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Policy on Student Complaints

Student Complaint Process Overview

Purpose

The complaint process is designed to resolve problems for students who are having difficulties with college faculty or staff that are not related to disciplinary action, sexual harassment, disability issues, or discrimination. Specific policies exist to address all of these concerns--See SVC's Student Rights and Responsibilities paper booklet or web site for details.

Process Support Persons

Support persons are available to assist you with the complaint process in the Counseling and Career Services Center on the Mount Vernon Campus or in the Student Services Office on the Whidbey Island Campus.

Record keeping

If your complaint is not resolved in the first few steps (see below for details) and reaches the Grievance Review Committee, the office that oversees the committee process will keep a single record of your complaint and all relating documents. Records related to student grievances are private as they are a part of your educational record so only those involved in the process will have access to them.

What to do if you have a concern/complaint:

Step 1: Discuss your situation with someone within 30 working days. If you have a concern about a staff person or faculty member, you should initially discuss it with him or her. Most often, student concerns can be heard and resolved at this level. If this conversation feels difficult for you to face alone, you may bring a college support person with you. To discuss your situation with a support person, contact the Counseling and Career Services office on the Mount Vernon Campus at (360) 416-7654 or the Whidbey Island Campus Student Services office at (360) 679-5319.

Although you are encouraged to discuss the problem with a designated support person from the counseling office, you may initially contact someone on staff with whom you are comfortable and whom you trust. If your concern isn't resolved by direct conversation, proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Discuss your situation with a department chair. If you are unable to resolve your concern with the faculty or staff member involved, the next step is to talk to his or her immediate supervisor who is most likely the head of a department. Your college support person can provide you with contact information for the appropriate supervisor. At this point, you should complete the Student Grade Complaint form if your complaint meets the criteria listed in step 3 below. If, after discussing the incident with the person directly involved and his or her supervisor, you decide that you want to go no further with the complaint, it will be dropped. If your concern is not resolved, proceed to step 3.

Step 3: Meet with a college dean/associate dean. If you wish to go ahead with your complaint, you should schedule an appointment with the administrator who supervises the department about which you have a concern. Be sure to bring all of the supporting documents and information you need in order to fully describe your concern to the dean. After your meeting, he or she will send you a letter summarizing the resolution that has been reached. In appropriate cases, you will be informed of your right to file a petition to have your complaint heard before the grievance review committee.

If the resolution is not satisfactory to you and you have been informed that your complaint falls into the following categories, proceed to step 4.

  1. Alleged deviation from course grading policies as specified in the syllabus;
  2. Alleged errors in applying grading procedures;
  3. Alleged lowering of grades for nonacademic reasons, including discrimination;
  4. Alleged sex and/or disability discrimination in accordance with procedures described in WAC 132D-120-270.

Step 4: Turn in your completed Grade Complaint Form to have your grievance heard by the Grievance Review Committee. The form will ask you to document who you have talked to so far, the nature of the concern, and what resolution you are looking for from the committee. Once you have turned in your form to the Registrar's office, you will be contacted to schedule a hearing. You will be asked if you would like to bring a support person with you or if you want to attend alone.

The grievance hearing isn't intended to be intimidating to you or anyone else involved. It is a fact finding meeting in which you will have a chance to share your concerns. The person with whom you have the concern will most likely be there or his or her department will be represented so his or her perspective will be heard. The committee may choose to meet with you together or separately depending on the case. If you bring a support person, his or her role will be to remind you of the process or of something you may forget as you present your information. She/he is not there to represent you or to present your case for you. The Grievance Committee will forward its findings and recommendations to the Executive Vice President of Instruction and Student Services who will decide on a resolution in your case. If this resolution is not satisfactory to you, your final appeal can be made to the College President as outlined in step 5.

Step 5: Write a letter to the College President asking that the Vice President's decision be reconsidered. Your letter should include any reasons why you feel the decision should be overturned. The president will consider your statement along with all of the information the committee and vice president used in their decision-making process. You will be notified of the president's final decision in writing.

The United States Department of Education (USDOE) requires that institutions provide current and prospective students with contact information for filing complaints with its accrediting body and the appropriate state agency for handling complaints.Skagit Valley College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (http://www.nwccu.org/).  If you feel that your concerns have not been adequately addressed by the college, you can file a complaint with the Northwest Commission by mail at 8060 165th Ave. NE Suite 100 Redmond, WA 98052 or by telephone (425) 558-4224.  The College is regulated by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (http://www.sbctc.edu) which you can reach by mail at PO Box 42495 Olympia, WA 98504-2495 or by telephone (360) 704-4400.

Students wishing to file a complaint regarding the loss of tuition and fees as the result of an unfair business practice against an institution that is authorized by the Higher Education Coordinating Board should submit a request to dainfo@hecb.wa.gov for the appropriate form.

