Florida Southern College staff interacting with a student

Student Complaint and Appeal Procedures

 

Florida Southern College’s goal is to help you seek resolution of your concern in a way that is timely and transparent.

Florida Southern holds that student grievances are best handled by the professional staff within the specific area associated with the complaint rather than centralized in a single office or individual. Therefore, complaints and appeals are addressed by various offices depending on the nature of the grievance. A directory of names or offices to whom complaints should be directed is available in our Section 504 Grievance Procedure document.

The College has a general grievance process, but maintains separate, more specific processes for dealing with certain academic and harassment complaints. Complaints and appeals fall into one of three general categories:

  1. General Grievance Process
  2. Academic Complaints/Appeals
    1. Grade Appeals
    2. Academic Dishonesty
    3. Academic Suspension Appeal
    4. Complaints Related to Student Privacy (FERPA)
    5. Other Academic Related Appeals
  3. Discrimination
  4. Non-academic
    1. General Non-academic
    2. Student Misconduct
    3. Financial

The complaint procedures outlined below apply to full-time and part-time students, and regardless of instructional modality (traditional face-to-face vs. distance learning).
 

I. General Grievance Process

The College has a general student grievance policy. As stated in the Student Code of Conduct, the policy reads as follows:

The College is committed to a policy of treating all members of the College community fairly in regard to their personal and professional concerns. The primary objective of a student grievance procedure is to ensure that concerns are promptly dealt with and resolutions are reached in a fair and just manner. It is essential that each student be given adequate opportunity to bring complaints and problems to the attention of the College Administration with the assurance that each will be given fair treatment. As such, any currently enrolled student at the College may file a grievance in writing to the appropriate Vice President, Dean or designee.

A grievance is defined as dissatisfaction occurring when a student believes that any decision, act or condition affecting him or her is illegal, unjust, or creates unnecessary hardship. Such grievances may concern, but are not limited to, the following: academic problems; mistreatment by any College employee or fellow student; wrongful assessment of fees; and records and registration errors. Complaints covered by policies already in place (e.g., discrimination/harassment including Title IX, grade issues, confidentiality of student records (FERPA), students with disabilities (ADAAA), student accountability, student employment) are excluded from this policy.

Each Vice President, Dean or designee will reply in writing to the student who submits a formal, written grievance to that College official. Each Vice President, Dean or designee will be responsible for maintaining a record of all reports that are filed within his or her area. These records will be maintained for a minimum of five years.
 

II. Academic Complaints/Appeals

For purposes of this document, academic complaints/appeals are divided into five different categories:

  1. Grade Appeals
  2. Academic Dishonesty
  3. Academic Suspension Appeal
  4. Complaints Related to Student Privacy (FERPA)
  5. Other Academic Related Appeals
 

1. Grade Appeals

The procedures for addressing students’ grade grievances for undergraduate and graduate programs are described in the Florida Southern College Academic Catalog.

Florida Southern College has established a procedure for the resolution of grievances arising from disputes over grades. Cases in which resolution has not been achieved by informal or formal negotiations among the students, faculty members, department chairs, division chairs, or the appropriate academic dean may be remanded by the Provost's Office to the Religious Life and Student Life Committee for review.

Cases involving a disputed infraction of the Florida Southern College Honor Code will be remanded to the Honor Code Infraction Review Board prior to consideration by the Religious Life and Student Life Committee.

The Religious Life and Student Life Committee will consider each case, has the authority to make final recommendations, and will make every effort to preserve both the substance and the appearance of impartiality and fairness. In the event that a member of the committee is directly involved in the case, that member will not participate. If that member is the chair of the committee, the committee will elect a chair, pro tem.

The committee may make a determination without a hearing. In the event of a hearing by the committee, a vote will be taken by secret ballot. In either case, the results will be communicated in writing by the chair to the Provost. The Provost will communicate the final decision to the student, the appropriate dean, the Registrar, and the faculty member.

Any student considering a grade appeal should understand that each faculty member has the academic freedom and responsibility to determine and assign grades according to any professionally acceptable method chosen by the faculty member, communicated to everyone in the class, and applied to all students equally.

An appeal must be made in writing to the faculty member who taught the course (copies to the appropriate academic dean and/or department chair, and Associate Provost) no later than the fifteenth calendar day of the next succeeding regular semester.

A more detailed description of the grade appeals process is housed in the Office of the Provost.

