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Division of Student Affairs

COMPLAINTS, GRIEVANCES, AND/OR APPEALS

Consumer Complaints

National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA)

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is an institutional participant in SARA.  As such, USM can offer distance education both online and through out-of-state supervised experiences.

After having exhausted their institutional remedies, a student taking distance education courses from a state outside of Mississippi may file a complaint with the SARA portal agent with all matters other than conduct and grade related complaints.

For additional information about NC-SARA, select the SARA button below. 

SARA MEMBER STATE


Accrediting Agency

Additionally, USM's accrediting agency Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges who accredits USM to award baccalaureate, masters, specialist, and doctorate degrees requires USM to track complaints, respond in a timely manner and offer a digital means of responding to complaints.

NOTE:
For information about required Student Disclosures, select Student Consumer Information Disclosures

Definitions

  • Concern- Enables an individual to express worry regarding an issue considered important which necessitates reassurance.
  • Complaints- Provides the means for an individual to express their dissatisfaction about action or lack of action relative to a matter either academic or non-academic in nature.  Typically dissatisfaction regarding a service, faculty member- interaction with a faculty member-, or product provided. 
  • Grievance- Allows an individual to allege a violation of their rights without a rational basis or in bad faith.  Some grievances focus specifically on certain areas such as discrimination or sexual harassment.
  • Appeal- Permits an individual to make a formal request asking for a change in a decision that has been made. Appeals occur after an action has been taken against an individual that the individual deems unfair or a violation of their rights


Student Complaints

Sometimes students have complaints about University services, employees, and/or offices.  If you are a student and have a complaint that does not fall into one of the other categories listed below, please complete this form, and we will respond to your complaint.  

Click here to review a copy of the policy

REPORT AN INCIDENT



Grievances And/Or Appeals

If you have a complaint that is not resolved by the parties involved, you may file a grievance. There are two types of grievances, informal grievances, and formal grievances. 

Most types of dissatisfaction can be resolved through an informal face-to-face discussion between the people involved, and students should typically start with this strategy.  If that discussion is not satisfactory, the student should next try to discuss the matter with that person’s immediate supervisor (e.g., chair of an academic department, the director of a university service office, etc.).  For appropriate contacts, please click here. If the concerns are more serious or are not resolved informally, students may exercise formal grievance and appeals processes.

 

 

 

Some situations always lead to a formal process: grade appeals (see the Office of the Provost’s page for details); appeals originating in the student judicial council and/or the Office of the Dean of Students; and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

These formal grievances always involve submission of a written grievance and various steps through the process.  For these situations, students should follow the procedures included in the links below:

Academic Integrity Appeal
Academic Status Appeal
Admissions Appeal
Campus Lighting Comments
Chartered Organizations - Judicial Decision Appeal Procedure
Discrimination or Harassment Complaints
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Financial Aid Excessive Hours Appeal
Financial Aid Suspension Appeal
Grade Appeal
Graduate School Appeals and Grievance Process
Library Fine Appeals
Parking Ticket or Traffic Citation Appeal
Residence Life Housing Contract Appeal
Residence Life Conduct Appeal
Scholarship Cancellation Appeal
Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Appeal
Student Code of Conduct Violation Appeal
Tuition Refund Appeal
Withdrawal-Official
Withdrawal-Unofficial

 


Other Complaint Avenues

Regional Accrediting Agency
A complaint with our regional accrediting agency – the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) – can be filed when there is evidence to support noncompliance with a SACSCOC standard or requirement. Please review the Commission’s complaint policy, procedures, and complaint form. The SACSCOC contact information is below:

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
1866 Southern Lane Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097
Phone: (404) 679-4500
Fax: (404) 679-4558
http://www.sacscoc.org

State Authorizing Agency
A complaint can be filed with our state authorizing agency – the Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation (MCAA)–when there is evidence of the of the following: 
conduct or behavior on the part of the University of Southern Mississippi or any of its agents, representatives or employees that constitute dishonest or fraudulent behavior, including providing false or misleading information to a student
the operation of programs (including distance education) contrary to practices expected by institutional and/or programmatic/specialized accreditors
[The University of Southern Mississippi has a number of programs that are accredited by professional, discipline-specific accrediting bodies. Accredited programs at USM are listed at https://www.usm.edu/about/accreditation. Contact the Office of the Provost for additional information on program accreditation.]

Please review the MCCA Student Complaint Process.

The MCCA contact information is below:

Menia Dykes
3825 Ridgewood Road
Jackson, MS 39211-6453
Telephone: 601.432.6372
Fax: 601.432.6225
mdykes@mississippi.edu

If your complaint has been escalated through the grievance and appeal process and cannot be resolved, please review these points of escalation applicable to students taking online courses from outside of the state of Mississippi.  Please note matters regarding grades and conduct cannot be escalated beyond the institutional level.

Program Integrity
Title 34 CFR § 668.43(b) of the Federal Program Integrity rules also require institutions to provide “…its students or its prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with its accreditor and with tis state approval or licensing entity and any other relevant State Official or agency that would appropriately handle a student’s complaint.”

Higher Education Opportunities Act of 2008
To comply with the Higher Education Opportunities Act of 2008, institutions offering education must provide enrolled and prospective students with contact information for filing complaint with its accrediting agency and with the appropriate state agency for handling complaints in the student’s state.

SARA Member State
The University of Southern Mississippi participates in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement.  Students residing in member states are subject to the SARA Complaint Process which is detailed on the SARA Student Complaint Process page.  For a list of SARA Member states, see the SARA States & Institutions page.If your issue was not resolved at the institutional level and does not involve a matter related to grades or conduct, you can appeal to the portal agent for Mississippi by contacting her using one of the methods indicated below:Menia Dykes

Director of Accreditation
Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning
3825 Ridgewood Road
Jackson, MS 39211
601.432.6372
mdykes@mississippi.edu
Complaint Form

State Agencies  
If an issue cannot be resolved institutionally, students residing outside the state of Mississippi who do not reside in a SARA member state may file a complaint about The University of Southern Mississippi with their State by referring to the list of State Agencies on the U.S. Department of Education website. For a list of SARA member states, see the SARA States & Institution page.

Mississippi Virtual Community College (MSVCC)

Filing a Complaint Related to a MSVCC Course: MSVCC classes are taught through a consortium agreement that Southern Miss has established with the Mississippi Virtual Community College (part of the Mississippi Community College Board). A specific process applies in order to file complaints related to MSVCC courses as detailed on the Filing a Complaint Related to an MSVCC course. Use the identifying A Course as a MSVCC Course to determine if you are taking an MSVCC online course.

Active Duty Receiving Tuition Assistance or Spousal Assistance

File a complaint with the Department of Postsecondary Education Complaint System.

Veteran Using Montgomery or Post 9/11 GI Bill

File a complaint with the Department of Veterans Affairs relative to an institution failing to follow the Principles of Excellence relative to recruiting or marketing practices, accreditation, financial issues, student loans, post-graduation job opportunities, or change in degree plan/requirements.

GI Bill Beneficiaries

The Mississippi State Approving Agency (SAA), is the approving authority of education and training programs for Mississippi. Our office investigates complaints of GI Bill beneficiaries. While most complaints should initially follow the school grievance policy, if the situation cannot be resolved at the school, the beneficiary should contact our office via email at saa@msva.ms.gov.

Student with a Private Student Loan
File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Current Student Receiving Federal Financial Aid 
File a complaint with the Department of Education Ombudsman.

 

Contact Us

Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs
210 R. C. Cook Student Union

Hattiesburg Campus

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StudentAffairsFREEMississippi

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601.266.5020