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San Diego State University

Office of the Ombudsman

SDSU Student Grievance Committee Procedures

Adopted by the Committee November 14, 1972
Revised January 20, 1984
Revised February 15, 2000
Revised February 12, 2009
Revised: September 25, 2014


1.0 Re appointment

Each year, during the last month of the Spring semester and no later than the first week of classes of the Fall semester, the Chair of the Committee shall notify the President of the University, Chair of the Senate, and the President of the Associated Students Council, of the vacancies existing on the Student Grievance Committee and request that replacements be made no later than the end of the third week of classes and that the names be made available to the Chair by that time. [up to top]

2.0 General Meetings

The Chair shall convene a meeting of the Committee, including all regular members, alternates, the Ombudsmen, and the Student Grievance Committee's secretary not later than the fifth week of the Fall semester. Current copies of the Code and Procedures shall be provided to each regular member and alternate.

2.1 Subsequent meetings shall be called when the Chair deems appropriate. [up to top]

3.0 Appeal to the Student Grievance Committee

3.1 A formal grievance shall be made in writing to the Chair on a form provided by the Ombudsman's office or a letter to the Chair containing the required information. All grievances must be filed no later than the last day of the semester (excluding summer session) after the semester during which the student was allegedly aggrieved.

3.2 The Committee will not accept grievances that involve sexual harassment or
discrimination claims. Such claims should be directed to the Office of Compliance, which has the authority to handle such claims and redress any injustice caused by such actions.

3.3 The Committee will not accept grievances on decisions rendered by the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities.

3.4 The student shall have attempted all reasonable lower levels of redress available including, at least, discussion with the individual by whom the student is aggrieved, that person's immediate supervisor, and the Ombudsman.

3.5 The grievance shall request one of two options for investigation and resolution: arbitration (if available) or a request for a hearing by the committee. Only the grievant has the right to select the process.

3.5.1 The standard procedure is a request for a hearing by the committee. This procedure can typically take 3-6 months (or longer) to reach a recommendation. If, however, there is urgency in getting the case resolved, an arbitration hearing is suggested (if that option is available).
3.6 The Ombudsman or Chair shall provide the respondent with a copy of the Statement of Grievance and the respondent shall be advised by letter that the complete file will be available in the Ombudsman's office. Both the student and the respondent may see all information submitted by both parties concerning the immediate case. All documents must remain in the Ombudsman's office. These files are confidential and available for review by only the grievant, the respondent, the pertinent subcommittee, and the arbitrator.

3.7 If there is a concern with the student about retribution or retaliation from a faculty member or from a supervisor, the Chair can withhold informing the respondent until after the period of concern has elapsed. [up to top]

4.0 Proper Notification of Parties to a Grievance

4.1 All parties to a grievance shall be notified by telephone or campus mail under ordinary circumstances.

4.2 Current students, if non-responsive, shall be properly notified by a registered letter, return receipt requested.

4.3 Current respondents, if non-responsive, shall be properly notified by sealed letter delivered to, and signed for, by the secretary of the unit of which the respondent is a member on campus.

4.4 Any party not a current member of the campus community shall be properly notified by a registered letter, return receipt requested. [up to top]

5.0 Arbitration (IF AVAILABLE)

5.1 If the student requests arbitration, the President or the President’s designee shall appoint an arbitrator to hear the allegations of the grievance.

5.1.1 The arbitrator shall be a current or former full-time employee of the University.

5.1.2 A list of arbitrators shall be maintained by the President or the President’s designee.

5.1.3 Both the student and the respondent(s) shall agree on the arbitrator, within fifteen (15) calendar days of the appointment of the arbitrator by the President or the President’s designee. If the parties to the arbitration are unable to agree, the President or the President’s designee has the final decision on the appointment of the arbitrator.

5.1.4 The student may change their option from an arbitrator hearing their
grievance to having the Committee hear their grievance at any time until the initial meeting with the arbitrator. Once this initial meeting has begun, all rights of the student to have this grievance heard by the Student Grievance Committee shall be forever forfeited.

5.2 The student should understand that there is student representation on the Student Grievance Committee, but the arbitrator will not be a student.

5.3 The arbitrator shall obtain permission from the principals of the case for use of any academic records or other written documents that may be pertinent to the grievance.

5.4 The principals shall be afforded the opportunity to be heard by the arbitrator at a common meeting, to be arranged by the arbitrator.

