Learner Support Services

Student Grievance Process

Student Complaint and Grievance Policy Against a Staff Member

The purpose of the Student Complaint and Grievance Policy is to provide equitable and orderly processes to resolve complaints and grievances by students at NorthWest Arkansas Community College.  A complaint is defined as a difference or dispute between a student and a staff related to services rendered. (sex or disability discrimination complaints are covered by a separate procedure.) An unresolved complaint is raised to the level of a grievance when the student completes and submits a Student Grievance form. The Student Grievance process must be initiated during the semester the alleged incident or issue occurred or the regular academic semester (Fall or Spring) that follows.

Student Complaint/Grievance Procedures

Complaint Resolution
NWACC encourages students to resolve concerns that affect their college experience as informally as possible. In some cases, students may discuss a concern with the staff member, supervisor, or department head. Often, such concerns can be resolved informally; however, if resolution is not obtained, he or she should proceed with the Student Complaint and Grievance Procedure outlined below.
Recognizing that students and staff all have rights when differences arise, NorthWest Arkansas Community College sets forth the following complaint and grievance procedure. In some instances, the findings may result in a conclusion that the complaint is not against an employee, but rather an NWACC procedure or process.  In this case, an ad hoc committee will be appointed by the department’s leadership to determine if those procedures or processes may be improved in order to provide better services for students.

First Step: Complaint Resolution
First, the student should directly contact the staff member with whom the student has a difference or dispute. Most differences can be resolved at this first step, and students benefit when they learn to advocate for themselves. If the complaint is so serious or controversial that it cannot reasonably be discussed or resolved with the staff member alone, students should seek resolution by contacting the Department Head’s office and requesting the name of the appropriate  supervisor, or, in exceptional circumstances at the Department Head’s  discretion, another appropriate administrator to hear the complaint.

Second Step: Department Level Resolution
The student should contact the appropriate supervisor or administrator within five (5) working days following the discussion with the staff member or contact with the Department Head.  
Within ten (10) working days of being contacted by the student, the supervisor or administrator will discuss the issue with the student and the staff member involved, either individually or collectively, in an effort to resolve the issue. Every reasonable effort should be made by all parties to resolve the matter at this level.  The administrator serving as the mediator will complete a written notification of the complaint and subsequent actions to the Department Head.       
    
Third Step:  Grievance
If the complaint is still unresolved, the student may complete a written grievance form within five (5) working days.  
The grievance form is located at the following link.

The student may receive assistance in completing the form at the Department Head’s office. The Department Head’s office will notify the Human Resources Office of the grievance procedures and follow up with subsequent actions taken in response to the grievance.  The Student Grievance form must be completed within five (5) working days after the informal resolution session is completed. The Department Head will provide the staff member with the student’s grievance and the “Staff Response to Grievance” form by the end of the working day following the receipt of the written grievance. The staff member will then have five (5) working days in which to submit to the Department Head office the “Staff Response to Grievance” form. Within ten (10) working days of receipt of the staff response to the student grievance, the Department Head will make an inquiry into the merits of the complaint. Reasonable attempts will be made to contact the parties concerned, either individually or collectively, in order to resolve the grievance. The Department Head will apprise the Vice President for their division of the grievance and all relevant information.  The Department Head will then make a determination on the case and contact the parties concerned to announce the decision. The Department Head will return a written decision to the student who filed the grievance, indicating the resolution with any recommended action. Copies of this decision will be given to the staff member against whom the grievance has been lodged, the appropriate supervisor, and Human Resources.   If it is deemed that a code of conduct violation or gross misconduct has occurred further action may be taken by the Human Resources Department.     

Fourth Step: Appeal
Either the student or staff member may appeal the Department Head’s decision by making a written request for an appeal to the appropriate Vice President within five (5) working days of receipt of the Department Head’s written disposition of the grievance. The Vice President will determine if the appeal process is warranted by determining if new information is provided or if there is a question of due process. If an appeal is granted, the Vice President may make a determination on the appeal or they may remand the appeal to a three to five member ad hoc committee.  The Vice President or the Ad Hoc Appeal Committee will meet with the student and staff member within ten (10) working days of receipt of the written request for an appeal and will render a written decision to the student, the staff against whom the grievance was lodged, the Department Head, and Human Resources within ten (10) working days of the conclusion of those meetings.

Burden of Proof
In all cases, the burden of proof rests with the complaining party. The appropriate Department Head will be available to assist in fact finding but in no way will be responsible for proving the complainant’s charge.

Extension of Time
It is important for good relationships that grievances be initiated and processed as rapidly as possible. Every effort will be made by all parties to expedite the process. The time limitations specified herein may be extended by written mutual agreement initiated by either party. If either party is unavailable during the intervening months between semesters, the process can be delayed by the Department Head until the beginning of the new semester.

Effect of students, or staff member’s failure to appeal within time limits
If there is no written mutual agreement to extend the time limit set herein, and if a decision at the first step is not appealed to the next step of the procedure within the specified time limit, the complaint will be deemed settled on the basis of the last decision rendered.

Effect of administrative failure to respond within the time limits
Failure at any level of the grievance procedure to initiate communication of a decision to the student within the specified time will permit the lodging of an appeal at the next step of the procedure within the time which would have been allotted had the decision been communicated by the final day.

False/Malicious Complaint
It shall be considered a violation of college policy for any student to knowingly file a false or malicious complaint under this procedure.

