I have a complaint about an instructor. What can I do?

Students have the ability to file a formal grievance against a professor or faculty member for academic, or non-academic reasons within the relevant academic department. Before the grievance procedure is followed, students should attempt to solve the problem with an informal meeting with the faculty member. As outlined in the diagram below, this page reviews procedures on how to file an academic or non-academic grievance. 

academic and non-academic flow chart of procedures explained in words below image

What is a formal grievance?

A formal grievance is a written complaint usually submitted to the relevant instructor and department head including the following information:

  • A description of the complaint
  • Date of occurrence(s)
  • Why the decision or occurrence was unfair
  • Attempts at previous resolutions with instructor
  • Solution sought to complaint
  • Any relevant documentation that would confirm or strengthen grievance

Academic Grievance

The Academic Grievance procedure in MSU's Policies and Procedues can be found here.

Does my Grievance have merit? 

An academic grievance is defined as an unfair academic decision, including the assignment of grades. An academic grievance has merit if an academic decision is made:

  1. "On some basis other than performance in the course and/or compliance with course assignments and requirements;
  2. By more exacting or demanding standards than were applied to other students in the same section;
  3. By a substantial departure from the instructor's, department's, college's or university's announced standards as articulated in the course syllabus, catalog descriptions and/or other written materials."

Taken from the Code of Student Conduct, 520.00 Academic Decisions Reviewed.

What is the Academic Grievance procedure?

The academic grievance procedure is listed in MSU's Policies and Procedures here

To summarize MSU's policy on Academic Grievances, the full procedure has 6 steps in entirety, listed below:

  1.  Informal Meeting: Initiated by the student as soon as possible after the academic decision is made
  2. Formal Grievance: A formal grievance can be filed only if the instructor and student cannot reach an agreement. The grievance should follow the format outlined above, should be sent to the instructor and relevant department head, and should be filed no more than 15 days into the following semester. 
  3. Instructor response: The instructor has 10 business days to respond to the student and department head after the receipt of the grievance.
  4. Department head's review: The department head will review evidence, conduct interviews if possible, and produce a written decision with recommendations towards a resolution within 10 business days of the instructor response. If the grievance is not concluded within this time, the student may bring the grievance to the relevant Dean for resolution. 
  5. Dean's Review:
    1. For Undergraduate Students: Instructor or student can appeal the department head's decision in writing to the instructor's College Dean. Appeal should be sent to the Dean no later than 5 business days after the receipt of the department head's decision, with copies also sent to all parties involved thus far. The Dean will submit a written decision to the student, instructor, and the department head within 10 business days of receipt of the appeal. The decision of the Dean is the final decision of the University in grievances concerning grades for undergraduate students.
    2. For Graduate Students: Instructor or student can appeal the department head's decision in writing to Dean of Graduate Studies. Appeal should be sent within 5 business days of the receipt of the department head decision, and should be sent to all parties involved thus far. The Graduate Dean will submit a written decision to the student, instructor, and the department head within ten business days of receipt of the appeal. The decision of the Graduate Dean is the final decision of the University in grievances concerning grades for graduate students.
  6. Provost's Review
    1.  For Undergraduate Students: Either party may appeal the Dean's decision, except decisions concerning grade grievances. The appeal should be submitted no later than 5 business days after the receipt of the Dean's decision, with copies sent to instructor, Dean, and student. The Provost will submit a written decision to the student, instructor, and the Dean within 10 business days of receipt of the appeal. The decision of the Provost is the final decision of the University.
    2. For Graduate Students: Either party may appeal the Graduate Dean's decision, except decisions concerning grade grievances. The appeal should be submitted no later than 5 business days after the receipt of the Graduate Dean's decision, with copies sent to instructor, Graduate Dean, and student. The Provost will submit a written decision to the student, instructor, and the Graduate Dean within 10 business days of receipt of the appeal. The decision of the Provost is the final decision of the University.

Non-Academic Grievance

File a formal grievance with the relevant department head. The department will follow up with questions and/or resolutions about your grievance. 


Who is my Department Head? 

Department heads are listed on department websites in the left-hand column. 

Who is my College Dean? 

Departments and Colleges are listed here. There, you can find what College you fall under. Each College website usually lists the College Dean on the left column of their website.