Graduate Appeals Panel Procedures for a Formal Hearing
Conditions of an Appeal Hearing
A formal hearing before the Graduate Appeals Panel is an opportunity for a graduate student to appeal an academic dispute between the student and a professor, department or college within Texas A&M University. All appeals must have been reviewed and evaluated by the academic chain, beginning at the professor/committee-level, department, college and finally the Dean of the Office of Graduate Studies. If the Dean of Graduate Studies and the interested parties fail to reach a solution to the appeal, the appeal is forwarded to the Chair of the Graduate Appeals Panel. The Chair must then hold a “mediation meeting” with the student who filed the appeal and a representative of the College who has the authority to “speak for the college.” If this mediation meeting fails to reach an acceptable solution that satisfies all parties, the Chair shall forward the appeal documents to the Graduate Appeals Panel and schedule a formal hearing.
The Chair of the Graduate Appeals Panel shall constitute a Hearing Panel, composed of four (4) faculty members and two (2) graduate students who have no prior association with the student or the college involved in the dispute. The Chair shall select the members of the Hearing Panel from the membership of the Graduate Appeals Panel. The President of Texas A&M University appoints the Graduate Appeals Panel members. The Chair of the Graduate Appeals Panel shall be the Chair of the Hearing Panel, but the Chair shall not vote on any recommendation that the Panel submits to the President of Texas A&M University. The Graduate Appeals Panel serves as an advisory group to the President of Texas A&M University. The President of Texas A&M University shall make the final decision and ruling on the appeal.
Burden of Proof and the Student’s Responsibility
The student who has filed the appeal has the burden of proof in any hearing before the Graduate Appeals Panel. For the student to be successful, the testimony and evidence presented to the Hearing Panel must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the dispute is directly related to actions by a professor/committee, department or college that are either:
- Arbitrary—based upon rules that are not fixed but are judgmental and uniquely applied by the professor/committee, department or college;
- Capricious—based upon a sudden, impulsive change in the policy or procedures that previously existed; or
- Prejudicial—based upon a judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known or one held in disregard of the facts or based on an unreasonable bias.
The student who filed the appeal may provide new evidence or expand their appeal file if this new evidence is submitted to the Chair, in writing at least 10 business days prior to the date of the hearing. This new evidence must be intended to demonstrate and prove that one or more of the conditions listed above formed the underlying cause for the dispute. If new evidence is presented during the hearing, the student shall explain why this new information was not provided within the 10-day period. The Chair shall have the authority to disallow this new, but late, evidence from being admitted during the hearing. The student is reminded that a disagreement with a Texas A&M University rule or policy does not provide grounds for an appeal.
The student who filed the appeal may present evidence through witnesses who will testify at the hearing. These witnesses shall not be allowed to be in the hearing room prior to the presentation of their testimony, but may remain, with the permission of the student who filed the appeal, after they have presented their testimony. The student who filed the appeal must provide the Chair of the Hearing Panel, in writing at least 10 business days prior to the date of the hearing, the name and relationship of each witness that is expected to testify. The Chair shall not allow any witness whose name and relationship has not been previously identified to testify during the hearing.
College Reply and Responsibility
After the Chair of the Hearing Panel has received any new evidence, if submitted by the student, and the list of witnesses, if submitted by the student, the Chair shall deliver a complete copy of the student’s entire appeal file to the college representative within 24 hours of when the student filing the appeal has submitted their complete file. The college shall have the authority to review this information and prepare a written reply to the Chair of the Hearing Panel that must be hand delivered to the Chair at least 5 business days prior to the date of the hearing. Should the college choose to have any witnesses, other than its representative, present testimony during the hearing, the college must submit a list of witnesses and their position to the Chair at least 5 business days prior to the date of the hearing. The Chair shall make a copy of the information submitted by the college and hand deliver it to the student within 24-hours of receipt.
