Appendix C: Grievance Procedures for Students

For both legal and policy reasons, it is desirable that HSPH students have an established and approved mechanism by which serious grievances may be resolved promptly and equitably. The following procedures should be used by students for the resolution of grievances alleging unfair action on the part of the university administration or faculty, including discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious belief, political beliefs, sex (including sexual harassment), national or ethnic origin, handicap, age or sexual orientation. This policy will also apply to students with disabilities who are not in agreement with the provision of accommodations by the school.

A student considering lodging a grievance against another student or other individual who is not a member of the university administration or faculty, and which does not involve behavior covered under the school’s disciplinary procedures, should discuss the matter with one of the following people: his/her advisor, department chair, the associate dean for student services, affirmative action officer, Longwood Campus ombudsperson, or other appropriate faculty member or administrator. If the grievance cannot be resolved informally, the student may ask the associate dean for student services to arrange for mediation of the dispute or to conduct some other process appropriate to the particular circumstance; the process may or may not include elements of the formal grievance procedure described below.

Informal Resolution of Grievances

A student with a grievance against a member of the faculty or administration should initially take the matter to one of the following people: his/her advisor, department chair, associate dean for student services, director of student affairs, affirmative action officer, Longwood Campus ombudsperson, or other appropriate faculty member or administrator. Grievances concerning accommodations for disabled students should generally be taken to the director of student affairs. If the grievance cannot be resolved satisfactorily between the student and the initial faculty/administration contact, the student may, at his/her discretion, seek resolution via the formal procedure outlined below. The person investigating the grievance shall, at the request of the student, make a written report available to the ad hoc grievance committee in the event that a resolution is not possible in the informal phase.

For Allegations of Sexual and Gender-based Harassment:
When the information suggesting the possibility of inappropriate conduct involves allegations of sexual or gender-based harassment against a staff member or faculty member, HSPH policies can be found at http://diversity.harvard.edu/pages/hsph-sexual-harassment-policies-and-procedures.

Definition of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, graphic, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when: (1) submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing or is used as the basis for employment decisions or for academic evaluation, grades, or advancement (quid pro quo); or (2) such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it interferes with or limits a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s education or work programs or activities (hostile environment).

Quid pro quo sexual harassment can occur whether a person resists and suffers the threatened harm, or the person submits and avoids the threatened harm. Both situations could constitute discrimination on the basis of sex.

A hostile environment can be created by persistent or pervasive conduct or by a single severe episode. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to prove a hostile environment. Sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, and domestic and dating violence, is a form of sexual harassment. In addition, the following conduct may violate this Policy:

  • Observing, photographing, videotaping, or making other visual or auditory records of sexual activity or nudity, where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the knowledge and consent of all parties
  • Sharing visual or auditory records of sexual activity or nudity without the knowledge and consent of all recorded parties and recipient(s)
  • Sexual advances, whether or not they involve physical touching
  • Commenting about or inappropriately touching an individual’s body
  • Requests for sexual favors in exchange for actual or promised job benefits, such as favorable reviews, salary increases, promotions, increased benefits, or continued employment
  • Lewd or sexually suggestive comments, jokes, innuendoes, or gestures
  • Stalking

Other verbal, nonverbal, graphic, or physical conduct may create a hostile environment if the conduct is sufficiently persistent, pervasive, or severe so as to deny a person equal access to the University’s programs or activities. Whether the conduct creates a hostile environment may depend on a variety of factors, including: the degree to which the conduct affected one or more person’s education or employment; the type, frequency, and duration of the conduct; the relationship between the parties; the number of people involved; and the context in which the conduct occurred.