Note: The above overview is a brief description of the Complaint policy. The full policy includes important information with which you should be familiar including mandatory process timelines and specific procedures. You can find the full written policy in the Student Policies Handbook section of the SVC web site.

Student Complaint Policy

WAC 132D-120-230 Student complaints
WAC 132D-120-240 Complaints excluded from this section.
WAC 132D-120-250 Initial complaint
WAC 132D-120-260 Complaint procedure.
WAC 132D-120-270 Grievance procedure—Sex and disability discrimination
WAC 132D-120-280 Grievance review committee procedures.
WAC 132D-120-290 Final decision regarding process review‑-Extra-institutional appeals.
WAC 132D-120-300 Nature of grievance proceedings
WAC 132D-120-310 Withdrawal of grievance
WAC 132D-120-320 Administrative, faculty and staff grievances.
WAC 132D-120-330 Prior Rules
WAC 132D-120-340 Severability
WAC 132D-120-350 Effective date of the rules of conduct.

WAC 132D-120-230 Student complaints.

The purpose of this section is to protect each student's freedom of expression in the classroom; to protect each student against improper disclosure of the students' views, beliefs and political associations; to protect each student from improper, arbitrary or capricious academic evaluation as evidenced by the student's course grade; and to afford each student reasonable protection against arbitrary or capricious actions taken outside the classroom by other members of the college community.

Skagit Valley College is committed to protecting the rights and dignity of each individual in the campus community. Therefore, the college will not tolerate discrimination of any kind, at any level.

Students may follow the college policy on sexual harassment and/or may file complaints with outside agencies, as referenced in WAC 132D-305-005(10). Students should determine the time deadlines that apply to the filing of complaints with such outside agencies, as the college's internal processing of student complaints may not recognize such time periods.

WAC 132D-120-240 Complaints excluded from this section.

  1. A student may not use the provisions of this section as the basis for filing a complaint based on the outcome of disciplinary proceedings described in sections of the code of student conduct.
     
  2. Federal and state laws, rules and regulations, in addition to policies, regulations and procedures adopted by the state board for community and technical colleges or the board of trustees of Community College District No. 4 shall not be grievable matters. College personnel actions are considered confidential. Results may not be made available for review.

WAC 132D-120-250 Initial complaint.

If a student believes he or she has been unfairly treated by an officer of the college, faculty member or a member of the college staff, the student may follow the complaint procedures in the order outlined below. The student must initiate proceedings with the college within thirty working days of the occurrence that gave rise to the complaint. The college may choose to take appropriate corrective action at any time based on a student report whether or not the student chooses to pursue the complaint process.

WAC 132D-120-260 Complaint procedure.

  1. The complaint procedures set forth in this section concern only those complaints that do not involve violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (sex discrimination) or section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (disability discrimination).
     
  2. A student wishing to pursue a resolution to his or her concern may contact the office where counseling services are provided. That office will serve as a source of information and direction for complainants.
     
  3. A student shall contact the faculty or staff member with whom he or she has a concern and attempt to resolve the matter through direct discussion. A student may ask a support person to accompany him or her in this discussion.
     
  4. If direct discussion does not resolve the concern to the student's satisfaction, the student shall take the matter to the faculty/staff member's immediate supervisor. The supervisor shall attempt to resolve the matter promptly and fairly.
     
  5. If the issue is not resolved, the supervisor shall forward the complaint to the appropriate administrator who shall meet with the student and, within three working days, write a letter to the student involved, copied to the faculty or staff member involved that details the resolution proposed. In appropriate cases, the student shall also be informed of his or her right to file a petition to have the complaint heard before the grievance review committee.
     
  6. The procedure outlined in steps one through four shall be completed in twenty working days unless all parties agree to more time.
     
  7. In order to have his/her complaint heard by the grievance review committee:
    1. The student must submit this request to the office of the registrar within five days of his/her receipt of the administrator's letter;
       
    2. The student's complaint must fall into one of the following categories:
      1. Alleged deviation from course grading policies as specified in the syllabus;
      2. Alleged errors in applying grading procedures;
      3. Alleged lowering of grades for nonacademic reasons, including discrimination;
      4. Alleged sex and/or disability discrimination in accordance with procedures described in WAC 132D-120-270.

Other complaints about college employees will be considered and acted upon at the discretion of the appropriate administrator and will not be heard by the grievance review committee.

WAC 132D-120-270 Grievance procedure—Sex and disability discrimination.

  1. Any student alleging a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (sex discrimination) or section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (disability discrimination) shall, as a first step in the grievance procedure, contact the Title IX officer or disabled student services coordinator. The student may contact the office where counseling services are provided for the name and location of the Title IX officer or disabled student services coordinator. Any student alleging a violation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments concerning sexual harassment by a college faculty or staff member may avail himself or herself of the college's sexual harassment complaint procedures.
     
