TITLE: STUDENT APPEAL OF ACADEMIC AND/OR ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS
POLICY NO:1-12 EFFECTIVE DATE: 07/01/1998
VCCS POLICY NO: N/A REVISED DATE: 09/24/2020

I. Purpose:

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College (Reynolds) is dedicated to an affirmative action policy, which provides that all matters relating to present and prospective students will be handled fairly and equitably. Unless otherwise specified, this policy provides a forum for students to lodge challenges to decisions by the college that are considered a violation of the student's right with regard to federal or state law, or policies covered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), or institutional policy outlined in the student handbook, college catalog, or other publication. In the event there is another policy which provides recourse for a student that is related to his/her claim, that student will be advised of that particular policy.

II. Definitions:

Academic appeal: a formal process through which a student can challenge his/her course instructor and the college's administrative leadership regarding the student's final grade in a course. A final course grade appeal must be based on at least one of the following claims: (1) capricious action on the part of the faculty member that affects the student's final grade. A capricious action is defined as one made on a whim or without justifiable reasons. (2) prejudicial treatment of the student by the faculty member with respect to the application of the course syllabus, thereby affecting the student's final grade. Prejudicial treatment is defined as treating the student lodging the final grade appeal differently from other students in the course with respect to the instructor's application of the course syllabus. (3) a documented error in calculating the student's final grade. (4) For the Spring 2020 semester only: this fourth basis for appeal will include: any error in the request for, or application of, the emergency grading policy due to the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency grading policy applies only to Spring 2020 classes that were scheduled to end after April 6, 2020.

Non-academic appeal: a formal process through which a student or student group can challenge a decision made by a staff member representing an administrative office that negatively affects a student/student group's standing with the college. A non-academic appeal may include disputes between a student/student group and an office regarding the interpretation and/or application of the policies and procedures of the college, the Virginia Community College System, federal or state guidelines, student governance issues, student activities, and other concerns that a student might present for redress. A non-academic appeal may be based on one of the following claims: (1) arbitrary and/or capricious actions by a staff member or administrative office. A capricious action is defined as one made on a whim or without justifiable reasons. (2) prejudicial treatment of a student by a staff member or administrative office. Prejudicial treatment is defined as treating the student lodging the non-academic appeal differently from other students with respect to the application of the policy addressing the decision being made. (3) an administrative error in the application of a policy by a staff member or administrative office.

Student: any person who is officially registered at Reynolds during the specific academic semester or term in which the grievance occurs.

Student Appeals Review Team: an ad-hoc committee established to hear a Level III grievance matter. Review Team composition includes the appropriate President's Extended Cabinet member, one (1) teaching faculty member, one (1) Enrollment Management and Student Success representative, and one (1) student.

III. Policy:

It is the policy of Reynolds that substantive and procedural due process shall be applied in all matters pertaining to the rights of students. Substantive due process addresses the constitutional rights of the individual, and procedural due process is an affirmation of this protection. Every effort shall be exhausted to resolve student appeals in an amicable and fair manner.

A. An academic appeal must be initiated within thirty (30) calendar days after the official last day of instruction (including the exam period) for the semester or term in which the incident occurred. Appeals must be in submitted in writing, but may be submitted in person, by mail, or electronically (e.g., email).

B. A non-academic appeal must be initiated within thirty (30) calendar days after a decision is made. Appeals must be in submitted in writing, but may be submitted in person, by mail, or electronically (e.g., email).

C. The college shall make every effort to respond to appeals within the timeline outlined in this policy. In order to ensure a timely resolution, the student has the responsibility to respond to requests for meetings within ten (10) business days of the request. In the event that the student does not respond to the request, the academic dean or President's Extended Cabinet member has the discretion to uphold the decision being challenged. If the student was unable to respond due to incapacitation or other reason, he/she may submit a letter outlining the circumstances. However, it is at the discretion of the President's Extended Cabinet member to determine if the meeting should occur. Decisions to allow for a meeting to occur after having upheld the decision must consider the circumstances that prevented the student from responding, the timing of the request by the student, and the feasibility to address the matter based on the various policies involved with the case.

D. In the event that a student is at a distance and is unable to travel to campus to meet, meetings may be facilitated by teleconference.

E. Students are encouraged to contact the Office of Dean of Students for assistance in understanding this policy. In addition, the Office of Dean of Students shall assist students in determining the appropriate person with whom a student must file an appeal, and provide that person's contact information.

F. If a student has exhausted all of his/her options by way of this policy, the student may file a formal complaint with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) at
http://www.schev.edu/index/students-and-parents/resources/student-complaints

IV. Procedures:


A. Level I


1. The student with a grievance must provide in writing a formal letter to the instructor or non-instructional party outlining the grade or decision he/she is appealing and request to meet with the individual whose actions he/she is grieving. In the instance of an academic appeal, the student must submit a copy of the grievance letter to the academic dean responsible for the instructor. In the instance of a non-academic grievance, the student must submit a copy of the letter to the administrative unit supervisor of the person he or she is appealing.

2. The instructor or non-instructional party has ten (10) business days from the date the written appeal is received to schedule a meeting with the student. A copy of the letter should be forwarded to the academic dean and Office of Dean of Students. The academic dean/administrative unit supervisor should follow-up in order to ensure the meeting is held. In the event the instructional or non-instructional party is unavailable, the academic dean/administrative unit supervisor has the discretion to move to Level II or postpone the meeting until the instructional or non-instructional party is available. The academic dean/administrative unit supervisor must document his or her effort to contact the instructor or non-instructional party. The academic dean/administrative unit supervisor will communicate his or her decision to move the Level I meeting to Level II.

3. At the Level I meeting, the student must clearly present his or her case regarding the aggrieved issue and the resolution that he or she would like to occur. Every reasonable effort should be made by both parties to resolve the matter at this level. No attorneys or other advisors/counselors are allowed to be present to represent either party. No audio taping or other recording will be permitted during the conference, but both parties are encouraged to make notes as they feel appropriate. Prior to the meeting, the faculty member or student may request to have a silent observer in the meeting. However, both the student and faculty member must agree to the silent observer. If an agreement regarding the appeal is made, a copy of the agreement and other appropriate documentation, including the original grievance letter, must be forwarded to the Office of Dean of Students. Within five (5) business days after the meeting, the instructor or non-instructional party must provide the student a letter outlining the decision of the meeting.

4. If the student is not satisfied with the disposition of his/her grievance at Level I, he/she may continue to Level II.


B. Level II

1. The student may file a written appeal of the Level I decision with the faculty member's academic dean or appropriate administrative unit supervisor within ten (10) business days after receiving the written decision from the Level I meeting. The written statement provided for Level I describing the issues grieved must be part of the student's written request for the Level II hearing. Within ten (10) business days of receiving the written appeal, the academic dean/administrative unit supervisor will schedule a conference with the parties in an effort to resolve the matter (the actual conference may occur after the ten [10] business days, but its date should be established within this time frame).

2. The role of the academic dean/administrative unit supervisor is to chair the meeting, facilitate the discussion, seek to mediate a resolution between the parties, ensure that college policies have not been violated, and render a decision concerning the matter. No attorneys or other advisors/counselors are allowed to be present to represent either party. No audio taping or other recording will be permitted during the conference, but both parties are encouraged to make notes as they feel appropriate. The academic dean/administrative unit supervisor or student may request to have a silent observer in the meeting. However, both the student and the academic dean/administrative unit supervisor must agree to the silent observer. The academic dean/administrative unit supervisor will prepare a report of the disposition of the matter and will provide copies to the student and the instructor or non-instructional party within ten (10) business days after the conference. In addition, a copy of the report and the official grievance letters (Level I and Level II) must be forwarded to the Office of Student Affairs.


