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Home » Rackham Graduate School Academic Policies » 9. Academic Dispute Resolution Policy and Procedures

9. Academic Dispute Resolution Policy and Procedures

Rackham’s Academic Dispute Resolution Policy and Procedures are available to Rackham students who have a dispute or disagreement with faculty, staff, or program about the equity and fairness of decisions or procedures that affect their academic standing and progress toward the degree. Such issues may arise regarding fair and equal treatment in the conduct of a class, in the grading or evaluation of academic work or unfair treatment in research. Other issues may concern the equity and fairness of program, department or Rackham policies.

Academic dispute resolution is a means for resolving disputes and achieving a workable outcome for all parties, within the integrity policies of the University.

The Rackham Resolution Officer, Mallory Martin-Ferguson, is responsible for managing this policy and may be reached at [email protected].

9.1 Scope of the Policy

The Rackham Academic Dispute Resolution policy applies to disputes Rackham graduate students may have with faculty, staff or program regarding equity and fair treatment that may have an impact on grading or evaluation, or other treatment that affects academic standing. This policy may not be used to appeal grade-related or other academic sanctions imposed as a result of any action taken under any honor code or academic integrity policy.

Other University policies and procedures apply to allegations of faculty and staff misconduct; such matters will be governed by appropriate policies administered under other University units:

  • Complaints that a member of the faculty or staff has engaged in research misconduct will be handled by the Office of the Vice President for Research.
  • Complaints that a member of the faculty or staff has violated the University’s non-discrimination and harassment policies will be investigated by the University’s Office of Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX (ECRT). Faculty and staff who are also students, or a student who also has a staff appointment, may be subject to procedures described in the “Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.”
  • Claims that a member of the faculty or staff has violated employment contracts will be investigated by Academic Human Resources.

A graduate student who alleges misconduct by a faculty or staff member must pursue the complaint in the most appropriate forum; a student may not pursue the same allegation in different venues. Students should consult the Resolution Officer in their school or college to decide which avenue is best for their circumstances, and about counseling and University resources that may be appropriate.

9.2 School and College Resolution Officers

Schools and colleges designate a member of the faculty or senior administrative staff to serve as the unit’s Resolution Officer. This person, in accordance with the principles and processes of the applicable dispute resolution policy, provides advice and support in the handling of disputes. The Resolution Officers of the schools and colleges constitute the Resolution Board, which is convened periodically by the Rackham Resolution Officer.

9.3 Dispute Resolution Principles and Responsibilities

Adherence to principles of impartiality, confidentiality, timeliness, and effective communication are important to successful dispute resolution. The Rackham Graduate School works with the schools and colleges to ensure that these principles are understood and observed in the dispute resolution process.

9.3.1 Impartiality

A Resolution Officer will remain impartial. A Resolution Officer will recuse themselves for a conflict of interest. Such circumstances include if the Resolution Officer has a personal or professional relationship with any party in the dispute that would impede their impartiality. In such instances, the Dean of the school or college may ask another impartial and qualified staff or faculty member to handle the dispute resolution process, or may ask the Rackham Resolution Officer to ask another member of the Resolution Board to provide this service. A student with concerns about the impartiality of a resolution process within their school or college should seek advice from the Rackham Resolution Officer. If the Rackham Resolution Officer, concludes that such concerns about the substance or appearance of impartiality are substantial, the Dean of the school or college may ask another impartial and qualified staff or faculty member to handle the dispute resolution process, or may ask the Rackham Resolution Officer to provide this service.

9.3.2 Confidentiality

  • A student may meet informally to discuss an issue with the School and colleges Resolution Officer or the Rackham Resolution Officer. While these discussions will remain confidential to the extent permitted by law, confidentiality will not be maintained if the Resolution Officer believes that disclosure is necessary to avoid an imminent risk of serious harm or is required by law.
  • All parties implicated in the complaint have the right to know the details of the issues that give rise to the dispute. A student may not anonymously request a formal dispute resolution process.
  • The school and college Resolution Officer may consult with the Rackham Resolution Officer who will maintain confidentiality. Parties involved in a formal dispute resolution process are expected to maintain confidentiality so the process can be effective.
  • When the resolution process suggests how academic policies and their implementation may be improved, the Resolution Board may share this information as appropriate with other graduate programs, while maintaining the confidentiality of personal information.
  • Records summarizing the resolution of disputes will be archived by the Rackham Resolution Officer and the Dean(s) of the relevant school or college. Personal information in these records will be kept confidential.

