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Policy 70 – Student Petitions and Grievances

Established: June 6, 1989

Last updated: September 13, 2010 

Class: G

link to previous version of Policy 70

1.   INTRODUCTION

This policy applies to University of Waterloo (University or UW) students, including individuals who were students at the time of the event(s) upon which a petition or grievance is based. Authority to deal with matters arising under this policy rests with various administrative officers depending on the subject matter.

Resources to advise students include the Registrar’s Office, Graduate Studies Office, Conflict Management and Human Rights Office, Student Resource Office, Secretariat and faculty undergraduate and graduate offices and, in Co-operative Education and Career Services, assistant directors and advisors. Resources to assist students include Counselling Services, Health Services, and AccessAbility Services.

Matters pertaining to courses offered by and events occurring on the property of:

  • Conrad Grebel University College – Petitions are handled under this Policy.
    Grievances – Grievances in an academic setting are handled under this Policy.
  • Renison University College – Petitions are handled under this Policy except for petitions relating to the Bachelor of Social Work which are handled under policies and procedures established by Renison.
    Grievances are handled under this policy.
  • St. Paul’s University College - Petitions are handled under this Policy.
    Grievances in an academic setting are handled under this Policy. Grievances in an academic support setting are handled under policies and procedures established by St. Paul’s.
  • St. Jerome’s University – Petitions are handled under this Policy.
    Grievances are handled under policies and procedures established by St. Jerome’s.

See Appendix A – Petition Procedure
See Appendix B – Grievance Procedure
See Appendix C – Glossary

2.   PRINCIPLES

All members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – are expected to conduct themselves with integrity and to adhere to UW policies, procedures and guidelines. Fairness is fundamental when dealing with members of the University community.

a.  Academic Freedom

Communication, inquiry and the free exchange of ideas are fundamental to a university education, and require an environment of tolerance and respect. Academic freedom provides for the freedom to study, teach, learn, publish and debate, independent of current opinion, subject to commonly accepted scholarly standards. Academic freedom is protected and carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a responsible and ethical way. A student's academic freedom does not extend to disruption of other students, faculty or staff members, or their work / study environments.  

b.  Procedural Fairness

Students have the right to be informed of policies, procedures or guidelines that may affect them, and have the right to question whether decisions are consistent with those policies, procedures or guidelines.

A student is entitled to:

  • have matters addressed fairly and expeditiously;
  • be accompanied by a support person to any meeting with administrators;
  • participate in petition or grievance proceedings without reprisal or threat of reprisal for so doing;
  • have matters heard by those who are not sitting in judgment of their own actions or decisions; and
  • decisions based on the balance of probabilities with consideration given to consistency and University precedent.

3.   PETITION FOR EXCEPTION TO ACADEMIC REGULATIONS

A petition is a request by a student seeking exception to or relief from normal faculty or University rules and regulations. Typical examples include, but are not limited to, adding or dropping a course after the deadline, removing a WD/WF grade for late drop, increased or reduced course load and reconsideration of an end of term promotion decision or other academic decision.

Deadline: A petition must be filed within the timelines set by each faculty.
Procedure - See Appendix A - Petition Procedure

4.   GRIEVANCE

While in a petition a student acknowledges that the rules were applied fairly and he/she is asking that an exception be made, the fundamental criterion for initiating a grievance is that a student believes that a decision of a University authority or the action of a faculty member or staff member of the University affecting some aspect of his/her University life has been unfair or unreasonable.

A grievance can allege such things as:

  1. an error in academic judgment on the part of an instructor – for example, a student questions a grade or the assessment of his/her performance (on an assignment, essay, project, laboratory report, exam, etc.);
  2. an error or injustice on grounds other than the academic judgement of work – for example, a student questions a grade or the assessment of his/her performance by an instructor or committee, alleging that:
    1. the method of evaluation was not fair and reasonable in the circumstances;
    2. the decision maker was biased against the student (on other than a human rights basis, see Note below);
    3. the instructor deviated substantially from the course outline without reasonable notice; or
    4. the application of University regulations governing program or degree requirements was unfair or unreasonable;
  3. a decision of a University authority or an action of a University faculty or staff member in relation to his/her University life, not necessarily related to courses or to program or degree requirements, has been unfair or unreasonable.

Note: A grievance alleging a human rights violation such as harassment or discrimination based on race, colour, sex, etc. should be handled under Policy 33, Ethical Behaviour. For guidance on the applicable policy, a student should contact the Conflict Management and Human Rights Office or the Student Resource Office.

The Chair of the University Committee on Student Appeals shall decide whether to suspend or terminate proceedings under this policy if legal action is started by either party to a dispute.

Deadline: The first step in the grievance process is for a student is to communicate – in person or in writing – with the individual or chair of the committee directly involved or whose action or decision is being questioned. This must be done within one month of the action or the notification of a decision or mark. The one-month period also applies to a student in the last term prior to graduation.

Procedure - See Appendix B - Grievance Procedure

5. APPEAL

a) Petition - Since a petition does not dispute an academic evaluation or application of the rules and regulations of the University but is a request for an exception, a decision with regard to a petition is final; there is no appeal of an unsuccessful petition.

b) Grievance - A decision regarding a grievance can be appealed within 10 days of notification of the decision, provided a ground for appeal can be satisfied. See Policy 72 – Student Appeals.

6. REPORTING

  1. Petition – Petition decisions are not reported.
  2. Grievance - A Report of Grievance Decision (Form 70D) (Word doc) shall be filed in the Secretariat by the associate dean or, for a reassessment challenge, the chair. A summary of decisions is posted to the Secretariat website annually.

Information related to a grievance decision will be retained in compliance with the University’s records retention schedule.

FORMS FOR PETITION

Undergraduate student to complete and deliver for a petition:
Petition for Exception to Academic Regulations (Form 70A) (PDF)

Graduate student see forms at: https://uwaterloo.ca/graduate-studies/forms

FORMS FOR GRIEVANCE

Student to complete and deliver if proceeding beyond request stage:
Notice of Challenge (Form 70B) (Word doc)

Student to complete and deliver if proceeding beyond request stage regarding reassessment of a piece of work:
Notice of Reassessment Challenge (Form 70C) (Word doc)

To report a decision to the Secretariat:
Report of Grievance Decision (Form 70D) (Word doc)


Appendix A - P​etition Procedure

Note: Read section 3 of this policy to determine whether this procedure is applicable to your situation.

An undergraduate student requesting special consideration is to deliver to the Registrar’s Office a Petition for Exception to Academic Regulations (Form 70A) (PDF) and any required supporting documentation. The registrar will obtain a decision from the appropriate faculty committee and notify the student of the decision in writing.

A graduate student requesting special consideration is to deliver to the Graduate Studies Office the appropriate form and any required supporting documentation. The Graduate Studies Office will obtain a decision from the appropriate Faculty committee and notify the student of the decision in writing.

Appeal: A petition decision cannot be appealed.


Appendix B - Grievance P​rocedure

Note: Read section 4 of this policy to determine whether this procedure is applicable to your situation.

1. INTRODUCT​​ION

The grievance process is divided into three stages, with each successive stage becoming increasingly formal (see timeline chart of the process at the end of this appendix). At each stage in the process, parties to a grievance are entitled to be accompanied by a colleague for advice and support. Normally legal counsel and agents are not part of the grievance process. 

  1. A request is the first stage and is initiated by a student going directly to the individual or chair of the committee whose action or decision is being questioned. This communication can be either in person or in writing. Experience has shown informal communication to be an effective resolution mechanism. This step must be taken before a challenge is started.  
  2. A student who is not satisfied with the outcome of a request may initiate a challenge by delivering either a Notice of Challenge (Form 70B) (Word doc) to his/her associate dean or a Notice of Reassessment Challenge (Form 70C) (Word doc) to the chair of the department hosting the course, indicating the ground(s) on which the challenge is being made.   
  3. A student who is not satisfied with the outcome of a challenge may initiate an appeal by delivering a Notice of Appeal (Form 72A) (Word doc) (see Policy 72 - Student Appeals) provided that a ground for appeal can be established.    

2. P​​ROCEDURE

1) Request

A student is to communicate directly with the individual whose action or decision is being questioned within one month of the action or of being notified of the decision or mark. This communication can be either in person or in writing. If the individual requires it, the student shall put the request in writing.

Within 10 working days of receipt of the request the individual shall respond to the student's communication in writing. If the student is satisfied with the response, the matter is at an end.