Non-retaliation
No employee or student shall retaliate or discriminate against a student because of the student’s filing of or participation in the review of a complaint.  The student is assured that retaliation due to filing or participation in the review of a complaint under this procedure is strictly prohibited by this college policy.

Academic Complaint and Grievance Procedure

The purpose of the Academic Complaint and Grievance Procedure is to provide equitable and orderly processes to resolve complaints and grievances by students at Northwest Arkansas Community College while protecting faculty rights to freedom of instruction. A student is defined as one who is or has been duly and legally registered as either a full-time or part-time student at Northwest Arkansas Community College.

A complaint is defined as a difference or dispute between a student and a faculty member related to academic matters such as grades, assignments, attendance, or classroom procedures as they affect the student. (Violations of academic honesty are covered by a separate procedure.)

An unresolved complaint is raised to the level of a grievance when the student fills out and submits an Academic Grievance form. The Academic Grievance process must be initiated during the semester the alleged incident or issue occurred or the regular academic semester (Fall or Spring) that follows.

Informal Resolution
NWACC encourages students to resolve concerns that affect their academic experience as informally as possible. In some cases, students may discuss a concern with the instructor, program coordinator, department chairperson, or division dean. Often, such concerns can be resolved informally; however, if the student is not satisfied at this level, he or she should proceed with the Academic Complaint and Grievance Procedure outlined below.
Recognizing that both students and faculty have rights when differences arise regarding academic matters, Northwest Arkansas Community College sets forth the following complaint and grievance procedure.

First Step:  Complaint Resolution
As the first step, the student should directly contact the faculty member with whom the student has a difference or dispute. Most differences can be resolved at this first step, and students benefit when they learn to advocate for themselves.
If the complaint is so serious or controversial that it cannot reasonably be discussed with or resolved with the faculty member alone, students should seek mediation by contacting the division dean’s office and requesting the name of the appropriate coordinator or chairperson or, in exceptional circumstances at the dean’s discretion, another appropriate mediator to hear the complaint.

Second Step: Department Level Mediation
The student should contact the appropriate coordinator or chairperson within five (5) working days following the talk with the faculty member or contact with the Dean.
Within ten (10) working days of being contacted by the student, the coordinator, chairperson, or mediator will discuss the issue with the student and the faculty member involved, either individually or collectively, in an effort to resolve the issue. Every reasonable effort should be made by all parties to resolve the matter at this level.

Third Step: Formal Grievance
If the complaint is still unresolved, the student may obtain an Academic Grievance form from the division dean’s office within 5 working days.

The grievance form is located at following link.

The Academic Grievance form must be completed and returned to the dean’s office within five (5) working days of receiving the form.

The division dean will provide the faculty member with a copy of the student’s grievance by the end of the working day following its receipt. The faculty member will then have five working days in which to submit to the dean’s office the “Faculty Response to Grievance” section of the form.

Within ten (10) working days of receipt of the Academic Grievance form from the faculty member, the division dean will make an inquiry into the merits of the complaint. Reasonable attempts will be made to contact the parties concerned, either individually or collectively, in order to resolve the grievance.

The division dean will then contact the parties concerned to announce his/her decision. The dean will return a written decision to the student who filed the grievance, indicating the resolution with any recommended action. Copies of this decision will be given to the faculty member against whom the grievance has been lodged and to the appropriate coordinator or chairperson.

Fourth Step: Grievance Hearing
Either the student or the faculty member may appeal the dean’s decision by making a written request for a hearing to the Vice President for Student Learning within five working days of receipt of the dean’s written disposition of the grievance.
The Vice President for Student Learning may at his/her discretion either hear the appeal himself/herself or appoint an ad hoc hearing committee consisting of five impartial faculty members. The dean will promptly provide the Vice President’s office with all relevant documents pertaining to the grievance.  The Vice President for Student Learning or committee will meet with the grievant and grievee within ten working days of receipt of the written request for a hearing and will render a written decision to the grievant, the grievee, and the dean within ten working days of the conclusion of those meetings.  The decision of the Vice President for Student Learning or the committee will be final.  A copy of the grievance and the decision of the Vice President for Student Learning or the committee will be placed in the student’s official file.  If the faculty member is exonerated, no complaint or grievance will go into that faculty member’s personnel files at either the division office or the Human Resources office.

Burden of Proof
In all cases, the burden of proof rests with the complaining party. The appropriate division dean will be available to assist in fact finding but in no way will be responsible for proving the complainant’s charge.

Extension of Time
It is important for good relationships that grievances be initiated and processed as rapidly as possible. Every effort will be made by all parties to expedite the process. The time limitations specified herein may be extended by written mutual agreement initiated by either party.  If either party is unavailable during the intervening months for such a process, the process can be delayed by the Dean until the beginning of the following semester.

Effect of student’s or faculty member’s failure to appeal within time limits
If there is no written mutual agreement to extend the time limit set herein, and if a decision at the first step is not appealed to the next step of the procedure within the specified time limit, the complaint will be deemed settled on the basis of the last decision rendered.

Effect of administrative failure to respond within the time limits
Failure at any level of the grievance procedure to initiate communication of a decision to the student within the specified time will permit the lodging of an appeal at the next step of the procedure within the time which would have been allotted had the decision been communicated by the final day. 

Disability-related Grievances

In the event that a student has a disability-related grievance, he/she may follow the procedures outlined above to report it.  Please note, disability-related grievances follow the same process outlined in the NWACC Student Complaint and Grievance Policy.

NWACC Student Complaint and Grievance Form

Please visit the Disability Resource Center webpage for more information about disability-related grievances.

 

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