This is a new policy to be implemented Autumn Quarter 2020.

In the College of the Environment, faculty, mentors and departmental leaders welcome student feedback, including criticisms and grievances. All grievances are respected and treated seriously. Academic advisors and leadership within college units (chairs, directors, graduate program coordinators) are available to provide advice and direct students to other resources on all aspects of academics.

At any point in the process, students may request advice from other knowledgeable individuals, including but not limited to an academic advisor, graduate program coordinator, or a member of the Ombud Office (see below). These individuals are available to provide advice and direct students to other resources on all aspects of academics and may be able to provide information on a range of solution pathways including anonymous reporting, mediated meetings, and negotiating the following more formal process.

The Ombud Office is a resource that is available to support students, staff, and faculty when they encounter challenging situations at the University of Washington. The Ombud Office is an impartial and confidential office that supports members of the university community in clarifying goals, accessing resources, and finding pathways forward. You are encouraged to contact the Ombud Office at any stage of a problem or grievance procedure if you think you may benefit from speaking with a neutral party about your matter or enlisting their support in finding a solution.

The College of the Environment Student Academic Grievance Procedures provide mechanisms for graduate and undergraduate students to address academic problems or grievances in an equitable, respectful, and timely manner.

The College of the Environment Student Academic Grievance Procedures adhere to two key campus policies:

Academic grievances are defined as those involving conflicts between a student or students and faculty instructor(s) or mentor(s) with respect to differences arising within:

  1. credit-bearing coursework
  2. research
  3. mentoring

and while the student(s) is/are registered at the University of Washington.

The College of the Environment has developed these procedures to assist students who:

  1. are majors* in the College
  2. are taking a credit-bearing course in the College
  3. are working with a faculty member, postdoctoral scholar, official affiliate of a unit within the College or other individual member of an academic or other unit within the College in a research and/or mentoring capacity; including credit-bearing and noncredit-bearing interactions.

* This policy only applies to students who are majors within our college when they are dealing with faculty/mentors working under formal appointment or sponsorship of the college. Majors in our college who have grievances involving faculty/mentors working under the auspices of other colleges will be referred to those colleges’ grievance procedures.

Some types of academic grievances already have officially sanctioned policies and specific procedures for reporting and resolution. These are listed below. If the complaint falls into one of these categories, please use the link to access more information about next steps.

  • Grading: If a student believes they have been graded inappropriately on an assignment or exam or given a final course grade that is inappropriate, please refer to the Grade Appeal process.
  • Academic Misconduct: If a student has been accused of cheating, plagiarism, or other academic misconduct by the course instructor, please refer to the Academic Misconduct process.
  • Discrimination or Retaliation: If a student has experienced harassment by a UW employee, including in the classroom or while otherwise engaged in an academic experience, please refer to the policy on Resolution of Complaints Against University Employees.
  • Academic Student Employee Issues: If a student has experienced unfair or inappropriate treatment directly related to their employment as a TA, RA, or SA, please refer to the Academic Student Employee (ASE) union website for information on Academic Student Employee Grievances.
  • Faculty Conduct Violations: If a student is alleging that a faculty member has violated a rule or regulation of the University, please refer to procedures outlined in the Faculty Code Section 25-71 on “Standard of Conduct.”

In addition to the above, if a student has experienced bias while engaged in a course or academic experience, they are encouraged to submit an online bias incident report.

Grievance process

UW Environment Academic Grievance Process diagram

All academic grievances that are not explicitly covered under existing policies above, or that stem from a failure of those processes, will proceed according to the following steps and timeline as initiated by the student:

  1. Many concerns can be resolved informally in a discussion between the student(s) and the faculty/mentor(s). All parties are urged to make a sincere effort to resolve the issue at this level, and student(s) who have concerns with a member of the faculty or academic mentor within the College of the Environment are encouraged, but not required, to attempt initial resolution by speaking with the faculty or academic mentor directly.
  2. If the outcome of any discussions(s) between the student(s) and the faculty/mentor(s) is not satisfactory to the student(s), or the student does not feel comfortable interacting directly with the faculty/mentor as a first step, the student(s) can initiate informal conciliation by notifying the relevant unit Chair/Director in writing (email is appropriate) with a request for conciliation within three months of the complained of incident.** If the student’s complaint involves a faculty/mentor who is also the Chair/Director of the unit, the student can proceed to Step #6 and initiate informal conciliation at the next level. The complaint should clearly outline:
    • the details of the complaint, including time and location, if appropriate,
    • the reason(s) the outcome of any previous attempts to resolve the situation, if taken, was not satisfactory, and
    • the desired outcome(s) the student(s) wishes to see occur and the reason(s) for those outcome(s).


    **Specified time limitations for this policy refer to the academic year, September through June. If a student presents a grievance in June or the complained of incident allegedly occurred during the summer months, the time calculation may be suspended between the end of the academic year and the opening of the following academic year in September. Such suspension may be required if it is impossible to constitute a Committee. In addition, time limitations do not include official University holidays or other closures during the regular academic year. The term “days” refers to days when the University is open for business.

  3. The Chair/Director, or designee, must meet with the student(s) within 10 business days of receipt of the complaint to review the complaint and potential outcomes. The meeting will be attended by a staff member for the sole purpose of notetaking. Notes will be provided to both parties within 2 business days of the meeting. The Chair/Director may also meet with the faculty/mentor(s), or other expert personnel as needed to gain understanding of the specific case, and/or of the allowable procedures within the College of the Environment and the University of Washington. The Office of the Chair/Director is responsible for keeping all correspondence relevant to the complaint in a secure file in accordance with the records retention schedule for student grievance files.
  4. Within 5 business days of the meeting with the student(s), the Chair/Director will provide a written decision letter to the student(s) with copies provided to all involved parties, indicating what specific step(s) the unit will take regarding the complaint. This decision will clearly outline:
    • what steps are possible within the rules governing the College and the University,
    • what step(s) will be taken, and why.
  5. Following receipt of the final decision letter, the student complainant(s) may elect to meet with the Chair/Director to clarify and/or implement the step(s) outlined in the letter.
  6. Student complainant(s) who are not satisfied with the decision of the Chair/Director may do the following:
    • Graduate Students: Follow the Graduate School’s Academic Grievance Procedure. Students may file a formal complaint with the dean of The Graduate School within 10 business days of the conclusion of the attempted resolution at the unit level.
    • Undergraduate Students: Proceed to step #7.
  7. Within 10 business days of receipt of the Chair/Director’s decision letter, request a meeting with the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the College of the Environment in writing (email is appropriate). The request should contain all written material amassed to date, a copy of which will be on file in the Office of Chair/Director of the relevant academic unit.
  8. The Associate Dean, or designee, will meet with the student(s) within 15 business days of receipt of the request to review the complaint and potential outcomes. The Associate Dean may also meet with the faculty/mentor(s), the Chair/Director, or other expert personnel as needed to gain understanding of the specific case.
  9. Within 5 business days of the meeting with the student(s), the Associate Dean will provide a written decision letter to the student(s) with copies provided to all involved parties, indicating what specific step(s) the College of the Environment will take regarding the complaint. This decision will clearly outline:
    • what steps are possible within the rules governing the College and the University, and
    • what step(s) will be taken, and why.
  10. If the student(s) is/are not satisfied with the outcome(s) outlined in the decision letter from the Associate Dean, they may file a formal written grievance complaint with the Student Academic Grievance Committee (see below for constitution, responsibilities and timeline) within 10 business days of receipt of the letter which includes all correspondence regarding the complaint to date. A copy of this file will be available from the Office of the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, College of the Environment.
  11. Within 15 business days of receipt of the letter, the Grievance Committee will meet in person and/or via video computer conference to review the complaint. Complaints must be written and must include any/all written documentation of the original complaint as well as additional documentation that all steps leading up to a hearing by the Grievance Committee have been appropriately followed, including the outcome(s) of those steps. Because these steps may be numerous, a complaint may be assembled by several sources, including, but not limited to:
    • the student complainant(s),
    • the faculty/mentor(s) involved, and
    • the Director of Student and Academic Services on behalf of the College of the Environment.

    Grievance Committee decisions will be limited to:

    • whether the grievance has merit, and
    • whether the grievance has been appropriately addressed according to existing procedures within the College and/or the University.

    The Committee will finalize its decision statement by majority vote and will deliver it in writing to the Dean of the College as a recommendation.

  12. The Dean will make the final decision within the College of the Environment as to the outcome of the complaint. Within 5 business days of receipt of the recommendation from the Grievance Committee, the Dean will provide a written decision letter to the student(s) with copies provided to all involved parties, indicating what specific step(s) the College of the Environment will take regarding the complaint. This decision will clearly outline:
    • what steps are possible within the rules governing the College and the University, and
    • what step(s) will be taken, and why.

    Following receipt of the final decision letter, the student complainant(s) may elect to meet with the Dean to clarify and/or implement the step(s) outlined in the letter. All documentation of the proceedings will be kept on record in accordance with the records retention schedule for student grievance files.

  13. Student complainant(s) or any other party directly involved who are not satisfied with the decision of the Dean may appeal in writing to the Office of the Provost within 15 business days of receipt of the final decision letter. The appeal should contain all written material amassed to date, a copy of which will be on file in the Office of Student Services within the College of the Environment. The Provost’s review will be limited to the hearing record and serves as the final appeal the student(s) can make.

Student Academic Grievance Committee

NOTE: Committee members for 2020-2021 will be confirmed by the beginning of Autumn Quarter 2020.

Composed of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students from all academic units within the College of the Environment. Each member is appointed by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for a term of two years (faculty) or one year (students).  Terms will start in Autumn quarter. Faculty members will have staggered terms to facilitate group continuity.

All degree-granting units with state-line faculty and/or instructors (ATM S, ENVIR, ESS, MARBIO, OCEAN,  SAFS, SEFS, SMEA) must be represented by at least one member, with a total not to exceed nine, a quorum not lower than five and provided that the ratio of faculty to students present for any meeting not be lower than one-to-one.

The committee will report to the Dean and be staffed by the Director of Student and Academic Services. The committee will meet at least once per year to:

  1. induct all new members and review the procedures guiding the work of the committee, and
  2. review and update existing student academic grievances written procedures for clarity, equity, and timeliness for all parties involved

Committee deliberation will be chaired by the Director for Student and Academic Services (ex-officio). A brief written version of the deliberation and decision of the Committee, including the reason(s) for the decision, will be assembled during and following the deliberation process.  Majority rules apply, with the option for minority report(s). This document will be delivered to the Dean.

Dean's Office Contacts: