University official to whom the grievance is directed, and the remedy sought. If a student needs assistance regarding the initiation or presentation of a grievance, they may contact the following St. Mary’s University officers for assistance: Director of Human Resources or the Dean of Students.

The next level supervisor will conduct an informal investigation as warranted to resolve any factual disputes. The supervisor may appoint a fact-finding panel of no more than three persons from the University community to conduct a formal investigation. The supervisor must state the terms and conditions of the investigation in a memorandum appointing the fact-finding panel. A fact-finding panel appointed hereunder shall have no authority to make recommendations or impose final action. The panel shall be limited to determining and presenting facts to the supervisor.

The supervisor’s disposition of the grievance shall be based on a hearing. The supervisor will act as the chair of the grievance hearing, unless the grievant objects on the basis that the supervisor is not an impartial decision-maker. In such case, the Vice President for the respective division will appoint another chair for the hearing.

The following procedures will be observed in the hearing:

  1. The hearing will be conducted in private. Indications of irresponsible discussion of the grievance outside of the formal hearing may become the basis for allegations that due process has been violated. All parties to the hearing are cautioned against irresponsible discussion. The parties will make no public statements about the case during the course of the hearing.
  2. During the proceedings, all parties will be permitted to have an advisor present. All parties to the grievance will have the right to obtain witnesses and present evidence. The University will cooperate with all parties in securing witnesses and making available documentary and other evidence requested to the extent permitted by law.
  3. All parties have the right to question witnesses, however, the accused and the accuser may not question each other. When a witness has made a written statement and cannot or will not appear, but the chair determines that the interests of justice require admission of that statement, the Chair will identify the witness, disclose the statement, and if possible, provide for interrogatories. The Chair will also grant appropriate continuances to enable either party to investigate evidence, or for any other appropriate reason.
  4. In all cases, the burden of proof shall be on the grievant. However, the Chair will not be bound by strict rules of legal evidence. The decision will take the form of findings of fact, conclusions, and recommended disposition of the grievance. The findings of fact, conclusions, and recommended disposition must be based solely on the hearing’s record, pertinent University procedures set forth in this statement, and the laws of the State of Texas and the United States of America.

The supervisor’s disposition of the grievance shall be reported to the student in writing and shall inform the student of the right to seek review by the appropriate Vice President upon written appeal by the student. The supervisor’s response should be transmitted to the student within ten (10) working days from the date the written grievance was received by the supervisor. If the disposition extends beyond the ten (10) working days the supervisor should inform the student of the delay and the expected response date.

Regardless of the disposition of the grievance, no member of the University community may harass or retaliate against a student who has filed a grievance under the University grievance procedure. Such actions of harassment or retaliation are explicitly proscribed by the University.

Level Two: Grievance Appeal Procedure

The Vice President’s action will be limited to a review of the basis for the supervisor’s disposition and will not involve a de novo factual investigation. Notwithstanding the above, the Vice President may, but is not required to, direct that further facts be gathered or that additional remedial action be taken. The Vice President’s action shall constitute final agency action. The Vice President’s decision should be transmitted to the student within ten (10) working days from the date the written appeal was received. If the disposition extends beyond the ten (10) working days the Vice President should inform the student of the delay and the expected response date.

In the event that a grievance is filed against a Vice President, the supervisor is the President of the University, and the appeal review will be conducted by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, whose decision shall constitute final agency action. In the event that a grievance is filed against the President, the supervisor is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, whose decision shall constitute final agency action.

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