Higher Learning Commission

Policy Title: Appeals

Number: INST.E.90.010

An institution may appeal an adverse action of the Board of Trustees, prior to the action becoming final by filing a written request to appeal following the appeals procedures of the Commission. Adverse actions are defined as those that (1) withdraw or deny accreditation, except in denial of accreditation where the Board denies an early application for accreditation and continues candidate for accreditation status or extends it to a fifth year, (2) withdraw or deny candidacy, or (3) moves the institution from accredited to candidate status.

Grounds for Appeal

The grounds for such an appeal shall be (a) that the Board's decision was arbitrary, capricious, or not supported by substantial evidence in the record on which the Board took action; or (b) that the procedures used to reach the decision were contrary to the Commission's By-laws, Handbook of Accreditation, or other established policies and practices, and that procedural error prejudiced the Board's consideration. The appeal will be limited to only such evidence as was provided to the Board at the time it made its decision.

Appeals Body and Appeals Panel

The Appeals Body will consist of ten persons appointed by the Board of Trustees, following the Board's commitments to diversity and public involvement. From the Appeals Body, the President will establish an Appeals Panel of five persons to hear an institutional appeal. Members of the Panel will include no current members of the Board of Trustees nor members of the Board at the time the adverse action was taken; Panel members shall have no apparent conflict of interest as defined in Commission policies that will prevent their fair and objective consideration of the appeal. One member of the Appeals Panel will be a public member, in keeping with Commission requirements for public members on decision-making bodies. Members of the Appeals Panel will receive training prior to the Appeals Panel hearing. The Appeals Panel will receive appropriate training regarding its responsibilities and regarding the Criteria for Accreditation, Assumed Practices and Federal Compliance Requirements and their application.

The Panel shall convene on a date no later than 16 weeks from the Board decision under appeal. At least one representative of the public shall serve on each Panel. Where necessary to avoid conflict of interest or in other exceptional circumstances, the President may select individuals outside the Appeals Body as Panel members. One member of the Panel will be designated as the chair. The President shall notify the institution of the individuals selected for the Panel and shall afford the institution the opportunity to present objections regarding conflict of interest; the President reserves final responsibility and authority for setting all Appeals Panels. The Appeals Panel shall include representation of individuals who are academics, including faculty members, academic deans or others who have a primary responsibility in the teaching and learning process, and administrators who have a primary responsibility of providing oversight in an institution of higher education.

The Board of Trustees shall approve an APPEALS PROCEDURE that identifies the materials for, and sets out the required timetables and procedures of, an appeal. This document will be available on the Commission Web site. Throughout the appeals process, the institution shall have the right to representation of, and participation by, counsel at its own expense.

The Appeals Panel has the authority to make a decision to affirm, amend or reverse the adverse action. The Appeals Panel then conveys that decision to the Board of Trustees, which must implement the Appeals Panel’s decision regarding the status of the institution in a manner consistent with the decision. The Appeals Panel also has the authority to remand the adverse action to the Board of Trustees for additional consideration with an explanation of its decision to remand; the Board of Trustees may affirm, amend or reverse its action after taking into account those issues identified by the Appeals Panel in the explanation of its remand. The Commission will notify the institution of the result of the appeal and of the final action by the Board of Trustees and the reason for that result.

Academics and Administrators

The Commission will assure that on the Appeals Body and each Appeals Panel there is representation of individuals who are academics, including faculty members, academic deans or others who have a primary responsibility in the teaching and learning process, and administrators who have a primary responsibility of providing oversight in an institution of higher education.

The staff of the Commission will be responsible for developing selection criteria and for implementing a nomination process to assure such representation on the Appeals Body subject to review by the Board of Trustees when it elects IAC members. The President of the Commission will be responsible for assuring such representation on each Appeals Panel.

Conflict of Interest

The Commission will not knowingly allow to participate in an appeal any Appeals Panel member whose past or present activities or relationships could affect his/her ability to be impartial and objective in that appeal. Therefore, an Appeals Panel member must agree to act with objectivity and without conflict of interest when reviewing an appeal. An Appeals Panel member confirms agreement to abide by this policy in a Statement of Conflict of Interest, Confidentiality, and Disclosure provided annually to the Appeals Body and to a Panel member prior to hearing an appeal. This Statement will identify situations involving conflict of interest and provide examples of situations that raise the appearance or potential of conflict of interest. The Statement will require that the Panel member affirm prior to participating in an appeal that he/she has no conflicts, predispositions, affiliations or relationships known to that Panel member that could jeopardize, or appear to jeopardize, objectivity and indicate his/her agreement to follow this policy. If an Appeals Panel member has such conflicts, predispositions, affiliations or relationships that he/she believes or, the Commission determines, constitute a Conflict of Interest, that Panel member must withdraw from the appeal.

Confidentiality

An Appeals Panel member agrees to keep confidential any information provided by the institution under review and information gained as a result of participating in an appeal. Keeping information confidential requires that the Panel member not discuss or disclose institutional information except as needed to further the purpose of the Commission’s decision-making processes. It also requires that the Panel member not make use of the information to benefit any person or organization. Maintenance of confidentiality survives any action and continues after the process has concluded. (See PEER.A.10.040, Standards of Conduct, for a list of examples of confidential information available to IAC members.)

Submission of Financial Information Subsequent to Adverse Action

When the Board of Trustees takes an adverse action based solely on or involving financial grounds, the institution shall have an opportunity to submit financial information to the Board of Trustees to be considered prior to the action becoming final. The financial information must be: 1) significant and material to the financial deficiencies cited in the grounds for the adverse action; 2) not available at the time of the adverse action. The institution may submit this material on one occasion only prior to the formal consideration of any appeal filed by the institution. The Board of Trustees will determine at its sole discretion whether the information is significant and material, and, if it is material, whether this information would cause it to take a different action. The Board’s decision whether the information is significant and material and whether to continue with its action subsequent to reviewing this material is final and not appealable.

An institution may submit financial information under this policy in addition to filing an appeal or it may submit financial information instead of, or in lieu of, filing an appeal. Should it submit financial information and forego requesting an appeal by the deadline stated in the APPEALS PROCEDURE, it shall also submit a formal waiver in writing of its right to appeal in conjunction with the adverse action.

The APPEALS PROCEDURE identifies the materials for, and sets out the required timetables and procedures of, submission of financial information. This document shall be available on the Commission’s Web site.

Institutional Change During Appeal Period

During the period in which an appeal from a decision of the Commission by an institution is under consideration, the institution cannot initiate any change that would by policy require Commission approval.


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Policy History

Last Revised: April 2013
First Adopted: February 2001, February 2009, January 1983
Revision History: October 2003, June 2006, February 2009, June 2009, February 2010, February 2011, November 2012, April 2013
Notes: Policies combined November 2012 - 2.6(d), 2.6(d)1, 2.6(d)2, 2.6(d)3, 2.6(d)4

Policy Number Key

Section INST: Institutional Policies

Chapter E: Sanctions, Adverse Actions, and Appeals

Part 90: Appeals

Related Procedures

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