2. Academic Dishonesty

In the case of academic dishonesty, cheating, plagiarism, and other violations of academic integrity, initial responsibility for dealing with violations lies with the faculty member.  When further action is required, cases fall under the jurisdiction of the Honor Code. The Honor Code is published in the Florida Southern College Academic Catalog, and a statement about the Honor Code is placed on all course syllabi. The responsibilities of members of the academic community and procedures for reporting academic dishonesty are described in detail in the Florida Southern College Academic Catalog. Cases of possible academic dishonesty that reach the hearing stage are reviewed by the Honor Code Infraction Review Board (HCIRB). This Honor Code Infraction Review Board is composed of two students and eight faculty members, and acts as a hearing board. Hearing procedures are clearly outlined in the Academic Catalog, as well as the procedures for appeal.

3. Academic Suspension and Readmission

At the end of each semester, students who have failed to maintain satisfactory academic progress are notified in writing that they have been placed on academic probation, suspension, or expulsion. The first time that students qualify for suspension, they may be allowed to appeal that suspension to their academic dean. The academic dean has final authority on whether to grant the student’s appeal.

4. Student Privacy (FERPA)

If a student believes that the institution has failed to comply with the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the student may contact the College’s FERPA Compliance Officer or make a formal complaint or appeal to the U.S. Department of Education, as described on the College website. The contact information for both the Compliance Officer and the Department of Education are listed in the Florida Southern College Academic Catalog, and in the Florida Southern College Student Handbook. Additional information may be found in our FERPA documentation: FSC FERPA Policies and FSC FERPA Grievance Policies.

5. Other Academic Related Appeals

Many other academic appeals or complaints fall outside of the categories listed above. In most cases, those academic appeals or complaints are made (or forwarded) to the dean of the student’s school. In compliance with the General Grievance Process described above (I), the dean or his or her designee replies in writing to the student who submits a formal, written grievance.

 

III. Discrimination

The College maintains a general non-discrimination policy and procedure for dealing with complaints, in addition to more specific guidelines and procedures for dealing with discrimination as it relates to sexual discrimination/harassment or discrimination based on disability.

1. Discrimination: General

It is the policy of the College that no member of the College community shall be subjected to any form of unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation by any other member of this institution. For the purpose of this policy, harassment is defined as sexual harassment or harassment due to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, age, national origin, mental or physical disability, marital status, medical condition, veteran status, citizenship, or sexual orientation.

The College has adopted a procedure for the purpose of resolving discrimination complaints. Inquiries or concerns should be directed to:

Katherine Pawlak
Director of Human Resources
Raulerson Building
111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive
Lakeland, FL 33801-5698

Phone: 863.680.3964
E-mail: kpawlak@flsouthern.edu

2. Discrimination: Sexual Discrimination and Harassment

In accordance with Title IX of the Educational Act of 1972 and the Campus SaVE Act of 2013, it is Florida Southern College’s policy that no member of the College community shall be subjected to any form of unlawful discrimination including sexual discrimination (sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual violence) or other illegal sexual experiences (dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking). Sexual violence can be defined as “physical sexual activity perpetrated against a person’s will or when a person is incapable of giving consent.” Rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion are all examples of sexual violence and will not be tolerated at Florida Southern College.

Florida Southern College conducts prompt and equitable investigations in response to claims of all forms of harassment, including sexual discrimination. Persons who have engaged in acts of sexual discrimination, based on a “preponderance of the evidence” standard (i.e., it is more likely than not that sexual discrimination occurred), may receive institution-imposed sanctions. Additionally, anyone who retaliates against an individual who has made a complaint, or against an individual about whom a complaint has been filed, is acting unlawfully and will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions. Finally, anyone who has knowingly made false accusations related to sexual discrimination will also be subject to disciplinary actions.

Complaints/grievances may be filed either formally or informally. An informal complaint/ grievance may be submitted in writing or orally. A formal complaint/grievance must ultimately be submitted in writing but, if they wish, students or employees of the College can begin an informal procedure with a Title IX Officer that can become a formal investigation at any time. Additionally, although it is ideal to report a complaint/grievance as soon after the event as possible, there is no time limit to making a sexual discrimination report.

A sexual discrimination report does not have to result in filing charges. However, a report of the sexual discrimination charge must be investigated. A complainant can report an initial complaint/grievance about sexual discrimination to any Florida Southern employee with whom she/he feels comfortable speaking. The information will then be shared with the appropriate Title IX Officer and the complaint/grievance addressed. Additionally, if the complainant is concerned that he or she will be named as a respondent in a sexual discrimination report, they are also encouraged to contact the Officer of Title IX Compliance or the Student Support Title IX Officer.

