Complaint Resolution Policy
Rhode Island College affirms its commitment to ensuring an environment for all students and employees that is fair, humane, and respectful; an environment that supports and rewards students and employees on the basis of relevant considerations, and which is free from discriminatory, inappropriate, and disrespectful conduct or communication. As an institution of higher education dedicated to fostering and upholding higher order values of human dignity and respect for the individual, Rhode Island College expects standards of professional behavior that exceed those minimally prescribed by law.
In an instance of perceived violation of the College policies, a member of the College community may file a complaint. In pursuing a complaint, the individual may be accompanied and otherwise assisted by an advisor/advocate from within the College community. The advisor shall not act as an attorney. Should any of the parties retain legal counsel, counsel may not be present at any level of the complaint called for by these procedures. College employees governed by collective bargaining agreements may pursue perceived violations of those agreements according to the grievance procedures set forth in them.
Confidentiality and privacy of those involved will be respected during all complaint procedures to the degree the procedure will allow. If an individual wishes to bring a complaint of discrimination, including a complaint alleging sexual harassment, and remain anonymous, the College's ability to respond will be limited. Nevertheless, any individual who believes he or she has been the victim of discrimination is encouraged to discuss the matter with the College's Director of Affirmative Action or any other administrator with whom he/she feels comfortable. Consultations will be confidential to the full extent permitted by law.
This policy provides two avenues for pursing a complaint: an Informal Resolution Procedure and a Formal Resolution Procedure. An individual may utilize either or both of these avenues of resolution. The College will maintain records and monitor all complaints at all levels. In the case of Affirmative Action complaints, all records are required to be retained for monitoring purposes.
Individuals seeking information regarding the process of complaint resolution may consult with any of the following offices or individuals for advice and assistance. (A list can be obtained by clicking here.)
Informal Resolution Procedure
Members of the College Community are encouraged normally to seek an informal resolution of their complaints. This informal procedure is intended to encourage communication between the parties involved, either directly or through an intermediary, in order to facilitate a mutual understanding of what may be different perspectives regarding the complained of action or behavior, and to find a solution.
If the complainant is a student, the complaint shall be handled by the Dean of Students. Purely academic complaints shall be handled in accordance with the College's academic grievance policies that are outlined in the College Handbook – Chapter 3 – Academic Policies and Procedures.
If the complainant is an employee, the complaint normally shall be handled by the employee's immediate supervisor. If the immediate supervisor is the subject of the complaint, the complainant may file the informal complaint with another person in the administrative chain of command.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, a record of a complaint alleging discrimination shall be reported to the Director of Affirmative Action so that the College may maintain a record of all complaints filed.
If the informal process does not result in the resolution of the complaint to the satisfaction of the complainant, the complainant may utilize the formal complaint procedure.
Formal Resolution Procedure
Any member of the College community may submit a formal complaint alleging a violation of College policy to the appropriate administrator at any time. However, time limits contained in law or contracts may limit the College's ability to respond fully.
Purely academic complaints shall be handled in accordance with the College's academic grievance policies and are not covered by this policy. Those policies and procedures may be found in the College Handbook – Chapter 3 – Academic Policies and Procedures.
Filing a Formal Complaint
A formal complaint shall be in writing and shall set forth a statement of the facts, the College policy/policies or practice/practices violated, and the specific remedy sought.
The complaint normally shall be filed as follows:
- If the complaint alleges discrimination, including illegal harassment, the complaint shall be filed with the Interim Director, Affirmative Action, Maggie Sullivan, Roberts Hall 310, telephone # 456-8216, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If the complaint is a non-academic student issue, the complaint shall be filed with the Dean of Students, Scott Kane, Craig-Lee 119, telephone # 456-8061, email: email@example.com.
- All other complaints shall be filed with the Interim Director, Human Resources, Maggie Sullivan, Roberts Hall 310, telephone # 456-8216, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
These College offices shall forward the complaint to the appropriate Dean or Director for Step 1 resolution. They shall also continue to monitor and coordinate its resolution.
If the complaint is against a Dean or Director, Step 1 of the complaint procedure shall be by-passed and the grievance shall be filed with the appropriate Vice President.
If the complaint is against a Vice President, Step 1 and Step 2 of the complaint procedure shall be by-passed and the complaint shall be filed directly with the President.
If the complaint is against the President, Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 of the complaint procedure shall be by-passed and the complaint shall be filed with the Board of Governors who shall deal with the complaint through an ad hoc procedure.
If the College determines that a complaint is well-founded and that the respondent has engaged in inappropriate conduct, disciplinary action may be imposed (and formally effectuated, as required, by an appointing authority) ranging from an oral reprimand to termination of employment or expulsion from the College.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Dean or Director to whom the complaint has been forwarded shall, within seven (7) calendar days of receiving the complaint, conduct a formal conference with the complainant, permitting her or him to provide any necessary relevant information. The Dean or Director shall also meet with the respondent and conduct such additional investigation as he or she deems necessary. Absent extraordinary circumstances, a written recommendation shall be rendered within seven (7) calendar days of the first formal conference. The recommendation shall be sent to the complainant and respondent. The written recommendation shall state the background information, the rationale for the recommendation, and the recommended remedy (if any). No transcript or recording of the conference shall be made by either party. For monitoring purposes, a copy of the recommendation shall be sent to the College officer who received the initial complaint.
If the complaint is not resolved at Step 1, the complainant or respondent may, within fourteen (14) calendar days of receipt of the Step 1 recommendation, appeal to the Vice President administratively responsible for the unit of the College in which the alleged policy violation/s occurred.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Vice President shall hold a hearing within fourteen (14) calendar days of receipt of the appeal or complaint. Absent extraordinary circumstances, a written recommendation shall be rendered within fourteen (14) calendar days of such hearing. The complainant and the respondent shall be afforded the opportunity to testify, to call witnesses and to introduce documentary evidence. The Vice-President may review any evidence gathered at the Step 1 level, (including the Step 1 recommendation), and shall, if that evidence is deemed relevant and probative, make it available to the parties. Hearsay evidence, including out-of-hearing statements, if deemed reliable by the Vice President, may be introduced but will normally be accorded less weight than the testimony of live witnesses. No formal cross examination by the parties shall be permitted. No transcript or recording shall be made of the hearing. For monitoring purposes a copy of the recommendation shall be sent to the College officer who received the initial complaint.
In the event that the complaint is not resolved at Step 2, the complainant or respondent may file an appeal with the President within fourteen days of the receipt of the Step 2 recommendation.
Absent extraordinary circumstances, the President shall, within seven (7) calendar days, refer the case to the Complaint Hearing Panel. The Complaint Hearing Panel shall consist of three (3) persons, one of whom shall be designated chair, chosen from a standing panel appointed annually by the President. The standing panel shall consist of twelve (12) College employees representing administrators, faculty, and staff. The Complaint Hearing Panel shall be formed as follows: one person shall be appointed by the President and designated chair, one person shall be appointed by the complainant, and one person shall be appointed by the respondent. Any member of the panel whose term of appointment expires during the course of the hearing shall continue to serve until completion of the hearing and rendering of a recommendation. The Step 3 hearing shall be held as soon as practicable and normally within twenty-one days of referral by the President. The complainant and the respondent shall have the right to call witnesses, to testify and to present relevant documentary evidence. The complainant and the respondent shall have the right to cross-examine all witnesses, subject to the supervision of the Panel. The Panel may review any evidence gathered at the Step 1 or Step 2 level, (including the Step 1 and 2 recommendation), and may, in its discretion, make that available to the parties. Hearsay evidence, including out-of-hearing statements, if deemed reliable by the Panel, may be introduced but will normally be accorded less weight than the testimony of live witnesses. A tape recording of the proceeding shall be made and a copy shall be provided, at cost, to the complainant and to the respondent. Following the hearing, the Panel shall render a report and recommendation to the President, absent extraordinary circumstances, within twenty-one (21) calendar days following the hearing. The report shall contain specific findings of fact and recommendations. Upon consideration of the report and recommendation, the President shall render a decision in writing and communicate the same to the complainant, the respondent, and to the College monitoring officer. The President's decision shall be final.
While this procedure is generic and therefore available to address any concerns of members of the College Community, it is intended to be of particular use to those persons seeking to vindicate rights accorded them pursuant to the College's Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action Policy. More specifically, this policy constitutes the grievance mechanism called for by the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title IX (barring sex discrimination), Title VI (barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin); and Title VII (barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin).