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Student Grievance Procedure

Purpose

Durham Technical Community College faculty and staff attempt, in good faith, to resolve complaints and problems as they arise. However, if a matter remains unresolved, the purpose of the student grievance procedure is to provide a process for resolving student complaints against faculty and staff. This procedure applies to all student complaints, including but not limited to academic issues, student services or administrative concerns, or matters involving any form of discrimination or harassment. Grievances involving academic issues are limited to final course grades and satisfactory completion of instructional program requirements.

Policy

Durham Technical Community College students have the right to pursue timely, legitimate grievances against other members of the college community. Therefore, the administration shall establish, publish, and follow a procedure that delineates the rights and responsibilities of the aggrieved party and the college employee or student against whom a grievance may be lodged. The procedure shall provide for adequate time to investigate allegations, for individuals to present information or evidence in support of their positions, and for any party directly involved in a grievance to pursue an appeal of an adverse decision. In the matter of all grievances involving students, the final decision rests with the president or his or her designee.

Procedure

The Student Grievance Procedure involves three distinct levels. During Level One, the student is required to make the attempt to resolve the matter directly with those involved. During Level Two, the process includes the completion of the Student Grievance Form and a review and decision by the department head. During Level Three, the complaint is reviewed by the executive dean and, if found acceptable for continued grievance, is brought before a committee for a hearing. During the entire process, the burden of proof rests with the student making the complaint. Students are advised to keep written notes and maintain documentation to provide evidence of complying with each level of this process. 

The process involves specific deadlines for pursuing a grievance. Complaints presented past the deadlines are not considered unless there are specific, extenuating circumstances which made pursuing the complaint by the deadline extremely difficult. Extenuating circumstances include but are not limited to medical illness, death of a family member, or work or family situations that have significantly interfered with normal life functions. Should these extenuating circumstances be present and documented, it is expected that the student would have initiated the grievance process as soon as possible after resolving the extenuating circumstances. 

Additional Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations are provided for students who may need additional assistance with alternate arrangements during the grievance process. Students requiring additional language facilitation or interpretation due to limited written or oral English proficiency skills may request additional assistance from the Center for the Global Learner located in the Nathaniel B. White Building, room 58, or call 919-536-7221 for more information. Students requiring accommodations due to a disability may request additional assistance from the Counseling, Student Development, and Activities office located in the Phail Wynn Jr. Student Services Center, room 1309, or call 919-536-7207, ext. 1413, for more information.

Students who are enrolled in online courses or distance education programs may request that meetings be conducted by alternate arrangement. Grievance procedure meetings may be held with students or employees attending in person at the specified meeting location, with students or employees attending the meeting by electronic means such as a conference telephone call to the specified meeting location, or by a combination of students or employees attending in person and students or employees attending by electronic means such as a conference telephone call to the specified meeting location.

Level One: Instructor, Staff Member, and Supervisor Review

The first level of the procedure involves an initial meeting with the faculty or staff member and a second meeting with the appropriate administrative supervisor of the employee with whom the student has a complaint. During these meetings, the student bears the responsibility of clearly explaining the concern and providing evidence that the complaint is justified.

Although not required at this level, students may elect to meet with a counselor from the Counseling, Student Development, and Activities office prior to meeting with the faculty or staff for guidance in identifying the issues involved in the complaint, strategies for preparing for the meetings, and information about alternative mediation strategies. If a student elects to receive counseling assistance or pursue alternative mediation strategies during this time period, the timeframe required to complete Level One of this procedure is still in effect. Counselors are located in the Counseling, Student Development, and Activities office located in the Phail Wynn, Jr. Student Services Center, room 1309. Students may call 919-536-7207, ext. 1413, for more information. 
   
The specific steps within Level One are as follows:

  1. The student meets with the faculty or staff member. The student must first attempt to resolve the matter by meeting with the person with whom the student has a grievance, specifically the instructor or staff member. This first attempt at a resolution must be held within five working days after the occurrence of the incident being grieved.
  1. The student meets with the faculty or staff member’s supervisor. If the matter is not resolved with the faculty or staff member, the student must meet with the appropriate discipline chair, program director, or direct supervisor within five working days after the initial meeting with the faculty or staff member.

If the student complaint involves clear claims of discrimination or harassment, the student may elect to begin the grievance process at Level Two.

Level Two: Department Head’s Review

If the matter is not resolved at the first level or if the complaint involves clear claims of discrimination or harassment, the next level of the procedure involves a meeting with a counselor, the completion of the Student Grievance Form, and the review by the department head. The Student Grievance Form must be filed within 20 working days after the occurrence of the incident being grieved. The specific steps of Level Two are as follows:

  1. The student meets with a counselor. To initiate Level Two, the student must meet with a counselor in the Counseling, Student Development, and Activities office located in the Phail Wynn, Jr. Student Services Center, room 1309. Students may call 919-536-7207, ext. 1413, for more information.  Counselors will provide a copy of the Student Grievance Form and will assist students by providing the following:
    • Guidance in completing the Student Grievance Form;
    • Help in clearly identifying the specific issues involved in the complaint;
    • Counseling on the steps of the process and strategies for preparing for each level;
    • Assistance in developing verbal and written approaches in the spirit and intent of the Student Grievance Procedure; and
    • Options for receiving immediate support and other assistance, especially if the matter involves claims of discrimination or sexual harassment.
  2. The student completes the Student Grievance Form. The Student Grievance Form must be signed by the student and filed with the department head responsible for supervision of the faculty or staff member against whom the grievance has been made within 20 working days after the occurrence of the incident being grieved.
    • The student must clearly document the dates of the meetings and summarize the discussions held in Level One of the process unless this level was not required due to claims of discrimination or harassment.
    • The student must provide copies of the completed Student Grievance Form to the counselor, faculty or staff member, appropriate direct supervisor, and department head.
    • If the student requests an extension of the filing period, the department head may require evidence justifying the delay as a condition for continuing the grievance procedure. Examples include but are not limited to medical illness, death of a family member, or extenuating work or family circumstances.
  1. The faculty or staff member submits a response. Upon receipt of the Student Grievance Form, the faculty or staff member has 10 working days to complete, sign, and deliver a written response to the grievance to his or her department head. Copies of the written response must be made available by the faculty or staff member to the student, counselor, direct supervisor, and department head. The faculty or staff member may request an extension of the response time for extenuating circumstances, including but not limited to medical illness, death of a family member, or extenuating work or family circumstances.

