Student Grievance

Number:

1.14 (printable version)

Policy Name:

Student Grievance

Sponsor:

Dr. Christine Kelly-Kleese
Vice President, Student Engagement, Development and Support/Chief Student Services Officer

Custodian:

Student Engagement, Development, and Support

Effective Date(s):

January 2017; September 27, 2019 (Revision)

Next Review Date:

2020-2021

Location:

durhamtech.edu/policies-and-procedures/student-grievance

Citation: 

2A SBCCC 400.10
SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation, 12.4

 

Policy Statement

Durham Technical Community College students have the right to pursue timely, legitimate grievances against employees of the College. Therefore, the College shall establish, publish, and follow a procedure that delineates the rights and responsibilities of the aggrieved party and the College employee against whom a grievance may be lodged.

Procedure

Durham Technical Community College (Durham Tech) has established the following procedures for resolving student disputes with employees, regardless of status (full-time, part-time, temporary, contractual, and work-study students) or role (administrators, faculty, and staff), and volunteers. Refer to the Definitions section of this document for definitions of terms that appear in boldface type.

The student grievance procedure applies to all student issues, including but not limited to academic issues, student services, and administrative concerns. Grievances involving academic issues are limited to concerns related to final course grades and satisfactory completion of instructional program requirements. Students who need additional accommodations at any time during this procedure should contact Accessibility Services staff in the Counseling, Accessibility, and Resources office.

Please Note: Students employed by Durham Tech are considered College employees. Students employed under the work study program are considered College employees if the work performed is for the College. For work performed for any public or private agency, students are also considered College employees unless the agreement between the College and the organization specifies that the organization is considered the employer. Students considered College employees are governed by Durham Tech’s employee grievance procedure during their working hours.

The student grievance procedure may be used by individuals who were Durham Tech students at the time the incident occurred. The individual filing the grievance must be the subject of the alleged unfair treatment that is related to their status as a student. A grievance cannot be filed on behalf of another individual.

Throughout the grievance process, the student is responsible for presenting evidence to support the claim. Students are advised to keep written notes and maintain documentation to provide evidence of compliance with each step of the procedure. All allegations arising from a single incident must be presented in one grievance.

The student grievance procedure includes specific deadlines for pursuing a grievance. Students are required to follow the steps and timeline outlined within this procedure. Issues presented past the deadlines will not be considered unless there are specific, extenuating circumstances. A request for an extension due to extenuating circumstances must be made in writing by the student, employee, supervisor, or dean within the specified timeframe for each step. Requests for deadline extensions must be submitted to the appropriate College official. If extenuating circumstances are present, documented, and supportive of the request, the College official handling the case will determine and communicate in writing to all involved parties an appropriate revised timeline and next steps.

In all cases, College officials (or, in their absence, their designee) will conduct their work within each step of the process as quickly as possible within the ten (10) working-day limit, particularly in cases where a resolution in the case may affect a student’s ability to progress in a particular program.

If College officials determine that the student cannot continue to attend class, participate in clinical experiences, or participate in student activities for a specified period because of the potential for harm to self or others, the Vice President of Student Engagement, Development, and Support, after consultation with other College officials, may issue specific restrictions and will provide the rationale in writing.

If the grievance or appeal involves claims of bias, discrimination, or harassment at any time in the process, the College official handling the grievance will coordinate with the Special Assistant for Equity and Inclusion. The Special Assistant will have up to ten (10) working days to complete the initial fact-finding assessment and determine whether to open a Title VI or Title VII investigation. If a Title VII investigation is opened, the Title VII Grievance Investigations procedure will be followed from that point on. If not, the case will move back to the College official handling the grievance.

If the grievance or appeal involves a claim of sexual misconduct at any time in the process, the matter must be forwarded immediately to the Title IX coordinator, who will review the situation and determine within ten (10) working days of the notification whether to open a Title IX investigation. If a Title IX investigation is opened, the procedures supporting the Sexual Misconduct policy will be followed from that point on. If not, the case will move back to the College official handling the grievance.

Prohibition on Retaliation

Retaliation against any person participating in good faith in connection with a grievance or complaint is strictly prohibited. Violations will be addressed through these procedures and/or other applicable College disciplinary procedures. Any person who feels that they have been subjected to retaliation should make a report to a College official. Students employed by the College may refer to the Whistleblower policy for additional information.

