Student Complaint Procedures

POLICY

As a part of the University of Tennessee’s compliance with US Department of Education program Integrity Rules process, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center provides students several mechanisms whereby students can resolve complaints.

PROCEDURES

Complaints regarding Academic Issues

Each of the colleges at UTHSC has developed an appeal process for addressing student concerns regarding grades and grading procedures, assignments, progression, etc. These processes can be found in the Catalog. Normally, such processes allow for the resolution of the majority of complaints relating to academic matters. However, if satisfactory resolutions cannot be found and/or if the complaint involves a recommendation for dismissal or for repeating an entire academic year, students can submit a formal written appeal to the Vice Chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs and/or to the Chancellor. Written complaints stating the issue, the processes that were used to address the issue, the desired outcome and the reason(s) that the student feels unfairly treated by the college’s proposed resolution should be sent to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs.

Discrimination Complaint Procedure

Any UTHSC student , who believes that he or she has been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability or veteran status is encouraged to use the procedures outlined below for the resolution of his or her complaint.

Complaints of discrimination should be directed to the UTHSC Office of Equity and Diversity (OED), 920 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38163 (telephone: 901-448-2112 [voice], 901-448-7382 [TTY]). Complaints must be put in writing and filed within 300 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory action. In certain circumstances, at the discretion of OED, complaints filed outside of this time limit or that are not put in writing may be investigated.

  1. Employees and students are encouraged to attempt to resolve a complaint through the administrative structure of the employment unit or academic department. OED will provide assistance to the complainant, employment unit, and/or academic department in order to resolve the complaint.
  2. Complaints received directly by OED will be reported by the Director (or the Director's designee) to the appropriate administrator(s) who will attempt to resolve the matter working in conjunction with OED. Confidentiality will be maintained to the extent possible.
  3. If the complaint is not resolved through the methods described above, OED may use the following:
    1. Complaints should be submitted in writing to OED. The complaint must include (a) the name of the complainant; (b) an explanation of the action or conduct complained of and (c) the person or department responsible for the action. The complaint should include the resolution sought by the complainant. The head of the responding unit or academic department and the party against whom the complaint has been lodged (respondent) will be notified of the complaint.
    2. OED will conduct an investigation, the nature and scope of which will be determined by OED on a case-by-case basis. The investigation may include any or all of the following, as well as such other action as OED deems appropriate: interviewing the complainant; interviewing the respondent; interviewing witnesses; submitting questions to or taking statements from parties or witnesses; reviewing documents; and/or setting up an investigative committee.
    3. If an investigative committee is deemed appropriate, the relevant Chancellor/Vice Chancellor / Vice President or the President (in the event that the complaint is made against a Chancellor/Vice Chancellor / Vice President) will be asked by OED to appoint the members of such a committee. OED may assist the appropriate administrator in appointing committee members.
    4. The investigative committee, or OED if there is no investigative committee, will make findings of fact and will determine whether sufficient evidence exists to support a charge of discrimination. Those findings, together with a statement outlining the basis for them, will be transmitted by OED to the appropriate administrator. A copy will also be available to the complainant.
    5. The appropriate administrator(s) will review OED's findings, make a determination and notify the complainant of the decision in writing. Within fifteen workdays after receipt of that decision, complainants who are in staff non-exempt positions may pursue a grievance under UT Personnel Policy and Procedure 640, contained in the UT Policies and Procedures Manual if they are not satisfied with the determination.
    6. If the complainant is not satisfied with the determination and is not eligible to or has not elected to file a grievance, the complainant may appeal in writing within fifteen workdays after receipt of the decision to the next higher administrative level. The decision on the appeal will be provided in writing to the complainant. Decisions by a Chancellor/Vice Chancellor/ Vice President may be appealed to the President.

Additional information is available at http://www.uthsc.edu/oed/

Sexual Harassment Complaints

In addition to, or in lieu of, initiating criminal prosecution, students who feel they have been the victim of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, have the right to file a Title IX sex discrimination complaint with the University. Conduct may violate the University’s Standards of Conduct or constitute unlawful sexual harassment under Title IX even if the police conclude they do not have sufficient evidence of a criminal violation. Students may be suspended or permanently dismissed as a penalty for sexual discrimination.

