Student Appeals, Complaints, and Grievances: A Brief Guide

Last updated March 2013

The purpose of this document is to outline avenues by which students may make appeals or lodge complaints or grievances at the University of Colorado Boulder.  This introductory section provides some general overview information and the rest of the document is broken into several sections which address the most common categories of student issues and grievances, although there may well be overlap in particular cases.  It is our aim, with this guide, to provide students with general information and specific contact strategies; it does not attempt to catalog the specifics of any particular procedure as they are numerous and may vary in details among departments, units, schools or colleges and the like.

It is an express Boulder campus policy that all students at all times have the right to lodge a complaint or grievance which they deem important without fear of retaliation of any sort or any other adverse consequence as a result of doing so.

The recommended general strategy is to first contact the specific individuals or units most directly connected with the issue at hand unless there are good reasons for not doing so such as a desire to maintain anonymity (see section 1 below).   The Campus Directory generally provides contact information for all the campus units, departments, Dean's offices, etc. from which an individual can usually determine where to go to make a complaint or lodge a grievance.  All of the main campus entities also have contact information via web pages.

1. Issues wherein the student wishes to remain anonymous with respect to an instructor or staff member or where the student otherwise chooses to avoid directly discussing the problem with that individual.

If, for whatever reason, a student does not want to personally or directly contact an instructor or staff member to discuss a complaint or grievance, the student should begin with the next highest level of responsibility, which would commonly be the department chair (or unit director).  The student can request an appointment to meet with the chair or director and/or send a written description of the issue or problem and request that their identity be kept confidential.  That request will be honored unless there are over-riding reasons to do otherwise.  For example, if a student alleges sexual harassment by a faculty member to a department chair, the chair must forward that information, to include the identity of the complainant, to the campus Office of Sexual Harassment.

Alternatively, or in addition, students also have the option of getting counsel and advice from the campus Ombuds office (303-492-5077), Center for Community, Rm. N440. The Ombuds office can often suggest strategies and mechanisms for addressing whatever the problem or issue at hand.  They do not have authority or responsibility for mandating changes or corrections.  The website at www.colorado.edu/Ombuds constitutes a rich source of helpful suggestions.

2. Issues about academic advising

Begin with your specific advisor which may be departmental (common in Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Athletics, ROTC) or with the advising office of your school, college, or program (Music, Journalism, Business, Architecture).  Rooms, telephone numbers and names of the appropriate individuals can be found in the campus directory under the specific school, college, department or unit.  Appeals and grievances begin with your specific advisor and may continue to their supervisors in each school or college.  Normally these matters are handled by a written process when taken to a supervisory level.

3. Issues about grades, exam procedures, excused absences, class policies, etc.

Individual faculty members have primary authority and responsibility in all these areas and are charged with carrying out those responsibilities in a professional manner. Dean's offices have the authority and responsibility to deal with changes of grades in special cases such as those which might involve faculty who have left the university or unprofessional faculty conduct in assigning the grade. Students should be aware that neither Chairs nor Deans can require an instructor to change a properly assigned course grade. Issues of disagreement about whether, for example, a given essay was worth, say, a B or an A are decided solely by the individual instructor in charge.  The campus has standing policies on faculty accommodation for religious and disability reasons and if a student has a complaint in these areas, they can contact the department chair to ask for a resolution (see also sections 14, 15 and 16 below).  If the student is unable to resolve the problem at that level, they may contact the appropriate Dean's office for specific instructions. The Dean's office is the final arbiter of academic grievances of this type within our campus structure. Here are the direct web links to each school and college:

School of Education

Program in Journalism and Mass Communication

College of Arts and Sciences

College of Music

College of Engineering and Applied Science

Program in Environmental Design

4. Issues about faculty performance or faculty behavior

If reasonable and appropriate (see section above about cases which need to start elsewhere) students should begin with the individual faculty person to discuss and resolve the problem together, if possible. Students may refer to http://www.colorado.edu/BFA/policies/PRDContents.html for description of faculty rights and  responsibilities. If this direct effort fails, students may then contact the department chair.  If a student is unable to resolve the problem at the Chair's level, he or she may contact the appropriate Dean's office.  Most of the Dean's offices have a formalized process which typically requires written filing of complaints and grievances and students usually do not personally address these issues with a Dean, Associate Dean or Assistant Dean.  Appeals by students regarding academic decisions made by a Dean's office may be referred to a faculty committee for examination.  This step typically constitutes the end of the formal appeals and grievance process.  A student may individually choose to take the issue to the Provost's, Chancellor's, or President's office but those appeals are typically referred back to the Dean's office.

If the faculty behavior in question involves allegations of sexual harassment or discrimination students should contact the Office of Sexual Harassment and Discrimination directly (303-492-2127); if the allegations involve discrimination or other civil rights issues, students may also contact the Office of Equal Opportunity (303-492-6706); if the allegations relate to disabilities, students should contact the Office of Disability Services (303-492-5614).

