Student Complaint Procedures

STUDENT COMPLAINT PROCEDURES

This is not the procedure to follow if you have a complaint of sexual misconduct, whistleblower, or accessibility. Please see the policy dealing with these topics to be linked to the proper procedure. If you are uncertain of which procedure to follow, please contact the office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs.

General Principles

During their course of study at Henry Ford College, students may encounter problems requiring review by academic and administrative personnel. It is the policy of Henry Ford College to provide an equitable system for the speedy and amicable resolution of problems between students and College faculty or administrators.

Complaints against faculty may include issues such as final course grades or classroom assignments. Complaints against administrators may include matters such as policies, regulations, and services.

Due process is dependent upon timeliness. Formal complaints must be initiated by the last regular class day of the subsequent full semester. For example, an incident from the fall semester must be initiated by the end of the following winter semester. A formal complaint will be dismissed if it is not initiated by the appropriate deadline.

Once the formal complaint process is initiated, the four stages of the complaint process should be completed within seventy-five academic working days* (spring, summer term and regularly scheduled College recesses may be exempt depending upon the availability of the persons involved). All formal written notification will be through overnight express mail and sent to the official addresses maintained by College records. These guidelines apply to all student complaints covered by this policy.

Certain types of complaints require the student to file grievances with specialized decision­ making bodies, such as the Office of Human Resources. However, such procedures shall not be interpreted so as to deny a student due process under the Student Complaint Policy. This policy also shall not be construed or applied so as to restrict academic freedom.

GENERAL AND SPECIFIC PROCEDURES

INFORMAL STAGE - Complaints Concerning Faculty and Individuals Other than Associate Deans and Directors
It is often possible to amicably resolve a dispute informally, in a manner which is acceptable to those involved. Accordingly, a student who has a complaint shall first confer with the employee and/or the employee's Associate Dean, Director, or immediate supervisor in an effort to resolve the issue informally. At this point, the Associate Dean, Director, or immediate supervisor should not elicit a formal written complaint from the student. The Associate Dean, Director, or immediate supervisor should instead meet with the student to hear the student's complaint and then meet with the employee to explain the student's complaint and hear the employee's explanation or rationale in order to consider the validity of the complaint and whether it can be informally resolved. At this informal stage, the Associate Dean, Director, or immediate supervisor should attempt to resolve the issue in a fair and equitable way acceptable to all parties.

In the case of a complaint against a faculty member, the Associate Dean, at his or her discretion, may choose to discuss the matter with the chair of the division's peer mentor committee. If the Associate Dean chooses this option, he or she should first inform the faculty member of this action. Members of the peer mentor committee may then be involved in an attempt to resolve the matter without a formal process.

If a satisfactory solution is not reached, the student may initiate the formal procedure.

INFORMAL STAGE ··Complaints Concerning Associate Deans and Directors
A student who has a complaint concerning an Associate Dean or Director shall confer with that administrator's Vice President. At this point the Vice President should meet with the student to hear the student's complaint and then meet with the Associate Dean or Director to explain the student's complaint and hear the Associate Dean or Director's explanation or rationale in order to consider the validity of the complaint and whether it can be informally resolved. At this informal stage the Vice President should attempt to resolve the issue in a fair and equitable way that is acceptable to all parties.

If a satisfactory solution is not reached, the student may initiate the formal procedure.

FORMAL PROCEDURE ·Complaints Concerning Faculty and Individuals Other Than Associate Deans or Directors

Stage 1: Appeal to the Associate Dean or Director

The student may initiate a formal appeal by submitting formal written complaint, detailing the problem and indicating the action desired, to the supervisor of the Department, Division, or Administrative area involved. If more than one student is involved in the complaint, each student must submit a separate complaint. A copy of this complaint form shall also be directed to the involved employee. At this point, the employee shall forward a response, in writing, to the Associate Dean or Director within five working days. The Associate Dean or Director should attempt to resolve the complaint consistent with that area's customary practice within fifteen academic working days of receipt. Any such resolution shall be a separate **agreement **prepared by the Associate Dean or Director and signed by both the student and the employee.

The Associate Dean or Director will communicate his or her decision, concerning impasse or dismissal of the complaint, to the student and employee by overnight express mail. The Associate Dean or Director shall maintain all written records for at least seventy-five academic working days.

Stage 2: Appeal to the Appropriate Vice President

In the event of an impasse or dismissal of the complaint at Stage 1, the student may appeal to the appropriate Vice President (or Acting Vice President) by formally submitting a copy of the original complaint. The appeal must be filed within eight academic working days of receipt of student notification. If more than one student is involved, each student wishing to appeal must submit a separate written appeal. The Vice President will personally inform the involved employee, consult with the Associate Dean or Director, and investigate the complaint. This process should be completed within fifteen academic working days of receipt of complaint. If the Vice President determines a complaint lacks sufficient merit, the Vice President shall dismiss the complaint, which then may not go forward to the Complaint Board and the decision cannot be appealed under College procedures. If the Vice President does not dismiss the complaint, he/she shall make every effort to find a satisfactory resolution. If a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached, the Vice President will communicate the impasse to the student, the employee and the Associate Dean or Director by overnight mail. The student then has the option of appealing to the Complaint Board.

FORMAL PROCEDURE - Complaints Concerning Associate Deans or Directors

Appeal to the Appropriate Vice President

The student may initiate a formal appeal by submitting a formal written complaint, detailing the problem and indicating the action desired, to the Vice President of the area involved. If more than one student is involved in the complaint, each student must submit a separate complaint. A copy of this complaint form shall also be directed to the involved employee. At this point the Associate Dean or Director shall forward a response, in writing, to the Vice President within five working days.

If the Vice President determines that the complaint lacks sufficient merit, the Vice President shall dismiss the complaint, which then may not go forward to the Complaint Board and the decision cannot be appealed under College procedures.

If the Vice President determines that the complaint has sufficient merit, the Vice President should attempt to resolve the complaint consistent with the area's customary practice within fifteen academic working days of receipt. Any such resolution shall be a separate agreement prepared by the Vice President and signed by both the student and the Associate Dean or Director.

If a complaint has sufficient merit and if a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached, the Vice President will communicate the impasse to the student and the Associate Dean or Director by overnight mail. The student then has the option of appealing to the Complaint Board

Appeal to the Complaint Board

If a satisfactory solution has not been reached at the Vice President level and if the complaint has not been dismissed by the Vice President, the student may appeal to the Complaint Board by submitting a formal written request for a hearing to that Vice President within eight academic working days after receipt of notification. If more than one student is involved, each student must submit a separate request. Upon receipt of such a request, the Vice President shall send a formal copy of all complaints and related documentation to the involved employee. The Complaint Board will hear the complaint within twenty academic working days of official notification if the matter is still unable to be resolved in a manner acceptable to all parties. The Vice President will notify the Office of Human Resources to convene the appropriate Complaint Board. If more than one student is involved in a related complaint, the same Complaint Board will consider each complaint separately at the same hearing.

COMPLAINT BOARD COMPOSITION

Complaints Concerning Faculty (classroom teachers, lead instructors, counselors, librarians, placement officers, Focus on Women director, Child Care teachers, and Assisted Learning program advisor)

  1. When a formal hearing is deemed necessary, the Director of Human Resources (or designee)** will use random computer selection to identify five faculty members to serve on the Student Complaint Board. In addition, the Director of Human Resources will initiate a random computer selection to identify two Honors Program students to serve as student representatives on the Board. If the Associate Dean from the area where the complaint originated decides that particular expertise in the practice or discipline is necessary to ensure an informed hearing and to reach an equitable resolution, that Associate Dean will recommend one or two additional experts to the Director of Human Resources. The experts, who will serve as voting members of the Board, can be drawn from the HFC discipline and/or be external to the institution. No more than one internal expert and no more than one external expert shall serve on the Board.

  2. The Director of Human Resources will notify those selected in writing via overnight express mail. A selectee who is unavailable to serve (due to schedule conflict, health, geographic distance or other reason deemed satisfactory to the Director of Human Resources) shall immediately so inform the Director of Human Resources, in writing, of his/her inability to serve and the reason. Another random draw will be made. This process will be repeated until a Board has been identified.

  3. Both complainants and respondents shall have the right (1) to remove any selectee(s) with a demonstrable conflict of interest as determined by Human Resources; and (2) to make one peremptory challenge. Every vacancy so created shall be filled by another random draw.

  4. The Vice President and Chair of the Senate shall designate one of the members of the Board to chair the hearing and subsequent deliberations of the Board.

**It is understood that a designee will serve if the Director of Human Resources is unavailable.

Complaints Concerning Administrators

  1. The Complaint Board will consist of three members from the peer level and two non­ exempt administrators. At least one, but no more than two, of the members shall be from the area where the complaint originated. In addition, the Director of Human Resources will initiate a random computer selection to identify two Honors Program students to serve as student representatives on the Board. The parties to the complaint shall be excluded from the Board.

  2. The members shall be selected on a random basis from two pools. The first pool shall consist of all full-time peers. The second pool shall consist of all full-time non-exempt administrators.

  3. The Director of Human Resources will notify those selected in writing. A selectee who is unable to serve shall immediately so inform the Director of Human Resources, in writing, of his/her inability to serve and the reason. Another random draw will be made. This process will be repeated until a Board has been identified.

  4. Both complainants and respondents shall have the right to make one peremptory challenge of any randomly chosen Board member. Any vacancy so created shall be filled by another random selection.

  5. The Vice President and Chair of the Senate shall designate one of the members of the Board to chair the hearing and subsequent deliberations of the Board.

