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Complaints Process

Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles seeks to resolve all student concerns in a timely and effective manner. To that end, this complaint process serves as an ongoing means for students to discuss concerns or register formal complaints that pertain to alleged violations of State consumer protection laws that include but are not limited to fraud and false advertising; alleged violations of State laws or rules relating to the licensure of postsecondary institutions; and complaints relating to the quality of education or other State or accreditation requirements.

1. If you have a complaint about an Instructor or your Faculty Advisor:

a. The first step is to attempt to address the issue with the individual.

b. If the matter cannot be resolved by addressing it with the individual, please contact the Department Chair/Program Director of the program the course/advisor resides in. 

2. If you have a complaint about your Success Coach:

a. The first step is to attempt to address the issue directly with the Success Coach.

b. If the matter cannot be resolved by addressing the issue with the individual, please contact the Dean, Suzanne Williams at swilliams@msmu.edu or (213) 477 - 2861.

c. If the matter cannot be resolved by addressing the issue with the Executive Director please contact the Provost office at ang@msmu.edu or (310) 954 – 4015.

3. If you have a complaint about a grade:

a. The student shall first try to resolve the grade complaint with the instructor.
b. If that is not successful, then the student should attempt to address the issue with the Department Chair/Program Director.
c. Informal Resolution Process: When a student or group of students has been unsuccessful in resolving the complaint with the Instructor or the Department Chair/Program Director, the Academic Grievance Committee shall attempt to resolve the complaint.

i. The burden of proof is on the student. In a grade appeal, the student should show the instructor made a clerical error in computing the grade or an egregious error of judgment in evaluating the student’s performance.

ii. A student who wishes to file a grievance must submit a request in writing or via the university email to initiate the Informal Resolution process. The request must be submitted to the Academic Grievance Committee Chair within a maximum of fourteen (14) calendar days (excluding College holidays) after the alleged complaint occurred, or the posting of grades by the Registrar, in the case of a course grade appeal.

1. The request must include a detailed description of the facts and circumstances to support the allegations.

2. In order to submit a grade appeal, the student must have satisfied the attendance policy and completed the course requirements, as set out by the syllabus.

iii. After receiving the student’s request, the Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee will inform the relevant faculty member(s) and the Department Chair/Program Director and provide a copy of the written request. The faculty member shall make all pertinent records, including the syllabus, available to the Academic Grievance Committee Chair.

iv. The Academic Grievance Committee will validate that the student fulfilled all course expectations and requirements indicated in the syllabus.

v. The Academic Grievance Committee will then request that the Chair of the Academic Freedom Committee verify in writing that no question of faculty academic freedom is involved in the case in question.

vi. The student will attempt to informally resolve the situation, working with the Instructor, Department Chair/Program Director, and the Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee.

vii. In the case of a course grade appeal, the responsibility for assessing student achievement and assigning grades rests with the faculty. Only the faculty member is empowered to change a grade, unless a clerical error has been made (at which point the Department Chair/Program Director can file the correct grade with the Registrar).

viii. If a resolution is not reached, the student, in consultation with the Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee, may proceed to the Formal Resolution process.

ix. Formal Resolution: If the Informal Resolution process described above does not yield a successful resolution, the student may file a written or emailed request for a Formal Grievance Hearing.

1. When and Where to File: The student must submit a written/emailed request for a Formal Resolution to the Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee within seven (7) calendar days after the end of the Informal Resolution process.

2. What to File: The request must include the following:

a. A copy of the request submitted for the Informal Resolution

b. A written statement setting out the evidence to support the allegations

c. A full description of the Informal Resolution process (e.g., attempts made to resolve the dispute)

d. A statement of the remedy requested by the grievant (such as the grade thought to be warranted)

3. Notice of Receipt: Upon receipt of the request for a Formal Hearing, the Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee will determine if the requirements of the informal process have been met. The Chair will then notify the student in writing or email of this decision.

4. Investigation/Hearing: When a Formal Hearing is deemed appropriate, the Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee will contact the committee members, the student, and the relevant faculty member(s) to find a mutually agreeable date for the Formal Hearing.

5. Representation: The members included in the formal hearing are as follows:

a. The five members of the Academic Grievance Committee.

b. The Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee chairs the hearing and is a non-voting member (except in the case of a tie).

c. One member selected by the student from among the tenured, full-time faculty, or full-time students of appropriate standing (undergraduate or graduate). First year students are prohibited from serving as a representative on a formal grievance hearing.

d. One member selected by the faculty member involved, among the tenured full-time faculty, or full-time students of sophomore, junior, or senior standing.

e. One faculty member appointed by the President.

f. In the event that no faculty member on the Committee is from the area/field of the student, the College President shall appoint one faculty member from that field who shall be ex officio and non-voting.

g. If one of the members of the Academic Grievance Committee withdraws from a particular case (e.g., because of a conflict of interest), then the Academic Grievance Committee Chair, in consultation with the remaining members of the Committee, will appoint a substitute. The substitute must be either a faculty member or full-time undergraduate/graduate student of appropriate standing (i.e., not a first-year student).

h. If the chair is unable to serve on a particular case, the senior remaining faculty member on the committee assumes the position of chair and, in consultation with the Committee, appoints an additional member to the committee.

