The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints. (Federal Requirement 4.5)
Longwood University has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and can demonstrate that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints.
Longwood believes that student complaints are best handled within the appropriate professional area, rather than by an ombudsperson or a central office, as this allows a timely response by a competent staff person. Grievance and appeals procedures are found in the academic affairs, administration and finance, and student affairs divisions. Complaints addressed to the Office of the President are routinely directed to the appropriate vice president or office that deals with the issue; the normal appeals or grievance procedure is then followed.
Grievance and appeals policies and procedures are publicized in the academic catalogs and/or the Student Handbook, all of which are available online. In the student responsibilities session during New Student Orientation, incoming students are informed of the locations of the academic catalogs and Student Handbook, and that they are responsible for reading those documents. This is also covered in the Longwood Seminar course required of all first-time freshmen. All students follow the same procedures regardless of location (residential, commuter, distance/online) or status (undergraduate/graduate).
This narrative will describe grievance and appeals procedures that apply to currently enrolled students. Admissions appeals by prospective students and debt set-aside appeals by former students are not included in this report. The following types of appeals are described, with seven examples incorporated into the narrative: academic appeals, financial aid appeals, discrimination appeals, and other student appeals. All personal names and other identifying information have been removed from the examples.
Academic appeals related to modification of degree requirements or academic probation/suspension are processed by the Office of Registration and are heard by the Petitions Committee, a standing committee of the Faculty Senate that is made up of one member from each of the three colleges. All petitions are anonymous when reviewed by the committee.
In 2008-09, 53 appeals related to modification of degree requirements and 49 appeals related to academic probation/suspension were filed. Of those, 38% (39) were approved and 62% (63) were denied. Records of academic appeals are kept in the Office of Registration.
Modification of Degree Requirements
Undergraduate students may request modification of a general educational or additional degree requirement by filing a petition with the Petitions Committee before an application for degree is submitted. A student may request that the committee review its decision only if new information is available.
For example, on October 1, 2009, the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) notified the Petitions Committee that a student had submitted a course waiver request for General Education Goal 10 in accordance with the Foreign Language Course Waiver Policy. On November 12, the Office of Registration e-mailed the student indicating that a written request from the student was needed in support of the documentation supplied by DSS. On December 14, the student replied and asked what to include in the request. The Office of Registration responded and indicated that the request must be received no later than 3:00 p.m. on January 4, 2010, the date of the next Petitions Committee meeting. At 9:30 a.m. on January 4, the student submitted an e-mail request. The Petitions Committee met at 3:00 p.m. that day. On January 7, the Office of Registration wrote a letter to the student indicating approval of the appeal.
Academic Probation and Suspension
Students placed on academic probation or suspension are notified by letter of the appeals process. Students must contact the Office of Registration for information and deadlines for submitting an appeal. Results of the appeals are communicated verbally and via University e-mail. A formal letter is also sent to the student. Under extenuating circumstances, appeals for readmission or other exceptions to academic policies may be presented to the Petitions Committee.
A student who feels that a final grade was unfairly or inaccurately awarded follows a multi-step grade appeal process that may end at any step after which the student is satisfied with the result. The process is identical for undergraduate and graduate students and appears in both academic catalogs. The student is notified of the results of the grade appeal at each stage of the process.
If the student is not satisfied after meeting with the faculty member and receiving an explanation of why the grade was assigned, he/she may file a written appeal with the department chair no later than February 1 for grades awarded in the fall semester and September 15 for spring and summer semester grades. The department chair or dean forwards a copy of the appeal to the faculty member with an invitation to make a written response. Within two weeks, the department chair or dean holds a joint consultation with the faculty member and student. If this does not resolve the issue, the department chair or dean sends a written request within one week to the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate to appoint a committee to review the appeal. The committee, composed of three faculty members from the same or a related discipline, receives all documentation related to the appeal, renders a decision, and reports its decision to all relevant parties as well as the Office of Registration. The review must be completed by the end of the eighth full week of classes.
