UnderGraduate catalog: 2020/21 term 1

Grievance (Formal Complaint Process) Policy

University of the People is committed to providing a learning and working environment that values all of its members and ensures freedom from discrimination and harassment. At the same time, no part of this policy abridges academic freedom or the University of the People’s educational mission. Statements and written materials that are relevant to classroom subject matter are excluded from the prohibitions contained in this policy.

Grade disputes, admissions decisions, graduation appeals and similar academic decisions are not issues for grievance, unless they are complaints of a civil rights nature, including complaints related to age, sex, race, religion, color, ethnic/national origin, disability, sexual orientation or veteran status. Student allegations of discrimination are grounds for initiating a grievance.

Grievance Procedure

The Grievance (formal complaint process) procedure is applicable to all students, administration, and instructional personnel of University of the People. UoPeople encourages its students and instructional personnel to resolve any disagreements, complaints, misunderstandings and grievances by informal means, where possible, before filing a formal grievance.

Grievants may choose various routes for dealing with their concerns. Starting with more informal mechanisms does not preclude the individual’s deciding later to pursue more formal ones.

Informal Resolution

The grievant is first encouraged to communicate with the individual most directly responsible for the problem, and this often resolves the matter. In instances where no resolution is reached or if contacting or writing the person directly would be a source of discomfort, then the grievant may choose another route to achieving a resolution.

Grievants may seek to resolve the matter through mediation. Grievants wishing to have a third party informally resolve the issue consult with the Dean of Student Affairs (student.affairs@uopeople.edu) who will attempt to facilitate a resolution. Both parties must consent to participate in the confidential, voluntary process. The Dean of Student Affairs does not decide who is right or wrong, but rather mediates a conversation between the parties. Because it is a voluntary process, disciplinary action cannot be taken against the respondent and, once agreement has been reached, it is final and cannot be appealed.

If, after 30 days, the Dean of Student Affairs deems it impossible to achieve a satisfactory resolution between the parties, the grievant can choose to close the matter or to file a formal complaint.

If a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached at the institutional level, or a student wishes to file a complaint, students residing in the state of Georgia may contact the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission at one of the following: Phone: (770) 414-3300, Fax: (770) 414-3309, Address: 2082 East Exchange Place, Suite 220, TUCKER, GA 30084, https://gnpec.georgia.gov.

Students residing in Washington DC may contact the Higher Education Licensure Commission.

Formal Resolution

Although students have the option of filing a complaint with an outside agency, most states require that students first attempt to resolve their issue directly with the University. As such, UoPeople strongly encourages students to first file a formal complaint with the University, before resorting to an outside agency. Students with an issue or concern about their experience with UoPeople who wish to file a formal complaint should contact the Grievance Officer directly at Grievance@uopeople.edu.

The Procedure

Submission of a Complaint

I. Formal grievances are submitted to the Grievance Officer at Grievance@uopeople.edu

II. The complaint must include:

a. A full description of the problem,
b. The identity and status of the individual against whom the complaint is being lodged,
c. A description of what may have been done to try to resolve the matter informally,
d. A suggested action requested or recommended to resolve the matter, and
e. Any supporting documents.

III. Once the complaint is received, the Grievance Officer reviews it for appropriateness for the grievance procedure and emails the grievant acknowledging receipt of the complaint.

IV. If the complaint is not appropriate for the grievance procedure, the grievant is informed and may be referred elsewhere as appropriate.

V. The Grievance Officer will dismiss the application if the formal procedure for complaints is not followed.

The Investigation

I. In all instances, the respondent/s is/are notified of the complaint immediately and receive/s a copy of it. The respondent/s is/are given 15 calendar days within which to submit a written response.

II. Non-participation is not presumed to indicate guilt, but the investigation will continue without a response, and a finding will be issued.

III. The Grievance Officer will initiate an investigation of the complaint 15 days after the respondent/s is/are notified of the complaint, with or without a response from the respondent/s.

IV. In undertaking the investigation, the Office will have complete discretion to gather any and all relevant information about the incident. All the information gathered in the process of the investigation will be considered confidential and shared only with those with a need to know.

V. The finding will be issued within 45 calendar days of receipt of the formal complaint, and will be communicated to both the grieving party and the respondent/s. Any disciplinary action against the respondent will be promptly put into effect.

Appealing the Finding

I. Both the grievant and the respondent/s have the right to appeal the final decision. The appeal must be submitted to the Grievance Officer at Grievance@uopeople.edu within 10 calendar days of issuance of the formal finding. The Grievance Officer will then communicate the appeal to the Appeals Committee.

II. Appeals will only be considered in instances where:

a. the appealing party has new information that was not available at the time of the investigation;
b. the appealing party has identified procedural irregularities of a magnitude that would change or affect the finding; or,
c. The appealing party believes the finding and/or disciplinary action to have been inconsistent with the facts of the situation.

III. The Appeals Committee will then exercise their discretion to determine:

a. If the process of the Formal Complaint had been fair;
b. If the decision was reasonable based on the facts; and,
c. If the sanction was a reasonable one.

IV. The Appeals Committee will not conduct a new investigation and will make its decision within 20 calendar days of the receipt of the appeal from the Grievance Officer. The decision of the Appeals Committee is final.

V. The final decision will be sent to the Appellant via email and to the head of the relevant department and a detailed log of each grievance will be kept in the UoPeople central database.

VI. Access to this data is limited to the Office of the President and authorized staff.