Students who have a complaint against a faculty member have a number of avenues for seeking an informal or formal resolution to their problems. For all procedures that are handled at the School level (i.e., those that are not mandated by University-wide policies ), the School operates under the general principle that an attempt be made to resolve the issue on an informal basis and that it be addressed in a timely manner at the most immediate level possible, i.e., the student is encouraged to speak with the Director or Assistant Director of his or her Program or the Director of the Design Studio Sequence in which the student is enrolled.
Should the student prefer, he or she may instead bring the issue to the Associate Dean of Student Affairs or the Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs. Disputes over grades and other forms of academic evaluation normally are handled by the Associate Dean of Student Affairs. (Also see the Grade Policy). The School’s administrative staff has an open-door policy, and seeks to promote an atmosphere of awareness and responsiveness to student issues and concerns. Following the meeting with the student, the administrator then seeks to resolve the issue through discussion with the faculty member involved.
In cases not involving academic evaluation, students may also choose to make initial contact with a member of the Student Program Council, a body of students elected by their peers that meets with the Dean or Program Director on a regular basis. In this case a student representative would then bring the issue to the attention of the Associate Dean, who will approach both the student and the faculty member concerned. With all these options, the strictest confidence is maintained at all times, for both students and faculty concerned, and intermediaries such as student representatives, faculty mentors, or members of the administrative team.
Finally, students may choose to bring the issue to the University’s Ombuds Officer, who serves as an informal, confidential resource for assisting members of the University community with conflict resolution. The Ombuds Officer provides information, counseling and referrals to appropriate University offices. He or she will also mediate conflicts if both parties agree. However he or she does not have the authority to adjudicate disputes and does not participate in any formal University grievance proceedings.
The officers listed in the first section of these procedures are available to help students informally resolve problems with any faculty member, both within and outside of the School. Students who are dissatisfied with the outcome of their intervention may seek a formal hearing of their complaints. The appropriate forum for registering their complaints will depend upon the nature of the alleged misbehavior and the school within which the faculty member is appointed.
If the faculty member holds an appointment in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, students may use the procedures described in section 4 below to seek a formal hearing of their complaints. If the faculty member belongs to another school, students must use its procedures. They may, however, ask for help from any of the offices listed in section 1 above in identifying and understanding the proper procedures.
With the exceptions described below, issues that are grievable under the School’s procedures include:
- disputes over grades and other forms of academic evaluation;
- failure to show appropriate respect in an institutional setting for the rights of others to hold opinions differing from their own;
- failure to accommodate students’ religious holidays or similar issues involving such things as scheduling of assignments or examinations;
- misuse of faculty authority in an instructional setting to pressure students to support a political or social cause; and
- conduct in the classroom or other instructional setting that adversely affects the learning environment.
If the alleged misconduct involves discrimination and sexual harassment, the complaint should be filed with the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The procedures for handling such complaints are described in the statement, Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedure, which is on the web at: http://eoaa.columbia.edu
Complaints against the School’s faculty that allege scientific or scholarly misconduct are also evaluated using other procedures. These are contained in the Statement on Professional Ethics and Faculty Obligations and Guidelines for Review of Professional Misconduct, available at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/handbook/appendixc.html
Columbia University is an academic community committed to fostering intellectual inquiry in a climate of academic freedom and integrity. Its members—students and faculty alike—are expected to uphold these principles and exhibit tolerance and respect for others. The University Statutes and the general policies of the University describe the roles and responsibilities of faculty in their teaching and research. These policies can be found in the Faculty Handbook at: www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/fhb/main.html.
A student who is currently enrolled at the University and directly affected by a faculty member’s behavior or evaluation of the student’s work may ask for a grievance hearing under the procedures in this statement. Complaints of a broader nature or second-hand complaints are normally brought to the attention of the Dean or Program Director at a regular meeting of the Student Program Council.
Students initiate a formal grievance hearing by submitting a written statement to the Dean, outlining the nature and specifics of the complaint. The request must be submitted no later than 30 days after the end of the semester within which the misconduct was supposed to have occurred. The Dean will review the complaint to determine if there are sufficient grounds to proceed with a hearing or if the issues raised by the student can be resolved in another manner.
If the Dean decides that a hearing is warranted, he or she will designate a committee to evaluate the complaint. For grievances regarding academic evaluation (2.1 above) the grievance will go to the School’s Committee on Student Performance, which consists of the Dean, the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, and three members of the faculty as designated by the Dean. The student will be expected to furnish the Committee with work originally submitted for evaluation. This Committee will also be called upon to address most other types of grievances if needed (2.2–2.5 above). For these types of grievances (i.e., those not involving academic evaluation), the Dean will usually include a member of the Student Program Council on the Committee considering the grievance.
The faculty member is given the student’s letter of complaint and invited to submit a written response. The Committee will have access to all written documents relevant to the complaint. It will normally interview both the student and faculty member and may, at its discretion, ask others for testimony. The Committee is expected to complete its investigation as quickly as possible and submit a report to the Dean whom it serves in an advisory capacity. The Dean may accept or modify its findings and recommendations in reaching a decision on the complaint. The Dean will inform both the student and the faculty member of his or her decision in writing.
The Dean may discipline faculty members who are found to have committed professional misconduct. Any sanctions will be imposed in a manner that is consistent with the University’s policies and procedures on faculty discipline. In particular, if the Dean believes that the offense is sufficiently serious enough to merit dismissal, he or she will initiate the procedures in Section 75 of the University Statutes for terminating tenured appointments, and non-tenured appointments before the end of their stated term, for cause.
Either the student or the faculty member may appeal the decision of the Dean to the Provost. Findings of fact, remedies given to the student and penalties imposed on the faculty member are all subject to appeal. A written appeal must be submitted to the Provost within 15 working days of the date of the letter informing them of the Dean’s decision.
Normally, the Provost will take no longer than 30 working days to evaluate an appeal. The Provost usually confines his or her review to the written record but reserves the right to collect information in any manner that will help to make his or her decision on the appeal.
The Provost will inform both the student and the faculty member of his or her decision in writing. If the Provost decides that the faculty member should be dismissed for cause, the case is subject to further review according to the procedures in Section 75 of the University Statues, as noted above. Otherwise, the decision of the Provost is final and not subject to further appeal.
All aspects of an investigation of a student grievance are confidential. The proceedings of the grievance committee are not open to the public. Only the student grievant and the faculty member accused of misconduct receive copies of the decisions of the Dean and the Provost. Everyone who is involved with the investigation of a grievance is expected to respect the confidentiality of the process.
Students and Faculty who wish to comment on these procedures or suggest ways in which they can be improved are welcomed to contact the Dean’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org.