COMPLAINTS RELATED TO ACCREDITATION REQUIREMENTS
ABHES reviews complaints against an accredited institution or program, or an applicant, that provide credible information to indicate that the institution or program is not in compliance with the accreditation standards set forth in the Accreditation Manual. If a complaint raises a question of possible violation of these requirements, the institution or program will be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint in accordance with the procedural requirements below. If a violation is found, ABHES will take appropriate action. ABHES maintains all records of complaints received against institutions or programs.
- Submission process. All complaints and supporting documentation must be submitted using the ABHES online complaint system at https://complaintsabhes.com. ABHES reviews complaints that are accompanied by documentation and set forth facts and circumstances in sufficient detail to permit an effective response from the institution or program.
- Documentation. The complaint should include all of the following:
- A narrative section for each complaint type.
- The accreditation standards and requirements published in the current ABHES Accreditation Manual that are germane to the complaint.
- Evidence of efforts to resolve the complaint through the institution or program’s internal grievance procedures, or explanation that such efforts would be unproductive.
- Any additional supporting documentation.
- Anonymous complaints. ABHES accepts anonymous complaints but will require the institution or program to respond only if, in the absence of the identity of the complainant, it can be determined that the allegations constitute a possible violation of accreditation requirements. When the identity of the complaint is a material fact necessary to permit the institution or program a full and fair opportunity to respond or the lack of identity of the complainant makes it impossible to determine with reasonable certainty that a violation of accreditation requirements may have occurred, then the anonymity of the complainant may be a basis for dismissing a complaint. Anonymity may also prevent ABHES from communicating with a complainant and obtaining information that may be required for the complaint’s resolution.
- Requests for confidentiality. Complainants may request that ABHES withhold their identity from an institution or program named in the complaint. ABHES will review the complaint but, in its discretion, may not be able to process a complaint where the identity of the complainant is a material fact necessary to determining whether a violation has occurred or is needed to permit the institution or program a full and fair opportunity to respond to the complaint allegations.
- Scope. The scope of the ABHES complaint process relates specifically to the standards set forth in the Accreditation Manual. ABHES will not intervene on behalf of individuals in cases of personnel action, and will not review an institution or program’s internal administrative decisions in such matters as admissions decisions, academic dishonesty, assignment of grades, or similar matters unless the context of an allegation suggests that unethical or unprofessional conduct or action may have occurred that may raise questions about the institution or program’s compliance with an ABHES standard or accreditation requirement. If the complaint falls outside of ABHES’ scope, the complainant may be referred to the appropriate regulatory agency or entity with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint.
ABHES accepts, actively researches, and responds to complaints that are submitted within a reasonable amount of time following the last event that is material to the complaint, typically one year. ABHES may elect not to investigate a complaint if it is received after this timeframe. ABHES will investigate a complaint if it alleges conduct or circumstances that present an ongoing risk to students or faculty or threaten the academic quality of the institution’s programs.
- Referrals to other agencies. ABHES may refer complaints and/or complainants to appropriate federal, state, or private agencies with jurisdiction or special expertise that is relevant to the complaint where compliance with ABHES standards or other accreditation requirements is not central to the complaint. In these instances, ABHES may exercise its discretion to provide a copy of the complaint to the subject institution or program.
- Conflict of interest. ABHES’ conflict of interest policy apply to the investigation and resolution of complaints.
- Complaint review and assessment. Within 15 business days of receipt of the complaint, ABHES will assess whether the complaint states a possible violation of accreditation requirements. For the purposes only of this initial assessment of the complaint, ABHES will accept facts alleged in the complaint as true. If more information is needed to assess the complaint, and the identity of the complainant is known, ABHES will request it from the complainant, who then must provide the information in order for ABHES to continue the complaint process. A complaint that lacks sufficient detail to permit an institution or program to respond effectively will be dismissed and the complainant so notified.