Prohibition on Providing False Information

Durham Tech places great importance on the integrity of its policies and procedures. False complaints can cause irreparable harm to the College community, regardless of the outcome of an investigation. Accordingly, any individual who knowingly files a false report or complaint, knowingly provides false information, or intentionally misleads College officials will be subject to disciplinary action.

Grievance Process

Step 1. The student meets with the employee with whom they have the concern within six working days of the incident.This conversation should be an informal attempt on the part of the student to resolve the issue. Both parties should document the facts and possible outcome for their own records. If the student is not satisfied that the concern has been addressed, or if the student has documentation of having attempted to contact the employee without getting a response, the student may move to Step 2.

Step 2. The student meets with the employee’s supervisor to discuss the grievance within ten (10) working days of the meeting with the employee. Following this additional informal conversation, all parties should document the facts and possible outcome for their own records. If the student communicates to the supervisor that the issue is not still unresolved, the supervisor provides the student with information about the formal grievance procedure, which begins with Step 3.

Step 3. The student submits the formal Student Grievance Form within ten (10) working days of the meeting with the supervisor. If the student feels that the conversation with the employee and their supervisor did not resolve the issue, the student should initiate the formal grievance procedure. The student is encouraged to meet with a counselor in the Counseling Services office for assistance with the following tasks:

  • Identifying the specific issues involved in the grievance;
     
  • Reviewing the procedure and strategies for meeting the requirements of each step;
     
  • Developing verbal and written approaches appropriate to the grievance and in compliance with the student grievance procedure;
     
  • Determining when immediate support and other assistance is necessary, especially if the matter involves claims of discrimination or sexual misconduct; and
     
  • Completing the Student Grievance Form;
     
    1. The student completes the electronic form documenting the dates of any meetings and prior discussions held to resolve the grievance.
       
    2. Within ten (10) working days from the meeting with the supervisor, the student submits the form and any accompanying documentation. The form is routed directly to the Vice President of Student Engagement, Development, and Support (or, in their absence, their designee).
       
    3. Within ten (10) working days of receipt of the form, the Vice President of Student Engagement, Development, and Support (or, in their absence, their designee) logs the formal grievance and determines whether the student has met the guidelines outlined in this procedure. If the guidelines have been met, the Vice President creates the official case and assigns it to the appropriate College official and notifies the appropriate Vice President. If the guidelines have not been met, the grievance is denied and an explanation of the rationale for the denial is communicated in writing to the student. If the issue raised by the student is not appropriately handled by the grievance procedures, the Vice President may refer the student to other procedures for adjudication.
       

Step 4. Within ten (10) working days of receiving a grievance, the college official investigates the case to determine whether the concern meets the guidelines for being heard. If so, the College official notifies the employee and supervisor that a grievance has been filed, requests a written response, and monitors the process through the subsequent steps. If not, the college official denies the grievance and responds in writing to the student explaining the rationale for the denial.

Step 5. The employee and supervisor submit a written response to the College official within ten (10) working days of receiving the notification from the College official. The College official uploads this documentation and adds it to the official case file.

Step 6. The College official discusses the official grievance case with the student within ten (10) working days of receipt of the written responses noted in Step 5 and shares the information gathered regarding the case. Both parties should document the conversation and possible outcome for their own records. The College official will determine the appropriate resolution within ten (10) working days of the discussion and will communicate the decision to the student, employee, appropriate supervisor, appropriate Vice President, and the Vice President of Student Engagement, Development, and Support. The decision of the College official is final except in the circumstances outlined in the appeals procedure. All records of formal grievances are stored in the College’s secure case management and tracking system.

Appeals

If the student believes that exceptional circumstances justify reconsideration of the decision made by the department head, the student may file an appeal. An appeal should not be pursued if the student simply disagrees with the decisions made during the grievance procedure. The discovery of new evidence not presented in the initial grievance and/or an allegation of serious bias or discrimination at some level of the student grievance procedure and/or documentation showing that the grievance policy was not properly followed by the College are allowable exceptional circumstances.

To request an appeal, the student follows these steps:

Step 1. Within ten (10) working days of the date of the written decision in the grievance case, the student files a written appeal with the assistance of a College counselor, who will have access to the appeal form available via the College’s secure case management and tracking system. The appeal is sent within the system to the Vice President of Student Engagement, Development, and Support who routes the form to the appropriate Vice President.

The student must work with a Counseling Services counselor to provide a clear explanation of what qualifies the grievance for an appeal based on the College’s definition of exceptional circumstances. The student should be as specific as possible and attach documentation to support their appeal request. The name of the counselor assisting the student is required on the appeal form.

Step 2. Upon receipt of the appeal, the appropriate Vice President reviews the appeal based on the College’s definition of exceptional circumstances. If they determine that the grievance is not eligible for appeal, they communicate that decision to all involved parties and close the case within ten (10) working days. If they determine that the grievance is eligible for appeal, they conduct an appeal investigation and render a final decision within ten (10) working days of receiving the appeal. During this time, the appropriate Vice President has the option of requesting further meetings with any party involved in the grievance if they feel that such conversations will aid in their ability to reach a final decision. The Vice President sends a copy of the decision to the student, employee, College official, and Vice President of Student Engagement, Development, and Support via the College’s case management and tracking system. The decision is final. No further appeal is available after the Vice President renders a final decision.

All records of the appeal are documented and maintained in the College’s secure case management and tracking system.

Confidentiality

The College will make every reasonable effort to protect the confidentiality of information received in connection with a student grievance report and its related investigation; information related to a case will be shared on a need-to-know basis only. College administrators will, however, share information, as appropriate and necessary, in order to address and resolve the concerns at issue and prevent the recurrence of similar situations. There may be instances where it is the College’s ethical and legal responsibility to disclose information regarding the circumstances related to a specific grievance, depending on the nature of the allegation. Should this be the case, the student will be notified prior to the information being released.

Definitions

Academic Issues – Issues and concerns involving final course grades or satisfactory completion of instructional program requirements

Additional Accommodations – Assistance for students requiring language or interpretation assistance, disabilities accommodations, or alternate arrangements for online/distance learning students

Appeal – The process for requesting further consideration of a grievance case decision when the student or employee believes there were exceptional circumstances that affected the decision. An appeal should not be pursued if either the student or the employee simply disagrees with the decisions made during the grievance process.

Appropriate Vice President – The Vice President responsible for the division within which the involved employee works

Bias – A tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others; usually results in unfair treatment

College Official – A College employee who serves in one of the following roles: President, Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff, Vice President, or Chief of Police; for the purposes of this policy, “College Official” also refers to the roles of Executive Director or Dean.

Discrimination – Any act or failure to act that unreasonably and unfavorably differentiates treatment of others based solely on their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sex, age, disability, genetic information, and veteran status. Discrimination may be intentional or unintentional.

Exceptional Circumstances – The discovery of new evidence not presented in the initial grievance; an allegation of serious bias or discrimination at some level of the student grievance process; and/or documentation showing that the College did not adhere to the grievance policy

Extenuating Circumstances – Documented medical illness, death of a family member, or work or family situations that significantly interfere with normal life functions

Formal – A formal grievance may commence when informal communication regarding an incident has not led to resolution, and the student files an official Student Grievance Form. All formal grievances are documented in the College’s secure case management and tracking system.

Harassment – Severe, pervasive, and offensive behavior that negatively affects another’s access to an educational opportunity or other college benefit

Incident – The situation or circumstance that the student perceives as grievable

Informal – Of, or related to, communication regarding an incident when it is at the inquiry stage and open to resolution without the filing of a formal grievance

Working Days – Days the College is open and operating under a normal schedule. This excludes weekends, closings due to adverse conditions, and holidays.

Sexual Misconduct – Any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including any conduct or act of a sexual nature perpetrated against an individual without consent. Sexual misconduct can occur between strangers or acquaintances, including people involved in an intimate or sexual relationship. Sexual misconduct can be committed by men or by women, and it can occur between people of the same or different sex. Sexual misconduct also includes complicity in sexual misconduct. Refer to the Sexual Misconduct policy for additional information.

Student Grievance Form – The electronic form, available via the College’s website, a student uses to formally register a complaint with the College about matters such as academic issues, student services or administrative concerns, and discrimination or harassment

Title IXTitle IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Title IX Coordinator – The College employee responsible for coordinating the College’s efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in all operations, as well as prohibiting retaliation for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Title IX. The Title IX Coordinator oversees the College’s response to reports and complaints that involve possible sexual discrimination to monitor outcomes, identify and address any patterns, and assess effects on the campus climate so the College can address issues that affect the wider community; and develops sexual misconduct-related education and training programs.