5.41 If the complainant cannot be reached by telephone, the arbitrator shall send a registered letter requesting that he/she contact the arbitrator for the purpose of arranging a meeting. If the complainant does not make contact, by mail or by phone, within ten working days the case will be closed. If the complainant cannot arrange a meeting within thirty working days of receipt of the letter, the case will be closed.

5.42 If the respondent appears unwilling or unable to respond to the
subcommittee, a Request for Participation shall be sent by proper notification by the arbitrator. If no action is taken by the respondent within ten days, the case will continue with an advocate appointed by the Chair of the Committee in consultation with the respondent's immediate supervisor.

5.5 The meeting(s) shall be attended by the arbitrator, the secretary of the committee, the principals to the grievance, and their witnesses and non-legal representatives.

5.6 If the arbitrator finds that an agreeable resolution to the grievance is possible, they will encourage and work with the principals to reach that point. If an acceptable resolution is agreed on by all parties, they shall sign a written acknowledgement of such agreement and the grievance will be dismissed.

5.7 If there is no acceptable resolution to all parties, the arbitrator shall submit a written report to the Provost of the findings of the hearing, and all recommendations. All principals shall be contacted in writing with the findings of the report. If the arbitrator finds that a staff member or a faculty member has violated the rights of the student, the staff member’s immediate supervisor or the faculty member’s Department Chair and Dean shall also be copied on the report.

5.8 The student filing the grievance should note the choice of arbitration precludes the opportunity to have a hearing from the Grievance Committee. The decision of the arbitrator is final. However, [up to top]

6.0 Request for a Hearing

6.1 Upon the student making a request for a hearing in filing their grievance, the Chair of the Committee shall appoint a subcommittee to conduct a preliminary investigation. This subcommittee shall consist of three members or alternate members of the Committee including at least one student and one faculty representative of the Committee.

6.2 If the Ombudsman feels strongly that the student’s rights have been violated, the Chair can ask the Ombudsman to make a report of the case directly to the committee, prior to the subcommittee contacting the student and the respondent.

6.3 The subcommittee may operate under special circumstances with two members, with the notification of the Chair, as long as the student member is present.

6.4 The subcommittee shall obtain permission from the principals of the case for use of any academic records or other written documents that may be pertinent to their investigation.

6.5 The principals shall be afforded the opportunity to be heard by the investigating subcommittee.

6.51 If the complainant cannot be reached by telephone, the subcommittee chairperson shall send a registered letter requesting that he/she contact the subcommittee chairperson for the purpose of arranging a meeting. If the complainant does not make contact, by mail or by phone, within ten working days the case will be closed. If the complainant cannot arrange a meeting within thirty working days of receipt of the letter, the case will be closed.

6.52 If the subcommittee judges that there are extenuating circumstances preventing an expeditious handling of the case, they may request an extension from the entire Committee. The resolution shall contain a time limit for the extension and the Committee shall decide by a simple majority of the voting members present. The subcommittee shall have the right to request further extensions of the time limit at the first meeting of the full Committee after the operating deadline.

6.53 If the respondent appears unwilling or unable to respond to the subcommittee, a Request for Participation shall be sent by proper notification by the subcommittee chair. If no action is taken by the respondent within ten days, the case will continue with an advocate appointed by the Chair of the Committee in consultation with the respondent's immediate supervisor.

6.54 If a complainant demonstrates no positive desire to continue the case even after positively responding to the communication indicated in 6.51 above, the subcommittee shall suspend its investigation until the complainant takes positive action through the Ombudsman or Chair of the Committee. If no action is taken within one calendar year of the filing of the original grievance, the case will be closed.

6.6 The investigative subcommittee shall submit a written report to the Committee. [up to top]

7.0 Committee Action

7.1 The Chair shall call a meeting of the Committee to receive the Ombudsman’s report or the subcommittee's written report.

7.1.1 If the Ombudsman’s report is presented, following the presentation of the report and discussion, the Committee shall vote to either go to hearing or assign the case to a subcommittee for investigation. A simple majority of the members present, assuming a quorum, will constitute a valid ballot.

7.1.2 If the subcommittee report is presented, following the presentation of the report and discussion, the Committee shall vote to determine if a formal hearing shall be held. A simple majority of the members present, assuming a quorum, will constitute a valid ballot.

