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Grievance Policy (policy review excerpt)

The Grievance Policy as written does not comply with OCR standards. Pursuant to 34 C.F.R. 104.7(b) of the regulations implementing Section 504 postsecondary institutions are required “to adopt and publish a grievance procedure providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints.”  There must be clear identification of the procedure to be used to address all complaints of disability based discrimination.  Additionally, proper due process must also be provided including: identification of responsible officials; adequate, reliable and impartial investigation of complaints; the opportunity of complainants to present witnesses and evidence; designated and reasonably prompt timeframes for the major stages of the process; and notice of the outcome to all parties. (See Harvard University, No. 01-07-2035 (OCR 04/15/2008); Loyola University Chicago, No. 05-05-2139 (OCR 05/01/2006); and California Western School of Law, No. 09-06-2097 (OCR 09/01/2006)).

The College’s procedure has a number of serious deficiencies, including:

  • It requires students in disputes with faculty or administrators to first attempt to resolve the problem through the accused party –While the policy purports to present informal complaint resolution as an option that students can choose to use, in actuality the manner in which it is discussed and the strong language used arguably make it anything but a voluntary option for students. Examples of the directive type language used includes: “students should talk with their instructor first to address a concern”; “It is strongly recommended and expected that the student first discuss…”; “Student should first discuss the situation with the College employee involved…”; “the student will be directed…”; “encouraging further discussions between student grievant…”. Nothing about this language conveys to students that the informal process is permissive and they have every right to immediately file a formal complaint. OCR has consistently ruled that students should be permitted to request an investigation of their complaint without first being required to mediate the dispute through the accused party.” Loyola University Chicago, supra. 
  • There is no indication of  steps the individuals identified to manage the resolution process will use to settle the disputes or disagreements –Beyond identifying the administrators to manage the different stages of the formal process, there is little or no information provided as to the methods or specific steps the individuals will use to address a student’s complaint. 
  • The timeframes given for important major stages in the process are unclear –Although there are timeframes given for initiating stages, it is unclear how long a number of the stages will take.
  • There is no evidence that an impartial investigation of the matter will be conducted –While there is an opportunity for the College employee to submit a written response, there is no indication that students are provided the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence during the initial review. It is important to note that the first deliberative stage of the formal process leaves the processing of the complaint totally to the discretion of the reviewing administrator. It is significant that an initial determination is made at this stage without even a requirement that a full review of all pertinent information be conducted.