Colleges provide informal and formal resolution processes for complaints by students. These guidelines are intended to assist colleges in fulfilling their responsibilities consistently and expeditiously. They do not establish procedural rights or impose obligations. Rather, they are intended to facilitate good faith resolutions of certain conflicts involving students. These guidelines give guidance for the hearing process when a student-initiated complaint reaches that stage under Board of Regents Policy: Conflict Resolution Process for Students and Administrative Procedure: Conflict Resolution Process for Student Academic Complaints: Twin Cities.
Formal Conflict Resolution
Formal conflict resolution processes may include two steps: (1) a hearing within the collegiate unit; and (2) an appeal to the Provost.
A fair hearing does not have to be like a traditional, formal judicial proceeding and should not be overly technical. It should provide a fair and reasonable opportunity for the parties to present their respective cases to a panel for recommendation to the Dean. A fair hearing process should be prompt. Normally, the hearing process should be concluded within one month of the receipt of the written complaint. A fair hearing process may include the following:
- Written notice. The parties to a conflict should have fair written notice of the issues to be heard. The student should provide a written complaint, and the respondent should provide a written response.
- Panel. The college should appoint a panel, and a Chair of the panel, for the hearing. For graduate students, the appropriate unit is the Graduate School. The panel may be a collegiate standing committee or it may be appointed on an "as needed" basis. The panel must have at least three members, at least one of whom is a student member. No panel member should have a direct interest in the conflict. All panel members serve as neutrals and give the matter open-minded, fair consideration. The Chair directs the procedures before the hearing and directs the course of the hearing. The college should determine before the hearing if the Chair will be a voting member of the panel, and this decision should be announced at the prehearing conference.
- Pre-hearing conference. A meeting among the parties and the Panel Chair or designated collegiate officer can help to clarify the issues, determine what information or witnesses each side intends to present, establish ground rules and procedures for the hearing, and answer any other questions. In general, a pre-hearing conference eliminates surprises at the panel hearing and helps the parties prepare.
- Hearing. A hearing is typically scheduled for one half-day. The parties are responsible for presenting their own case. Each presentation may include the use of documents (with enough copies for each panel member and parties) and/or witnesses. All documents distributed at the hearing should be collected at the end of the hearing for shredding. Each party may be accompanied by an advocate or advisor (usually not an attorney, but when a student has an attorney, the University also will be represented by an attorney). The hearing is closed to those not directly involved in the case, and witnesses are present only during their own questioning.
A hearing usually proceeds in the following order:
- Call to order by the Chair. Introductions of all present. Review of ground rules and any agreements reached. Witnesses are permitted to attend only for their testimony.
- Each party gives an opening statement, with the complainant usually going first.
- The complainant presents information and calls witnesses. The respondent and then panel members follow-up with their questions.
- The respondent next presents information and calls witnesses. The complainant and then panel members follow-up with their questions.
- Each party makes a summary closing statement with the complainant usually going first.
- Chair closes hearing and hearing panel retires to deliberate.
- Record. A formal record (e.g., tape recording) of the hearing usually should be made and, together with the documents submitted, kept in an appropriate collegiate office in accordance with the University's Record Retention Schedule. Parties have the right to obtain a copy of the record (which may be at their own expense) subject to University policy.
- Panel recommendation. A recommendation by the hearing panel is based on the information presented at the hearing. A majority of the panel issues the decision. The panel is not the final decision-maker, but rather makes a recommendation to the Dean. For graduate students, the recommendation is submitted to the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education. The student has the burden of persuading the panel, through information and argument, that it is more likely than not that the University violated a rule, policy, or practice in the provision of education or academic services to the student.
- The panel's recommendation should be in writing and provided to each party and to the Dean.
- Dean's decision. The Dean should notify the parties in writing of the Dean’s decision. The Dean's decision should follow promptly on receipt of the panel’s recommendation.
Appeal. The student should receive, with a final decision, notification of the appeal process. Appeals from a Dean's decision go to the Provost, who will make the ultimate decision, but who may appoint a review panel to make a recommendation. The college may use the following template language for their notification of the appeal process:
"You have the right to appeal this decision. For more information on an appeal, go to the Academic Procedure: Conflict Resolution Process for Student Academic Complaints: Twin Cities. A request for an appeal must be made in writing and filed within ten weekdays of receipt of this letter with:
234 Morrill Hall
100 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Read the procedure referenced above to see what should be included in your request for an appeal.