Graduate Student Appeals

Graduate schools appreciate that student discipline implicates substantial student rights and interests. Graduate students have a valuable property interest in their graduate education. Graduate schools must generally provide students with due process before dismissing or suspending students, or otherwise depriving them of their graduate education. The fundamentals of due process are: notice to the graduate student of the alleged grounds for discipline and then a fair opportunity for hearing the student's evidence and arguments against discipline.

Appeal of an adverse decision is another due process hallmark. An appeal is the losing graduate student's request that a different decision-maker, one higher in the graduate school's hierarchy, review and reverse the initial decision to impose discipline. Graduate schools generally offer an appeal. Appeals, though, do not mean presenting the same evidence and arguments to the appeal officials. Rather, appeals involve either identifying specific errors that the initial decision made, from the initial record, demonstrating misconduct in the proceedings, or introducing newly discovered evidence compelling a different decision.

Appeals, in other words, are highly technical forms that graduate students are not ordinarily capable of executing effectively. Indeed, attorneys do not generally have the unusual appellate advocacy skills requiring record analysis, review standards, and appellate briefing. Attorneys who do specialize in court appeals are generally unfamiliar with the academic norms and administrative procedures that determine the effectiveness of a graduate school appeal. If you face an appeal of an adverse graduate school decision, then retain national academic appellate attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm.

Graduate School Appeal Procedures

While court appeals follow rules that grant substantial time, up to many months or even a year or more, for completing an appeal, graduate school appeal procedures may grant barely any time, such as a few days, within which the graduate student's academic appellate attorney must accomplish several technical tasks. Instead of a panel of judges hearing the appeal, graduate school appeals typically go to a high-level academic officer or panel of such officers. Graduate school appeals do, though, generally follow a typical course requiring the aggrieved graduate student's academic appellate attorney to:

  • identify the appeals officer to whom to make a written claim of appeal;
  • timely file the claim of appeal identifying the appealed decision;
  • promptly obtain, analyze, and summarize the hearing record;
  • carefully identify in the hearing record the appealed errors;
  • discern and demonstrate any other misconduct in the proceedings;
  • include any new evidence compelling the initial decision's reversal;
  • summarize the applicable legal authority, policies, and principles;
  • analyze the application of that authority to the record, showing the errors;
  • articulate the graduate student's appropriate requested relief; and
  • timely serve the right number of copies of the appeal brief.

Graduate school policies and procedures dictate these specific procedures. For example, the University of Michigan's graduate school maintains a policy providing for appeals of professional misconduct and academic misconduct decisions to an appeals board of two graduate professors and one graduate student within fifteen days of the disputed decision. Appeal procedures, though, can be complex. For another example, the University of Wisconsin's graduate school maintains one policy for appealing academic decisions to its graduate school dean and another policy for appealing academic misconduct decisions to the same dean, while referring appeals of sexual misconduct findings to the university's general procedures providing for appeals to the provost.

Retain national academic appellate attorney Joseph D. Lento for his expert help to ensure that your appeal timely reaches the appeal officials whom it should, making an effective presentation compelling relief from the initial decision.

Graduate School Appeal Grounds

As the above procedural summary suggests, effective appeals must articulate specific grounds for reversing the initial decision. Those grounds must also be ones that the graduate school's appeal policy recognizes. Appeals arguing unauthorized grounds for reversal, such as asking the appeal official to reject fact findings that had support in the record, will fail. Typically, graduate schools limit appeal grounds to things like (a) findings unsupported by the evidence, (b) errors of law or policy, (c) misconduct in the proceeding, and (d) new evidence discovered after the initial decision that was not discoverable for the hearing.

The point is that an appeal is not an entirely new and fresh second chance for a different decision. An appeal reviews the integrity of the initial decision within limits that the graduate school's appeal policy defines. Appeals involve written briefs presenting arguments, not hearings with witnesses and other evidence. For example, the University of Michigan's graduate school appeals policy limits the appeal board to reviewing the record, prohibits witness testimony except in the case of new evidence, and first requires an associate dean of the school to confirm that the appeal presents sufficient grounds.

Why Appeal a Graduate School Sanction

Despite the technical challenges of appealing a graduate school sanction, such as the student's dismissal from the program, appeals are another avenue for relief. Surely, the better outcome is to retain expert representation in the initial proceeding and to win the initial decision, making an appeal unnecessary. But graduate schools can make poor, unfair, unsupported, and biased decisions. And when they do, an appeal is both appropriate and necessary. Appeals do result in reversed decisions and reinstated graduate students who then complete their graduate degree to enter their chosen field. An appeal can save everything for which the graduate student worked from a bad initial decision. Exhausting administrative relief, including exhausting appeal rights, is also a necessary step in obtaining court or other relief.

Retain Premier Academic Appellate Representation

The above description of appeal procedures shows the necessity of retaining expert academic appellate attorney Joseph D. Lento. The limited grounds on which a graduate student may appeal an adverse decision, including one that dismisses the student from the program, are another reason why to retain attorney Lento for your appeal. The enormous investment that graduate students make in their education and the stake that they have in their related careers warrant retaining the best available appellate representation. Retain attorney Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Fim today by calling 888.535.3686 or going online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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