Unwelcome Conduct
Conduct is unwelcome if a person (1) did not request or invite it and (2) regarded the unrequested or uninvited conduct as undesirable or offensive. That a person welcomes some sexual contact does not necessarily mean that person welcomes other sexual contact. Similarly, that a person willingly participates in conduct on one occasion does not necessarily mean that the same conduct is welcome on a subsequent occasion. Whether conduct is unwelcome is determined based on the totality of the circumstances, including various objective and subjective factors. The following types of information may be helpful in making that determination: statements by any witnesses to the alleged incident; information about the relative credibility of the parties and witnesses; the detail and consistency of each person’s account; the absence of corroborating information where it should logically exist; information that the Respondent has been found to have harassed others; information that the Complainant has been found to have made false allegations against others; information about the Complainant’s reaction or behavior after the alleged incident; and information about any actions the parties took immediately following the incident, including reporting the matter to others. In addition, when a person is so impaired or incapacitated as to be incapable of requesting or inviting the conduct, conduct of a sexual nature is deemed unwelcome, provided that the Respondent knew or reasonably should have known of the person’s impairment or incapacity. The person may be impaired or incapacitated as a result of drugs or alcohol or for some other reason, such as sleep or unconsciousness. A Respondent’s impairment at the time of the incident as a result of drugs or alcohol does not, however, diminish the Respondent’s responsibility for sexual or gender-based harassment under this Policy.

Gender-Based Harassment
Gender-based harassment is verbal, nonverbal, graphic, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostile conduct based on sex, sex-stereotyping, sexual orientation or gender identity, but not involving conduct of a sexual nature, when such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it interferes with or limits a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s education or work programs or activities. For example, persistent disparagement of a person based on a perceived lack of stereotypical masculinity or femininity or exclusion from an activity based on sexual orientation or gender identity also may violate this Policy.


Formal Grievance Procedure

An aggrieved student may request resolution of the grievance by initiating the following formal procedure.

1) A formal grievance is a complaint in writing from the student to the associate dean for student services, asking that an ad hoc grievance committee be appointed. (In the event that the complaint is against the associate dean for student services, the written complaint goes directly to the dean of the school.) The written complaint should be filed within two months of the event to which it refers and should include the following, as appropriate:

a. Statement of the allegation

b. Description of the alleged facts

c. Summary of steps he/she already has taken in attempt to resolve the problem

d. Name/s of the person/s thought to be responsible for the alleged events

e. Other facts considered to be pertinent to the case

f. Signature of the person initiating the complaint

2) The associate dean for student services appoints an ad hoc grievance committee consisting of a representative of the Faculty Council, at least one member of the school’s administration, and a student, chosen in consultation with the Student Government, who has completed at least one semester at the school. This ad hoc grievance committee is appointed and convened within ten working days of receipt by the associate dean for student services of the written complaint, or sooner if immediate action is required. In all cases, confidentiality is maintained during the selection and appointment process. A quorum requires that all members be present. The associate dean for student services appoints the chairperson of the committee.

3) The ad hoc grievance committee investigates the grievance. This investigation includes, but need not be limited to:

a. Meeting/s with the person aggrieved and the person/s (or representatives of the department) grieved against.

b. Consultation with such others as the ad hoc grievance committee deems necessary to provide a thorough investigation of the grievance, including scientific ramifications or concerns, and other mitigating or extenuating circumstances that bear upon the situation.

4) The ad hoc grievance committee expeditiously considers the facts of the case and presents a report to the dean of the school or, in the case of a grievance involving a disability, to the university’s 504 disability coordinator. The report includes findings of facts and recommendations, if any. Every precaution is taken to ensure the confidentiality of information obtained at meetings of the ad hoc grievance committee. The committee also makes every effort to conclude the investigation promptly and to take any needed remedial action.

5) Upon receipt of the report from the ad hoc grievance committee, the dean of the school, or the university’s 504 disability coordinator may exercise the following options:

a. Take whatever action he or she feels is warranted, using the report of the ad hoc grievance committee as advisory information.

b. Return the matter to the ad hoc grievance committee for further consideration. This action returns the grievance to Step 3 of this procedure.

6) The final action of the dean of the school or of the university’s 504 disability coordinator constitutes the formal completion of the grievance procedure. The ad hoc grievance committee is then discharged. The final action is communicated to both the person aggrieved and the person/s (or department) grieved against. Once the procedure is completed, all records of the meetings of the ad hoc grievance committee and the final report of the committee remain in the possession of the associate dean for student services and are treated with appropriate confidentiality.

7) Any request for exceptions to the foregoing should be addressed to the associate dean for student services. By mutual agreement of the associate dean for student services and the student, the stated formal procedure may be waived in favor of a procedure more appropriate to a particular circumstance.