Student Complaint Process
The purpose of The Culinary Institute of America’s (the CIA’s) Student Complaint Policy is to describe the processes available for use by Students to make complaints; for the timely review, investigation, resolution, and appeal of such complaints; for communications with Students who make complaints; and for related record-keeping. Student Complaints that are covered elsewhere by CIA policies and procedures, such as complaints concerning sexual harassment, discrimination, grades, or student conduct, however, are exempt from this policy and governed by the CIA’s HSMD Policy, the CIA’s academic policies, and the Student Code of Conduct, respectively. This Student Complaint Policy promotes informal resolution as a first step, while providing fair and consistent formal processes for use when informal means fail to resolve a Student’s concern. This policy is intended to meet the requirements of federal financial aid laws and regulations, state authorization reciprocity agreements, and accreditation standards.
The Culinary Institute of America (the CIA) has established processes for use by Students to make complaints; for the timely, prompt, and equitable review, investigation, resolution, and appeal of such complaints; for communications with Students who make complaints; and for related record-keeping. The CIA requires Students first to try informal means to resolve their concerns with the appropriate CIA Employee. If the outcome is not satisfactory to a Student, he or she should use the appropriate channel available under the Student Complaint Policy for the type of complaint to be addressed. The CIA will communicate the results of its review of a complaint with the Student in a timely manner, whenever possible, within sixty (60) days of receipt of the complaint. The CIA complies with related periodic reporting requirements. The CIA Student Complaint Policy does not govern Student complaints about sexual harassment, discrimination, grades, or Student conduct; these are governed by the HSMD Policy, the Student Code of Conduct, and academic policies.
For state authorization regulatory purposes of determining the State in which each Student enrolled in a Distance Learning program is located, the CIA may use any rational basis designed to meet administrative purposes, including the Student’s residential (home) address, as provided by the Student at the time of initial enrollment and, if applicable, upon formal receipt of information from the Student, in accordance with the CIA’s procedures, that the Student’s location has changed to another state.
The authority for establishing this policy rests with the Office of the President and the President’s Cabinet.
Complaint: A written allegation made by a currently enrolled or former Student alleging that the CIA has violated a law, regulation, accreditation standard or requirement, CIA policy, or SARA policy, standard or requirement.
Complainant: A currently enrolled or former Student who files a Complaint.
Distance Education: Instruction offered by any means where the student and faculty member are in separate physical locations. It includes, but is not limited to, online, interactive video and correspondence courses or programs. For SARA purposes, Distance Education includes limited activities conducted for short periods with students and faculty in the same location, such as short residencies.
Employee: see definition in the CIA Policy on Policies.
NC-SARA: National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, the oversight body for SARA participating states and institutions.
Policy: Organization-wide directives that mandate requirements of, or provisions for, members of the CIA community, including procedures to assist with their implementation that are created and adopted in accordance with the CIA Policy on Policies, current Student Handbook and College Catalog.
Policy Owner: The Cabinet Member who has direct responsibility for oversight of the CIA Policy.
Portal Entity: The state agency or other state body designated by each SARA member state to serve as the interstate point of contact for SARA questions, complaints and other communications. The CIA’s Portal Entity is the New York State Department of Education.
Procedure: A series of action steps related to a policy that specifies how a particular process should be completed. Procedures include information on who, what, when, and where of the policy.
Provost: The individual who holds the title of Provost for the CIA, and, in cases of the Student Complaint Policy, will be their designee at any time the Provost is not available.
SARA: State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, a voluntary agreement among its member states and U.S. territories that establishes comparable national standards for interstate offering of postsecondary distance-education courses and programs. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by postsecondary institutions based in another state. The CIA is a member organization of NC-SARA, and its home state of New York is a member state of NC-SARA. As of the current version of this Student Complaint Policy, all 49 states, excluding California, participate in SARA. SARA applies solely to distance education activity across state lines. SARA has established its own complaint-resolution policies and procedures for use by Students. Only those complaints resulting from distance education courses, activities, and operations provided by SARA-participating institutions to students in other SARA states come under the scope of SARA. Complaints about a SARA institution’s in-state operations are to be resolved under the state’s normal provisions, not those of SARA.
Student: See definition in the CIA Policy on Policies.
The following processes are available for handling Student Complaints that are not covered elsewhere by CIA policies and procedures, such as complaints about sexual harassment, discrimination, grades, or student conduct matters.
The processes set forth below should be approached sequentially, beginning with Step 1.
