Grievance Hearing Procedures for Students

  • Most students believe they have been treated fairly by the College and by any and all individuals representing the College. The Student Grievance Process is a way for a student to remedy the rare situation where a student feels they have been treated unfairly, and have not be able to obtain justice in any less formal manner. Southeast Community College is dedicated to a policy that all grievances relating to students at the college, including grade appeals, will be handled fairly and equally without regard to race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, veteran status, political affiliation, sexual orientation or other non-merit factors. Nothing in this policy prevents a student from discussing a complaint informally with any appropriate College employee.

    The purpose of a Student Grievance procedure is to secure, at the lowest level possible, equitable and timely solutions to problems that may arise. Grievances may be addressed through an informal or formal procedure and apply to academic and non- academic student grievances, including student complaints. All students have the right of Due Process and fairness in filing and resolving grievances concerning restriction of rights or misapplication of College policy, including, but not limited to:

    • Disciplinary action
    • Grade appeals/disputes
    • Financial aid
    • Americans with Disabilities Act Reasonable Accommodations

    A grievance may be withdrawn by the student at any time during the Grievance Process.

    Grievance Definitions and Expectations

    Academic Grievance:
    An academic grievance is an appeal of a dismissal from an academic program not in accordance with college or program policy. An academic grievance must be based on at least one of the following: arbitrary and/or capricious action on the part of the faculty member including dismissal from a program on some basis other than performance in the course or program and compliance with policy; application of standards different from those that were applied to other students in the same course or program; or dismissal from a program not in accord with the program standards.

    Non-Academic Grievance:
    A non-academic grievance is a formal dispute between a student and a college employee about the understanding and/or application of the policies and procedures of the campus or college that negatively affects the student. A non-academic grievance may be based on one of the following claims: the decision made was made on unreasonable grounds or without any proper consideration of circumstances by a college employee or administrative office; the policy or procedure was applied unfairly and/or in a different manner than it was applied to others; an administrative error was made in the application of the policy or procedure.

    Grievant:
    The grievant is the student who files a grievance.

    Respondent:
    The respondent is the faculty or staff member whose decision or action is the subject of the grievance.

    Disciplinary action:
    Action taken by a College staff member in response to a student violation, misapplication, or non-application of a College rule or policy.

    Days:
    Shall be defined as days that the College is in session (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.)

    Board of Governors:
    Refers to the Board of Governors of Southeast Community College.

    Protocol

    Time Limits:
    Every effort will be made to settle grievances promptly. Time limitations specified in this policy may be extended by written, mutual agreement. If there is no written mutual agreement to extend the time limits, and if the student fails to appeal to the next level within the specified time limits, the grievance will be deemed settled on the basis of the last decision rendered. If the College fails to act on a grievance or to notify the student of the decision at any level within the specified time limits, the student will be permitted to appeal to the next level within the time that would have been allotted had the decision been communicated within the appropriate time limit.

    Retaliation Prohibited:
    Retaliation against a grievant or witness for filing or participating in the investigation of a grievance is prohibited. Retaliation is any overt or covert act of reprisal, interference, restraint, penalty, discrimination, intimidation, or harassment against one or more individuals for exercising their rights (or supporting others for exercising their rights) under this policy. The college will investigate any reports of retaliation and take appropriate action as necessary.

    Confidentiality:
    All actions taken to resolve grievances through this process will be conducted with as much privacy, discretion and confidentiality as possible without compromising the thoroughness and fairness of the process. All persons involved are to treat the process with respect.

    Reasonable Accommodations:
    Students needing reasonable accommodations to access or participate in the grievance process should contact the Disability Services office at their campus location for additional information and assistance.

    Use of Legal Counsel:
    Grievance Hearings are administrative in nature and present an opportunity for both sides to present and/or clarify facts. Neither party will be allowed the presence or use of legal counsel at any stage of the Grievance Hearing. However, if the student is concurrently facing criminal charges generated by the same incident that resulted in the disciplinary action, the student would be allowed the right of passive, inactive assistance of counsel during the hearing and appeals procedure.

