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Academic Hearing Procedures for Michigan State University College of Law

The Academic Freedom for Students at Michigan State University (AFR) and the Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities (GSRR) documents establish the rights and responsibilities of MSU law students and prescribe procedures for resolving allegations of violations of those rights through formal grievance hearings.  In accordance with the AFR and the GSRR, the College of Law establishes the following College of Law Hearing Board procedures for adjudicating academic grievances and complaints.

I.  JURISDICTION OF THE COLLEGE OF LAW HEARING BOARD:

A. The College of Law Hearing Board serves as:

1. the initial Hearing Board for academic grievance hearings involving students who allege violations of student academic rights and students seeking to contest an allegation of academic misconduct (academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards or falsifying admission and academic records) in the following situations:

  a. the Dean of the College of Law administers the course or program where the alleged violation took place.

  b. the Dean of The Graduate School selects the College of Law Hearing Board to hear a case of ambiguous jurisdiction.

2. the initial Hearing Board for academic disciplinary hearings for students in the College of Law who are accused of academic misconduct (academic dishonesty, violating professional standards or falsifying admission and academic records) and the Dean, or designee, of the College of Law seeks to impose sanctions in addition to, or other than, a penalty grade.  The students, after meeting with the Dean of The Graduate School, may opt for a hearing before the College of Law Hearing Board or for an administrative hearing before the Dean of The Graduate School.

3. the initial Hearing Board for complaints filed by a member of the law college community against a law student alleging academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, or falsification of admission or academic records.

 B. Students may not request an academic grievance hearing based on an allegation of
  incompetent instruction.

II.  COMPOSITION OF THE COLLEGE  OF LAW HEARING BOARD:

 A. The College of Law shall constitute a Hearing Board pool no later than the end of the tenth week of the spring semester.  The Hearing Board pool of seven faculty members shall be nominated by the Faculty Advisory Council as part of the committee assignment process during the spring semester, and approved by faculty vote at a faculty meeting.  Only full-time regular faculty at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor may be members of the Hearing Board pool.  The Hearing Board pool of seven law students shall be selected by the Assistant or Associate Director for Student Engagement & Organizations with the names forwarded to the Faculty Advisory Council no later than the fourth week of the spring semester.  The students should be second year law students who serve in some leadership capacity at the College of Law, maintain at least a 3.00 GPA, and are available to serve on the Hearing Board during the next academic year.

 B. The Hearing Board shall be made up of three students and three faculty, drawn by lottery from the Hearing Board pools of students and faculty.  In addition, the Hearing Board will include a Chair, named by the Faculty Advisory Council and approved by the faculty.

 C. All members of the Hearing Board shall have a vote, except the Chair, who shall vote only in the event of a tie.

 D. The College of Law will train Hearing Board members about these procedures and the applicable sections of the AFR and GSRR.  

III. REFERRAL TO THE COLLEGE OF LAW HEARING BOARD:

Where possible, a grievant or complainant is encouraged to seek resolution and redress informally through the Office of Student Engagement or with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

 A. Grievance Hearing

 1. After consulting with the instructor, students who remain dissatisfied with their attempt to resolve an allegation of a violation of student academic rights or academic misconduct (academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards or falsifying admission and academic records) may request an academic grievance hearing.  The hearing will occur at the College of Law level if one of the conditions outlined in 1.A.1 above exists.  At any time in the grievance process, students may consult with the University Ombudsperson.

 2. The deadline for submitting the written request for a hearing is week seven of the fourteen-week semester following the one in which the alleged violation occurred (exclusive of the scheduled vacation periods, such as summer break (May – August) or winter break (December – January).  If either the student (the complainant) or the respondent (usually, the instructor or an administrator) is absent from the College of Law during that semester, or if other appropriate reasons emerge, the Hearing Board may grant an extension of this deadline. If the College of Law no longer employs the respondent before the grievance hearing commences, the hearing may still proceed.

  3. A written request for an academic grievance hearing must (1) specify the alleged violation(s) of academic rights in sufficient detail to justify a hearing, (2) identify the individual against whom the grievance is filed (the respondent) and (3) state the desired redress.  Anonymous grievances will not be accepted.

 B. Disciplinary Hearing

1. For complaints that involve allegations of academic misconduct (academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, or falsifying academic and admission records), the complainant (instructor) or the Dean of the College of Law, or designee, may request an academic disciplinary hearing to impose sanctions in addition to, or other than, a penalty grade.  Students may request an administrative hearing before the Dean of The Graduate School or a hearing before the College of Law Hearing Board.  However, if the Dean of the College of Law, or designee, calls for an academic disciplinary hearing, the student has ten class days to request an academic grievance hearing to contest the allegation.  Disciplinary hearings are held in abeyance until the conclusion of the grievance hearing, including appeals. 

 2. If a disciplinary hearing by either the Dean of The Graduate School or the College of Law Hearing Board is pending the outcome of a grievance hearing by a student to contest an allegation of academic misconduct, and the initial Hearing Board decides for the instructor, the disciplinary hearing would proceed promptly, pending an appeal, if any, within five class days by the student to the University Graduate Judiciary (UGJ).  If the initial Hearing Board finds for the student, the academic disciplinary hearing would be dismissed, pending an appeal, if any, by the instructor to the UGJ.

IV. PRE-HEARING PROCEDURES

 A. Students requesting an academic grievance hearing involving a filed grievance or complaint outlined in the Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities document will send their request for a hearing in writing to the Chair of the Hearing Board.

 B. Within five class days of receipt of the request, the Chair of the Hearing Board will:

1. forward the request for a hearing to the respondent;

2. send the names of the pool of Hearing Board members to both parties and, to avoid conflicts of interest between the two parties and the Hearing Board members, request written challenges, if any, within three class days of this notification;

3. rule promptly on any challenges, impanel a Hearing Board through a lottery drawing from remaining members of the faculty and student Hearing Board pools, and send each party the names of the Hearing Board members.  If the Chair of the Hearing Board is the subject of a challenge, the challenge shall be filed with the Dean of the College; and 

4. send the Hearing Board members a copy of the request for a hearing and send all parties a copy of these procedures.

 C. When serving as the initial Hearing Board and within five class days of being established, the Hearing Board shall review the request and all submitted information, and decide to:

  1. accept the request, in full or in part, and promptly schedule a hearing.
  
  2. reject the request and provide a written explanation to appropriate parties; e.g., lack of jurisdiction.  (The student may appeal this decision.)

  3. invite the parties to meet with the Hearing Board in an informal session to try to resolve the matter.  (Such a meeting does not preclude a later hearing.)

 D. If the Hearing Board calls for a hearing, the Chair of the Hearing Board shall promptly negotiate a hearing date, schedule an additional meeting only for the Hearing Board should additional deliberations on the findings become necessary after the initial hearing, and request a reply to the grievance from the respondent.

 E. At least ten class days before the scheduled hearing, the parties must notify the Chair of the Hearing Board of the names of their witnesses and advisor, if any, and, if necessary, request permission for the advisor to have voice at the hearing.

 F. At least five class days before the scheduled hearing, the Chair of the Hearing Board shall provide each party with a written notice of the hearing including:

1. the names of the parties;
2. the nature of the issues to be heard with sufficient detail to enable each party to prepare its respective case;
3. the date, time, and place of the hearing;
4. the names of witnesses (if any) and advisor (if any); and
5. the names of the Hearing Board members.

 G. The Chair of the Hearing Board may accept written statements from either party's witnesses at least three class days before the hearing, in lieu of a personal appearance. 

 H. Each party is expected to appear at the hearing and present the party’s case to the Hearing Board.

 I. In unusual circumstances and in lieu of a personal appearance, either party may request permission to submit a written statement to the Hearing Board or request permission to participate in the hearing through an electronic communication channel.  Written statements must be submitted to the Hearing Board and to the opposing party at least three class days before the scheduled hearing. 

 J. Either party to the grievance hearing may request a postponement of the hearing.  The Hearing Board may either grant or deny the request. 

 K. At its discretion, the Hearing Board may set a reasonable time limit for each party to present its case, and the Chair of the Hearing Board must inform the parties of such a time limit in the written notification of the hearing.  (See Section IV.F. above.)