Step 1 – Informal Resolution
A Student wishing to have a Complaint addressed should first seek an informal resolution by engaging in a dialogue with the relevant CIA Employee.
Step 2 – Formal Process
A currently enrolled or former Student wishing to submit a Complaint must submit it in writing, using the online CIA Hot Line if possible. If a Complainant does not have access to the Internet, the written Complaint should be marked Confidential and addressed to:
Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park NY 12538
All submissions must include:
- A written description of the specific problem, issue, or situation that led to the Complaint;
- A reference to the law, regulation, policy, standard, or requirement allegedly violated;
- A summary of steps taken towards resolution of the matter with the appropriate CIA administrator; and
- Additional supporting documentation if applicable.
The Legal Advisor will review all submissions for completeness and may in their discretion meet with the Complainant and/or relevant individuals to address any questions regarding the information submitted by the Complainant or to request missing information.
If it is determined that the Complainant has not completed Step One of the Student Complaint process under this policy, the Legal Advisor will advise the Complainant in writing about appropriate steps to follow to attempt to resolve the matter informally.
The Legal Advisor will present all complete submissions to the Provost of the CIA for review. At this stage, the Legal Advisor will notify the Complainant in writing that the Complaint is under investigation and review.
Upon investigation and review, if the Provost determines that the Complaint is unsubstantiated and/or does not involve a violation under this Policy, the determination will be documented, the Complaint will be closed, and the Hot Line database updated by the Legal Advisor.
Upon investigation and review, if the Provost determines that the Complaint is substantiated, reasonable steps will be developed to address the finding.
Any changes to a CIA Policy must go through the process found within the CIA Policy on Policies.
The Legal Advisor will attempt to notify the Complainant of the results of the Complaint in writing within 60 business days of initial receipt of the Complaint.
The Legal Advisor will enter the appropriate resolution of the matter in the CIA Hot Line database and will close the case.
The Provost at their sole discretion may overturn the outcome and/or sanction if it is deemed that the conclusion may have been altered by the findings identified by the working group charged with researching the allegations contained in the Complaint.
Step 3 – Formal Processes Beyond the CIA
Students who wish to pursue their Complaint beyond the outcome achieved through Step 2 or who are not able to file a Complaint with the school, may file a Complaint with one or more of the following entities:
Students of the CIA’s Distance Education courses, except those living in California, wishing to pursue a Complaint that does not pertain to grades or student conduct matters may appeal the outcome of Step 2 within two years of the incident to the SARA Portal Entity in the CIA’s home state of New York at the following contact information:
Supervisor of Higher Education Programs
New York State Education Department (NYSED)
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234
NYSED will notify the Complainant’s home state SARA entity of its receipt of the appealed Complaint. A Complainant may also contact the SARA portal entity of his or her home state which may work with NYSED to resolve the issue. Contact information for all participating state, territorial and district portal entities may be found at the NC-SARA website.
General-purpose laws enforced by state or federal law enforcement agencies shall not be affected or superseded by any provisions of SARA. States must report Complaint histories to NC-SARA and as appropriate to affected accrediting agencies. Only those complaints resulting from distance education courses, activities, and operations provided by SARA-participating institutions to students in other SARA states come under the scope of SARA. Complaints about a SARA institution’s in-state operations are to be resolved under the state’s normal provisions, not those of SARA.
Tracking Student Complaints
Monthly, the Legal Advisor will provide the CIA Office of Accreditation and Assessment and the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness with a written report indicating the number and type and status of Complaints in the CIA Hot Line.
The Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness will track and maintain records of the number, type, and resolution of Student Complaints in accordance with reporting requirements.
The CIA shall maintain records related to Student Complaints under this policy according to the CIA Record Retention policy, federal and state laws, regulations, accreditation standards or requirements, or SARA requirement. In the event of a conflict of standards, the longer time period shall apply.
Responsible Cabinet Member
Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education Programs (Online Learning) – the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education– Standard II, Ethics and Integrity
34 CFR 602.16 – Accreditation and preaccreditation standards
34 CFR 600.9(a)(1) – State authorization
SARA Manual 21.1 (May 28, 2021), Sections 4.3 (Example of Consumer Protection Issues), 4.5 (Process for Resolving Complaints) and 4.6 (Oversight of Complaint Investigation)
Policy Advisory Committee (PAG) Approval to Proceed:
11/1/18; 12/19/19, 9/29/22
Cabinet Approval to Proceed: