Grievance Procedures for University Students
University students in the state of Florida are limited in the number of ways to redress issues or grievances with faculty and staff. Most university personnel are very open to discussing these issues with students, after all the university system is designed to grant degrees to students, not hinder them from graduation. These issues are often handled with a conversation during office hours or by a polite and engaging email to the faculty member. However there are some rare instances where faculty may not be on the side of fairness.
The University Grievance Process
First, understand that the Student Grievance Policy is NOT INTENDED FOR GRADE APPEALS. Grade appeals are almost always a separate process and should be treated separate from a grievance. Receiving a “bad” grade and deciding to file a grievance against your professor is often a waste of time and effort.
University Grievance Procedures are focused on correcting specific behaviors of university faculty that have unjustly affected the student. These could range from failure to provide a student with accommodations regarding a previously documented disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to discriminatory practices under the Federal Civil Rights Act or violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, unlike lawsuits aimed at correcting illegal employment or public accommodation practices, the grievance procedures are administrative in nature and require a specialized skill set to handle.
The following tips may be the critical difference between success and defeat in a university or college grievance:
1.) Seek advice immediately!
The number one mistake made by students is to attempt to navigate this process alone. Although legal representation is not a right under most university policies, having an attorney who is experience in drafting grievance letters and adhering to the critical deadlines involved. Each university has a full time staff of attorneys who represent the school in these matters.
2.) Document Everything!
Grievance letters hold much more weight when a student can document specific instances and statements that violated their rights. Emails and journals are much more effective and accurate than attempting to rely on memory.
3.) Be Cooperative and Firm
Each grievance procedure is different, but the best results always come from students who are assertive and have reasonable expectations. The university itself does not want to appear to be the “bad guy” and will often grant a request for review if the student has shown just cause and sufficient evidence.
4.) If in doubt, Hire an Attorney.
Although you have no legal right to have representation at an administrative hearing or disciplinary board, hiring an attorney who is familiar with the university procedures and policies will enable you to be prepared and informed on your rights and responsibilities. The attorneys of Massey & Duffy have represented students from the University of Florida and Santa Fe College in numerous student grievance and grade appeal cases with amazing success. Our staff will ensure your case is properly research and prepared from the first day you retain us until the conclusion of your matter. If you are currently considering filing a grievance or grade appeal, YOU MUST DO SO IMMEDIATELY. There is a very short window of time so call our office today at (352) 505-8900 to schedule a Free Consultation.