Reporting Sexual Discrimination/Title IX Complaints/Grievances

The College provides members of the academic community prompt, equitable, and reliable mechanisms for reporting incidents of sexual discrimination, including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual violence, harassment based on a protected category, retaliation, and false accusations.

When an initial report of sexual discrimination is made to local law enforcement or a member of the Florida Southern College community, all reports will ultimately be received by the Officer for Title IX Compliance, Katherine Pawlak, to ensure appropriate management of the complaint. Additionally, all Florida Southern College non-student employee reports of sexual discrimination are made to Ms. Pawlak.

Katherine Pawlak
Director of Human Resources
Raulerson Building
111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive
Lakeland, FL 33801-5698

Phone: 863.680.3964
E-mail: kpawlak@flsouthern.edu

Complaint Involving a Student

Florida Southern College has established a Title IX initiative designed especially for students called “Just Ask.” The purpose of “Just Ask” is to reduce sexual discrimination through prevention and education.  More information about this program can be found online at the College’s “Just Ask” website or by emailing fscjustask@flsouthern.edu.

The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies and for investigating Title IX complaints involving students:

Marcie W. Pospichal, Ph.D.

Associate Vice President for Student Support

Student Support Title IX Officer

111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive

Lakeland, FL 33801-5698


Phone: 863.680.4197
E-mail:mpospichal@flsouthern.edu

Information for how to file student Title IX grievances is also found in the Florida Southern College Academic Catalog and the Florida Southern College Student Handbook.

3. Disability

As required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title III, Florida Southern College does not discriminate against individuals with disabilities.  Although Florida Southern College does not provide “individualized” or “special” programs for students with disabilities, students with documentation of protected disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations, both in and outside the classroom, on a case-by-case basis. Students who wish to request disability accommodation may do so by submitting their request and associated documentation to Jennifer Del Valle in the Office of Student Disabilities (863.680.4198).

Florida Southern College has in place an internal grievance procedure for prompt and equitable resolution of challenges to the accommodations provided. All complaints or concerns are handled by Dr. Marcie Pospichal, Associate Vice President for Student Support.

 

IV. Non-academic

1. General Non-academic Student Complaint

Most non-academic student complaints involve student life issues such as roommates issues, housing conditions, parking, dining hall options, etc. Written student complaints of this variety are normally handled by the Dean of Student Development or his designee.

2. Student Misconduct

The current procedures for addressing student misconduct, including student complaints and appeals, other than grade appeals and issues of academic integrity, are described in the online Student Handbook.

For less serious offenses, the Office of Community Living conducts investigations and issues sanctions as outlined in the Florida Southern College Student Handbook (III.F.3-5).

For the most serious of College Policy violations, a Student Accountability Committee meeting may be held. The Student Accountability Committee consists of students, faculty, and staff members. It is a formal meeting which involves the presentation of witness testimony and may be an opportunity for students to present evidence on their behalf and to question all witnesses. Detailed descriptions of the membership qualifications, hearing procedures, and process for appeal are outlined in the Florida Southern College Student Handbook. (III.F.6)

3. Financial Appeals

Students who fail to maintain the requisite academic requirements for scholarships and financial aid are notified in writing. In many cases, students are granted the right to appeal to have some, or all, of their financial assistance reinstated. Students are informed of the appeal process in an attachment to the notice of loss of aid. The appeal process is as follows:

With mitigating circumstances, a written appeal for continued eligibility may be made to the Director of Financial Aid, and an ad hoc committee will adjudicate the appeal. Supporting documentation should accompany the appeal. Students must indicate in their appeal information about why the student failed to make Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and what has changed in the student’s situation that would allow the student to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation. Items that would be acceptable reasons for appeal would be the death of a relative of the student, an injury or illness of the student, or other documentable special circumstances. An appeal may be approved only if the school has determined that the student will be able to meet SAP standards after the subsequent payment period; or develops an academic plan with the student that, if followed, will ensure that the student is able to meet SAP standards by a specific point in time. In the event resolution cannot be achieved through a process within Florida Southern College, students may explore registering a complaint or grievance with a state authority at http://www.fldoe.org/policy/cie/file-a-complaint.stml.

If you are not sure which College Officer to contact to file a grievance, please contact one of the following:

Katherine Pawlak
Director of Human Resources
863.680.3964
kpawlak@flsouthern.edu

Dr. Marcie Pospichal
Associate Vice President for Student Support
863.680.4197
mpospichal@flsouthern.edu