Layout of the Hearing Room
To facilitate the efficiency and order in the hearing room the arrangement of the room is diagrammed below:
The student and advisor shall be seated at the table to the left of the Chair of the Panel. The college representative and advisor shall be seated at the table to the right of the Chair. The witness shall be seated between the Panel and the student and college tables. All visitors or observers who have been invited by the student shall remain behind the student and college tables and shall not disrupt the proceedings nor address the panel. The Chair shall “clear the hearing room” of all visitors and observers if the Chair believes that these persons are or will disrupt the proceedings. The student who filed the appeal may have an attorney as his/her advisor, who represents the student in the hearing room during the proceedings. If the student intends to have an attorney present, the Chair must be notified, in writing, of the name and address of the attorney and any relationship or potential relationship to the student, at least 5 business days prior to the hearing. Although the student is allowed to have an attorney present for consultation, the attorney is not allowed to address questions or comments to any witness nor to any member of the Graduate Appeals Panel.
The Chair of the Hearing Panel shall set the time and date for the hearing. The Chair shall then notify the student of the time and date of the hearing via certified mail, return receipt, sent through the United States Postal Service. The Chair shall also hand deliver notification of the hearing date and time to the Dean of the College involved in the dispute and the Dean of Graduate Studies. All hearings shall be held after the close of University business, 7 p.m., to allow the greatest opportunity for all interested parties to attend. Except for the student who filed the appeal and the representative of the College, any person who attends the hearing and remains in the hearing room during the presentation of any testimony, shall be prevented from addressing the panel during the proceedings. Specific conditions that apply during a hearing before the Graduate Appeals Panel are defined below:
- The parties in the hearing shall be the student who filed the appeal and an official representative of the academic college or department involved in the dispute.
- Both parties may have one (1) “advisor” who may sit throughout the entire proceeding but who may not address the Panel.
- If the student chooses to have an Attorney serve as his/her “advisor” the student shall inform the Chair of the Hearing Panel, in writing, of the name and address of the attorney, no less than 5 business days prior to the date of the hearing.
- Each party shall be limited to a maximum of one (1) hour of direct testimony during the hearing.
- Any Member of the Panel may interrupt the testimony being presented at any time to ask a question or request further information, justification or explanation.
- All parties to the hearing shall be required to certify that they will uphold the Aggie Code—“Aggies do not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those who do.”
Procedural policies that shall apply during a hearing before the Graduate Appeals Panel are listed below:
- The student that filed the appeal shall open the hearing with testimony that outlines, defines and supports the basis for the appeal.
- Following this opening testimony the college representative shall be allowed to question the student.
- The student may then call any witness or witnesses to present evidence before the Panel.
- The student may present new evidence to the Panel if this new evidence is justified by the student and is authorized by the Chair.
- The college representative may question each witness, if desired.
- Once the student has completed his/her testimony and called his/her witnesses, the college representative may present any rebuttal testimony or evidence and may call witnesses to present evidence before the Panel.
- The student shall than be allowed to question the college representative or college witness or witnesses.
After both parties have presented their evidence and completed any questioning of the other party, and all members of the Hearing Panel have completed their questioning, the Chair of the Hearing Panel shall close the hearing and excuse all persons from the hearing room. The Chair then shall open a closed session of the Hearing Panel to prepare the report of the proceedings. This report shall be prepared as a recommendation or recommendations to the President of Texas A&M University and shall be hand delivered to the President’s office by the Chair. A copy of the final recommendations of the Panel shall be mailed, by certified mail with return receipt, through the United States Postal Service to the student and delivered by hand to the college representative and the Dean of Graduate Studies by the Chair of the Graduate Appeals Panel. After the final report has been delivered to the President’s office, mailed to the student and delivered to the college representative and the Dean of Graduate Studies by the Chair of the Graduate Appeals Panel. After the final report has been delivered to the President’s office, mailed to the student and delivered to the college, the appeal process is completed and the Hearing Panel shall be dissolved.