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Academic Complaint Process

What is an academic complaint? Is this the right option for dealing with the issue I’m facing?

Academic complaints are for concerns and issues related to your classes or your academic program (the degree you ware working on). This includes things like grades, assignments, the class syllabus, admission to a program/major, and academic advising.

If you’re not sure whether your concern fits into this category, that’s okay: If you file an academic complaint and this process doesn’t apply, we’ll let you know and help you find the right one. You can also take a look at the list of student complaint options. And if you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help. You can contact our office at provost@wou.edu or 503-838-8271.

Step 1:
Talk to the Instructor / Professor

If you haven’t already, we strongly encourage you to talk to your instructor about your concern. However, we understand that this isn’t always possible or appropriate, so it is not required.

Use the Online Academic Complaint Form Opens in new window to submit an academic complaint. It will be routed automatically to the correct person or office—this is usually the division chair. The form will tell you where your complaint is being routed, and you can also find the list of division chairs on the Who to Contact page.

  • Anonymous? You may submit a complaint anonymously. Please keep in mind that doing so may limit the university’s ability to respond or act upon the complaint (e.g., grade changes not possible, employee discipline generally not possible).
  • Deadline? There is no time limit for submitting a complaint; however please keep in mind that a delay in submitting a complaint could limit the university’s ability to investigate and respond.
  • What to expect? If you provide contact information, the division chair’s office will contact you to schedule a meeting to discuss your concern. The division chair’s job isn’t to make a decision, but to try to facilitate a resolution that is acceptable to both you and the instructor. If they are unable to do so, you can ask the college dean for help: see Step 3.

Please note: You don’t have to use the online form: you may submit your complaint through another method (e.g., email or letter). If you choose to use a different method, please review the instructions for submitting a complaint without using the online complaint form.

Step 3:
College Dean

If the division chair wasn’t able to resolve your concerns, you can ask the college dean to help find a resolution.

  • You can ask the the division chair to forward your complaint to the dean’s office, or if you’d prefer to send it yourself, they can give you the contact information. The contact information for the college deans (and the list of units they are responsible for) can also be found on the Who to Contact page.
  • The college dean’s job isn’t to make a decision, but to try to facilitate a resolution that is acceptable to both you and the instructor. If they are unable to do so, you can ask the provost to review your complaint: see Step 4.

Step 4:
Provost

  • The Provost’s Office can be reached at 503-838-8271 or provost@wou.edu. The office is located at Lieuallen Administration Building, Room 202.
  • Before you talk to the provost, think about how you want your concern to be resolved. What action would you like the instructor and/or WOU to take?
  • The provost’s decision is generally final. The two exceptions are explained in Step 5.

Step 5:
Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC)

  • In some circumstances, the student may bring an academic complaint to Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC):
    • HECC investigates and resolves complaints against Oregon public universities related to discrimination as defined by ORS 659.850 , and retaliation as defined by ORS 659.852 .
    • HECC does not intervene in student grade disputes at public universities, unless the student believes the grade dispute has resulted in or is the result of discrimination or retaliation against the student.
      For more information, visit HECC’s website 
  • Note: In some situations, the instructor may be able to appeal the provost’s decision through the grievance process that is part of the faculty collective bargaining agreement. If this occurs, you will be provided with information about that process, but the outcome will not affect your academic record, grade, etc.

Notes and Other Important Information

The information provided in an academic complaint may be protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Opens in new window.

Employees at Western Oregon University are required by federal law to report any incident of sexual misconduct. If your complaint describes an incident of sexual misconduct that has occurred to you or another student, we must report that information to the Office of Student Affairs. Reporting this information helps the university to safeguard students and get students the help and support needed. You have the right to maintain your privacy: there are confidential support options Opens in new window available, both at WOU and in the community.

Additional information from HECC regarding student complaints:

Students should attempt to resolve any grievances they may have with their school first. Should attempts to resolve these problems with appropriate school officials fail, or should the student be dissatisfied with the final outcome of the college complaint process, then the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), can respond to a formal complaint. Students may contact the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, 3225 25th St. SE, Salem, OR 97302 or by sending an email to complaints@hecc.oregon.gov. Students may also access the HECC Complaints web page Opens in new window or the complaints page at NC-SARA’s website. Opens in new window