5. Issues about course content, teaching methodology, etc.

Students should first discuss the issue with the individual faculty person (see exceptions in section 1 above) to resolve the problem there, if possible.  Faculty have primary authority and responsibility in all these areas.  If the student deems it necessary, he or she may then contact the department chair.  If unable to resolve the issue with the Chair, the student may proceed to contact the appropriate Dean's office where a written process of complaint or grievance will usually be employed.  A student may also continue the process to write the Offices of the Provost or Chancellor or President but those offices will typically refer the issue back to the Dean's office.

6. Issues about academic probations, suspensions, etc.

Academic probations, suspensions, etc. are handled through the relevant Dean's office of each school or college and their phone numbers and locations can be found in the Campus Directory (paper and online).  These processes normally are carried out only on the basis of written communications.

7. Issues regarding academic integrity and the Honor Code

Honor Code Office
303-735-2273
honor@colorado.edu
honorcode.colorado.edu

The Honor Code promotes academic integrity and uses a judicial process to resolve disputes over acts of academic dishonesty. Contact the Honor Code council if you have questions about the process or how to file an appeal, the form to file an appeal can be found under forms & resources on our website.

8. Issues about transcripts, credits, degree classification, etc.

For general questions, please contact the Registrar's office at Regent 105, telephone 303-492-6970.  

Concurrent Bachelors/Master’s Program
To petition the automatic change from undergraduate to graduate status when 130 hours (except for Engineering students, 145 hours) have been completed, please visit: http://registrar.colorado.edu/students/concurrent_bachelors_masters_degrees.html.

College Opportunity Fund Waiver
Undergraduate in-state students who will use more than 145 hours towards their first degree may apply for a waiver to this limit -by visiting: http://registrar.colorado.edu/students/registration/registration_packet/cof.html.

9. Issues about class availability, times, etc.

Contact the appropriate departmental chair first. The student may then contact the relevant Dean's office if he or she so desires.

10. Issues about residence hall life

Generally a student should bring their issue to the attention (in order) of the: Residence Hall Advisor, the Residence Hall Director, the Associate Director of Housing, and, as a last resort, the Director of Housing.  The main housing number is 303-492-6871 and specific numbers for each residence hall (to contact the appropriate Hall Director) are listed under 'Residence Halls' in the campus directory.

11. Issues about Off-Campus Housing

Contact off-campus student services at 303-492-7053

12. Issues about Violations of the Student Code of Conduct

The Office of Student Conduct provides two appeal options for incidents that violate the Student Conduct Code. If the student lives in on campus student housing, they are subject to the Housing and Dining Services Conduct Appeals process. If the student lives off campus or the case has been referred to the Office of Student Conduct, then the student will file an appeal utilizing the Office of Student Conduct Appeal process. For more detailed information regarding the appeal process please see the Student Code of Conduct section K or click the following link: www.colorado.edu/studentaffairs/studentconduct/appeals/index.html.

You may also contact the Office of Student Conduct at 303-492-5550.

13. Issues about possible crimes

Generally the student should contact the CU Campus police.  For non-emergency situations telephone 303-492-6666; for emergency situations always dial 911.  For grievances related to the police department contact the campus Director of Public Safety at 303-492-7311.

14. Issues regarding discrimination and/or sexual harassment

Contact the Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Office at 303-492-2127

15. Issues regarding civil rights violations

Contact the Department of Equal Opportunity, 303-492-6706

16. Issues regarding disabilities

Contact Disability Services at 303-492-8671 or the Department of Equal Opportunity if the allegation involves discrimination (303-492-6706).

17. Issues about health

Counseling and Psychological Services and the Wardenburg Health Center are the primary campus places to contact with health ssues.  Their telephone numbers are, respectively, 303-492-6766 and 303-492-5432.  For issues about these units themselves, contact their respective Directors.

18. Issues about parking, parking tickets, etc.

Contact the CU Police department at 303-492-1538

19. Issues about Student Legal Concerns

Contact CUSG student legal services office at 303-492-6813

20. Issues about tuition, fees, and other charges

Student financial billing is handled by the University Bursar's office located in Regent Hall, telephone 303-5381.  Appeals and grievances go to the Bursar.

For appeals of denial of in-state status for tuition purposes, please visit: http://registrar.colorado.edu/students/pdf/Appeals_Procedures.pdf.

21. Issues about scholarships, financial aid, school-sponsored loans

The Office of Financial Aid, Regent Hall 175, handles most all of these issues.  Telephone 303-492-8223.  Appeals and grievances go to the Director of Financial Aid.

22. Issues about student employment

Contact the Office of Student Employment at 303-492-7349

23. CUSG campus events and programs

Contact the relevant CUSG office at 303-492-7473

 

Content provided by the Office of Undergraduate Education, Division of Student Affairs, Registrar's Office, Bursar's Office, Office of Financial Aid, CU Police Department, and University Communications. Please send corrections or revisions to webcom@colorado.edu.
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