 L. Hearings are closed unless the student requests an open hearing, which would be open to all members of the MSU community.  The Hearing Board may close a hearing to protect the confidentiality of information or to maintain order. 

 M. Members of the Hearing Board are expected to respect the confidentiality of the hearing process. 

V. HEARING PROCEDURES:

 A. The Hearing will proceed as follows:

1. Introductory remarks by the Chair of the Hearing Board:  The Chair of the Hearing Board introduces hearing panel members, the complainant, the respondent and advisors, if any.  The Chair reviews the hearing procedures, including announced time limitations for presentations by each party and the witnesses and informs the parties if their advisors may have a voice in the hearings and if the proceedings are being recorded.  Witnesses shall be excluded from the proceedings except when testifying.  The Chair also explains:

• In academic grievance hearings in which a student alleges a violation of academic rights, the student bears the burden of proof.

• In hearings involving students seeking to contest allegations of academic misconduct, the instructor bears the burden of proof.

• In academic disciplinary hearings, the Hearing Board is asked only to determine if sanctions in addition to, or other than, a penalty grade are warranted.

• All Hearing Board decisions must be reached by a majority of the Hearing Board, based on a "preponderance of the evidence."

  2. If the complainant fails to appear in person or via an electronic channel at a scheduled hearing, the Hearing Board may either postpone the hearing or dismiss the case for demonstrated cause. 

  3. If the respondent fails to appear, in person or via an electronic channel, at a scheduled hearing, the Hearing Board may postpone the hearing, hear the case in the respondent's absence, or dismiss the case.

  4. If the respondent is absent from the College of Law during the semester of the grievance hearing or no longer employed by the College of Law before the grievance procedure concludes, the hearing process may still proceed or the Hearing Board may dismiss the matter. 

  5. To assure orderly questioning, the Chair of the Hearing Board will recognize individuals before they speak.  All parties have a right to speak without interruption.  Each party has a right to question the other party and to rebut any oral or written statements submitted to the Hearing Board.

  6. Presentation by the Complainant:  The Chair recognizes the complainant to present without interruption any statements directly relevant to the complainant's case, including the redress sought.  The Chair then recognizes questions directed at the complainant by the Hearing Board, the respondent and the respondent's advisor, if any.

  7. Presentation by the Complainant's Witnesses:  The Chair recognizes the complainant's witnesses, if any, to present, without interruption, any statement directly relevant to the complainant's case.  The Chair then recognizes questions directed at the witnesses by the Hearing Board, the respondent and the respondent's advisor, if any.

  8. Presentation by the Respondent:  The Chair recognizes the respondent to present without interruption any statements relevant to the respondent's case.  The Chair then recognizes questions directed at the respondent by the Hearing Board, the complainant and the complainant's advisor, if any.

  9. Presentation by the Respondent's Witnesses:  The Chair recognizes the respondent's witnesses, if any, to present, without interruption, any statement relevant to the respondent's case.  The Chair then recognizes questions directed at the witnesses by the Hearing Board, the complainant and the complainant's advisor, if any.

 10. Rebuttal and Closing Statement by Complainant:  The complainant refutes statements by the respondent, the respondent's witnesses and advisor, if any, and presents a final summary statement.

 11. Rebuttal and Closing Statement by Respondent:  The respondent refutes statements by the complainant, the complainant's witnesses and advisor, if any, and presents a final summary statement.

 12. Final questions by the Hearing Board:  The Hearing Board asks questions of any of the participants in the hearing.

VI. POST-HEARING PROCEDURES

 A. Deliberation:

After all evidence has been presented, with full opportunity for explanations, questions and rebuttal, the Chair of the Hearing Board shall excuse all parties to the grievance and convene the Hearing Board to determine its findings in executive session.  When possible, deliberations should take place directly following the hearing and at the previously scheduled follow-up meeting.

 B. Decision:

  1. In grievance (non-disciplinary) hearings involving students in which the College of Law Hearing Board serves as the initial hearing body and, based on a "preponderance of the evidence," a majority of the Hearing Board finds that a violation of the student's academic rights has occurred and that redress is possible, it shall direct the Dean, or designee, to implement an appropriate remedy, in consultation with the Hearing Board.  If the Hearing Board finds that no violation of academic rights has occurred, it shall so inform the Dean, or designee. 

  2. In grievance (non-disciplinary) hearings involving students in which the College of Law Hearing Board serves as the initial hearing body to adjudicate an allegation of academic dishonesty and, based on a "preponderance of the evidence," the Hearing Board finds for the student, the Hearing Board shall recommend to the Dean, or designee, that the penalty grade be removed, the Academic Dishonesty Report be removed from the student's records and a "good faith judgment" of the student's academic performance in the course take place.  If the Hearing Board finds for the complainant (instructor), the penalty grade shall stand and the Academic Dishonesty Report regarding the allegation will remain on file. 
  
3. In disciplinary hearings involving academic misconduct by students in which the College of Law Hearing Board based on a "preponderance of the evidence," finds that disciplinary action in addition to, or other than, a penalty grade is warranted, the Hearing Board shall recommend to the Dean, or designee, an appropriate sanction. The Dean, in consultation with the Hearing Board, would then implement an appropriate sanction. If the Hearing Board recommends that no sanctions in addition to, or other than, are warranted, the Chair of the Hearing Board shall so inform the Dean, or designee. 

4. In a hearing based upon a complaint against a student in which the College of Law Hearing Board based upon “a preponderance of the evidence,” finds that disciplinary action is warranted, the Hearing Board shall recommend to the Dean, or designee, an appropriate sanction.  The Dean, in consultation with the Hearing Board, would then implement an appropriate sanction.


 C. Written Report:

1. The Chair of the Hearing Board shall prepare a written report of the Hearing Board’s findings, including recommended redress or sanctions for the complainant, if applicable, and forward a copy of the decision to the appropriate unit administrator within three class days of the hearing. The administrator, in consultation with the Hearing Board, shall then implement an appropriate remedy.

2. The report shall indicate the rationale for the decision and the major elements of evidence, or lack thereof, that support the Hearing Board's decision.  The report also should inform the parties of the right to appeal within five class days following notice of the decision.

3. The Chair of the Hearing Board shall forward copies of the Hearing Board’s report and the administrator’s redress, if applicable, to the parties involved, the responsible administrators, the University Ombudsperson and the Dean of The Graduate School.

4. All recipients must respect the confidentiality of the report and of the hearing board's deliberations resulting in a decision. 

5. At any time during this process, either party may consult with the University Ombudsperson. 

VII. APPEAL OF COLLEGE OF LAW HEARING BOARD DECISION:

 A. Either party may appeal a decision by the College of Law Hearing Board, to the University Graduate Judiciary for cases involving (1) academic grievances alleging violations of student rights and (2) alleged violations of regulations involving academic misconduct (academic dishonesty, professional standards or falsification of admission and academic records). 

B. All appeals must be in writing, signed and submitted to the Chair of the University Graduate Judiciary within five class days following notification of the College of Law Hearing Board’s decision.  While under appeal, the original decision of the College of Law Hearing Board will be held in abeyance.

C. A request for an appeal of a College of Law Hearing Board decision to the University Graduate Judiciary must cite the specific applicable procedure(s) the initial Hearing Board allegedly failed to follow or allege that findings of the College of Law Hearing Board were not supported by the "preponderance of the evidence.”  The request must state the alleged defects in sufficient detail to justify a hearing and also must include the redress sought.  Presentation of new evidence normally will be inappropriate.   

VIII. RECONSIDERATION:

 If new evidence should arise, either party to a hearing may request the Hearing Board to reconsider the case within 30 days upon receipt of the hearing outcome.  The written request for reconsideration is to be sent to the Chair of the Hearing Board, who shall promptly convene the Hearing Board to review the new material and render a decision on a new hearing. 

IX. AMENDMENT:

A. Any member of the law college community may initiate a proposal to amend or revise this document.  All such proposals shall be referred to the Academic Standards Committee.

B. This document may be amended from time to time by majority vote of the faculty assembled (as defined in the September 2012 law college bylaws approved by the faculty of the law college) as a matter relating to academic standards.

X.     FILE COPY: 

The Dean of the College of Law shall file a copy of these procedures with the Office of the Ombudsperson and with the Dean of The Graduate School.

Approved by College Faculty
February 6, 2013 


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