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Academic Affairs

SACSCOC Complaint Process

The University of Montevallo is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Educational Specialist degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia, 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of the University of Montevallo.

Procedures for Filing a Complaint against an Institution

An individual may make an inquiry regarding complaint procedures or about issues and concerns that could be considered complaints; however, the Commission’s response and its obligations to meet the specific timetables outlined in these procedures will begin only after the complainant submits a formal written complaint.

A formal complaint is one that is (1) submitted in writing using the SACSCOC “Complaint against Institutions: Information Sheet and Form,” (2) signed, and (3) sent to the attention of the President of SACSCOC by the complainant(s). SACSCOC will neither entertain complaints that are not in writing or which are anonymous, nor will it consider complaints sent electronically or through facsimile transmission. In addition, SACSCOC does not accept voice recordings, such as recordings of meetings and conversations, as evidence in support of a complainant’s allegations. To submit information from the voice recordings, the complainant should have the tape transcribed, provide a signature page for the complainant to attest to the accuracy of the transcription, and have the signature page notarized. If a complainant has a demonstrated disability that prevents submission of a formal complaint in accord with the guidelines above, he or she should contact the SACSCOC Coordinator of Communications and External Affairs for assistance.

The “Information Sheet and Form” includes:

a. A statement describing the complaint in the clearest possible terms.

b. The section(s) of the Principles of Accreditation alleged to have been violated and the time frame in which the significant lack of compliance is alleged to have occurred.

c. A clear and concise written description of the evidence upon which the allegation is based. (Materials and documentation used to support a complainant’s allegations should be limited to and directly related to the reported case.) The evidence should state relevant facts and document and support the allegation that the institution is in significant violation of the standards referenced in the complaint.

d. A description of the action taken by the institution to date and a copy of the institution’s response to the complainant as a result of prescribed procedures.

e. An acknowledgment that SACSCOC staff may send a copy of the complaint to the president of the institution.

f. Full disclosure about any other external channels the complainant is pursuing, including legal action. 3

Once the formal written complaint is submitted, SACSCOC and the complainant are responsible for the following:

1. SACSCOC will acknowledge a formal written complaint within 15 business days of its receipt.

2. Within 60 calendar days after acknowledging receipt of the complaint, SACSCOC staff will review the complaint and its documentation and determine (1) whether it is within the scope of SACSCOC policies and is accreditation related, (2) if there is adequate documentation in support of the allegations, and (3) whether the complaint raises significant questions about the institution’s compliance with SACSCOC standards. Normally, SACSCOC considers reviewing a formal complaint if the circumstances leading to it occurred within one year of the formal filing of the complaint or one year within completion of the complaint process at the institution. SACSCOC will inform the complainant regarding the disposition of the complaint to include one of the following:

a. The complaint will not be processed further because it is not within the scope of SACSCOC policies and jurisdiction or there is inadequate documentation to raise questions concerning the institution’s compliance with SACSCOC standards.

b. Where appropriate, a resolution is suggested to the complainant and/or the institution.

c. The complaint has sufficient substance to warrant further review. In this case, SACSCOC will make every effort to expedite the investigation; however, the time required to conduct the investigation may vary considerably depending on the circumstances and nature of the complaint. When a complaint is further investigated, a copy of the complaint will be forwarded to the institution’s chief executive officer who will be asked to respond to SACSCOC within 20 business days. Following the review, the complainant and institution involved will be notified regarding one of the following:

(1) The complaint will not be processed further because there is insufficient evidence of significant non-compliance. The decision of the President of SACSCOC is final.

(2) If there appears to be sufficient evidence of significant non-compliance or if SACSCOC staff are unable to determine compliance, then one of the following actions may be taken by the President of SACSCOC:

(a) Authorize a Special Committee to visit the institution. The Special Committee will examine documents and interview institutional personnel to analyze and make a judgment about compliance, and prepare a report. The report of the committee will be forwarded to the SACCOC Board of Trustees, or one of its standing committees, for review and action at the next meeting of the Board. Following that meeting, the complainant and institution involved will be notified of the decision of the Board.

(b) Forward the case directly to the Board of Trustees and its standing committees for review and action.

(c) Include the case in an upcoming scheduled visit to the institution.

(d) Request additional information. After reviewing the additional information, the President of SACSCOC may decide to take any of the actions as described in (1), (2)(a), (2)(b), or (2)(c) above.

For items (2)(a), (2)(b), or (2)(c) above, the decision of the SACSCOC Board of Trustees is final unless the disposition is one that is otherwise appealable as stated in the SACSCOC policy “Appeals Procedures of the College Delegate Assembly.”

3. If there is a change of staff during the disposition of a formal complaint, the President of SACSCOC will notify the complainant(s) regarding the change, provide the name of the staff member assigned to the institution, and outline a modified schedule for the review of the complaint.

4. Individual complaints will be retained in the SACSCOC files for a period of one year following final formal notification to the complainant regarding the resolution of the complaint. Based on complaints submitted during this period of time and/or on a series of notification letters to previous complainants that suggest a pattern of concern which may evidence a significant lack of compliance with the Principles that was not evident from any one individual complaint, SACSCOC may renew its consideration of the matter for whatever action may be appropriate.

Excerpted from COMPLAINT PROCEDURES AGAINST SACSCOC OR ITS ACCREDITED INSTITUTIONS Policy Statement