Student Complaint Tracking and Reporting

Policy number02-02
Responsible officeInstitutional Effectiveness
Enforcement officialVice Provost for Budget and Personnel
ClassificationBoard of Trustees-delegated Policy
Category02. University Organization and Authority

Statement of policy

It is the University’s goal to assure all students that they have a method to voice their concerns and be able to share feedback of their experience with the University. The Student Complaint Tracking and Reporting Policy establishes a quality improvement method for University systems and outlines the University’s procedures for reporting, tracking, and analyzing student complaints.

Summary of Contents

  1. Purpose of Policy

    It is the purpose of the Student Complaint Tracking and Reporting Policy to establish the framework for the documentation and review of student complaints across Western Michigan University through the following:

    • Documenting WMU process for handling and reporting complaints made by students;
    • Standardize language and content structure for tracking complaints through a common report template;
    • Annually report the number and types of complaints received by units, the average complaint resolution time, and the patterns of resolutions to address complaints and;
    • Provide an efficient way for the University to integrate and document what it has learned from the complaint tracking and reporting process for improvements in services, and instruction.

    The federal compliance component of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Reaffirmation of Accreditation, requires that the University track and report the mechanisms used in processing student complaints.

  2. Stakeholders Most Impacted by the Policy

    The Student Complaint Tracking and Reporting Policy applies to all University personnel. Units will be responsible for documenting, reviewing, and reporting official student complaints received by their individual areas, inclusive of appropriate sub units.

  3. Key Definitions
    • 3.1. Official Complaint: Any documented concern that WMU has violated a law, policy or incorrectly applied an established practice. Complaints may be academic or non-academic in nature. Complaints do not supersede or replace misconduct or grievance procedures already in place.
    • 3.2. Complaint Category: A grouping of complaints based on content or common process for resolution.
    • 3.3. Higher Learning Commission (HLC):  the Federal Department of Education-recognized accrediting body for universities in this region, including Western Michigan University.
    • 3.4. Third Party: An individual who is not a student or employee of Western Michigan University.
    • 3.5. Annual Complaint Tracking template: A standardized template to be used by all units for reporting number and frequency of complaints; average time for review, referral, and resolution; and recommendations for improvement.
    • 3.6 Student Complaint Form:  A standardized document students must use to file official complaints.
    • 3.7 Unit: an administrative body, directly subordinate to a vice-presidential division or equivalent that oversees departments and their programs, is responsible for maintaining records, and performs other duties for the University.
  4. Full Policy Details
    • 4.1. The Student Complaint Tracking and Reporting Policy establishes WMU’s structure for handling and reporting student complaints. While Units will be responsible for developing and implementing their specific areas’ procedure for receiving and handling student complaints, this Policy provides the University’s expectation of how such procedures are to be documented and reported.
    • 4.2. Scope
      This Policy does not establish a method to appeal or re-examine a decision made through a University grievance or academic policy, nor does it serve as a replacement for another defined University grievance process. Instead, it is intended to allow the University to take a global review of complaint categories and allow it to make institutional changes where appropriate.
    • 4.3 Complaint Tracking
      • 4.3.1. Units will be responsible for how to review complaints and identify trends that could improve established procedures. Annual reports will be submitted to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness during end of year reporting.
      • 4.3.2 In their student complaint tracking procedures, Units must use two types of forms as described below:
        • Student Complaint form: Individual units may develop and standardize a student complaint form template to track official complaints. At a minimum, the student complaint form must include sections that address:
          • Student contact information for follow up or further information requests;
          • Complaint information including date(s), description of complaint, attempts to resolve the complaint; and resolution requested;
          • Attachments and addendums for additional information that the complainant wants to share;
          • Certification and submission attestations that the information provided is accurate;
          • Permission for disclosure for potential investigation and response; and
          • Resolution Information

          The University has developed a standardized Student Complaint form available from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Units are encouraged to use this form.

        • Annual Report on Student Complaint Tracking template: At the end of each Academic Year (July 1-June 30), units must submit the Annual Report on Student Complaint tracking template. This template includes aggregate data from that academic year on the number and types of complaints, timeliness and type of resolution, and the unit procedures for processing student complaints.
      • 4.3.3. Informal Resolution: WMU encourages concerns be resolved at the level that the concern has arisen (such as between a student and a faculty member) through informal resolution procedures. In this manner, the affected parties engage in discussion about the conflict, which may be facilitated by a third party, and focus on achieving an outcome that is mutually acceptable. In situations where informal resolution procedures do not resolve the issue, the Office of the Ombuds is an available resource that serves as a neutral party to resolve conflicts and provide information on available resources within the University.

        Although the informal resolution option is encouraged, it is not mandatory. An individual may file a complaint within the established Unit or WMU student complaint procedures.