- Initial complaint closure. If the complaint does not allege a violation of accreditation requirements or fall outside of the scope of the ABHES complaint policy, ABHES will inform the complainant and the file will be closed. The complainant may request in writing that a decision to close the complaint at this stage be reviewed by the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee will consider such request within 30 days and will either affirm the decision to close the complaint or reopen the complaint and direct the institution or program to respond. The complainant will be notified of this decision.
- ABHES response. ABHES will forward the complaint to the institution or program for a response if the allegation(s) could potentially constitute a violation of accreditation requirements. ABHES will also provide a summary of possible violations of accreditation requirements based on its analysis of the complaint. This summary is not to be taken as comprehensive or conclusive since ABHES may determine, during the course of further review, that there is evidence of non-compliance with other accreditation requirements not included in the original summary.
- Institution/program response. The institution or program must respond directly to the complaint and provide any specific information or documentation requested by ABHES. The institution or program will be provided no more than 30 days from the date of the ABHES letter to respond to the complaint. The response should be structured as follows:
- deny the allegation(s) of the complaint and present evidence to the contrary
- acknowledge the allegation(s) of the complaint and demonstrate the allegation(s) do not constitute violation(s) of accreditation requirement(s), and/or
- accept the allegation(s) and document the actions taken to assure that the violation has been corrected and will not occur in the future.
- Response assessment. Within 15 business days of receipt of the response, ABHES will determine whether it appears more likely than not that there is a violation of an accreditation requirement. ABHES may request additional information from either the complainant or respondent if it believes such information is necessary to the resolution of the complaint and will reevaluate the response after the institution or program has had an opportunity to submit such additional information.
- Action and notification. The following actions may apply to complaints that have been fully reviewed through the ABHES complaint procedure:
- No violation. If it appears there is no violation of accreditation requirements, ABHES will inform both the complainant and the respondent that the complaint has been closed.
- Evidence of compliance. If it appears there was a violation of an accreditation requirement and the institution or program has demonstrated it has taken sufficient corrective action to come into compliance, ABHES will inform both the complainant and the respondent that the complaint has been closed.
- Possible violation. If it appears more likely than not that there may be a violation of an accreditation requirement and the institution or program has not demonstrated sufficient corrective action, or if the complaint review reveals non-compliance of a more systemic nature, the matter will be referred to the Executive Committee for action and the institution or program will be notified of the referral. Within 30 days of receipt of a referral, the Executive Committee will:
- determine that there is no violation and dismiss the matter
- request additional information from the institution or program
- order the institution or program to take specific actions to bring it into compliance,
- issue a show cause order, or
- refer the complaint to the Commission for action which may include a show cause directive, program specific warning, or withdrawal of accreditation.
- In all cases, the complainant and the respondent will be notified of the final disposition of the complaint.
COMPLAINTS AGAINST ABHES
ABHES reviews complaints against ABHES in a timely, fair, and equitable manner, and applies unbiased judgment to take follow-up action, as appropriate, based on the results of its review. The Commission maintains all records of complaints received against ABHES.
The process for complaints against ABHES is as follows:
- Submission Process. All complaints against ABHES must be submitted using the ABHES online complaint system at https://complaintsabhes.com.
- If the complaint pertains to ABHES staff or any ABHES representative, the written complaint may be addressed to the Executive Director directly at email@example.com or mailed to the ABHES office located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 730, North Bethesda, Maryland 20852.
- If the complaint pertains to the Executive Director, the written complaint must be addressed to the Chair of the ABHES Commission.
- Documentation. The complaint must state in narrative format the specific allegations in sufficient detail and with sufficient supporting documentation to permit understanding of the nature of the complaint.
- Review and assessment. The complaint and its supporting documentation will be reviewed within 30 days of receipt by ABHES. Thereafter, the reviewer(s) will act to gather any additional relevant information.
- Action and notification. The reviewer(s) will issue a decision on the complaint. Notice of the decision will be provided to the complainant.