As role models for students, university professors are held to a high standard of behavior. When professors don't live up to that standard, colleges use an internal judicial process to deal with formal complaints. Each university sets guidelines for the complaint procedure, including any required steps before filing, the type of complaints you can report and how you file the paperwork. A complaint is usually valid when you think the professor has acted in a way that violates the university code of conduct or is otherwise unethical or wrong. Following the proper procedure expedites the process for a faster resolution.
Write down all of the details you can remember about the act that warrants your complaint. Try to remember the date and time of the occurrence, where it happened, the names of any witnesses to the professor's action and what you have done, if anything, in response to the professor's transgression.
Gather evidence that supports the complaint. For instance, if the professor harassed you by email, print out the emails. If you feel you were given an unfair grade, gather assignments, tests and papers you have that were used to come up with your grade.
Review your university's policy on filing a formal complaint. Verify that your issue falls under the judicial process. For example, if you simply don't agree with the professor's teaching methods or feel that he is a tough grader, the college won't likely follow up on the complaint. Some colleges require you to try an informal resolution -- usually meeting directly with the professor in question -- before filing a formal complaint. You may have the option of skipping this step if the situation is severe, such as a case of sexual harassment.
Contact the Office of Student Affairs, or your university's equivalent, and ask them how they prefer to receive the complaint. If you aren't sure where to turn, contact your academic adviser or the department head. They may have an official complaint form for you to fill out or they may ask you to write your own memorandum. Write your complaint in the preferred format and try to maintain a neutral tone in the narrative. While you are likely emotional, sticking to the facts is likely to get a better response.
Submit your complaint to the Office of Student Affairs. Inquire how to follow up on the progress of your complaint and what you should expect to come of the complaint. Comply with any requests for further evidence or information so your complaint isn't dismissed.
James McElroy began his journalism career in 2001 and his stories have appeared in newspapers around the world, including "The Columbus Dispatch" and "The Star-Ledger." He studied journalism at the E.W. Scripps Graduate School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.