2a) Challenge

If a student is not satisfied with the result of a request, he/she is encouraged to seek advice from the appropriate academic advisor or department chair, the Conflict Management and Human Rights Office, the Student Resource Office or the faculty undergraduate or graduate office before proceeding with a challenge.

A student who wishes to proceed to the challenge stage must deliver a Notice of Challenge (Form 70B) (Word doc) within 10 working days of receiving the response to the request or, if there was no timely response, within 10 working days of when the response was due (20 working days from the request).

i.a) grievance in an academic setting

The student shall deliver a Notice of Challenge (Form 70B) (Word doc) to the undergraduate or graduate associate dean of the student's home faculty. If the grievance relates to an action of an associate dean (other than a discipline decision made under Policy 71 which must be appealed under Policy 72 – Student Appeals), the form shall be delivered to the dean of the faculty, who shall exercise the responsibilities of the associate dean in these procedures. If the grievance relates to an action of a dean, the form shall be delivered to the vice-president, academic & provost, who shall exercise the responsibilities of the associate dean in these procedures. If the grievance concerns a matter outside the jurisdiction of the student's home faculty (e.g. a student questioning the academic judgment of an instructor in another faculty), the associate dean of the student's home faculty shall forward the request to the associate dean of the appropriate faculty, who shall carry out the procedures described below. 

i.b) grievance in an academic support setting

In the case of a grievance against a decision or action of an individual in an academic support unit, the student shall deliver a Notice of Challenge (Form 70B) (Word doc) to the undergraduate or graduate associate dean of the student's home faculty. The associate dean shall forward the grievance to the appropriate superior of the individual whose action/decision is being grieved who shall exercise the responsibilities of the associate dean described in ii. below. 

ii)The associate dean shall take whatever steps are seen to be appropriate in the circumstances to review the student's written complaint and may attempt to resolve the grievance. Normally within 20 working days of receiving the Notice of Challenge the associate dean shall deliver to the student a written decision with reasons. If this timeline will not be met, the associate dean will advise the student in writing and provide a revised timeline. The associate dean shall provide a copy of the decision to the Secretariat, the associate dean of the student's home faculty and select University departments with a legitimate interest (e.g. Registrar's Office, Graduate Studies Office, Co-operative Education and Career Services).

Appeal

Within 10 working days of notification of the decision, a student who can establish a ground for appeal may appeal by delivering a
Notice of Appeal (Form 72A) (Word doc) and supporting documents:

  • If a grievance in an academic setting - to the chair of the Faculty Committee on Student Appeals of the faculty from which the decision came
  • If a grievance in an academic support setting - to the chair, University Committee on Student Appeals

following the Appeal Procedure (see Policy 72 - Student Appeals).

2b) Reassessment Challenge

If reassessment of a piece of work is involved, the student shall deliver a Notice of Reassessment Challenge (Form 70C) (Word doc) and a copy of the relevant documentation to the chair within 10 working days of receiving the response to the request or, if there was no timely response, within 10 working days of when the response was due (20 working days from the request). If the original assessment of the work was completed by the chair, the form shall be delivered to the dean of the faculty hosting the course who shall exercise the responsibilities of the chair in these procedures.

The chair shall determine within 5 working days of receipt of the Notice of Reassessment Challenge if the request meets the faculty criteria for a reassessment and shall advise the student in writing of the decision, with reasons if denying. If a reassessment is proceeding, the chair shall select a qualified new assessor or assessors (who may be external to the University) within 15 working days. The student will provide the chair with a clean copy of the work which shall be provided to the assessor(s) by the chair, together with relevant contextual information such as terms of reference for the work and the grading scheme used. The chair and shall take steps to ensure the anonymity of the student and the impartiality of the new assessor(s). (For work not in the student’s possession, such as an exam, the chair will provide a copy for the assessor(s)). Normally within 15 working days of delivery of the materials to the new assessor(s), the chair shall secure the outcome of the reassessment, which may be a raising, lowering or maintaining of the student's grade. The chair shall notify the student and the instructor of the decision in writing with reasons, normally within 5 working days of receiving the assessor’s report. A copy of the decision shall also be filed with the Secretariat and provided to select University departments with a legitimate interest (e.g. Registrar's Office, Graduate Studies Office).

The student has the option of appealing within 10 working days of notification of the result if a ground for appeal can be established. See Policy 72 - Student Appeals.

The review procedure for a grievance involving a Graduate Thesis Examination or equivalent is set out in the Graduate Studies Calendar.

