Grievances and Appeals

If a student feels unfairly treated or aggrieved by faculty, staff, or another student, the university offers several avenues to resolve the concern. All graduate programs, departments and schools/colleges have established specific grievance procedures for handling such situations; these grievance procedures are found in the program’s Graduate Guide page under the policy tab.

The department-school/college academic grievance process should be used to resolve academic issues or disputes. Examples of matters suitable for this process may include a qualifying exam failure, author dispute, or concerns regarding advising/mentoring, to name a few.

Graduate Assistants in TA, PA and/or RA appointments may utilize the Graduate Assistantship Policies and Procedures (GAPP) grievance process to resolve employment-related issues. Examples of matters appropriate for the GAPP grievance process include allegations of violation of GAPP, including allegations excessive work hours, violations of sick days or vacation policies, or disputes regarding the assignment of duties.

For issues involving hostile and intimidating behavior (HIB) by a faculty or staff member, students should contact the Graduate School Assistant Dean for Academic Services for information on accessing the the appropriate HIB process.

For issues involving civil rights, ADA, Equal Opportunity or Sexual Misconduct, students should contact the Office of Compliance.

If you have questions about whether the grievance policy at the program level or GAPP procedure would be suitable for your concern, you are encouraged to reach out to your college, school or division human resources representative.

Through A Graduate Student Guide to Working with Faculty Advisors, an interactive, self-paced micro-course, graduate students learn about the characteristics of functional and dysfunctional relationships with faculty advisors, strategies for communicating effectively and aligning expectations, as well as program grievance processes and Hostile and Intimidating Behavior resources. Completion of the micro-course takes about 20 minutes and is optional but encouraged for all graduate students.

In addition, the following administrative offices have procedures available for addressing various concerns:

Office of Student Assistance and Support (for all issues of concern involving students)
70 Bascom Hall

Employee Assistance Office (for conflicts involving graduate assistants and other employees)
256 Lowell Hall

Ombuds Office for Faculty and Staff (for graduate students and post-docs, as well as faculty and staff)
523-524 Lowell Center

Graduate School (for informal advice at any level of review and for official appeals of program/departmental or school/college grievance decisions)
217 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1380

Graduate School Appeal Process
If a student believes their grievance was not appropriately handled or resolved at the school/college level or through consultation with other resources listed above, the student may file an appeal with the Graduate School within 30 days of the school/college decision.

If the student wishes to file an official appeal of a grievance decision, they should consult with the Graduate School’s Director of Academic Services and send the following information to the Graduate School Office of Academic Services:

  • A detailed written statement on the events that resulted in the grievance and any efforts to resolve the matter prior to the appeal.
  • Copies of any relevant communications regarding the events that resulted in the grievance .
  • Any determinations or actions taken by the program/department/School/College or other resource office on campus regarding the events that resulted in the grievance.
  • A statement of how the program and/or college did not follow their published grievance process.

Upon receipt of all the above materials:

  • The Director of Academic Services will forward the formal grievance to an appropriate Associate Dean of the Graduate School for review.
  • The student will be notified in writing, within 5 business days after the materials arrive in the Graduate School, acknowledging receipt of the formal appeal and giving the student a timeline for the review to be completed.
  • If necessary, the Associate Dean will request additional materials relevant to the issues raised in the student’s grievance from the student and/or the program/department (i.e., departmental handbook explaining grievance procedures).
  • If necessary, the Associate Dean will arrange a meeting with the student and an appropriate designee of the Graduate School’s Office of Academic Services.
  • If necessary, the Associate Dean will arrange a meeting with the student’s advisor and/or program/department chair and the Director of Academic Services.
  • The Associate Dean will convene a meeting with the Graduate School Leadership Team (not including the Dean of the Graduate School) to vote on whether to uphold or reverse the decision of the program/department/School/College on the student’s initial grievance. If the student wishes, they may present their case at this meeting and faculty and/or staff affiliated with the program whose decision is being appealed may also present their case at this meeting, if they wish.  Neither the student nor the non-Graduate School faculty and staff may be present when the Graduate School Leadership Team deliberates. The Associate Dean will attend this meeting.
  • The Associate Dean will notify the student, the advisor and/or program/department chair, in writing, of the decision, with a copy to the Graduate School’s Office of Academic Services within 45 business days of the submission of the appeal by the student.

Graduate School Final Appeal Process
If a student is not satisfied with the initial appeal to the Graduate School Associate Dean, they may make a final appeal to the Dean of the Graduate School within 30 calendar days of date of the above written decision.  This process will proceed as follows:

  • The student should send a request for a final appeal to the Associate Dean, asking for the appeal to be reviewed.  No new information may be submitted at this time.
  • The Associate Dean will forward the complete file to the Dean of the Graduate School within 10 business days after receipt of the request to review the appeal.
  • The Dean of the Graduate School will bring the appeal to the Graduate School Academic Planning Council (GSAPC) to review the appeal. The GSAPC is a Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) subcommittee of five faculty from among its elected members, one from each division and the fifth member at large.
  • The Dean of the Graduate School will issue an official charge and an appropriate time frame (30 days within the fall and spring semester; appeals received in the summer may take up to 60 days) for completing a review.
  • The GSAPC will review the student’s final appeal, including all materials previously submitted, and will determine if additional information and/or a meeting with the student and/or program/department is needed.
  • The GSAPC will report its recommendation at the next appropriate GSAPC meeting. GSAPC meetings occur six times during the fall and spring semesters.  The Dean of the Graduate School may call additional GSAPC meetings if review of an appeal is necessary during the summer semester.  The full GSAPC, excluding the Dean of the Graduate School and the Associate Dean(s) of the Graduate School, will vote on the appeal and advise the Dean of the Graduate School of its recommendation. The Dean of the Graduate School will then consider the GSAPC recommendation and all other pertinent material provided as part of the appeal. The final decision will be conveyed in writing by the Dean of the Graduate School to the student and the program, with a copy to the Director of Academic Services, within 20 business days after the GSAPC meeting.
  • No further appeals will be considered by the Graduate School.