6. Procedure (Formal Hearing): The Committee shall establish a date for a formal hearing. It shall give adequate time to the faculty member to respond to the charges and submit the refutation in writing to the Chair of Academic Grievance and to the student.

a. The hearings shall be closed unless both parties agree in writing that it be open. The Chair’s determination of the hearing location and the number of individuals that can be conveniently accommodated shall be final.

b. The student and instructor normally represent themselves, but are entitled to select an advocate to represent them at the formal hearing. Since the hearings are administrative, not judicial in nature, the advocates may not be lawyers.

c. A taped manuscript of the hearing shall be made and retained for five years.

d. Both parties (and their representatives) have the right to present evidence and witnesses in their behalf and to confront and question opposing witnesses. The two parties may opt to exchange their witness lists prior to the formal hearing by providing it to the Chair of Academic Grievance and any expectation that the sharing of the witness list is to be reciprocated.

e. Under normal circumstances, if the duly notified grieving student does not appear for the hearing, the complaint shall be dismissed, the case closed, and these actions not subject to further hearing or appeal.

f. If a duly notified faculty member does not appear, the hearing will continue on the presumption that there is no desire to challenge evidence or witnesses presented by the student.

7. Findings and Notification: Upon completion of the investigation and formal hearing, a decision will be reached in closed session.

a. The Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee will provide a final written report containing a summary of the investigation, the views of the majority regarding the strength of the arguments, and the recommended appropriate actions.

b. A minority of two or more members may present a written report indicating specific disagreements.

c. Both reports shall be communicated in writing to the student and to the faculty member. The Chair of the Academic Grievance Committee will place the report(s) in the faculty member’s and the student’s permanent file.

d. The written reports should be provided to the student and the faculty following the hearing and in a timely way, unless prohibited by unusual circumstances.

8. Student Appeals: If the decision is in favor of the faculty member, no further appeal is possible and the case is closed.

9. Faculty Appeals: In the case of a grade appeal in which the panel finds an egregious error, the faculty member is expected to reassess the grade in light of the evidence brought out at the Formal Hearing.

a. If the decision is in favor of the student and the faculty member believes it to be without sufficient merit, he/she may appeal to the Faculty Review Board.

In addition, the Offices of the Vice Presidents for Student Affairs, Administration and Finance, and Enrollment Management, along with the Offices of Financial Aid, Business, and Registrar all provide specific administrative means to address and resolve most, if not all of the questions and concerns you may have. The contact information for each of these Offices is provided below.

· Academic Vice President/Provost
Robert Perrins

Phone: (310) 954-4015/E-mail: rperrins@msmu.edu

· Vice President, Enrollment Management
Brian O'Rourke

Phone: (213) 477-2535/E-mail: borourke@msmu.edu  

· Vice President, Administration & Finance

Phone: (310) 954-4030

· Vice President, Information Technology & Strategic Initiatives
Larry Smith

Phone: (310) 954-4018/E-mail: lsmith@msmu.edu  

· Vice President, Institutional Advancement
Stephanie Cubba

Phone: (213) 477-2766/E-mail: scubba@msmu.edu  

· Vice President, Student Affairs
Jane Lingua

Phone: (213) 477-2571/E-mail: jlingua@msmu.edu  

Link to Institutional Process Page for the external complaint processes:

https://www.msmu.edu/Academics/Financial-Aid/Institution-Complaint-Process.aspx  

It is expected that students will fully utilize any/all of the University’s administrative procedures to address concerns and/or complaints in as timely a manner as possible. On occasion, however, a student may believe that these administrative procedures have not adequately addressed concerns identified under the Program Integrity Rule. In those select cases, the following independent procedures are provided:

The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is prepared to receive and review student consumer complaints regarding alleged fraudulent or abusive practices by a California college or university in the delivery of postsecondary academic programs and activities, including, for example, fraud or false advertising. Complaints may be filed with the Bureau in written or electronic form by accessing the following link: http://www.bppe.ca.gov/  

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission accredits Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles. You may review the University’s accreditation documents. WASC relies on constant contact with the University to ensure quality higher learning. Accredited institutions are required to submit progress reports,monitoring reports, contingency reports, and annual reports, as well as to participate in focus visits. Each year, WASC receives a number of complaints from students or other parties. When a complaint raises issues regarding an institution’s ability to meet accreditation criteria, WASC will forward a copy of the complaint to the institution and request a formal response.Complaints may be filed with Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission at the following link: https://wascsenior.box.com/shared/static/qlfs91c4lujckblp2puy.pdf  

For students who live in a state other than California, you may also contact your State Consumer Protection Agency for Education. Here is a list of all of the state Consumer Protection Agencies for Education. {link to pdf document}

A variety of other State agencies or State Boards, which are involved in the evaluation and approval of institutional programs, or in the granting of professional certification or licensure,may also be contacted. These agencies include, but may not be limited to, the following:

Board of Nursing:

http://www.rn.ca.gov/  

Department of Public Instruction (teacher preparation programs) http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/default.html  

Physical Therapists Affiliated Credentialing Board

http://www.ptbc.ca.gov/  

If you are currently enrolled, or anticipate enrollment, in an educational program that requires State agency or board authorization and/or licensure and do not see it listed here, please contact the Office of the Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs at (310) 954-4015.

Complaint Regulations  

Beginning July 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education regulations to improve the integrity of programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA), as amended (the “Program Integrity Rule”), take effect. The Program Integrity Rule requires, among other things, that each college or university authorized to offer postsecondary education in one or more States ensure access to a complaint process that will permit student consumers to address the following:

1. Alleged violations of State consumer protection laws that include but are not limited to fraud and false advertising;

2. Alleged violations of State laws or rules relating to the licensure of postsecondary institutions;and

3. Complaints relating to the quality of education or other State or accreditation requirements.

Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles, as an institution authorized to provide post secondary education in the State of California, is committed to full compliance with the Program Integrity Rule.