7.2 If the Committee votes that the grievance shall not be heard, the Chair shall transmit a letter to the student and other principals, as appropriate, stating clearly the reasons why the request for hearing has been denied.

7.3 If the Committee votes to proceed with a hearing, the Chair shall properly notify the principals and schedule a hearing as soon as possible.

7.31 If a current student, properly notified, fails to appear at a hearing, without notice, the hearing will be canceled. A letter will be sent to the student requesting an explanation of the failure to appear. The Chair will distribute the response to the members of the entire Committee. The Committee shall, by a simple majority of the voting members present, decide to either reschedule a hearing or terminate the case. If a hearing is to be rescheduled, it shall occur within thirty working days. The Committee, by a simple majority of the voting members present, may select the option to extend this period. If the committee elects not to reschedule the hearing, this shall be construed as a termination of the case.

7.32 If any other principals to the grievance or their appointed advocate, properly notified, fail to appear at the hearing, the hearing will proceed with an advocate appointed by the Chair.

7.4 If a party to the grievance is no longer a member of this academic community (when a faculty member, administrator, student, or staff member has left the University) and cannot be present, that person shall have the right to designate, by letter to the Chair, someone to act on that person's behalf regarding all matters before the Committee. Should a former member of the faculty, or any other former employee be unavailable, or when that person does not respond to letters or otherwise indicate who should act, the Chair shall determine, with appropriate consultation, who shall act as advocate for that person before the Committee.

7.41 If a student who has brought a grievance to the Committee cannot be present at a hearing and that student has not designated a person to act in the matter before the Committee, the hearing shall be delayed by the Chair. If, at the end of one year, there has been no contact from the student the case will be closed. Letters shall be sent by the Chair to the principals regarding this decision. [up to top]

8.0 Hearings

8.1 The Chair shall notify all regular and alternate members of the Committee, the Ombudsman, and all principals of the date, time and place of the hearing which shall be held no sooner than three (3) working days after such notification.

8.2 A quorum consists of seven voting members (see Section 2.2 of code). Every effort shall be made to have a full panel of voting members designated and present at the hearing.

8.3 The Chair and the Ombudsman shall have no vote on the decisions of the Committee.

8.4 Alternate members of the Committee may be given the floor for questions or discussion if deemed appropriate by the Chair, or if a voting member temporarily yields to an alternate member and the Chair concurs.

8.5 A tape recording of the hearing shall be made (see section 3.3.7 of code). [up to top]

9.0 Conduct of Hearings

9.1 The Chair will call the roll to designate voting members and provide them with any additional written materials.

9.2 All speakers will be recognized by the Chair before speaking.

9.3 Any party to the grievance may request a voting member be removed for cause (Code 2.9). The individual then becomes an alternate and may remain at the hearing.

9.4 A brief summary of the case will be presented by the Ombudsman, the Chair, or by someone designated by the Chair.

9.5 The only way the Committee can meet in private with only one of the parties to a case is with the approval of both parties. Either or both parties can be temporarily excused at the discretion of the Chair for the discussion of procedural matters.

9.6 The complainant may add to or clarify the case as appropriate.

9.7 The respondent may reply with his/her version of the case.

9.8 The complainant, then the respondent, may present witnesses if desired. The witnesses may be present only during their own testimony.

9.9 Each party may question the other, or any of the witnesses, when recognized. Panel members, when recognized, may question all parties. The panel shall disregard information that is not in response to a direct question.

9.10 The Chair will summarize and clarify point(s) at issue.

9.11 Both parties will be dismissed before the panel discusses the case with respect to all the evidence. [up to top]

10.0 Judgement

10.1 The Chair will call upon each member of the panel for a brief final statement.

10.2 A secret written vote will be taken.

10.3 Sections 2.3 and 4.2 of the Code state "a majority of those present and voting" constitutes a decision except where indicated (Section 4.2) which provides for a two-step process on matters involving the change of a grade.

10.4 In all matters, excluding grade changes, a simple majority of those voting members present is sufficient for a decision. In those cases, after the vote is tallied, the Chair shall send a letter to the principals and to any others having an interest in the matter. These others include, but shall not be limited to, the Chair of the Department, the the Dean of the School or College, the Provost, and the President of the University.

