Complaint and grievance procedures for students in the Nelson Institute

Procedures for any student who feels unfairly treated by a member of the Nelson Institute faculty or staff. These steps describe both informal and formal procedures. A list of other campus resources for addressing complaints is also included.

Updated April 2024

This document was reviewed by the Nelson Grad Reps and approved by vote of the Nelson Institute Governance Committee on 4/15/2024.

In the Nelson Institute, any student who feels unfairly treated by a member of the Nelson Institute faculty or staff has the right to complain about the treatment and receive a prompt hearing. Some complaints may arise from misunderstandings or communication breakdowns and can be easily resolved; others may require formal action. Complaints may concern any matter of perceived unfairness. Examples of complaints include:

  • Course or exam grade disputes
  • Personality conflicts between student and instructor
  • Hostile or intimidating behavior by Nelson faculty or staff members
  • Academic discrimination based on sex, religion, or political views
  • Concerns regarding advising/mentoring
For incidents involving other students, including hate, bias, sexual assault or misconduct, hazing, students you are concerned about, or any complaint or concern impacting your success as a student, please use the reporting tools at Report An Incident – Dean of Students Office – UW–Madison (

Complaint: a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable
Grievance: a formal statement of a complaint

The procedures outlined below are used in the Nelson Institute to ensure a prompt and fair hearing of complaints, and to protect the rights of both the student and the person to whom the complaint is directed. These steps describe both informal and formal procedures, with formal procedures starting at step 4. A student who does not wish for formal resolution need not use these procedures.

Other campus resources for addressing complaints include:

 A full list of resources with descriptions appears at the end of this document.


  1. If the student feels comfortable, they should first talk with the person to whom the complaint is directed. Many issues can be settled at this informal level. If the student does not feel comfortable speaking directly with this person, proceed to step 2.

  2. If the student does not feel comfortable speaking with the person to whom the complaint is directed, or if they try having a conversation but are not satisfied with the outcome, they should speak to the immediate supervisor of the person involved. If the complaint is directed against a teaching assistant, the student should talk to the TA's supervisor, who is usually the course professor. If the complaint concerns a faculty or staff member in Nelson, the student may also meet with the Associate Dean for Education and Faculty Affairs. If the complaint is not resolved at this level, the student may continue to the next step (4).

  3. It is recognized that a student may be reluctant to bring their complaint to the person to whom it is directed, or to their supervisor, or to anyone else in the administrative hierarchy. In that case, the student should seek out a person who can guarantee confidentiality to the extent allowed by the law and university policy and provide non-judgmental advice as to appropriate next steps. Note that if criminal activity is involved, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. If a student does not know of any suitable person, they may approach any member of the Nelson Institute Academic Programs staff who will be able either to serve as a confidential discussant or who will be able to direct the student to someone who can assure confidentiality. Their role is to be that of Ombuds, meaning that they are not to take a position with respect to the validity of the grievance. Their role is to advise the student as to appropriate next steps.

  4. To start a formal grievance process, the student must submit the complaint in writing to the Nelson Institute Associate Dean for Education and Faculty Affairs (hereafter Associate Dean) as soon as possible. The grievance should also include an explanation of the desired outcome or resolution of the situation. An email for which receipt is acknowledged will be considered a written submission.

  5. On receipt of the written complaint (grievance), the Associate Dean will acquaint themself with the issues. This may involve face-to-face meetings or other means of establishing the facts in dispute. The Associate Dean will have the option of proposing a resolution. If the proposed resolution is accepted by the parties directly involved, the matter will be considered settled at this level. Relevant documents will be archived by the Office of the Associate Dean for Administration. At any point in the proceedings after the receipt and acknowledgement of the grievance by the Associate Dean, the student or the person who is the subject of the grievance will have the option of requesting that the matter be referred to an ad hoc committee. This request must be submitted in writing and acknowledged by the Associate Dean.

  6. If the matter cannot be settled through the mediation of the Associate Dean, or if the Associate Dean has concluded that the case merits further attention, or if the student has requested that the matter be referred to an ad hoc committee, an ad hoc committee will be appointed by the Dean of the Nelson Institute or their designee. The committee will consist of at least three members. Within 10 working days, the student will be allowed to revise the complaint or to add material to the complaint document to be provided to the committee. The student may request a change in committee membership, but the final decision on the committee will remain with the Dean. The committee may request a written response from the person who is the subject of the grievance. This response shall be shared with the student. The ad hoc committee will meet to discuss the case. They are authorized to seek additional information if they feel it is necessary. They will convey their written decision regarding the case including any recommendations for remediation or mediation to the Associate Dean within 30 working days from the charge to the committee. The Associate Dean will provide a copy of the committee’s written decision to the student regarding the case within 10 working days of receiving the committee’s report; the Associate Dean will also confirm that the past record on file of any grievances regarding the parties involved has been investigated; and, the Associate Dean will provide the student a statement outlining the formal plan of steps that will be taken officially on the part of the Nelson Institute.

  7. The student then has the option of taking their grievance to the university level. There are several options available. Consult websites referenced below.

  8. The written documents relevant to the grievance will be archived in hard copy and electronic form as appropriate in a “Grievance Record” by the office of the Associate Dean for Administration and will be maintained for a minimum of five years.

  9. The cumulative record involving any of the parties to a grievance will be reviewed each time a formal grievance is presented as in Step 4, above, in order to determine whether the pattern of grievance, such as past filings, indicates any actions are warranted.

 Other campus resources for addressing complaints

Sexual Misconduct Resource and Response Program – Office of Compliance – UW–Madison ( The Sexual Misconduct Resource and Response Program (SMRRP) receives reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence - including sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking and sexual exploitation. They also provide information about available support resources for students.

Graduate students should review information at

Graduate Assistants in TA, PA and/or RA appointments may utilize the Graduate Assistantship Policies and Procedures (GAPP) grievance process to resolve employment-related issues. Examples of matters appropriate for the GAPP grievance process include allegations of violation of GAPP, including allegations excessive work hours, violations of sick days or vacation policies, or disputes regarding the assignment of duties.

 The Dean of Students Office is a primary resource for connecting students who are navigating personal, academic, or health issues, to supportive campus and community resources. The Dean of Students Office also serves as a central location for reporting issues of hate and bias, sexual assault, and hazing. Staff are available for support and consultation via phone (608-263-5700), email, and same day appointments Monday-Friday 8:30am – 4pm in 70 Bascom Hall.

 Also, students should know that academic administrators may be required to report instances of sexual harassment or violence in accordance with university policy and the Clery Act. (See Clery Act - UW–Madison Police Department (

State law contains additional provisions regarding discrimination and harassment:

Wisconsin Statutes 36.12 reads, in part: "No student may be denied admission to, participation in or the benefits of, or be discriminated against in any service, program, course or facility of the system or its institutions or center because of the student's race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status." In addition, UW System prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Students have the right to file discrimination and harassment complaints with the UW-Madison Office of Compliance.

Questions about Nelson Institute procedures can be directed to the Associate Dean for Education and Faculty Affairs.


Keywordsgrievance, unfair treatment, complaint, sexual harassment, discrimination,   Doc ID128192
OwnerKate W.GroupNelson Administrative Hub
Created2023-05-08 14:53:55Updated2024-05-02 14:57:08
SitesNelson Administrative Hub
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