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Conflict Resolution and Student Appeals

Occasionally interactions between students, staff and faculty result in misunderstandings, disputes and/or differences of opinion. In the majority of instances these differences can be resolved as a result of an informal discussion between the persons involved. UC San Diego encourages students to promptly pursue informal action first. In instances where informal resolution is unsuccessful, students have various formal avenues for complaint resolution. Graduate students are encouraged to contact the Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Affairs in the Graduate Division for information and assistance with the resolution of conflicts.

Important Considerations:

  • Attempt to resolve the matter informally and immediately.
  • Try to be rational and objective; don’t allow emotions to interfere with finding a resolution.
  • Know your desired outcome and be objective in this assessment.
  • Keep complete and accurate notes of the situation and steps you have taken towards resolution.
  • Avoid being aggressive or accusatory.
  • Know the appropriate policies. Consult the departmental handbook, UC San Diego General Catalog, or campus policies.

Campus Resources:

Conflict Resolution and Resource Chart for Graduate Students (Click image for PDF)


Academic Appeals & Grievances

Department and program faculty have primary responsibility for maintaining the excellence of graduate programs, and they are in the best position to judge their students' academic performance.  A student may appeal a final exam result or course grade only if he or she believes that non-academic criteria not directly reflective of academic performance in the course were used in determining the result.  As detailed more completely in the "Grade Appeal" section in the UC San Diego General Catalog and Academic Senate Regulation 502, a student appeal of an academic performance decision should first be made to the individual faculty member or teaching assistant who made the decision and should be made within one month of the decision or within the first month of the following regular academic quarter.  If this does not result in a resolution that is satisfactory to the student, he or she may appeal to the department or program chair.

Within twelve months of action by UC San Diego with which the student disagrees, such as denial of a right to withdraw, dropping or adding a class, or other decisions related to the student's transcript, a student may petition the Dean of the Graduate Division for review.  Petitions pertaining to matters that occurred in excess of twelve months in the past shall be presented directly to the Committee on Educational Policy of the UC San Diego Academic Senate, available at the Academic Senate Office noted above.

A student's appeal of a grade or his or her challenge of any other academic action based on an alleged failure to provide an OSD approved accommodation for a documented disability in accordance with UC San Diego Academic Senate Policy on Students With Disabilities and Steps for Academic Accommodation must be lodged in accordance with Student Grievance procedures as outlined in the next section.

Non-Academic Appeals & Grievances

A student may appeal an action or inaction of their department, program, individual faculty member, or UC San Diego administrator. Examples include those actions taken on grounds not relating to a student's academic performance that affect a student's educational status, program of study, financial support, or access to services. Generally, non-academic decisions may only be challenged if due process was not followed in arriving at the decision or the decision was motivated by personal prejudice. Disagreements over assessment of academic performance are not an appropriate basis for an appeal to the Graduate Dean.

If an individual believes and can provide evidence that due process was not followed in arriving at a decision for their academic disqualification, they may submit an appeal on this basis according to the process and timeline indicated below. If an individual believes and can provide evidence that a decision resulting in their academic disqualification violated UC San Diego nondiscrimination policies, it is suggested that a complaint be initiated with the Office for the Prevention of Harassment & Discrimination (OPHD). The Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs may set an appeal in abeyance pending the outcome of the OPHD investigation.

A non-academic appeal may be submitted to the department chair or program director, individual faculty member, or administrator within one month of the date of learning of the action or the date that the student should have reasonably known of the action.

If an appeal to an individual faculty member or administrator is not resolved to the student's satisfaction, he or she may then submit a written appeal to the department chair or program director, who shall attempt to adjudicate the case with the faculty member or administrator and the student within two weeks.

If the appeal is not resolved to the student's satisfaction at the department or program level, the student may then attempt to resolve the matter through written appeal to the Graduate Dean. The student’s appeal to the Graduate Dean should include a written statement that concisely describes the specific reason(s) that the student believes the department’s/program’s decision should be overturned, describing the nature of the grievance, along with copies of documents in their possession supporting the appeal.

Graduate students are encouraged to contact the Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Affairs in the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs for information and assistance with the appeal process.

The Division of Graduate Education will consult with the cognizant school dean and forward the appeal to the student’s program / department, with a request for a written response to the appeal from the department chair or program director. The response should be submitted to the Division of Graduate Education within five (5) business days. 

The Graduate Dean will undertake a comprehensive review of the appeal. The Dean may take the appeal to the Graduate Council for review, which may extend the time required to reach a final resolution. After careful deliberation, the Dean shall make one of the following determinations for an appeal related to a student’s dismissal: 1) Allow the student to temporarily continue in the program with specific conditions, a timeline for remediation, and established dates for review of compliance with the conditions, or 2) Confirm dismissal.

The Graduate Dean shall formally communicate the final decision to the student in writing. The decision will be final and will conclude the appeal procedure.

Employment Appeals & Grievances

A student holding an academic appointment, such as a Graduate Student Researcher, may appeal an action relating to his or her employment in accordance with appeal rights described in Academic Personnel Manual Policy 140, which is available online. An appeal by a Teaching Assistant, Reader, or Tutor is covered by the ASE/UAW contract. These appeal procedures may be viewed online on the ASE/UAW contract. UC Personnel Policy Manual, which is available online, covers appeals by graduate students holding non-academic appointments on campus.

Other Appeals & Grievances

Grievances concerning violations of student rights are covered by the Student Conduct Code grievance procedures. Examples of violations of students' rights include those affecting rights to privacy or protection from discrimination. These grievances are handled by the Office of Student Conduct, (858) 534-6225,

As with other appeals, a complaint should be made promptly to the decision-maker, if known to the student. If an appeal to an individual faculty member or administrator is not resolved to the student's satisfaction, he or she may submit a written appeal to the appropriate committee, governmental body, unit manager, supervisor or designated representative for review and disposition. Such appeal must be made not later than one hundred (100) calendar days from the date of the incident causing the grievance. If the appeal at this level is not resolved to the student's satisfaction, the appeal may be continued as described in the Student Conduct Code procedures referenced to above.

Appeal and other rights for students accused of violating UC San Diego policies and procedures are outlined in the UC San Diego Student Conduct Code.