2007 Reaffirmation Teams
4.5 - 2007 Reaffirmation Teams
The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints. (See Commission policy "Complaint Procedures for the Commission or its Accredited Institutions.")
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) has adequate procedures in place for addressing written student complaints and follows those procedures when resolving complaints. UT Dallas provides multiple venues to disseminate information to students, not only to help them identify the circumstances in which students may follow the institution’s prescribed grievance process and other relief mechanisms but also to inform students about the grievance policy and how it works. Included in these information sources are multiple pages on the UT Dallas website, distributed copies of the Student Handbook, and course syllabi. Students may also use established e-mail bulletin boards to initiate a complaint or seek assistance.
During freshman orientation, first-year students receive a printed copy of the Code of Conduct, a portion of Title V, in UT Dallas’ Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) . An expanded version of that document, Chapters 49 and 51, is reproduced in a calendar/handbook  that is distributed to students enrolled in RHET1101, a course required of all UT Dallas first-year students. Chapter 49 includes topics related to discipline, decision appeals, student code of conduct, and sexual assault in addition to contact information . Chapter 51 provides information about grievance procedures and academic appeals . Both documents are available on the UT Dallas website in various places, most notably on the Office of Judicial Affairs’ webpage .
Another Student Affairs website, “Policy Matters for Students,” includes information about equal educational opportunity and access as well as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) . Pages within the site address affirmative action, the Americans with Disabilities Act, sexual harassment and discrimination, and Title IX (gender equity). Much of this information derives from the UT Dallas Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual  which can be found online and includes specific information regarding nondiscrimination  and sexual harassment . This website also provides a link to a FERPA page with an online form for reporting alleged violations of students’ FERPA rights . Information related to the FERPA regulations is contained on the registrar’s website
Pertinent extracts of policies particularly relevant to students such as the student grievance policy, the academic integrity (plagiarism) policy, incomplete and withdrawal policies are directly posted in all UT Dallas course syllabi via electronic syllabi templates which all faculty use and which are available to the faculty on the Academic Senate’s website . Both the undergraduate catalog  and the graduate catalog  reference equal educational opportunity. In addition, the graduate catalog’s appendix addresses rules, regulations, and statutory requirements . The undergraduate catalog also presents a flow chart regarding the academic appeals process in the undergraduate advising section . Numerous offices and programs also provide online handbooks for students to help address problems before they arise; among these offices are the Recreational Sports Program, the School of Engineering and Computer Science, and the Dean of Graduate Studies, which also offers an online teaching assistant handbook to help train graduate students on how to deal with complaints .
The state of Texas passed the Customer Service Standards Act (SB 1563) in 1999 which requires each state agency to establish a set of customer service standards and to gather information regarding the quality of services delivered to its customers . The official UT Dallas point of contact in response to this legislation is the Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis, whose director submits the required reports  to The University of Texas System (UT System) and to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The Office of Student Affairs continues to provide students opportunity for immediate feedback through various surveys available at the point of service entry .
Despite the multiple opportunities for students to find assistance-through distributed e-mail information, online documents, printed materials in orientation sessions or classes-complaints will invariably appear through channels other than those offered. As a result, many offices have established e-mail bulletin boards through which students can seek information or initiate a complaint. To take one example: the UT Dallas Student Government Association (SGA), which works closely with the Office of Business Affairs and the Office of Student Affairs to resolve student complaints (especially with regard to student housing), has posted an online complaint form  and an online appeal form for traffic and parking citations . Similarly, the Student Affairs Division has created several e-mail bulletin boards (e.g., email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) where students can begin the process of filing formal, written complaints. Similar general addresses exist within the Bursar’s Office, the Financial Aid Office, the Registrar’s Office, and others. These lists are closely monitored, and the complaints are answered in a timely fashion.
The president and the provost each post their e-mail address on their web page, and occasionally, students initiate a complaint with the president, the provost, or a UT System official. As a result, UT System requested a written document detailing the university’s procedures for such complaints . That document , while not published and not the official response to the legislative mandate for customer service, does drive much of the internal procedure for complaints that either begin outside the usual process or, having worked through the process, rise to the appropriate level. Many of the presented complaints can be or are resolved before a higher level of administrative intervention is required.
Because of the importance that UT Dallas places on the quality of student life and because student complaints provide an important information source about the state of the university, student complaints receive high priority among the central administration. An assistant provost in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost acts as the student ombudsman with regard to complaints about matters within the realm of academic affairs. The assistant provost actively tracks cases reviewed  and shares the results of the cases with the president via correspondence, e-mail, or personal conversation . The undergraduate dean tracks the number of academic grievances advanced to his level of review ; similarly the Office of Disability Services reports its reviews and the results thereof  as does the Office of Judicial Affairs . Because the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) is monitored closely on campus, a quarterly compliance report is submitted for review by the Compliance Subcommittee . The Office of Undergraduate Advising also tracks the resolution (or non-resolution) of cases wherein students request course withdrawals after the published deadlines . Such monitoring ensures that the university follows its formal processes and provides adequate opportunities to resolve student complaints as appropriate.