1.2.6. Appeals of COA Decisions

The following COA decisions are adverse actions and are eligible for appeal.

  • Deny Candidacy Status
  • Remove from Candidacy Status
  • Deny Initial Accreditation
  • Place the program on Conditional Accredited Status
  • Initiate withdrawal of Accredited Status

If a program receives an adverse decision, the COA provides two appeals procedures: reconsideration and panel review. Reconsideration must be completed before moving to the panel review.


Programs may challenge an adverse decision if, in the opinion of the program, the COA’s decision is arbitrary, capricious, or violates procedures. The program’s written request to the director of OSWA must be made within 30 days following its receipt of notice of the adverse action (all adverse decision letters are certified).

A request for reconsideration must relate to the conditions that existed in the program at the time of the COA’s adverse action and state specific reasons why the reconsideration should be granted.

When reconsideration is requested, the director of OSWA sets the date and time for the hearing and appoints a reconsideration committee of three commissioners. The program may send, at its own expense, the program’s chief administrator, program faculty members, and representatives from the institution. Legal counsel, students, or other interested parties are not permitted to attend.

The reconsideration committee reviews the documentation on which the COA based its decision and any written or verbal clarifying information the program provides. No new documentation is considered. The reconsideration committee makes one of three decisions:

  1. Uphold the original COA decision. If the reconsideration committee believes that the original COA decision was correct, it decides to uphold the original decision. The program will then respond as originally required in the original COA decision letter.
  2. Revise the decision. If the committee believes that the COA decision was in error, the committee may revise the COA decision and issue a letter with the revised decision and instructions to the program regarding the next step it should take.
  3. Uphold the original decision and revise the decision. The committee may uphold the COA decision based on the original program documentation and revise the decision as a result of the clarifying information provided by the program at the reconsideration hearing.

The COA’s decision is reported in writing to the institution’s chief executive officer and the chief administrator of the social work program. If the program accepts the decision of the committee, it is expected to follow the instructions contained in the letter informing the program of the adverse decision. If the program does not accept the decision of the reconsideration committee, it may request a panel review. An accredited program retains its accredited status until all appeals have been exhausted.

Panel Review

The final appeal for the program is a panel review, which is an independent consideration of the COA’s decision. The program’s written request for a panel review must be made within 30 days of receipt of the COA’s certified letter upholding an adverse decision. If the program fails to respond within 30 days, it waives the right to further review. The program requests a panel review if, after the reconsideration findings are presented, it believes the COA’s action was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with the COA accreditation standards or procedures; or the COA action was not supported by substantial evidence in the record.

The panel will review evidence in the record, including documentation and witness statements directly related to the COA’s adverse action and the reconsideration hearing. The record includes the program’s self-study or candidacy documentation, any additional material submitted to the site team or commissioner, the report of the commissioner or site team chair, the program’s response to the commissioner or site team report, the COA decision letter detailing the adverse decision; and materials from the reconsideration hearing.

Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the panel review request, the chair of the Commission on Accreditation appoints a chair and two or more review panel members from the list of active certified site visitors. Members of the review panel may not include current members of the COA or former commissioners serving at the time of the COA’s adverse action. The chair of the review panel specifies the time and place of the review. All costs related to the panel review are paid by the program. These include any legal expenses of the COA, travel and accommodations for the review panel and participants in the proceedings, reproduction of materials presented at the hearing, and other related expenses.

The Executive Director of DOSWA submits the record to the review panel and the program’s written request, including additional evidence challenging the COA’s procedures or its facts. The chair of the review panel presides at the review hearing and rules on procedure, conducting the hearing in a manner that allows the program a fair opportunity to present its case and explain its position without resort to formal rules of evidence. The program may be represented by counsel during the hearing, and counsel may question any witnesses who speak at the hearing. Review panel members may question any witnesses or parties to the appeal.

After considering the record, the review panel may make either of the following determinations:

  1. uphold the COA action, or
  2. remand the decision back to the COA for further consideration.