PROCEDURES FOR THE FORMAL HEARING

At least ten academic working days prior to the date of the hearing, both parties to the complaint shall be sent notice of the time and approximate length of the hearing by overnight express mail. The hearing shall be scheduled at a reasonable time for all parties to attend.

If a student desires assistance with this process, he or she can request a representative from the Office of Vice President of Student Services to serve as a facilitator. The facilitator can be present at the formal hearing and can provide assistance as needed.

The Hearing

Prior to this hearing, each party must submit a list of witnesses to the Director of Human Resources. The members of the Complaint Board will meet before the formal hearing to receive training from the Director of Human Resources, to review the witness list, and to consider all written documentation submitted by the student, the instructor, and/or compiled by the Vice President. With the exception of the Director of Human Resources, no Henry Ford College employee or independent counsel shall confer with the Complaint Board, in whole or in part, regarding any substantive aspect of the complaint prior to the hearing or verdict without all parties to the complaint being present.

  1. The student and/or the employee has the right to elect not to appear before the Complaint Board. Should a party elect not to appear, the hearing shall be held in the individual's absence. Failure to appear shall not be considered relevant to the merits of claims of any parties and may not be considered in any final decision or recommendation.

  2. During the hearing, the Board shall carefully hear all presentations that both parties to the complaint care to make, including any presentations from other persons that either party shall ask to appear before the Board. Both parties shall have full access to all written and oral presentations, but neither party may have legal representation. The Board shall consider only the evidence presented during the course of the hearing and
    the written documentation reviewed during the earlier session. The hearing will be closed to the public unless an open hearing is requested by both parties. However, one support person may be present as requested by either party.

  3. The Director of Human Resources will be present to ensure that correct procedure is followed and that a fair hearing is conducted.

  4. The Chair of the Complaint Board shall preside over the hearing. The student shall present his/her case first after which the employee may present his/her case. Both student and employee shall have the opportunity to ask questions of one another or of any witnesses. They shall both have the opportunity to present one formal rebuttal. Members of the Complaint Board shall also be entitled to ask whatever questions they deem necessary.

Role of Witnesses

  1. Both parties have the right to call all witnesses deemed necessary, including students, faculty, administrators, support staff, and outside experts. It is understood that members of the HFC community might testify on behalf of either the student or employee.

  2. To ensure independent testimony, each witness should remain outside the hearing room until called to testify.

  3. Each witness shall be asked to affirm that his/her testimony will be truthful. Students who are witnesses will also be informed that knowingly furnishing false information can cause them to be subject to charges as stated in the Student Code of Conduct.

Other Procedures

  1. Alleged violations of the Student Complaint Policy and Procedures shall be addressed by the Complaint Board at the time of the hearing.

  2. In cases related to academic dishonesty, the Board may decide only whether the charge of academic dishonesty is justified and will not set aside or change the penalty given by the instructor unless the charge of academic dishonesty is set aside.

RESOLUTION

Following the hearing, the Board, upon rendering a majority decision, shall communicate its decision to the appropriate Vice President in writing.

The decision by the Complaint Board is final and is not appealable under College procedures by either party.

IMPLEMENTATION OF BOARD'S DECISION

The appropriate Vice President will ensure that the decision of the Complaint Board is carried out in a timely manner. If the Vice President is unavailable, his/her designee, as approved by the president, will take whatever action is decided by the Board.

If extraordinary circumstances seem to argue for setting aside any provisions of the Student Complaint Policy and Procedures, a Vice President will do so only after providing written documentation and consulting with the Senate Chair, the College President, and the instructor.

TIMELINE FOR STUDENT COMPLAINT PROCEDURE

This model time line is calculated with the assumption that each stage might require the maximum amount of time for completion. Seventy-five days* are allocated for the process to allow some leeway in case overnight mail is a misnomer.

TIMELINE PROCESS ACTION TAKEN
Day 1 to Day 15 Stage One: Informal Complaint Possible Resolution/Case Closed
Day 16 MAIL If no resolution reached, student notified
via overnight express mail.
Day 17 to Day 26 Period for Student Review Decision to drop complaint or continue
Day 27 to Day 41 Stage Two: Formal Complaint Case is either dismissed or resolved by the
Vice President. If the case is not
dismissed, student can appeal to
Complaint Board.
Day 42 MAIL If case is neither dismissed nor resolved,
student is notified via overnight express
mail.
Day 43 to Day 52 Period for Student Review if case is not dismissed. Decision to drop complaint or continue.
Any time prior to Day 71 Stage Three: Complaint Board Hearing 20 days - decision rendered day of hearing
*academic working days

This procedure supersedes and replaces any and all procedures related to this subject

Private: 
Public
Procedure Type: 
Adopted Date: 
Wednesday, January 1, 2003
Revised Date: 
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Procedure Name: 
Student Complaint Procedures