Complaints of sexual harassment should be directed to the UTHSC Office of Equity and Diversity (OED), 920 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38163 (telephone: 901-448-2112 [voice], 901-448-7382 [TTY]). Such complaints may be submitted to the Office of Equity and Diversity without confronting the offender. These complaints must be put in writing and filed within 300 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory action. In certain circumstances, at the discretion of OED, complaints filed outside of this time limit or that are not put in writing may be investigated.

  1. Whenever possible, the goal will be to resolve the matter informally. The complainant will be notified of the resolution.
  2. An investigation will be conducted, the nature and scope of which will be determined on a case-by-case basis. This investigation may include any or all of the following, as well as other action as is deemed appropriate:
    1. Interviewing the complainant, the respondent, and witnesses;
    2. submitting questions to, or taking statements from, parties or witnesses;
    3. reviewing documents and appointing an investigative committee.
  3. If an investigative committee is formed, it will consist of at least three persons other than the Director or designee. The Director or designee will be the non-voting chair of the committee.
  4. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the Office of Equity and Diversity, in the instance of complaints against faculty, residents or students, will present findings and recommendations to the appropriate Dean for a decision concerning disciplinary action. The employee's Department Chair or other appropriate person(s) may be consulted and may be a part of the decision-making process if desired by the Dean. The complainant will be informed of the decision by the Dean or designee.

Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint Against a Student

A complaint of sexual harassment against another student will be treated as a complaint of sex discrimination in violation of Title IX and should be filed with the Office of Equity and Diversity, 920 Madison, Suite 420, 448-2112. An employee in the Office of Equity and Diversity will meet with the complainant, explain the University’s grievance procedures, listen to the complainant’s allegations, provide the complainant with an opportunity to ask questions, and refer the complainant to the University’s Victim’s Advocate in University Health Services, who can assist the complainant with obtaining medical and/or psychological care, reporting the incident to the police, and exploring interim and remedial measures.

Following the initial meeting with the complainant, the Office of Equity and Diversity will investigate the complaint to determine if the University Standards of Conduct or the University’s policy against sex discrimination has been violated. Investigations usually will include interviews of the complainant, the student against whom the complaint was filed, and other witnesses, as well as an analysis of documents and other relevant information. University investigations of sexual harassment complaints will be prompt, thorough, impartial, and independent of any criminal investigation or case that may be ongoing. The Office of Equity and Diversity uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in reaching its conclusions. If the Office of Equity and Diversity determines that a Standard of Conduct or University policy has been violated, then the case will be processed in accordance with the University’s student disciplinary regulations and procedures, which can be found below.

In a case involving a complaint against another student of sex discrimination, the alleged victim shall have the right to:

  1. notice concerning the process by which the university will handle the complaint and an opportunity to ask questions about the process;
  2. a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of the complaint;
  3. the same opportunity as the accused student to present his/her explanation of the facts during the university’s investigation;
  4. have the investigation of the complaint concluded within sixty (60) days of the university’s receipt of a complaint, unless circumstances make it impracticable for the university to complete its investigation within that timeframe;
  5. notice of the outcome of the university’s investigation;
  6. have a disciplinary hearing conducted within thirty (30) days of a university disciplinary charge, unless circumstances make it impracticable for the university to conduct a hearing within that timeframe;
  7. notice of the date, time, and location of the disciplinary hearing, the right to have the disciplinary hearing closed to the public, and the right to request rescheduling of the hearing for good cause;
  8. the same access as the accused student to any information or documents that will be used by the university during the disciplinary hearing, unless prohibited by law;
  9. challenge the selection of any member of a hearing panel or a hearing examiner for good cause, which will be determined at the discretion of the Chancellor or his/her designee;
  10. be accompanied by an advisor of his/her choosing during the University’s investigation or a disciplinary hearing, but the advisor shall not be permitted to speak for the victim during a disciplinary hearing;
  11. the same opportunity as the accused student to be present during the hearing, present witnesses and other evidence, challenge the admissibility of evidence, and cross-examine adverse witnesses during the disciplinary hearing;
  12. testify or remain silent in a hearing at his/her option; however, choosing to remain silent may result in the University dismissing the charges against the accused student or the hearing panel or examiner finding that there is insufficient evidence to find the accused student guilty of the charges against him/her;
  13. not to be questioned directly by the accused student during the disciplinary hearing;
  14. submit a written impact statement to the hearing panel or examiner for consideration during the sanctioning phase of the disciplinary hearing, if the student is found guilty of the charges against him/her;
  15. notice of the decision of the hearing panel or examiner within three (3) business days of the hearing; and
  16. appeal the decision of the hearing panel or examiner to the Chancellor and the President.

Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint against a University Employee

A complaint of sexual harassment against a University employee, including a student employee, or a third party unaffiliated with the University should be filed with the University’s Title IX Coordinator, Dr. Michael Alston, Office of Equity and Diversity, 920 Madison, Suite 420, Phone: 901-448-2133, Fax: 901-448-1120, malston1@uthsc.edu, and will be handled in accordance with the University’s discrimination complaint procedures, which can be found at http://www.uthsc.edu/oed/titleix.php.

Initiating a Criminal Complaint Against a University Employee or Student

Victims of sexual assault or misconduct have the right to initiate criminal prosecution by contacting the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Police Department, 740 Court, 901-448-4444, or the Memphis Police Department, 545-2677. Victims may file a criminal complaint before, during, or after the university’s investigation of sexual assault or misconduct.

Complaints Related to Financial Aid

Students who have been denied access to financial aid can appeal this decision in writing to the Director of Financial Aid; the basis for the appeal should be specified and the student is encouraged to provide any additional information (e.g. emancipated status of the student; changes in parental custody of financial situations, etc.) that might have been unavailable/overlooked by the office. The Director will review the appeal and make a determination based on the additional information and guided by federal/state laws regarding loan eligibility.

Students are also denied financial aid when they no longer meet the requirements for satisfactory academic progress. If he/she does not meet the minimum requirements for satisfactory academic progress as defined by his/her academic program such that they are subject to dismissal or probation, the student may lose his her eligibility for financial aid as well as for continuation in their academic program. The college provides an appeal process to review extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to the poor academic performance (appeal procedures are available on college web sites and in the UTHSC academic catalog) and to assess the possibility of successful remediation. The financial aid office also provides an appeal process (http://www.uthsc.edu/finaid/academicprogress.php) for restoring student eligibility for Title IV financial aid. To file an aid appeal, students must submit a letter to the Office of Financial Aid explaining why they failed to make academic progress, as well as an explanation of what has changed in their circumstances that will allow them to make satisfactory academic progress by the end of the next semester. In addition, the student must provide a copy of the approved Academic Plan from his/her college that describes the specific steps the student will take to achieve satisfactory academic progress status during the next term. The Financial Aid Office, working with a subcommittee appointed for this purpose, will consider the appeal; representatives from the college may be consulted as part of the appeal. The student is notified of the decision via the student’s university assigned email address. Neither the committee nor the financial aid staff will give appeal results over the phone. Questions related to the policy, process, and outcomes of an aid appeal should be directed to the student’s Financial Aid Counselor.

FERPA Complaint Procedure

The Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Rights and Responsibilities, Director of Equity and Diversity will serve as the initial contact for students with complaints related to violations of rights protected by FERPA (Family Education Rights Protection Act).

Upon receipt of a written incident report, the student conduct administrator may conduct an investigation to determine if the charges have merit and/or if they can be disposed of administratively by mutual consent of the parties involved.

Students who are not satisfied with the outcome of university efforts to resolve alleged FERPA violations have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education requesting the department’s assistance in addressing the alleged FERPA violation by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5901

Unresolved Complaints

Complaints regarding any University of Tennessee institution not resolved at the campus level may be directed to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success. Students are requested to attempt to resolve complaints through campus channels prior to contacting the University of Tennessee System (utvpacademicaffairs@tennessee.edu).

Complaints regarding distance education offered by any University of Tennessee institution to students in other states may also be reported to the UT Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success identified above. Alternatively, complaints regarding distance education programs offered to students in other states may be reported through the applicable state's process, if a separate complaint process is listed at the following link: http://wcet.wiche.edu/advance/state-approval-complaint.

Complaints may also be reported to any accrediting agency which offers accreditation to the University, including:

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Commission on Colleges
1866 Southern Lane
Decatur, GA 30033
(404)-679-4500

Tennessee Higher Education Commission
404 James Robertson Parkway Suite 1900
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-3605

Related Policies

PDF version

Approval Date

April 16, 2013

Group

Committee on Academic and Student Affairs

Next Scheduled Review

April 2016

Office of Responsibility

Student Affairs