10.5 If informal attempts at redress fail, a judgment of the Student Grievance Committee relating to redress alone shall be forwarded to the appropriate administrator. When redress requires that a grade be changed, the Committee by vote of two-thirds of the members of the Committee who have heard the grievance, shall forward their judgment to the Provost who shall affirm or deny the judgment of the Committee. If the Provost affirms the decision, the Provost will direct the appropriate administrator for recommended redress. When the decision whether to change a grade depends upon the quality of work in a course, the chair of the department involved in the grievance will be asked by the SGC to recommend faculty at SDSU or elsewhere competent in the subject matter of that course to evaluate the quality of the work. This expert consultation will be considered by the SGC before a judgment is reached. (Section 4.2 of the Policy File)

10.51 If the grievance involves a grade, the Committee shall vote on a positively stated motion (i.e., "I move that student John Doe's grade from Professor Joe Doak's Basket Weaving 124 be changed from 'F' to 'A'.") to effect the change desired by the student. [up to top]

11.0 Type of Hearing

11.1 Section 3.33 of the Code stipulates that the hearings shall be closed. [up to top]

12.0 Emergency Procedures

12.1 The structure and purpose of the Student Grievance Committee does not lend itself to a hurried process. The type of problem brought to the Committee requires careful and deliberate procedures. There are few matters which would warrant the circumventing of procedures.

12.2 Should any matter be brought to the Committee, which, in the opinion of the Chair, would require extraordinary action, the Chair shall contact the complainant and discuss the possible options, including arbitration. If the complainant insists on a hearing, the Chair, at his/her discretion, shall call a subcommittee together to discuss the matter and to make recommendations to the full Committee. The subcommittee shall be composed of at least one student, one faculty member, and one administrator or staff member.


12.21 Consideration shall be given to:

a) the effect on the student (i.e., a delay would cause hardship);

b) the effect on the institution;

c) identification of responsibility for the problem (i.e., did the student delay in bringing the matter to the attention of the Committee, or did some element of the institution delay in making a decision known to the student, etc.).

12.22 The subcommittee shall recommend procedures to process the case. When the subcommittee recommends extraordinary procedures it shall recommend precisely the modification of procedures to be used in the case at hand. A majority vote of the full committee to accept these procedures is required.

12.23 Should a grievance need an expedited investigation and/or hearing during the summer, and appointed members of the Committee are unavailable, emergency appointments shall be made accordingly:

a) The President of Associated Students shall appoint temporary student members.

b) The Chair of the Senate shall appoint temporary faculty members.

c) The Vice President for Student Affairs shall appoint temporary staff and administrative members.

[up to top]

13.0 Class Action

13.1 A class action shall be initiated as an individual student complaint to the Committee. When an individual student makes an appeal to the Committee on a matter where other students may be similarly affected, the Committee shall hear the case of the individual student without regard to the others potentially involved. While it may be necessary for the student to introduce material relating to the larger group and the Committee may find it necessary to discuss this broader area, the decision of the Committee shall be on the merits of the individual case.

13.2 When the decision is in favor of the student, the Committee shall take remedial action as necessary to redress the individual wrong.

13.3 After concluding the individual case, the Committee shall have three options available to them: (1) the Committee may take action for other students in similar circumstances based on the evidence obtained in the initial hearing; (2) the Committee may request that the other students affected initiate action; and (3) there will be no further action by the Committee. [up to top]

14.0 Press releases

14.1 At their discretion, the Committee may initiate news articles which would advertise the existence of the Committee and report their general actions. At no time will these articles mention individual parties to a case by name. [up to top]

15.0 Records

15.1 When each case is closed by the Committee, all members of the Committee shall return their copies of the documents and other information obtained on the case to the Ombudsman's office where a single, complete file of all the information will be compiled and retained as the official record on that case. [up to top]

16.0 Confidentiality

16.1 No member of the Committee may discuss personal and/or pertinent information relating to a case with any persons who are non-Committee members.

16.2 No member of the Committee shall discuss the facts of a case with any of the principals of the case throughout the course of investigation and following the decision of the Committee. [up to top]

17. Legal Responsibilities

17.1 Members of the Committee will not participate or testify in legal action related to the grievance. [up to top]

18.0 Revision of the Procedures

18.1 The Committee may make recommendations as it deems appropriate for revisions in these Procedures.

18.2 These Procedures should be reviewed by the Committee and reconfirmed, revised or terminated as necessary. [up to top]