GRIEVANCE

Request

Who

When

What

Student

Within 1 month of notification of the decision
[section 2.1]

Make an inquiry to the individual who made the decision

Individual or chair of committee

Within 10 working days of receipt of the inquiry
[section 2.1]

Respond to student with a resolution or written reasons

Challenge (if proceeding)

Who

When

What

Student

Within 10 working days of receipt of response (or date response was due if none received) [section 2.2a]

Deliver Notice of Challenge (Form 70B) (Word doc) to  the associate dean

Associate dean

Normally within 20 working days of receipt of Notice of Challenge [section 2.2,a,ii]

Respond to student with written decision and reasons, report to secretariat-general-counsel

Appeal (if proceeding)

Who

When

What

Student

Within 10 working days of receipt of response
[Policy 72 – Student Appeals]

Deliver Notice of Appeal (Form 72A) (Word doc) and supporting documentation

REASSESSMENT

Request

Who

When

What

Student

Within 1 month of notification of the decision
[section 2.1]

Make an inquiry to the individual who made the decision

Individual

Within 10 working days of receipt of the inquiry
[section 2.1]

Respond to student with a resolution or written reasons

Reassessment Challenge (if proceeding)

Who

When

What

Student

Within 10 working days of receipt of response (or date response was due if none received) [section 2.2b]

Deliver Notice of Reassessment Challenge (Form 70C) (Word doc) and material to chair

Chair

Within 5 working days decide and inform student if meets Faculty criteria for reassessment [section 2.2b]

Inform student in writing (with reasons if denying)

Chair

If meets criteria, within 15 working days select qualified assessor(s) [section 2.2b]

Deliver student work and contextual information to assessor(s)

Assessors

Normally within 15 working days of receiving student work [section 2.2b]

Deliver decision to chair

Chair

Normally within 5 working days of receiving assessor’s decision [section 2.2b]

Inform student and instructor of decision, report to secretariat-general-counsel

Appeal of reassessment (if proceeding)

Who

When

What

Student

Within 10 working days of receipt of decision
[Policy 72 – Student Appeals]

Deliver 
Notice of Appeal (Form 72A) (Word doc) and supporting documentation


Appendix C - Glossary​

associate dean – associate dean (undergraduate or graduate) of a faculty or his/her delegate and, at Renison, administrative dean

appeal – a proceeding undertaken to have a decision reviewed by taking it to a higher authority (i.e., Faculty Committee on Student Appeals (FCSA) or University Committee on Student Appeals (UCSA))

chair – the chair of the department/director of the school hosting the course or his/her delegate
For a course taught outside a department or school - the person responsible for assigning the instructor, e.g. the associate dean for a course administered at the faculty level
For a co-op professional development course - the associate dean of the student’s home faculty

dean – dean of a faculty or his/her designate

deliver – submit in person to the individual or submit and have signed for by a staff member in the department/school; if emailed or faxed, it will be deemed delivered on the day after it was sent; if sent by mail, it will be deemed delivered on the fifth working day after it was mailed.
           
faculty – one of the six at the University - Applied Health Sciences, Arts, Engineering, Environment, Mathematics, and Science

home faculty – the faculty in which a student is registered.
In the case of a program involving two or more faculties - one faculty, and therefore the associate dean of that faculty, will have been designated as having the responsibility to deal with matters related to that program

instructor – the person assigned to teach a course or his/her delegate

member of the University – a student or an individual employed by the University

notification:

of decision

  • if sent by email or fax, the next working day after it was sent
  • if sent by mail, the fifth working day after it was mailed

of mark – for each specific piece of work, the earliest of the following: receipt of the marked assignment from the instructor; informed in class that marked materials can be picked up at a certain place as of a certain date; the date on which official grades appear on Quest

support person - includes a student, friend or family member, does not usually include a lawyer or paralegal

student – an individual who is registered (paid his/her fees or has arranged to pay the fees) at the University of Waterloo or an individual who was a student, has not graduated, and can resume studies at the University of Waterloo without having to initiate a formal petition or re-application

vice-president, academic & provost – vice-president, academic & provost or his/her delegate

working day – Monday to Friday, inclusive, excluding statutory and University holidays.  In most UW offices, regular business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with some closed for lunch.

writing – includes any of email, fax and letter

Forms