Grievance Procedures at the Law School
Two basic kinds of incidents may require review and, in some cases, discipline. There are, first, complaints by an individual student against a questionable form of academic treatment or involvement by a faculty member, and second, behavior or uses of language that appear to step beyond the established bounds of academic decorum and appear to threaten or arbitrarily dismiss either a collective group in our midst or seriously undermine basic understandings and recognized standards of conduct within our community.
Responsibility in the discipline of a faculty member will always be a decanal matter (with the ultimate right of review vested in the Provost, as Dean of all faculties), although we allow for situations in which the Dean would seek faculty advice and in-put. At the same time, we value the regular channels of communication and review that might lead to such action. Prior channels for receiving a complaint check the reliability and gauge the gravity of a given charge and, in many cases, supply a forum of mediation and resolution at initial stages in the process of articulation.
All complaints deserve serious attention as a basic protection of the values we stand for. Every review must take into account and balance basic understandings of academic freedom and academic obligation. With these high standards of review in place, we also reaffirm our belief that the peculiar nature and advanced stage of the education that we supply require that the School address its disciplinary problems within its own sphere of review processes. The sharp give-and-take of the socratic method in study of the law and the adversarial procedures allowed in professional engagement might be misconstrued in any other context.
The following enumeration of our current guidelines should be understood with these preliminary thoughts in mind:
1. Although a complaint might surface through any faculty member or administrative official that a student chooses to approach, the Dean of Students or other proper designated administrative official has responsibility for reviewing the first line of complaint. Some complaints stop here through a process of counseling and evaluation if both parties feel that the matter can be addressed at this level.
2. Some individual complaints on academic behavior turn on grading concerns in which a student fears some form of evaluative retaliation. The Dean of Students or designated official frequently consults here with the Vice Dean of Curriculum, always a tenured faculty member of stature within the faculty at large. Again, accurate assessment and mutual solution are the goals at this stage of proceeding. A failure to resolve the issue at this level results in a report to the Dean for his consideration and action.
3. In the case of a charge of unfair discrimination against a group or collectivity in the School or a charge of breach in behavior that threatens standards of conduct in our midst, the process of deliberation from the Dean of Students to the Vice Dean of Curriculum may lead the Dean to exercise the option of establishing an ad hoc committee of investigation that operates as a fact-finding body and reports to the Dean for his consideration and action. If so directed, such a committee may make recommendations to the Dean and/or report to the Faculty.
4. The specific nature of such an ad-hoc committee cannot be determined before the event. It is selected by the Dean for its expertise in meeting the issues raised. The membership will normally consist of faculty members who are trusted and respected throughout the community.