Non-Grade Related Academic Student Complaints
Section 1: Non-Grade Related Academic Student Complaint Procedures
Austin Community College (ACC or College) is committed to providing an educational climate that is conducive to learning. To support that commitment, ACC has established procedures to allow students to address their concerns related to the academic learning environment. ACC’s goal is to assist all students in effectively and efficiently resolving their concerns while simultaneously supporting due process for both the student bringing the complaint and the faculty or instructional staff member against whom the complaint is lodged. Students are encouraged to discuss their concerns with the appropriate faculty or instructional staff member as soon as possible to allow early resolution at the lowest possible level. A student who has an unresolved disagreement with a faculty or instructional staff member may initiate a complaint without prejudicing his/her course grade or status with the College.
Faculty members are responsible for course construction (including deadlines, policies, and course requirements), classroom management, teaching strategies, testing and evaluation of student performance. At institutions of higher education, conflicts may develop within the educational process that require a student to pursue a complaint related to instruction. The complaint process can be either informal or formal.
Students have both rights and responsibilities as partners in learning. Students are expected to understand policies, learning outcomes and objectives, grading criteria, and their role and responsibilities as outlined in course syllabi. Students must ensure that they have read and clearly understand, to the extent possible, the course syllabus prior to expressing a concern about the faculty member or the course. Concerns or questions about an issue related to the learning environment in any given course should first be taken to the faculty of record where the student can seek an informal resolution. If there is no resolution after the student meets with the faculty member, students may initiate a formal complaint.
Protecting the privacy of employees and students is extremely important to ACC. Information received is strictly confidential and will only be disclosed for the purpose of resolving the complaint. The College will make every effort to ensure complaints remain confidential to the parties involved.
B. Complaints specifically covered by the Administrative Rules or other policies below are not included in these procedures:
- 6.02.002 Prohibition of Discrimination or Harassment of Students on the Basis of Disability
- 6.02.003 Prohibition of Discrimination or Harassment of Students on the Basis of Race, Color, or National Origin
- 3.10.003 Prohibition of Sexual Misconduct
- 4.01.010 Grade Change
- 7.07.005 Satisfactory Progress Policy for Financial Aid Recipients; and
- Admission and Records Appeal
Section 2: Informal and Formal Resolution Processes
There are two types of complaint resolution processes available to students with complaints related to the educational process. The first is informal, and the second is formal. Both formal and informal complaints will be received without judgment, responded to fairly, investigated thoroughly, and resolved judiciously.
A. Informal Resolution Process
The first step for any student who has questions or concerns related to the academic learning environment of any class is to ask to meet with the faculty member to ask questions or raise issues of concern directly with the instructor of record. The faculty member and the student together discuss options for resolving the student’s specific issue. If the faculty member and the student cannot resolve the issue, either may request participation by the department chair for further consultation and attempts at resolution. If no informal resolution can be reached with the help of the department chair, the student may move to the Formal Resolution process.
B. Formal Resolution Process
For complaints related to a final course grade, see Formal Review of Final Course Grade and Administrative Rule 4.01.010 and accompanying guidelines. All other student complaints related to instruction will proceed as described here. This process begins when a student submits a formal written complaint to the department chair. Even after initiating the formal complaint process, students are encouraged to seek informal resolution of their concerns. A student whose concerns are resolved may withdraw a formal complaint at any time. Students who submit a formal complaint should provide supporting documentation such as a copy of the course syllabus, any relevant email exchanges with the faculty member, the homework, exam, or other assignment that is in question, and any other relevant material.
The formal complaint process allows for unresolved complaints to be addressed in a fair and systematic manner. The goal at each step of the complaint process is to reach consensus about the issue and the resolution. If the student disagrees with the formal resolution from the department chair, the student may appeal the decision to the instructional dean. If the student disagrees with the formal resolution from the instructional dean, the final appeal rests with the Associate Vice President who oversees the instructional program.
Non-Grade Related Academic Complaint Resolution Process
- Upon receipt of a formal written complaint from a student, the department chair will make an appointment to meet in person, on the phone, or via technology (e.g., WebEx or other conferencing tool) to ask questions and gather additional information from the student. The department chair will strive to schedule this meeting within five business days of receiving the formal complaint. At the scheduled meeting, the student will present the relevant documentation and share his/her proposed solutions or outcomes. Both the department chair and the student will listen to each other and take notes when appropriate.
- The formal complaint process allows the department chair to request a formal response to the student’s written complaint from the faculty member. The department chair will do so after his/her initial meeting with the student.
- Upon receipt of the faculty member’s written response, the department chair will share that response with the student within five business days. The student may choose to end the complaint at this stage.
- If the student wishes to continue with his/her complaint related to the educational process in the classroom, the department chair will proceed to gather any additional information needed and provide a written resolution/response to the student within ten business days.
- If the student disagrees with the resolution, s/he may appeal the department chair’s decision to the instructional dean who oversees the specific instructional program. The student must submit a formal request to have the department chair’s decision reviewed and include any supporting documentation or information along with the student’s reasons for appealing the department chair’s resolution. This request for review should be submitted to the dean within ten business days of receipt of the department chair’s decision.
- Upon receipt of the formal appeal request from the student, the dean will proceed to gather any additional information needed (including meeting with the student if appropriate) and provide a written response to the student (with a copy to the faculty member and the department chair). The dean’s written response should be provided within 15 business days of receipt of the student’s request for review.
- If the student disagrees with the decision/resolution of the instructional dean, s/he may appeal the decision to the associate vice president who oversees that dean area. The student must submit a formal request to have the associate vice president review the decision(s) and include any supporting documentation or information along with the student’s reasons for appealing the decision. This request for review should be submitted within ten business days of receipt of the dean’s decision.
- Upon receipt of the formal appeal request from the student, the associate vice president will proceed to gather any additional information needed (including meeting with the student if appropriate) and provide a written response to the student (with a copy to the faculty member, department chair, and dean). The associate vice president’s written response should be provided within 15 business days of receipt of the student’s request for review. The decision of the associate vice president is final.
C. Freedom from Retaliation
Neither the Board nor any College employee shall retaliate against any student for bringing a concern or complaint.
All formal complaints are documented in the College’s official conduct software (currently Maxient).
Business days – Weekdays (Monday through Friday; excluding holidays and College closures).
F. Notice to Students
The College shall inform students of this policy through appropriate College publications.
Complaint forms and appeal notices may be filed in person or through an ACC-issued email address.
H. Scheduling Conferences
The College shall make reasonable attempts to schedule conferences at a mutually agreeable time. Failure of student to appear or respond does not halt the complaint process.
Response means a written communication or phone call to the student from the appropriate College official. Responses may be hand-delivered or sent to an ACC-issued email address.