  2. The department head reviews and communicates a decision. The department head will consider the student’s grievance and the faculty or staff member’s response and render a written decision within five working days of the receipt of the faculty or staff member’s response. Copies of the written decision will be provided to the student, counselor, faculty or staff member, and direct supervisor. The department head may request an extension of the response time for extenuating circumstances, including but not limited to medical illness, death of a family member, or extenuating work or family circumstances.

Level Three: Executive Dean and Division Head Review

If the student wishes to appeal the decision rendered by the department head, the third level of the procedure involves a determination by the executive dean as to whether the dispute may continue to be grieved. If so, a grievance committee is formed to hear the grievance or an investigator is appointed to review the complaint.

  1. The student files an appeal with the executive dean. To continue the grievance process, the student provides copies of the original Student Grievance Form, the faculty or staff member’s response, and the written decision rendered by the department head to the executive dean within 10 working days of the decision rendered by the department head. Upon receipt of this documentation, the executive dean reviews the complaint in view of the college's mission, goals, policies, rules, and procedures as stated in the college Catalog and Student Handbook and in other institutional and program documents to determine if the complaint or dispute is eligible to continue to be grieved.
    • If, in view of these provisions, the executive dean determines that the complaint is not eligible for continued grievance, the executive dean provides the student and all other involved parties with a letter explaining this conclusion within five working days of receiving the appeal documentation. A decision by the executive dean concerning whether the matter is eligible for continued grievance cannot be appealed further.
    • If, in view of these provisions, the executive dean determines that the complaint is eligible for continued grievance, the executive dean refers the matter to a hearing by the grievance committee within five working days of receiving the appeal documentation.
    • If, in view of these provisions, the executive dean determines that the complaint is eligible for continued grievance and the dispute involves claims of discrimination or harassment, the executive dean refers the matter to the college’s affirmative action officer or the president’s designee for a full investigation within five working days of receiving the appeal documentation. Complaints or disputes involving claims of discrimination or harassment are not presented to a grievance committee. The investigation of the complaint is conducted by the college’s affirmative action officer and the president’s designee and completed within 15 working days after the referral from the executive dean. Upon conclusion of the investigation, a written report is completed and provided within five working days following the investigation to the division head responsible for the supervision of the faculty or staff member against whom the grievance has been filed. The written report is confidential and is not shared with the student, staff or faculty member, program director, or department head. For the next step, see step 4 of Level Three.
  1. The student presents the grievance to the grievance committee. If the complaint or dispute is determined to be eligible for continued grievance and proceeds to the hearing phase, the division head who is responsible for the supervision of the faculty or staff member against whom the grievance has been filed appoints a grievance committee of not more than nine persons and composed of faculty, student services and administrative staff, and at least one student.  
    • The purpose of the grievance committee is to hear the grievance within 15 working days after the review of the executive dean. The “Guidelines for Student Grievance Hearings,” which are the procedural guidelines for the hearing as established by the Academic Standards, Policies, and Curriculum Committee, are provided to all parties prior to the hearing by the executive dean.
    • One of the members of this committee is appointed as chair by the division head. The chair schedules all committee hearing meetings. 
    • Faculty and instructional support staff serving on the grievance committee are selected from a pool of persons identified for this purpose. The Student Senate identifies a list of three students available to sit on grievance committees. A separate committee is appointed for each grievance.
    • The executive dean and a counselor from the Counseling, Student Development, and Activities office remains present during the hearing to respond to inquiries concerning procedural guidelines.

  2. The grievance committee makes a written recommendation. After the hearing, the committee deliberates in executive session. The committee makes a written recommendation to the division head within five working days after the conclusion of the hearing. The written recommendation is confidential and is not shared with the student, faculty or staff member, program director, or department head.

  3. The division head renders a decision. The division head responsible for the supervision of the faculty or staff member against whom the grievance has been filed considers the committee's or investigator’s recommendation and makes a decision that is fair to all parties and consistent with the mission and relevant objectives of the college and its instructional programs. The division head makes a final decision and responds in writing to all parties explaining the decision within five working days of receiving the written recommendation from the investigator or the grievance committee.

Exceptional Circumstances

If the student, faculty member, or staff member believes that exceptional circumstances justify reconsideration of the decision made by the division head, the student, faculty member, or staff member may request that the president review the matter. The president does not review the matter if either the student or the faculty or staff member simply disagrees with the decisions made at each level of the process. Examples of exceptional circumstances must include serious claims of bias or discrimination at some level of the student grievance process.

The request for the president’s review must be presented in letter form to the president within five working days after receipt of the division head’s decision. The letter to the president must explain clearly the nature of the exceptional circumstances.

If the president finds exceptional circumstances present, the president or his or her designee investigates and reviews the decision of the division head. No further appeal is available after the president has rendered a final decision.

 

Source: 2013-2014 Catalog and Student Handbook

 


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