9.3.3 Timeliness

Timely address to disputes is important for successful resolution. Normally, the dispute resolution process is initiated within ten business days from the time the Resolution Officer receives the case. The academic calendar may make it difficult to always adhere to this schedule, but the dispute should be addressed within a reasonable time.

9.3.4 Communication

Schools and colleges should maintain and make public dispute resolution procedures. Schools and colleges should also publicize these procedures to students, faculty and staff. The Rackham Resolution Officer is available to speak with a student about the purpose and principles of these procedures, and the implications of proceeding with a formal dispute resolution process, including potential outcomes. The student must be kept fully informed at every step and to the extent possible, participate in reaching a resolution.

9.4 Informal Dispute Resolution Process

Prompt informal discussion within the unit where the parties are enrolled or appointed can often resolve most disputes. Students are encouraged to utilize their School or college process when possible (See section 9.2 School and College Resolution Officers). Students in a school or college without a dispute resolution process may seek informal dispute resolution through the Rackham Academic Dispute Resolution Policy. The informal resolution of dispute takes place using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practices. These services range from preventative measures such as training and coaching to reactive procedures such as problem-solving, facilitation, mediation or restorative practices. The Rackham Resolution Officer provides information, assistance, or referrals for informal conflict resolution. Students may initiate the informal resolution process by sending a summary of the issue at disagreement to [email protected].

Although the informal resolution option is encouraged, it is not mandatory. Students may proceed directly to formal resolution if eligible based upon the circumstances (see below).

9.5 Formal Dispute Resolution Process

The formal Rackham Dispute Resolution process may be initiated if the parties are unable to reach a resolution through ADR practices, or the nature of the dispute is not appropriate for informal resolution, or if a school or college does not have a dispute resolution process. In general, decisions at each stage of the process will be made within ten business days from the time the Resolution Officer receives case materials. Although case volume and/or the academic calendar may make it difficult to strictly adhere to this schedule, decisions will be made in as timely a manner as possible.

9.5.1 Rackham Dispute Resolution Process

  1. Students must submit their complaint in writing (no more than two pages) to [email protected] within ten (10) business days of receipt of the program’s written decision, notification of the outcome of the informal process, or other action leading to the dispute. The complaint should include a copy of the program notification, where applicable.
  2. Upon receipt of the student’s complaint, the Rackham Resolution Officer will invite the respondent and other relevant parties involved in the dispute to submit a written statement. The parties in the dispute include the student, faculty, staff, and/or representatives of the graduate program. The parties will have five (5) business days to submit materials.
  3. Within two (2) business days of receipt of written statements by all parties, the Resolution Officer will forward the materials to a Rackham Ad Hoc committee drawn from staff and deans of the Rackham Graduate School and the Associate or Assistant Dean of the student’s school or college. No one will serve who has a conflict of interest.
  4. Within ten (10) business days of receipt of the written statements, the Ad Hoc committee will provide a written decision to the student, DGS/Program Director and School/College Dean.

Either party – student, faculty, staff or graduate program – may appeal the Ad Hoc committee decision by contacting the Rackham Resolution Officer. Appeals must be submitted within five (5) business days of receipt of the Ad Hoc committee decision.

9.5.2 Rackham Appeal Process

  1. To initiate the appeal process, either party may contact the Rackham Resolution Officer. The Rackham Resolution Officer will ask each party to submit a summary statement (no more than two pages in length). The appellant must include the basis for the appeal as part of the summary statement. The parties will have five (5) business days to submit summary statements.
  2. Upon review of the Ad Hoc committee decision and summary statements submitted by the parties, the Rackham Dean or the Dean’s designee will determine a resolution outcome based on the preponderance of the information presented.
  3. The Rackham Dean or the Dean’s designee will provide written notification of the decision to all parties and the school/college Dean within 10 business days of receipt of case materials. This ends the Rackham Resolution process.

9.6 Non-Retaliation

Use of either an informal or formal process to resolve disputes will not result in retaliation or other adverse action. The university prohibits retaliation against a student who uses or participates in the dispute resolution process. Further details about this provision can be reviewed in the University Standard Practice Guide (SPG) Protection from Retaliation SPG 601.90.