Formal complaints to the COA must pertain to matters related to program compliance with accreditation standards and educational policy. Persons, groups, or organizations related to the program are considered recognized complainants and may file a complaint.
The COA is not authorized to adjudicate, arbitrate, or mediate individual faculty or student grievances against a program. Complainants must use all appropriate institutional and professional channels of appeal before filing a formal complaint with CSWE. The institutions in which programs are housed assume responsibility for implementing and enforcing their own policies in these areas. When alleged violations cannot be resolved within the institution, appellate procedures within state systems of higher education or state judicial courts should be used to assess and enforce institutional compliance with policies.
Instructions to File a Complaint
Once you have reviewed all guidelines, please submit a complete complaint form electronically to the Director of Accreditation.
Formal complaints must be submitted in writing to the director of DOSWA with evidence that the complaint meets the following criteria:
- Filing is by a recognized complainant.
- The complaint is accompanied by documentation showing that the complainant has exhausted all appropriate institutional and professional channels for resolution.
- The complaint is related to a possible violation of one or more accreditation standards or educational policies.
- The documentation submitted in the formal complaint must be connected to a possible violation of one or more accreditation standards or educational policies.
- The complainant must provide evidence that the chief administrator of the program named in the complaint was given a copy of the complaint, including all materials submitted to the COA.
Evaluation to Determine if Criteria Have Been Met
On receipt of the formal complaint, the director of DOSWA determines whether the criteria for formal complaints have been fully met and whether the complaint falls within the COA’s authority. If the DOSWA director determines that the complaint does not meet the criteria for formal complaints or is not within the COA’s jurisdiction, the complainant is notified and given specific reasons for the refusal.
If the director determines the complaint meets the criteria for a formal complaint, the complainant and the program concerned are notified. The program has 30 calendar days from receipt of the complaint to respond. The director shares the program response with the complainant, who is given two weeks to respond. The director of DOSWA presents the formal complaint, the program’s response, and the complainant’s response to the COA during its next regularly scheduled meeting and recommends a decision.
The COA may decide to take one of the following actions.
- Find the program in compliance with the accreditation standard or educational policy and dismiss the complaint. If the COA dismisses the complaint, the chair notifies the complainant and the program, stipulating the reasons for the COA’s action.
- Find the program out of compliance with one or more accreditation standards or educational policies and place it on conditional accreditation. The program is placed on conditional accredited status if the COA believes that noncompliance issue(s) can be resolved by the program within 1 year. Conditional status is an adverse decision, and programs may request reconsideration. If the program accepts the COA’s decision, it submits a restoration report.
- Find the program out of compliance with one or more accreditation standards or educational policies and initiate withdrawal of accredited status. The COA initiates withdrawal of accredited status if it believes that the program cannot take corrective action within 1 year. The program is required to work with its accreditation specialist or associate to make arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students and determine the date the accreditation will be withdrawn. The decision to initiate withdrawal of accredited status is an adverse one, and programs may request reconsideration.
- Order a Modified Site Visit. If the COA believes that a program may be out of compliance with one or more educational policy or accreditation standards, the COA orders a modified site visit to collect more information. A visitor is sent, at the program’s expense, to review specific compliance issues. This program is reviewed at the next COA meeting after the site visit.
- Defer action. If the COA finds evidence that the program has made reasonable progress in rectifying the situation, it can defer the decision to a COA meeting within the next year.
- Appoint an investigating committee. If the COA needs more information to make a decision, it will appoint an investigating committee to conduct a confidential investigation with full knowledge and consultation of those concerned. The program pays expenses relating to the investigative visit. The investigating committee reports its findings to the full COA at its next regularly scheduled meeting, and the COA decides if the program is in compliance with the accreditation standards or educational policies in question.