1.0 Purpose

This policy provides an equitable and orderly process to resolve complaints made by students for improper treatment based on unlawful discrimination. This policy does not apply to complaints or appeals regarding tuition refunds, academic grades, sexual misconduct, or student conduct which are handled under separate policies and procedures.

2.0 Policy

Germanna Community College does not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), religion, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors, or disability in its education programs, recruitment efforts, employment opportunities, programs or activities.

2.1 Germanna Community College shall provide a reasonable, prompt, orderly, and fairly administered resolution of complaints by an active student, credit or non-credit, for alleged discriminatory treatment by Germanna employees, or employees under contract to Germanna Community College.

2.2 A reasonable effort shall be made by the College to guide and support students through the complaint procedure to facilitate early and effective resolutions. The procedures herein described shall be conducted on a confidential basis.

2.3 Any student raising a complaint shall be treated with respect and shall receive a response as delineated in the following procedure. Retaliation against anyone involved in a complaint process, including the complainant, witnesses, or institutional representatives, is strictly prohibited. Any person found to have retaliated against anyone involved in a complaint is subject to disciplinary action.

2.4 The College will maintain a record of all formal student complaints against the institution.

2.5 The Director of Equity Advancement shall be responsible for developing and maintaining procedures that are consistent with this policy. All supervisors or administrators have a duty to act in accordance with this policy and shall ensure that the faculty, students, and staff, including visitors and contractors in their areas of responsibility, are aware of and in full compliance with this policy.  The Director of Equity Advancement may appoint a designee to carry out all responsibilities detailed in this policy.

3.0 Procedures

3.1 The following procedures shall be followed by active students for a fair and equitable process to present an issue of discriminatory treatment by Germanna employees or contractor employees. A complaint may be resolved through either an informal or a formal process.

3.2 The College may investigate any incident of possible discrimination upon being placed on notice that a discriminatory act might have occurred, even if a formal complaint is not filed. Further, verbal notice of possible discriminatory conduct from a student will trigger an investigation. The College will request that the student complete the formal complaint form to ensure accurate recordkeeping. The College may conduct an investigation when a student elects the informal complaint process depending on the seriousness of the allegations.

4.0 Informal Student Complaint Process

4.1 Students are encouraged to make reasonable efforts to have their concerns addressed informally if they feel comfortable doing so. Students should notify the Coordinator of Equity Advancement that they wish to resolve the matter informally.  The Coordinator of Equity Advancement shall mediate the matter and document the resolution of the process.  Documentation shall include the complaint made and the resolution of the complaint.

4.2 The complainant must initiate the informal phase of the student complaint process within twenty (20) business days from when the complainant knew or should have known of the action or inaction.

4.2.1 If the problem is resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the matter is closed. If the problem is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the student may elect to move to the formal process.

4.2.2 While the complainant is encouraged to resolve the issue(s) in question through the informal process, the student may elect to move to the formal process at any time after starting the informal process. The time frame for filing the informal complaint may be extended for good cause to be determined by the Director of Equity Advancement.

4.3 Formal Student Complaint Process

4.3.1 If the complainant does not wish to attempt a resolution of the complaint through the informal process, or, in the event the student believes the informal process has been unsuccessful, the complainant may use the formal complaint process. At each step of the formal process, the respondent(s) shall be advised by the Director of Equity Advancement of the details of the complaint, have a full and fair opportunity to prepare and present his or her position, and to offer evidence and witness testimony.

4.3.2 Complainants enrolled in non-credit courses shall have the same rights and be entitled to the same processes as complainants enrolled in credit courses.

4.3.3 A student with a complaint should complete the Formal Student Complaint Form (Appendix A) within thirty (30) business days of the action or inaction or within ten (10) business days of the conclusion or termination of the informal process, whichever is sooner. The formal complaint must be filed with the Director of Equity Advancement.

4.3.4 The time frame for filing the formal complaint may be extended for good cause to be determined by the Director of Equity Advancement.

