Divisive Concepts Complaint Procedure
In accordance with the Tennessee Higher Education Freedom of Expression and Transparency Act, students and employees may file an internal complaint if APSU has engaged in conduct prohibited by T.C.A. §49-7-1903.
Institution of Higher Education Prohibitions
Specifically, T.C.A. §49-7-1903 prohibits an IHE from the following:
- A student or employee of a public institution of higher education shall not be penalized, discriminated against, or receive any adverse treatment due to the student's or employee's refusal to support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon, or otherwise assent to one (1) or more divisive concepts;
- A student or employee of a public institution of higher education shall not be required to endorse a specific ideology or political viewpoint to be eligible for hiring, tenure, promotion, or graduation, and institutions shall not ask the ideological or political viewpoint of a student, job applicant, job candidate, or candidate for promotion or tenure; and
- A public institution of higher education shall not require an applicant for employment or admission to submit a personal diversity statement or to affirm the applicant's agreement with an institutional diversity statement as part of the application or admissions process.
Filing a Report
A student or employee of APSU who believes that a violation of T.C.A. §49-7-1903 has occurred may file a report of the alleged violation. APSU will investigate the report and take appropriate steps to correct any violation that is found to have occurred utilizing the following procedure:
- Complainant must complete a Divisive Concept Alleged Violation Report Form. (Complainant
must be a student or employee.)
- The complaint must be complete upon filing, with attached relevant documentation so that the complaint can be fully evaluated.
- The complaint must be filed no later than 30 calendar days after the end of the semester in which the alleged violation occurred.
- The complaint will be evaluated by the Senior Vice Provost (SVP)/Associate Vice President
(AVP) for Academic Affairs to determine whether the complaint alleges that the institution
has engaged in conduct prohibited by T.C.A. 49-7-1903.
- If a report is unfounded, within fifteen (15) business days, the SVP/AVP will notify the complainant that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
- If Complainant does not submit enough evidence to determine whether a violation occurred, the complaint will be dismissed.
- If the complaint properly states a claim, the SVP/AVP will forward the complaint to the Faculty and Staff Grievance Committee.
- The Faculty and Staff Grievance committee will hear the complaint and may, in its
discretion, ask for complainant and respondent to submit additional evidence. The
investigation and hearing will be conducted in accordance with APSU Policy 1:017 for
complaint resolution; specifically, as follows:
Upon referral of the complaint to the Committee, a panel consisting of three members and an alternate from the Standing Grievance Committee will be convened to hear the complaint. The Committee will conduct an impartial hearing on the complaint, at which it will accept and review all pertinent information presented by the complainant and the respondent as well as any other information it deems appropriate. The hearing will include either an in-person or virtual meeting with the complainant. The Committee will make a thorough and independent study. The Committee may call before it any personnel or witnesses whom it feels may have information pertinent to the complaint. The committee will utilize the preponderance of the evidence standard.
- The committee is charged with making a clear determination as to whether the alleged
prohibited conduct is protected under the following exceptions:
- Infringe on the rights of academic freedom of faculty and other instructors;
- Training students or employees on the non-discrimination requirements of federal or state law; or
- Infringe on the rights of freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.
- Require an employee to: 1) violate any federal or state law, rule or regulation, or 2) fail to comply with any applicable academic accreditation requirement.
- Prohibit APSU from promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in an effort consistent with State law.
- If the committee finds that the conduct is not covered under a stated exception and determines that a violation of TCA 49-7-1903 has occurred, the appropriate supervisor will use the report, in consultation with either Policy 2:066 Faculty Discipline and Performance Improvement Policy or 5:029 Discipline Procedures for Staff Employees the Faculty, to implement suitable corrective action.
- The chair of the Faculty and Staff Grievance Committee will issue a report of findings to the complainant, respondent, SVP/AVP, the employee’s supervisor, and the Office of Legal Affairs within ten (10) business days. The report will be based on full and fair consideration of all the facts and circumstances. The report will also contain a summary of the panel's investigation and findings. The decision of the Faculty and Staff Grievance Committee will be final and not subject to appeal.
NOTE: APSU is required to report violations and any corrective action annually to the comptroller of the treasury through the comptroller's office of research and education accountability. A report submitted to the comptroller will be redacted, if necessary, to ensure compliance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g); § 10-7-504; and all other relevant privacy laws.