    • 4.4. Implementation: The Annual Report on Student Complaint Tracking template is available from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Vice Presidents will be notified of the reporting Policy and appropriate forms at the beginning of the academic year. Dissemination and procedures for data collection within divisions is at the discretion of the Vice President. Vice Presidents will be responsible for submitting an aggregate report for the division or sub units during the end of year strategic reporting process. A review of the aggregated data for quality improvement at all phases is encouraged, with minutes of meetings documenting the process.
    • 4.5. Communication: Each unit should inform its students of how they may submit complaints. Each unit is encouraged to display student complaint procedures on its website and in pertinent student publications. All department and unit complaint reporting webpages must link to the webpage on Complaint and Grievance systems at WMU.
  5. Accountability
    • 5.1 Pursuant to HLC Policy Number FDCR.A.10.030, the University must “make available an account of the student complaints it has received, its processing of those complaints, and how that processing comports with the institution’s policies and procedures on the handling of grievances or complaints.” The University must document compliance with federal requirements for its reaffirmation of accreditation. Federal compliance requirements for accreditation are not optional and can result in actions being taken against the University.
    • 5.2. Additional consequences for non-compliance include possible individual disciplinary procedures for failure to follow applicable University policies and requirements.
  6. Related Procedures and Guidelines

    In addition to complaint tracking and reporting for quality assurance and accreditation purposes, the University has existing complaint reporting channels that are specific to the type of complaint a student has. These processes provide more individualized results and are not necessarily aimed at high-level organizational review and change. These procedures include but are not limited to:

    • 6.1. Complaints or concerns arising from, the Student Code, should be directed to the Office of Student Conduct, as appropriate.
    • 6.2. The university Ombudsman may also assist with matters related to grade appeals, withdrawals, and program dismissal appeals.
    • 6.3.  Issues related to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) should be directed to the Registrar’s Office.
    • 6.4. Issues related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) should be directed to the HIPAA Privacy and Contact Officer.
    • 6.5. Issues related to human resources and employment matters should be directed to Human Resources.
    • 6.6. Issues regarding research misconduct should be directed to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
    • 6.7. Issues regarding discrimination should be directed to Institutional Equity at
    • 6.8. Issues regarding sexual and gender- based harassment and violence, intimate partner violence and stalking should be directed to the Office of Institutional Equity at
    • 6.9. Issues related to the NCAA, MAC, other athletic conference, or other athletic matters should be directed to the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
    • 6.10. Issues related to work related safety and environmental concerns on campus should be directed to the Environmental Safety and Emergency Management Office.
    • 6.11. Issues related to Public Safety Officers should be directed to the DPS Oversight Committee at
    • 6.12. Issues related to faculty members should be directed to the chairperson/director of the faculty member’s department/school, except as otherwise provided in other WMU’s policy or requirements (such as the WMU Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence, Intimate Violence, and Stalking Policy and Procedures).
    • 6.13. Issues of suspected unethical financial related activity or fraud may anonymously be directed to
  7. Additional Information

    This Policy applies to student complaints only. Employees who wish to make complaints may use the relevant procedures listed above in Section 6 or should refer to the Human Resources’ webpage for more information.

  8. FAQs
    • 8.1. How does this Policy interact with my unit’s procedures and guidelines for documenting complaints?
      Answer: Each unit may establish its own procedures for processing complaints as long as they are able to document the established criteria set forth in this Policy. Each unit must submit an annual report as described in Section
    • 8.2. What is the role of the Office of the Ombuds in handling complaints?
      Answer: The Office of the Ombuds is an excellent resource for identifying and evaluating options to resolve problems. Speaking with the Ombuds is not "notice to the University" of legal or policy violations. Often students will seek advice from the Ombuds privately, before deciding what actions to take in response to a problem. If an individual wants the University to be on notice, that is, formally informed of a particular problem and respond, the Ombuds can help identify what office should be contacted.
    • 8.3.  What if a student does not want to file an official complaint?
      Answer: At the point of conflict, students are encouraged to contact the offices identified in Section 6, to resolve their concerns. However, the student has the discretion of whether to file an official complaint. Note that mandatory reporters are legally required to report certain types of complaints. For more information see:
    • 8.4. What type of information will the University receive through the annual reporting process?
      Answer: Student Complaint tracking reports provide descriptions of unit policy and aggregate data findings. No individual complaint data is revealed. The annual report documents provide evidence of unit-level review, which will be used for quality assurance and compliance reporting purposes.
    • 8.5. Can/will my complaint be anonymous?
      Answer: Student complaints may be submitted anonymously. However, only when individuals provide their contact information can a resolution be provided to the complainant. Anonymous complaints may also be submitted through related topic procedures listed in Section 6 of this policy.


Effective date of current versionJuly 1, 2018
Date first adoptedJuly 1, 2018
Proposed date of next reviewJuly 1, 2021


Certified by

Responsible Enforcement Official
/s/ Jody A. Brylinski
Associate Provost, Office of Institutional Effectiveness
July 24, 2018

At the direction of

The Office of the President
/s/ Edward M. Montgomery
June 25, 2018