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Grieving Discrimination Complaints

Policy on Non-Discrimination and Grievance Procedures for Students

Grieving Discrimination Complaints

 

Equal Opportunity Statement

Pursuant to guidance provided by the Office of Civil Rights and the implementing regulations for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination Act; Rockland Community College is committed to a policy of equal treatment and opportunity in every aspect of its relations with its students, faculty, staff, applicants, and members of the larger community. This includes the admission process, access to programs, privileges, activities, student financial assistance and services, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation in accordance with federal and/or state laws.

If you have any questions about the policy of equal opportunity, non-discrimination policies, or related procedures, students should contact the Vice President of Student Development, and employees should contact the Director of Equity & Compliance.

For Students: 
Vice President of Student Development 
Rockland Community College 
Technology Center, Room 8129 
145 College Road, Suffern, NY 10901

For Employees: 
Director of Organizational & Staff Development 
Rockland Community College 
Brucker Hall, Room 6301 
145 College Road, Suffern, NY 10901

 

Harassment and Discrimination

Rockland Community College does not discriminate in its admissions activities on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, age, color, creed, disability, marital status, veteran status, or sexual orientation. The College continually strives to maintain a non-discriminatory environment for all students and employees. In addition, the College has appointed a Compliance Officer, the Vice President of Student Development, to oversee such matters as they apply to students.

Rockland Community College is committed to promoting an environment for all students, faculty, and staff which is fair, humane and respectful, and which recognizes and rewards student, faculty, and staff performance on the basis of relevant considerations, such as ability and effort. The College expects that all of its members will treat each other equally, without regard to differences such as those described earlier. These standards encompass students, faculty, staff, and applicants, and are to be observed in all aspects of the College's operations.

While Rockland Community College makes every effort to maintain a policy of non-discrimination, there may be instances when an individual or group will feel that they have been unlawfully discriminated against. Any such person or group has the legal right to file a grievance. The grievance procedure promotes a prompt and equitable resolution to any allegations of discrimination.

All students of the school are covered under this policy. This procedure may not be used if a formal complaint has been filed with the state or federal agency, or if a court action has been initiated by the grievant on the same complaint. Any investigation or review will be terminated if a formal complaint with another source is initiated. However, the policy may be used if the person has not decided on whether to file a formal complaint with an outside agency.

 

Dealing with Discrimination

All members of the College community are responsible for acting in ways which contribute to an environment free of harassment and respectful of the qualities of others. Anyone experiencing sexual harassment or discriminatory treatment should consult with the appropriate counselor, Administrator, or Dean. Anyone witnessing harassment or discrimination should encourage the people involved to seek counseling, and should consider advising the appropriate Dean or Administrator.

Because the College will not tolerate discrimination, it has adopted a dispute resolution procedure to ensure that students, faculty, and staff have a way to raise these issues, and to provide an orderly and sensitive process for dealing with them. Informal measures will be taken first to resolve these problems. Where these do not result in a solution, a formal process will be used.

Even though the College strongly supports this resolution procedure, harassing or discriminatory conduct can sometimes be stopped by direct action. Ignoring may only help if it is an accidental or isolated act.

A student should always let a person know if he or she objects to language or conduct, and if he or she feels it is out of order. If it is hard to speak, it may be easier to write a note. But if these actions do not achieve the desired result, report the incident and seek guidance.

 

Grievance Resolution Procedure

Anyone who feels they have experienced an act of discrimination, or is the subject of sexual harassment, is strongly urged to seek advice from an appropriate member of the College community. There should be no fear of reprisal or retaliation; the matter should be handled in a confidential fashion.

While it is not required, people who feel they've been subject to harassment or discrimination may first try to solve the problem through direct communication with the other person or people concerned. Making it clear that the conduct is offensive and will not be tolerated may end the problem. If a discussion or letter is not appropriate or possible, or if the matter isn't resolved this way, the person should quickly bring the problem to the attention of the appropriate Dean, Administrator, supervisor, or faculty advisor.

Students may feel free to report on incidents, whether or not they've decided on whether to file a formal complaint. They may just want to discuss the incident, may want to review ways to deal personally with the situation, or may want information on how to file a formal complaint. Even if a student is undecided about whether or not to file a formal complaint, consultation may help in defining the problem and in exploring the options for solving it.

 

Filing a Grievance

All formal grievances must be given in writing to the Compliance Officer for Students, the Vice President of Student Development. The complaint must be submitted within thirty days of the alleged discriminatory act, or the date on which the grievant first knew of or reasonably should have known of the alleged act. The statement should contain as much of the following information as possible:

  • The grievant's name and status within the College Community;
  • The name(s) and position(s) of the other person(s) involved;
  • The nature of the act (e.g., racial, ethnic, etc.);
  • A brief description of the act and the grievant's reason for concluding that it was discriminatory;
  • Copies of any materials that may be relevant to the complaint;
  • A statement indicating whether or not the grievant has initiated a court action or filed a charge of discrimination on the act with a state or federal agency;
  • The date on which the act was perpetrated, and the date on which the grievant first knew of it;
  • The remedy sought by the grievant;
  • The signature of the grievant.

Once a written statement has been submitted, no further allegations may be added to it. If a subsequent discriminatory act occurs, an additional complaint must be made.

 

Resolving the Grievance

Depending on the nature of the given situation, a grievance can be resolved in one of two ways. If at all possible, the problem will be solved on an informal basis. If that cannot occur, then a formal resolution will be reached.

