Here are some of the “advantages” to pursuing a grievance request or legal action:
1.  Your request could to be approved and you would be able to do what you intended to do.
2.  You may feel more empowered.
3.  You may be able to make faster progress.
4.  You could gain the reputation as a student who holds the university accountable for their published guidelines and therefore receive what I would call “informal VIP status” as a student.

This happened at the University of Nebraska about three years ago when a student had her final dissertation approved by the chairperson and disapproved strongly by two other committee members. It happened that the chairperson was a relatively new faculty member and the other two members were tenured experienced faculty. She was sent a letter of dismissal from the Dean. After obtaining legal counsel she had her attorney submit a written grievance to the university. Her position was that she had followed the guidance from her chairperson throughout the dissertation process. Since the chairperson had approved the final draft, it was incredulous to her that the other two committee members could disapprove the final draft.

I believe the ombudsman and administration were both involved in the negotiations and they decided in her favor. The university gave her a new committee and chairperson. The chairperson worked hand-in-hand with her for about six months to re-condition her original design and used her original data. She ultimately completed her dissertation and graduated. You’ll notice that the threat of legal action alone seems to have been instrumental in gaining a second chance for her at the university.

Here are some “disadvantages” to pursuing your grievance request or legal action:
1.  Legal action can be expensive.
2.  You could alienate the committee and administration.
3.  It could take weeks or months to receive a decision.
4.  You could be perceived as a malcontent and responses in the future (for transcripts) could be lengthy.
5.  You could be perceived as making “a mountain out of a molehill.”
6.  You could risk the goodwill that you have really established with the committee and the university, since you are an excellent student and your
design has great merit.

 

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