C. Level III

1. If the student is not satisfied with the disposition at Level II, the student may file a written appeal to the appropriate President's Extended Cabinet member. The appeal must be submitted within ten (10) business days of receiving the disposition from the dean/administrative unit supervisor. Students are encouraged to contact the Office of Dean of Students for assistance in determining the name and contact information of the appropriate President's Extended Cabinet member. Within ten (10) business days of receiving this appeal, the President's Extended Cabinet member will set a date for a meeting with all parties involved.

2. The actual meeting should occur no later than thirty (30) business days after receipt of the appeal letter by the President's Extended Cabinet member, unless reasonable circumstances prevent this meeting from occurring. However, any meeting date scheduled or rescheduled beyond the thirty-day time frame must be mutually agreed upon, in writing, by the student and the President's Extended Cabinet member.

3. The appropriate President's Extended Cabinet member will serve as the convener and facilitator of the Student Appeals Committee for the Level III hearing. The President's Extended Cabinet member will chair the hearing, but he/she will not be able to vote. In the event the designated President's Extended Cabinet member is unable to participate in the hearing due to a challenge or conflict of interest, another President's Extended Cabinet member will be selected to convene and facilitate the hearing.

4. The Student Appeals Review Team (see definition in Section II) will be formed in order to objectively hear the facts of the appeal and to render a decision.

a. Any Student Appeals Review Team member associated with the academic school or administrative unit where the challenge originated will not be eligible to hear the appeal. In the event of a challenge to the membership of the Student Appeals Review Team based on bias, the team member being challenged will be replaced by another team member. If a substitute is unavailable at the time of the hearing, the hearing will be rescheduled.

b. The review team will be chosen from a pool of team members that are available to participate in the hearing. The available pool will consist of: one (1) faculty member from each academic school, two (2) Enrollment Management and Student Success representatives, and two (2) student representatives. Members on this review team will be appointed for two-year terms. In addition, one (1) alternate for each of the above members will be appointed.

5. At the Level III meeting, the student and instructor or non-instructional party may bring one attorney or advisor/counselor. If an attorney or advisor/counselor is to be present, the party retaining him/her must notify the meeting chair at least five (5) business days prior to the Level III hearing or the attorney or advisor/counselor will not be allowed to be present. The attorney or advisor/counselor's role is as an observer; and he/she may not speak to the committee members, the instructor or non-instructional party, or the student while the meeting is in session. The attorney or advisor/counselor can only speak to the party he or she is representing. If consultation with the attorney is needed, a request for a recess may be asked. The meeting chair can deny requests if it is deemed that they are disrupting the continuity of the meeting. Both parties may bring persons to provide testimony that support their position. Additionally, both parties may have no more than two other persons to attend as observers. Observers will not testify nor present any evidence.

6. The meeting chair is responsible for collecting all pertinent documents, calling the meeting, distributing documentation, determining the issue(s) of the case to be heard, and conducting the meeting in an orderly, efficient, and equitable manner. He/she will also provide for the audio taping or other recording method of the meeting and may provide a copy to either party upon request. At the beginning of the meeting, the chair will review the issues of the case to the group and establish the procedure by which testimony will be presented. He/she may decide on the length of time needed to explore an issue, set time limits for speakers, and ask for testimony by any person deemed important to the investigation of the facts. The chair may request a campus police officer to be present. The chair may ask disruptive persons to leave the room.

7. The Student Appeals Review Team will determine the outcome of the meeting by a majority vote; the President's Extended Cabinet member may not vote. Within ten (10) business days after the meeting, the President's Extended Cabinet member will prepare a report of the disposition of the matter, including the determined outcome. Copies of the letter will be provided to the student, the instructor or non-instructional party, and all other parties as appropriate. In addition, a copy of the report and the official grievance letters (Level I, Level II, and Level III) must be forwarded to the Office of Dean of Students.

8. The finding of the Level III Student Appeals Committee is final.

V. Other Information:

See college committees on the college intranet site for potential members of the Student Appeals Review Team.