In 2008-09, six grades were changed based on the first stage of the appeals process (discussion with the professor).
Denial of Financial Aid
The most common financial aid appeal is related to failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress. The procedure is well publicized in both catalogs, in the Financial Aid Guide, and on the website of the Office of Financial Aid. The Financial Aid Appeals Committee, composed of three personnel chosen from the offices of Registration, Cashiering and Student Accounts (CSA), and Financial Aid, renders a decision on the appeal. A similar process is followed if a student wishes to appeal financial aid determination or the amount or type of aid awarded.
Students may appeal denial of financial aid based on one or more of the following criteria: serious illness or injury to the student or immediate family (parent, spouse, sibling, child) that required extended recovery time; death of an immediate family member (parent, spouse, brother, sister, child); significant trauma in a student's life that impaired the student's emotional and/or physical health; other unexpected documented circumstances beyond the control of the student.
The student submits a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form to the Office of Financial Aid no later than one week prior to the first day of classes for the following semester. The Financial Aid Appeals Committee notifies the student in writing of the action on the appeal.
In 2008-09, 44 financial aid appeals were filed. Of those, 82% (36) were approved and 18% (8) were denied. Records of financial aid appeals are kept in the Office of Financial Aid.
For example, on January 7, 2010, a non-traditional student submitted an appeal citing personal and financial problems in the previous semester as circumstances that led to failure to meet satisfactory academic progress standards. On the same day, a financial aid counselor circulated the appeal to the Financial Aid Appeals Committee via e-mail and received responses from all three members. On January 8, the financial aid counselor notified the student by letter of the decision to reinstate aid on the condition that he/she must complete all credits attempted until reaching the requirements for satisfactory academic progress.
Tuition and Fees Appeals
In addition to detailed information about financial policies, including deposits, and refunds and charge adjustments, CSA has a web page outlining the tuition/fee appeals process. The Tuition Appeals Committee, composed of four administrative personnel chosen from student services, registration, and financial aid, renders all decisions.
Students may appeal charges based on the following criteria: extended periods of physical or mental illness; extended periods of physical or mental illness of immediate family member; death of immediate family member; involuntary changes in employment schedule or military deployment; error in academic advising; transfer credit assignment errors; late notification of denial to degree program; institutional errors/delay in processing; statement authorizing medical withdrawal; and administrative difficulties with internships, placements or practicums.
The student submits a tuition appeal form, available online or from the CSA office, to the CSA director. The Tuition Appeals Committee reviews the appeal at its next monthly meeting. The student is notified of the results of the appeal via formal letter.
In 2008-09, 50 tuition/fee appeals were filed. Of those, 60% (30) were approved and 40% (20) were denied. Records of tuition/fee appeals are kept in the CSA office.
For example, on August 28, 2008, the CSA director received an appeal form requesting a refund of a deposit for fall classes. On September 25, the Tuition Appeals Committee met and decided to deny the appeal. On September 30, the CSA director sent a letter to the claimant explaining the decision.
The director of Human Resources is responsible for administering Longwood University's Sexual Harassment Policy, which is reproduced in the Student Handbook. Students may initiate a complaint against a faculty or staff member by contacting the director of Honor and Judicial Programs (HJP), who will jointly investigate the complaint with the director of Human Resources. The student files a written complaint within 180 days of the incident. The person being investigated is informed of the complaint within 5 working days. Every reasonable effort is made to conclude the investigation within 15 working days. If sexual harassment is found to have occurred, a report with recommendations on how to eliminate the sexual harassment is forwarded by the director of Human Resources to the provost/vice president for academic affairs for action.
In 2008-09, two student complaints were filed against Longwood employees. In the prior academic year (2007-08), two complaints were filed against Longwood staff.
