School of the Arts Grievance Procedures

The following procedures are part of a process to ensure that student concerns about experiences in the classroom or with faculty are addressed in an informed and appropriate manner.

Owing to the size and diverse nature of our scholarly and artistic community, each school maintains its own processes for addressing a variety of student life issues, including students' concerns about experiences in the classroom or with faculty at their school.

When a student believes that a faculty member has failed to meet his or her obligations in an instructional setting, the student has two principal sources of immediate assistance: the University's Ombuds Office and the professional staff of the School in which the student is enrolled.

The Ombuds Office is available to help students find solutions to a wide range of problems arising in the context of their association with the university, including those involving faculty misconduct in an instructional setting. Students may wish to consult with the Ombuds Office before taking their concerns to the School, or they may wish to consult with the Ombuds Office at any time in the course of their discussions with School officials or, eventually, with members of the Vice President's Grievance Committee.

Like the Ombuds Office, each of the Schools has a professional staff ready to help students with concerns and complaints of many kinds, including those involving faculty misconduct in an instructional setting. The staff works with students and faculty to resolve such issues, but should resolution not be possible, the student may avail herself or himself of the School's grievance procedures.  Specific procedures pertaining to grievances at the School of the Arts are listed below.

Procedures For Student Grievances Relating to Professional Misconduct of Faculty

Columbia University is a community committed to fostering intellectual inquiry in a climate of academic freedom and integrity. Its members, students and faculty alike, are expected to uphold these principles and exhibit tolerance and respect for others. The University Statutes and the general policies of the University describe the roles and responsibilities of faculty in their teaching and research. Full texts of these policies may be found in the University's Faculty Handbook.

Faculty have a right to expect freedom in the classroom to discuss their subjects and not to be penalized for their private opinions. Faculty do, however, have special obligations arising from their position in the academic community and should refrain from conduct in the classroom or other instructional setting that adversely affects the learning environment.

Chapter 7 of the Faculty Handbook reads in pertinent parts:

The University's commitment to the principle of academic freedom is defined in Section 70a of the University Statutes. That commitment assures officers of the freedom to determine the content of what they teach and the manner in which it is taught and the freedom to choose the subjects of their research and publish their results. It also guarantees that they will not be penalized for expressions of opinion or association in their private or civic capacity.

In conducting their classes, faculty should make every effort to be accurate and should show respect for the rights of others to hold opinions differing from their own. They should confine their classes to the subject matter covered by the courses and not use them to advocate any cause.

When a student believes that a faculty member has failed to meet these standards in one of their classes, the student should first raise the issue with the faculty member.   

Professional Misconduct of Faculty

In circumstances where a student has been unable to resolve the matter through conversation with the faculty member, the student may pursue the complaint with the Concentration Director or Program Chair. If this is not feasible, or if the outcome is unsatisfactory, the student may pursue the complaint with the Dean of Academic Administration.

The Dean of Academic Administration will review the issues with the student and, as appropriate, consult the Concentration Director and/or Program Chair and the faculty member in order to reach a resolution. The Dean of Academic Administration may also convene a faculty/administrative group to consider the matter and do further fact finding.

The administrative/faculty group will report to the Dean of Academic Administration any conclusions and recommendations based on their review of the facts. The Dean of Academic Administration may take appropriate action, based on the report, including forwarding the matter to the Dean of the School. The Dean of the School may consult with the Vice President of Arts and Sciences if he or she deems it necessary.

If the student is unsatisfied with the School resolution, the student may invoke the the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Procedures for Student Grievances Relating to Professional Misconduct of Faculty. It should be noted that the grievance procedures available through the office of the Vice President for Arts and Sciences are intended to complement, not substitute for, the procedures available in each of the Schools, and they treat a considerably more limited range of issues. They are designed to address only those cases involving professional misconduct by a faculty member of Arts and Sciences in an instructional setting in which there were significant irregularities or errors in applying School procedures.

Students in a School other than the School of the Arts, but who are enrolled in a course taught by a School of the Arts faculty member have similar access to School of the Arts Grievance Procedures, but should consult with their own dean for help in identifying and understanding the appropriate procedures. If a student in the School of the Arts wishes to file a grievance against a faculty member who is not a member of the School of the Arts faculty, the student should use the procedures of the School in which the faculty member is appointed. Students may, however, ask for help from their own School's dean in identifying and understanding the appropriate procedures.

Timeframe for Proceedings

A student should ordinarily bring any grievance within 30 days of the end of the semester in which the offending conduct occurred. Action by the appropriate School of the Arts official should normally take place within 30 working days after meeting with the student.

University Ombuds Office

If the student wishes complete confidentiality, any concern may be raised with the University's Ombuds Officer, a neutral complaint handler for the University. The office offers a range of options and communication channels. But students must be aware that the Ombuds has no authority to adjudicate a complaint; it is there as a confidential resource to students, faculty, and administrators to advise on various avenues of redress and to mediate disputes, if both parties agree.

Other Procedures to Address Other Specific Concerns

If the alleged faculty misconduct involves discrimination and/or sexual harassment, the complaint should be filed with the University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The procedures for handling such complaints can be found in the Columbia University Employment Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment.   

Complaints against the School's faculty that allege scientific or scholarly misconduct are also evaluated using other procedures. These are contained in the Faculty Handbook: Responsibilities of Officers of Instruction and Research and the Columbia University Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research.

The policy on consensual romantic relationships can be found at