Graduate School Grievance Policy                     Dean of the Graduate School, 26 UCB Regent 330

Revised November 2009                                       


This policy applies only to students enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Grievances covered by this policy include problems related to academic issues, such as arbitrary, inconsistent, or capricious actions taken against a graduate student; deviations from stated grading and examination policies as they appear on syllabi, on assignments, or in departmental guidelines for graduate study; failure to disclose in writing reasons behind termination or dismissal, either from the program or from employment or other support; coercion or unprofessional conduct on the part of classroom or research faculty; unfair treatment on issues related to graduate student appointments; unfairness in the application of graduate requirements or regulations; retaliation for a complaint or grievance; and generally speaking any actions taken by a program that relate to the rights of graduate students and that impair the student’s ability to make normal progress toward the degree.  If the issue being grieved is one that has resulted in a student’s dismissal, the student retains the right to file a grievance on that issue for up to six months after the dismissal notice.  In those instances where a graduate student has a complaint against researchers or staff in a campus research institute, a national laboratory, or in a setting governed by a federal grant whether on or off campus, the student’s home academic department (the unit awarding the degree) is responsible for helping to achieve a remedy.

The following issues do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Grievance Policy for Graduate Students and will not be considered by the Graduate School:

  1. Grade appeals (except in the case of Museum Studies, whose academic dean is the Graduate School).
  2. Decisions rendered by a program insofar as they are purely academic in nature, and cannot be properly judged by outside groups who lack content-area expertise. Such decisions may include: dismissal from a graduate program based on failure to maintain requisite GPA; dismissal from a graduate program based on two failed attempts at comprehensive examinations; denial of admission to candidacy based on the department’s/program’s/unit’s rules for qualification.
  3. Allegations of discrimination or sexual harassment will not be considered and must be filed with the Office of Discrimination and Harassment. 
  4. Allegations of research misconduct, including unfair treatment in assigning joint authorship, should be filed with the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct.


A student is expected to exhaust all possible avenues at the department/program/unit level before attempting to file a grievance with the Graduate School. The student should first attempt to resolve the issue with faculty or staff directly involved. If this proves unsatisfactory, the student should approach the unit chair or director, and/or use the department’s/program’s/unit’s grievance policy. “Program” or “unit” may sometimes include a center or institute; in such cases, both the center/institute, and the academic department in which the degree is housed, must be involved in the unit-level efforts to remedy the problem. A student has 30 days from the time he/she receives a decision in writing at the program or unit level to appeal that decision, using the Grievance Appeal Procedure (GAP) form, to the Graduate School.    

The GAP form must provide documentation that these department/program/unit-level efforts have been exhausted, and the GAP form must be completed and accepted in the Graduate School before any substantive communications may take place between the Graduate School and the student. Students who do not follow the procedures detailed here have no basis for appealing to the Graduate School. Exceptions to this rule can be made in cases where the program has failed to respond to the student or has failed to respond in a timely fashion.

If the GAP form is deemed incomplete by the Graduate School, it will promptly return the form with instructions for its completion.

Once accepted by the Graduate School, the GAP form, along with a copy of the Graduate School Grievance Policy, will be promptly distributed to all parties named in the appeal. Individuals named in the complaint will be asked to provide written response within 20 working days of receipt of the GAP form.

The Associate Dean of the Graduate School will proceed at this time to form a Grievance Committee to consider the case. This Grievance Committee is composed of five members and a chair.  The five members include four members of the graduate faculty from outside the student’s department, and a student representative of the United Government of Graduate Students who must also be from outside the student’s department. All faculty on the Committee must have regular graduate faculty appointments, experience as a graduate advisor, and, if possible, experience as director of graduate studies. The student representative may not be the member of the United Government of Graduate Students who serves on the Executive Advisory Council of the Graduate School. The Chair is the Associate Dean of the Graduate School and is a non-voting member. The Chair will schedule the hearing as soon as conveniently possible after all written responses have been made.

A student may request a personal appearance before the Grievance Committee, as indicated on the GAP form. Individuals named in the complaint may also request a personal appearance before the Grievance Committee, and may indicate this in the written response. 

The student, as well as individuals named in the grievance, have the right to consult an attorney, but because hearings are non-adversarial, attorneys will not be allowed to speak on those occasions.

Students and the individual, or individuals, against whom a grievance has been filed will normally not appear before the Standing Committee at the same time. 

The Grievance Committee is responsible for preparing a report, and rendering a decision, within 90 days of initially accepting the GAP form. The report shall contain specific recommendations regarding the allegations, and the remedy sought by the student. The report will be submitted as a recommendation to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. If necessary, the Dean will work with the appropriate appointing authority to implement recommendations involving personnel. In cases of findings of serious misconduct by University faculty, research faculty, or staff, the report will be referred to the appropriate disciplinary authority for investigation and action according to established procedures.

Note: Upon first contact regarding a possible grievance, the Graduate School will provide a copy of its grievance policy and procedures, which includes a comprehensive list of campus services and offices where relief might be sought. This list is below.

Campus Resources

Cultural Unity & Engagement Center

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) 

Department of Human Resources

Disability Services 
303-492-8671, TTY 303-492-6106

Gender and Sexuality Center 

Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance

Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement

Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution 

Office of Victim Assistance

Ombuds Office

Standing Committee on Research Misconduct 

University of Colorado Police Department

Wardenburg Health Services

Women’s Resource Center
303-492-5713, TTY 303-735-0377