One example illustrates the complete procedure for sexual harassment charges. On March 25, 2009, a student submitted to the HJP director a written complaint of sexual harassment by a faculty member alleged to have occurred on February 11, 2009. The complaint was forwarded to Human Resources. On March 31, 2009, the director of Human Resources notified the student of receipt of the complaint and the accused of the allegations. On March 31, the student was interviewed and on April 3, the faculty member was interviewed. The director of Human Resources and the HJP director issued a joint report of the investigation on April 20 and forwarded it to the provost the same day. On April 24, the provost determined that the charges were unfounded and notified both the student and the faculty member.
Sexual misconduct complaints involving students that do not fall under the sexual harassment policy may be referred to the Student Judicial Board. Procedures and rights of the complainant and respondent are detailed in the Student Handbook and on the website of the associate dean of students.
DSS is federally mandated to post its grievance procedure on the website for all readers. The procedure is also located in the Student Handbook and reflects Longwood University Policy 5201: Non-Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodation on the Basis of Disability.
The student files a formal grievance within 30 calendar days of the event(s) triggering the grievance. The written grievance must include: a clear statement of the university rule, regulation, policy, and/or action of which the student complained; the date of any action which the student is appealing; a summary of the action(s) which the student has taken to resolve the matter informally; and documentation which supports the grievance. The appropriate administrator meets with the student within 5 class days of receipt of the grievance to gather data and attempt resolution. The appropriate administrator conducts an informal investigation and furnishes a written response by certified mail no later than 15 class days after meeting with the student. If the grievance is still not resolved, the student may submit a written appeal within 10 class days to the vice president for student affairs, who then conducts a meeting with the student and other persons involved and issues a written response to the student within 15 class days of that meeting. The DSS director maintains all records and files related to the complaints filed.
From 2006 to 2009, DSS did not receive any formal grievances. If DSS receives a formal grievance, the information is logged into an Excel database on the DSS shared network drive.
Other Student Appeals
The appeal process for conduct decisions is included in the Student Handbook. Students may appeal decisions based on three criteria: due process as defined in the Student Handbook was violated; additional information has become available on behalf of the respondent that was not available at the time of the hearing; and/or the sanction was disproportionate to the violation. Appeals of decisions made by residence education coordinators acting as hearing officers are processed by the HJP director. Appeals of decisions made by the Student Honor and Judicial Boards, administrative hearing officers, and the University Disciplinary Board are processed by the vice president for student affairs.
If a student is found responsible for a conduct violation, the appeals process is verbally relayed to the student at the close of the conduct hearing and outlined in the letter of finding sent to the student. The student submits a Request for Appeal form to the designated appeals officer within ten working days of the date of the letter of sanction.
Of the 409 honor and judicial conduct cases filed during 2008-09, 8% (32) were appealed. Eleven of the appealed judgments were overturned. Sanctions were modified for 14 of the remaining 21 judgments that were upheld. Statistics on the conduct system for the past six years may be found on the HJP website.
For example, on September 29, 2009, the HJP director wrote a letter to a student indicating the results of an honor violation hearing for using false identification to attempt to purchase alcohol. The letter included instructions for how and when to file an appeal. On October 1, HJP received a request for appeal from the student on the basis that the immediate suspension was disproportionate to the offense. On October 6, the vice president for student affairs wrote a letter to the student confirming the results of the October 5 appeal hearing, which modified the sanction and deferred the suspension to the next semester.
Residential and Commuter Life
The Office of Residential and Commuter Life (RCL) has tracked and responded to student complaints in an informal manner for several years. The office recently established a formal residential grievance procedure that is available on the RCL website. In 2010-11, it will be published in the Student Handbook and discussed in new student orientation.
The student may file a formal grievance within 30 calendar days of the event(s) triggering the grievance. The written grievance must include: a clear statement of the university rule, regulation, policy, and/or action of which the student complained; the date of any action which the student is appealing; a summary of the action(s) which the student has taken to resolve the matter informally; and documentation which supports the grievance. The appropriate administrator meets with the student within five class days of receipt of the grievance to gather data and attempt resolution. If the grievance is not resolved, the appropriate administrator conducts an informal investigation and furnishes a written response to the student. If the grievance is still not resolved, the student may submit a written appeal within five class days to the RCL Appeals and Grievance Committee. Within ten class days, the associate director for housing conducts a meeting with the student, the committee, and other persons involved. The committee issues a written response to the student within five class days of that meeting.