 

Informal Process

The purpose of this first process will be to find facts and try for an informal resolution. As soon as possible, the Vice President for Student Development will appoint a designee to investigate the complaint. This will be done within 14 business days of its receipt. The designee will then have 30 days to resolve the grievance informally. This may be done through meetings with all involved parties and examination of any relevant evidence. At the end of the 30 days, the designee has 14 days to notify the grievant, in writing, of the status of the grievance. If the problem is resolved to the satisfaction of the grievant, the notification shall include the terms of the resolution and an indication that the remediation has been signed. If the designee is unable to resolve the situation to the satisfaction of the grievant, the written statement must briefly describe the designee's efforts and indicate that the grievant has not been satisfied.

When the informal investigation is finished, the results will be reported to the people involved, and, where appropriate, a mutually acceptable resolution will be proposed. If the complaint can be resolved at this stage to the satisfaction of the parties and the College, the matter can be closed. It may also be referred to another office or group for informal resolution, if mutually agreeable.

If the investigation is inconclusive, or if either party is dissatisfied with the progress of the informal procedure, a grievance can be begun and pursued formally.

 

Formal Resolution

The grievant may file a written appeal within 14 days of receiving the designee's report. Students may file an appeal with the Vice President of Student Development. Within 14 days of that appeal, the grievant will be notified that the matter will be reviewed by a panel of three people selected from the Committee on Non-Discrimination. The grievant will also be given a list of the members of the Committee, and a statement that the Chairperson of the Committee is the non-voting chairperson of the panel and that the grievant may select two other persons from the committee to serve on the panel. The grievant has 14 days to respond to the notice.

The panel shall review the matter and submit an opinion to the Vice President of Student Development regarding whether they believed a discriminatory act has occurred. The panel has 30 days to make a decision. The Vice President of Student Development then has 14 days to inform the grievant of the panel's decision. At that time, they will either issue a statement dismissing the charges or inviting the grievant to discuss an appropriate course of action.

Each procedure of the formal process lets the individual charged be advised of the details of the complaint raised, have a full and fair opportunity to prepare and present his or her position, offer evidence, and witness testimony. The people charged may ask questions of the person bringing the complaint. While those involved in the grievance process may have the assistance and advice of a colleague, these advisors will be limited to counseling and generally will not be allowed to participate in the grievance process.

(If the College decides that the established grievance procedures are not appropriate or readily available for handling a complaint, an ad hoc panel or person may be designated, in consultation with the involved parties, to conduct the hearing and resolve the problem.)

The formal investigation may include questioning and cross-examination of witnesses, as well as examination of evidence. Once it has been concluded, a written summary of the basis of the determination and the proposed resolution will be made available upon request. The panel or person may determine that the complaint is without merit and conclude the investigation, or refer the matter to another College office or an outside entity.

 

Time Limits

All of the time limits established in the Grievance Procedure, with the exception of the 30 day limit on the initial filing of the grievance, may be extended by the mutual written agreement of the grievant and the Vice President of Student Development. If the grievant fails to respond within the time limits, the grievance shall be deemed to have been withdrawn. Postmarks will be used to judge any questions of timeliness.

 

Disciplinary Measures

If the parties accept the proposed resolution, the matter will be concluded. If the findings and determination do not lead to a mutually acceptable resolution, and if the panel or person handling the grievance believes that reasonable cause exists for seeking sanctions against the person charged, the proposed sanctions can be implemented. If necessary, the findings, determination, and proposed sanctions will be forwarded immediately to the appropriate Dean or Vice President (or to their designee). The recommended action will be implemented, if in accordance with College policy, and the parties notified in writing.

 

Appeals

The grievant may appeal the determination and/or the sanctions. The appeal should be made promptly, and should be in writing to the President or the President's designee, who shall review the determination and affirm, deny, modify, or recommend reconsideration of the matter.

The individual charged may also appeal the determination or sanctions. The appeal should be made within 14 days, must be in writing, and should be made to the President or the President's designee, who will review the determination and affirm, deny, modify, or recommend reconsideration of the matter. The President is the final appeal.

 

Conclusion

Complaints of harassment or discrimination require sensitivity to the interests of members of the College community and those involved in the process. Just as it is important to recognize that those subjected to discrimination and harassment must have someone and somewhere to turn for assistance, so it is important to realize that unsubstantiated or malicious charges may seriously affect the reputations, careers, or personal lives of the individuals charged with such conduct. The College will take action against anyone who uses the process abusively or as a way to gain advancement, to excuse poor job performance, or to settle personal differences.

All complaints will be handled with concern for the confidentiality of all parties involved and to the fullest extent possible, and consistent with administering the policy, all information gathered will be kept confidential and retained in a separate file.

The underlying goal of this policy is education and resolution, not discipline or sanction. The College is committed to increasing everyone's level of understanding of and sensitivity about appropriate conduct. Where there are no changes in the charged person's conduct, the College will take prompt corrective action.

Nothing in this policy is intended to prevent a person from pursuing their rights under any existing College procedure or from pursuing any federal, state or local remedies.

Committee on Non-Discrimination

Annually the President of the College shall establish a Committee on Non-Discrimination. The Committee on Non-Discrimination shall be comprised of the following:

  • Vice President of Student Development (or delegate)
  • Dean of Student Personnel Services
  • Department Chairperson (or delegate)
  • Faculty Members (2)
  • Staff Member (1)
  • Student Government President (or delegate)
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