    NOTE:
    Legal counsel may not speak on behalf of the student or in his/her place. When the student is allowed to use legal counsel to provide passive assistance, the College also retains the right to have legal counsel present to provide passive assistance.

    Grievances/Appeals Involving Suspension OR Dismissal

    Students who are scheduled for a Grievance Hearing involving Suspension or Dismissal from class or College activities will generally be allowed to continue attending classes, remain on campus and attend College events/activities until the Grievance Hearing is completed.

    However, when it is determined by College Administration (e.g. Dean of Students, Campus Director, or the President) that continued attendance presents reasonable concerns regarding issues of student/staff safety, health or welfare; attendance will be restricted until after the Grievance Hearing Committee has made a determination and issues a recommendation concerning attendance.

    Informal Grievance Procedures

    An attempt should be made by both parties to resolve the grievance in a timely fashion and at the lowest possible level of involvement.

    Within ten (10) days from the date the grievant could have reasonably gained knowledge of the alleged misapplication or non-application of College rules or policies, The student must communicate with the involved participants, including, but not limited to, instructor, the program chair, the division dean, or the involved staff as a first attempt to resolve the grievance informally.

    Students are encouraged to seek resolution of the grievance through the informal process. If the grievance is not resolved at this level, the Formal Grievance Procedure may be initiated.

    Formal Grievance Procedure

    The Formal Grievance Procedure is available to all currently enrolled students of the College in an attempt to provide equitable solutions to concerns and problems that may arise and is initiated if the Informal Grievance Process has not resulted in a satisfactory/ acceptable resolution.

    1. Within five (5) days from the date the Informal Grievance Process is concluded, the student must complete and submit to the Campus Dean of Students the Student Grievance form. Forms can be obtained from the Dean of Students.
    2. The Campus Dean of Students will, within five (5) days, or on a date mutually agreed upon by the Dean and grievant, appoint a minimum of five (5) members to the Grievance Hearing Committee. A Grievance Hearing Committee may include, but is not limited to:
      • The Campus Dean of Students (ex officio)
      • Program chair
      • Instructional staff
      • Student Senate representative
      • Support staff
      • Administrative staff
      • Other individuals deemed appropriate and/or necessary as determined by the Dean of Students
    3. The following guidelines will serve as a basis for Grievance Committee Meetings and Hearings:
      1. The student is permitted to appear in person to review the complaint. Such a request must be indicated on the Student Grievance Form.
      2. The employee(s) against whom the student has filed a grievance will be invited by the Committee Chairperson to present information relating to the student-filed grievance.
      3. Committee members, the student and other participants will receive copies of the formal grievance when deemed appropriate by the Dean of Students or Committee Chairperson.
      4. The student will be notified in writing of the date, time and place of the hearing via either U.S.P.S. Registered Mail with Return Receipt Requested OR delivered in person to the student with the student signing his/her signature acknowledging receipt of the response. Email communication may be used if agreed upon by the student and Dean of Students.
      5. Hearings are not open to the public or to College staff unless invited by the Committee Chairperson to participate.
      6. Participants will be excused after their statements are given and questioning has ended.
      7. The Committee Chairperson may make any reasonable decisions necessary to advance the hearing forward, to limit the amount or nature of information presented by participants, and to safeguard the confidentiality of statements given at the hearing. Specific procedures will be explained by the Committee Chairperson prior to the beginning of the meeting or hearing. (Note: The Committee Chairperson may exclude from the meeting or hearing any persons who fail to comply with the procedures or rulings of the Committee Chairperson.)
      8. The student may have witnesses and an advisor of their choice, who have specific personal knowledge of the situation being grieved, to be selected from faculty, staff or student body of the College. (See “Use of Legal Counsel” for exception to these guidelines.) In no instance will another person be permitted to speak independently for the student or in their place.
      9. Students are responsible for notifying their selected advisors and/or witnesses. Prior to the hearing, the student must inform the Committee Chairperson whether the selected advisor(s) and/or witness(es) will attend the hearing.
      10. If the student fails to appear at a scheduled hearing, and has not requested that the hearing be rescheduled and provided a reasonable basis for doing so, the committee may, at its discretion, proceed on the basis of available information.
      11. An audio recording will be made of the information presented, and a copy of the recording will be made available to the student grievant if requested.
      12. After hearing the information provided by the student and other participants concerning the grievance, committee members will discuss the grievance in closed session.
      13. A separate audio recording will be made of the Committee discussion after the student grievant and the other participants have been excused. (This separate audio recording will be filed under confidential cover with the appropriate SCC employee(s) if the student grievant requests an Appeal Hearing following the steps outlined in the Grievance Appeal Process.)
      14. The Committee shall review and consider the information presented and consult with appropriate College staff as necessary and appropriate. After review and consideration, the committee may decide to: a.) uphold the action taken; or b.) grant the remedy requested by the grievant; or c.) select an alternative resolution.
      15. A decision requires a simple majority vote of the committee members present. However, a minimum of five (5) committee members must be present and available to conduct a vote.
    4. Within five (5) business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) that the College is in session, from the date that the hearing was conducted, a written response shall be prepared by the Committee Chairperson and sent to the student grievant. The response will be delivered to the student via either U.S.P.S. Registered Mail with Return Receipt Requested OR delivered in person to the student with the student signing his/her signature acknowledging receipt of the response. The response shall include: a. the committee’s determination; b. next step in the Grievance Appeal Process; and c. the name, address and contact information for the next step in the appeal process.
    5. Copies of the decision/response to the student shall be sent under confidential cover to those against whom the grievance was filed, the Vice President for Student Services, Grievance Committee Members, Campus Director, and College Vice President that the department the grievance pertained to (e.g. Instruction, Technology, Student Services)
    6. If the student grievant requests an Appeal Hearing following the steps outlined in the appeal process, the Grievance Hearing Committee Chairperson shall forward all grievance materials, information and audio recordings to the next SCC employee(s) identified in the appeal process.
    7. If the student grievant does not appeal, all grievance-related documents and recordings shall be retained and filed in the Dean of Students’ Office.