  2. The Title IX officer or disabled student services coordinator shall:
    1. Provide information about informal and formal options within and outside the college.
    2. Intervene, if requested by either party, in order to resolve the problem to the satisfaction of all.
       
  3. If the Title IX officer or disabled student services coordinator is unable to resolve the complaint, the student may request a hearing before the grievance review committee and is entitled to all appeals beyond that committee.
     
  4. Consultations with the Title IX officer and the disabled student services coordinator shall be strictly confidential.

WAC 132D-120-280 Grievance review committee procedures.

  1. Any complaint meeting the criteria listed in WAC 132D-120-260 not resolved by an administrator or the Title IX officer or disabled student services coordinator may be appealed to the grievance review committee for a hearing. The complainant or respondent shall petition the committee by obtaining an official complaint form from the office where counseling services are provided. That petition shall be made within five working days of the notice of decision in the previous proceedings.
     
  2. When a petition for review is filed, the student shall either:
    1. Be assigned a process advisor by the college or choose an advisor of his/her own; or
    2. Waive his or her right to an advisor; or
    3. Notify the college of his or her retention of an attorney at least one week prior to a scheduled grievance hearing. Where the student is accompanied by an attorney, the college may be represented by an assistant attorney general.
       
  3. The student's completed official complaint form shall be distributed to all members of the grievance review committee.
     
  4. The registrar shall chair the grievance review committee and its members shall be chosen as follows:
    1. Two faculty members appointed by the vice-president of instruction and student services; and
    2. Two students appointed by the president of the associated students of Skagit Valley College; and
    3. Two classified staff members appointed by the classified staff designated leadership.
       
  5. The grievance review committee may call any witnesses and hear any testimony needed to reach a prompt, fair resolution of the complaint. The proceedings before the committee shall not be considered a formal trial-type hearing.
     
  6. Within three working days of the conclusion of the hearing, the committee shall issue a written decision to all involved in the case.
     
  7. If a student feels that his/her case was not handled according to the procedures set forth in this section, he/she may request that it be reviewed by the appropriate vice-president. The vice-president's review will be limited to the process used in decision making. In the case of instructional grievances, the request for review shall be sent to the executive vice-president of instruction and student services. In all other cases, the request shall be forwarded to the vice-president responsible for the area in which the faculty or staff member is employed. The appropriate vice-president shall, within five working days, review the process used by administrators and the grievance review committee and notify all parties if the process is to be corrected in any way.

WAC 132D-120-290 Final decision regarding process review‑-Extra-institutional appeals.

  1. Where the student is not satisfied by the vice-president's decision, he or she may appeal that decision to the president of the college provided that such appeal is made within five working days of the student's receipt of notice of the decision.
     
  2. The president will review the process carried out by administrators and the grievance review committee together with any appeal statement and will deliver a written acceptance of the vice-president's decision or directions as to what other course of action shall be taken, within ten instructional days after receiving the appeal.
     
  3. This decision shall constitute final agency action by the college.
     
  4. A student who feels aggrieved by the institution's final decision, may petition for judicial review of that decision according to the provisions of RCW 28B.19.150.
     
  5. For further review in sexual or disability discrimination cases, the grievant may send appeals or inquiries to:

    1. U.S. Department of Education
      Office for Civil Rights Region X
      915 Second Avenue, Room 3310
      Seattle, WA 98174
      206-220-7900

    2. Washington State Human Rights Commission
      Third Avenue
      Seattle, Washington 98101
      206-464-6500

    3. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
      1424 New York Avenue, Room 5041
      Washington, D.C. 20005
      202-307-0818 (TTD), or 800-514-0383 (voice)

WAC 132D-120-300 Nature of grievance proceedings.

All hearings growing out of a student-initiated complaint, including appeals to the office of the president, shall remain closed unless all parties to the grievance agree on an open hearing.

WAC 132D-120-310 Withdrawal of grievance.

  1. At any time during the complaint or grievance procedure, the complainant may officially withdraw the grievance in writing.
     
  2. In the event the complainant or appellant fails to appear for any scheduled hearing without prior notification or evidence of extenuating circumstances, this shall be considered to constitute withdrawal of the grievance or appeal.

WAC 132D-120-320 Administrative, faculty and staff grievances.

Any administrator, faculty member or staff member who is the subject of a student's complaint and who is dissatisfied with the results of any level of the student complaint proceedings may file a grievance under the appropriate grievance procedure established by Skagit Valley College.

WAC 132D-120-330 Prior Rules

The rules contained within this chapter supersede all former rules relating to student grievances.

WAC 132D-120-340 Severability

If any provision of this chapter is adjudged by a court to be unconstitutional, the remaining provisions shall continue in effect.

WAC 132D-120-350 Effective date of the rules of conduct.

The rules contained within this chapter shall become effective November 1, 2009