4.3.5 The formal complaint must include:

  • Complainant’s name and Germanna identification number;
  • Complainant’s contact information;
  • Respondents’ name and contact information (if known);
  • Date of the complaint;
  • Date of the contested action, inaction, decision, or situation;
  • Description of the allegedly discriminatory event;
  • Description of what, if any, other steps have been taken by the complainant to attempt to address the complaint; and
  • Supporting documentation and/or any other information the student would like to be considered (including the identities of witnesses concerning any facts in the alleged violation).

4.4 Resolution of Formal Complaint

4.4.1 The Director of Equity Advancement shall meet with the complainant within fifteen (15) business days following receipt of the formal complaint to attempt to achieve resolution of the issue and to obtain any additional information necessary to achieve such resolution.

4.4.2 The Director of Equity Advancement shall conduct an investigation of the issues raised by the complainant. The process may include gathering evidence from college/contractor employees or other students and statements of the witnesses and ordinarily should be completed within thirty (30) business days of the Director of Equity Advancement’s meeting with the complainant. Witnesses shall complete the Witness Statement Form (Appendix B). The Director of Equity Advancement may extend the time frame to complete the investigation for good cause. If the time frame is extended, all parties will be notified of the extension and an estimate of when the investigation will be completed. The complainant and the respondent shall receive notice that the investigation has concluded.

4.4.3 The Director of Equity Advancement may determine that the formal complaint is without merit and conclude the investigation. Additionally, the Director of Equity Advancement will consult with the Associate Vice President of Human Resources if the complaint is against a college employee. The Director of Equity Advancement will consult with the Dean of Student Development if the complaint involves only students. The Director of Equity Advancement may determine that the facts as alleged are true, but do not constitute a violation of the college’s policies or procedures.

4.4.4 The Director of Equity Advancement shall provide the complainant and the respondent with a draft of the findings from the investigation. The parties shall have ten (10) days to provide additional information or to clarify information (review period).  The Director of Equity Advancement shall provide the complainant and the respondent with a final written response of the determination of findings and resolution within fifteen (15) business days after the review period.

4.4.5 In the event that the investigation reveals conduct on the part of any party that may be considered misconduct not based on discrimination, the Director of Equity Advancement shall refer the matter and provide a copy of the complaint record to the appropriate authority for a misconduct investigation.

Suspending an Investigation: The College will comply with all requests for cooperation by campus police or local law enforcement in investigations. The College may be required to suspend the discrimination grievance investigation while the campus police or the local law enforcement agency gathers evidence. The College will resume its discrimination grievance investigation as soon as the campus police or local law enforcement agency has completed its gathering of evidence. Otherwise, the College’s investigation will not be precluded or suspended on the grounds that criminal charges involving the same incident have been filed or that charges have been dismissed or reduced.

4.5 Appeal Process

4.5.1 Any outcome from the formal complaint process by the Director of Equity Advancement with which the complainant or respondent disagrees, either because of a belief that the process was not followed or a belief that errors were made in the process, may be appealed in writing by the complainant or respondent to the Vice President of Student Services or designee. Any such appeal must be submitted using the Formal Student Complaint Appeal Form (Appendix C) within ten (10) business days of the complainant’s/respondent’s receipt of the written response.

4.5.2 The appeal must identify one of the following grounds as its basis: A claim that the investigation was not conducted in conformity with the prescribed procedures. A claim that the decision reached by the Director of Equity Advancement was not supported by substantial evidence. A claim that new evidence sufficient to alter a decision, but unknown at the time of the investigation, should be considered. The appeal should explain why the evidence was unavailable previously and why such evidence may substantially impact the findings or resolution.

4.5.3 The Vice President of Student Services  and Equity Advancement shall review the record of the complaint, the response, and any new evidence, if applicable, and affirm, deny, modify, or recommend reconsideration of the matter within ten (10) business days of the receipt of appeal. The review may interview individuals involved in the complaint process at the discretion of the Vice President of Student Services.