    Process to Appeal Grievance Hearing Committee Decision

    1. Appeal to the Vice President

      If the student is not satisfied with the decision of the Grievance/ Disciplinary Hearing Committee, the student may file a written request for a Grievance Appeal Hearing with the College Vice President that the domain of the grievance pertained to (Instruction, Technology, Student Services), as identified by the committee. The request must be filed within five (5) days of receiving the Grievance Hearing Committee’s decision. The Grievance Hearing Committee Chairperson shall forward all grievance materials, information and audio recordings to the appropriate College Vice President if the student grievant requests an Appeal Hearing following the steps outlined in the appeal process. The appropriate College Vice President will hold the Appeal Hearing requested within twenty (20) days of the date the request was received. The student will be notified in writing of the date, time and place of the hearing via either U.S.P.S. Registered Mail with Return Receipt Requested OR delivered in person to the student with the student signing his/her signature acknowledging receipt of the response.

    2. Appeal to the College President

      If the decision of the appropriate Vice President/Campus Director is not satisfactory to the grievant, the grievant may request in writing within five (5) days an Appeal Hearing with the College President. The College President will hold the Appeal Hearing request within twenty (20) days of the date the request was received.

      The student will be notified in writing of the date, time and place of the hearing via either U.S.P.S. Registered Mail with Return Receipt Requested OR delivered in person to the student with the student signing the notice acknowledging receipt of the response.

    3. Appeal to the Board of Governors

      Only matters involving a student’s Suspension or Dismissal from the College may be appealed to the Board of Governors. If the decision of the College President is not satisfactory to the grievant, the grievant may request in writing within five (5) days an Appeal Hearing with the Board of Governors. The hearing before the Board of Governors will be held as scheduled by the Board Chair. The Board will conduct the Appeal Hearing within twenty (20) days of the date the request was received. The student will be notified in writing of the date, time and place of the hearing via either U.S.P.S. Registered Mail with Return Receipt Requested OR delivered in person to the student with the student signing the notice acknowledging receipt of the response.

    4. External Avenues for Redress

      In the event the grievant filing an appeal is not satisfied with the decision of the College, the grievant may wish to explore avenues of redress external to the College.