Currently, there are no statistics on the number of residential and commuter life student complaints as the formal procedure was implemented in 2009-10.
The Office of Public Safety has an appeal process for parking citations. The Parking Citation Appeals Committee, composed of staff, faculty, and student members, reviews all appealed parking citations and appeals for reinstatement of suspended parking privileges. Students receive a hardcopy booklet of the parking policy and parking maps when they purchase their parking decals. The policy is also available on the Office of Public Safety website. Parking appeal forms are available in the parking services and police dispatch offices; appeals may also be entered electronically from the campus web portal.
The student must submit a written or online appeal within five working days of the date on the citation. The Parking Citation Appeals Committee conducts a hearing and issues an appeals hearing detail report to the student indicating the decision. If the appeal is denied, payment is due upon receipt of the notification letter.
In 2008-09, 522 tickets (roughly one-fifth of the total number of 2,485 tickets issued) went through the appeal process. Of those appealed, 57% (300) were denied and 43% (222) were either approved or granted a reduced penalty.
For example, on November 29, 2009, a student was ticketed for parking in a fire lane. On December 3, 2009, the student submitted a parking appeal form to the parking services office. An appeals hearing was conducted on January 20, 2010. The appeal was denied and the student received a copy of the hearing report.
The Department of Athletics may receive written student complaints from student-athletes related to appeals of actions such as suspension from games or loss/reduction of financial aid that result from violations of alcohol policies, drug policies, the code of conduct, or academic requirements.
Policies governing athletics and the associated appeals processes are clearly detailed in the Student-Athlete Handbook, including the attendance policy, financial aid appeals, alcohol policy, drug policy, and general grievance procedures.
The Student-Athlete Handbook is given to all student-athletes in their academic orientation as part of their academic planner; specific parts of the content are reviewed. They receive new copies each year as the handbook is updated, and it is also available online.
In 2009-10, there have been five written appeals submitted to the Department of Athletics, four related to violations of the attendance policy and one for a reduction in financial aid. Two of the attendance policy appeals were approved. The financial aid appeal was denied.
For example, on October 14, 2009, the Office of Student-Athlete Academic Services received a grade report for a student-athlete with a grade of D and two unexcused absences. On October 21, the associate athletic director e-mailed the student to confirm their conversation on October 20 regarding suspension from the first game of the season as required by the attendance policy and indicating the appeal process. On October 22, the student wrote a letter to the athletic director asking for an appeal of the sanction. On October 22, the professor sent an e-mail to the athletic director in support of the student's appeal. On October 26, the athletic director wrote to the student indicating that the appeal was granted.
The Intercollegiate Athletics Council is in the process of making revisions to the policy on alcohol and drug use, including changes to the appeals process. Once the policies are finalized and approved by the Board of Visitors, they will be incorporated into the Student-Athlete Handbook.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a student who believes information to be inaccurate, incomplete, inappropriate, or misleading may challenge the data contained in his/her education record. Longwood University Policy 1007: Student Records and Annual Notification includes the appeals process. It is reproduced in the Student Handbook and in the undergraduate and graduate catalogs.
A student may challenge information in person at the Office of Registration during normal business hours or by mail with proper identification. Longwood officials investigate all personal data challenges. If the investigation fails to resolve the dispute, the student is permitted to file a statement of not more than 200 words setting forth the student's position. Copies of the statement will be supplied, at the student's expense, to previous and subsequent recipients of the record in question. If a student wishes to make an appeal of the decision, the student may do so in writing to the president of Longwood.
The Office of Registration has not received any challenges to the content of student records in the past five years.