4.5.4 The Vice President of Student Services and Equity Advancement may return the response to the Director of Equity Advancement and direct remedial actions that can be taken to effectively and fairly correct any procedural errors that he or she concludes have been made in prior phases of the formal grievance process.

4.5.5 The Vice President of Student Services and Equity Advancement shall dismiss the appeal if in the event that any of the following circumstances exists:

  • The appeal does not identify a legitimate basis as delineated above.
  • The appeal does not set forth written policies or procedures to which the complainant was entitled but were not afforded during the prior phases of the process.

4.5.6 The Vice President of Student Services and Equity Advancement’s determination shall be based on a review of whether a reasonable inquiry was made concerning the alleged action or inaction about which the student complained and whether the findings were appropriate based on the facts determined in the investigation and the goals of this procedure.

4.5.7 Should more time be needed to render a decision, the complainant and respondent shall be notified in writing of the delay and expected completion date of the review, which shall not to exceed twenty (20) business days from the time of the appeal.

4.5.8 The complainant, respondent, and Director of Equity Advancement, shall receive a written explanation of Vice President’s decision on the appeal. The Vice President’s decision is final.

4.6 Student Complaint Records

4.6.1 The Director of Equity Advancement will maintain a record of all complaints, appeals, and outcomes in a secure location. Electronic retention of these records is encouraged. These files shall be maintained by the Director of Equity Advancement for a period of three (3) years from the date of the final outcome.

4.7 Retaliation

4.7.1 If a student or institutional representative believes that he/she has been subjected to adverse treatment because of filing or participating in a complaint, the Dean of Student Development shall be notified immediately.

4.7.2 The Dean of Student Development shall investigate the alleged retaliation and meet with all involved parties and attempt a resolution to the situation.

4.7.3 If the person claiming retaliation is dissatisfied with a resolution issued by the Dean of Student Development, he/she may appeal to the Vice President of Student Services. The Vice President’s decision is final.

4.8 External Agencies

4.8.1 This procedure is not intended to impede any student’s right to file a timely complaint with an appropriate external state or federal agency.

4.8.2 Students may seek resolution through the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education (“OCR”). A complaint filed with OCR must be filed within 180 calendar days of the alleged discrimination. Or, if the college complaint procedure was utilized by the student, the OCR complaint must be filed within 60 calendar days from the date of the final decision, unless the time for filing is extended by the OCR for good cause shown. Information on how to proceed may be accessed on OCR’s website at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html.

4.9 Sanctions

4.9.1 Sanctions that may be imposed under this policy include:

  • Students: Admonition, disciplinary probation, suspension or dismissal

5.0 Definitions

5.1 Active Student - individuals are considered “active students” for three (3) years after their initial admission or readmission to the College or most recent enrollment, including in a non-credit course, whichever is later.

5.2 Complainant - an individual who is an active student with the college who has a complaint against the college as a result of the action or inaction of a college employee or student.

5.3 Complaint - an unwritten or written claim raised by a student alleging discriminatory action by an employee or a student involving the application of a college rule/regulation or a board policy or procedure (Virginia Community College System Policy Manual section The complainant must be personally affected by the alleged violation and unlawful action.

5.4 Discrimination/Discriminatory Action - the unlawful treatment of another based on a non-merit factor that excludes an individual from participation in, denies the individual the benefits of, or otherwise adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s education or participation in college program or activity.  Harassment is a form of discrimination.  Harassment is created by conduct so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it undermines and detracts from an employee’s work performance or a student’s educational experience.

5.5 Formal Complaint - the written stage of the student complaint process.

5.6 Informal Complaint - the unwritten stage of the student complaint process.

5.7 Respondent - Germanna employee, or employee of a firm under contract to Germanna Community College identified by the complainant as causing or contributing to the complaint.

6.0 References

7.0 Point of Contact

Director of Equity Advancement

8.0 Approval and Revision Dates

Faculty Senate: Approval Date – 07/16/21
Department Chairs: Approval Date – 08/20/21
College Council: Approval Date – N/A
Leadership Council: First Reading-Date – 08/26/21; Approval Date – 08/26/21

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