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2-3: Student Concerns and Complaints – Procedures

  1. Student Affairs Review of Scope and Administration of Policy
  2. Deadlines/Time Limits
  3. Level One: Concerns
  4. Level Two: Complaints
  5. New Mexico Higher Education Dept. Authority

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Except for those issues reserved as exclusive management rights and responsibilities in this policy, a student may submit a concern to resolve any issue directly involving them that is under the immediate control of SFCC management.

Students who are involved in or witness a situation where they believe another student has violated a College policy, such as harassment, including sexual harassment, discrimination or if they have a safety-related concern, should not use this policy, but should report the possible misconduct to the Student Affairs Officer immediately.

The College will investigate the situation and take appropriate action in these cases.

  1. Student Affairs Review of Scope and Administration of Policy
    The Student Affairs Officer is responsible for interpreting and administering this policy.
    If a student disagrees with the determination made about whether a concern or complaint is eligible for review under this policy, they may seek a final determination from the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. The Vice President’s determination in such a case is final.
  2. Deadlines / Time Limits
    A person who seeks to resolve a concern using this procedure should do so within 10 calendar days from the time when they become aware of, or should have reasonably become aware of, the decision or action or incident that prompted the concern.Under extraordinary circumstances, the Student Affairs Officer may grant an extension to enable the student to resolve a concern, if the student seeking the extension has a legitimate reason for the delay such as absence from the classroom, illness, or other extenuating circumstances, and it is in the best interest of the College to enable resolution using this process.
  3. Level One: Concerns
    There are three steps in the Student Concern process:

    1. Informal discussion between the parties involved;
    2. Facilitated discussion with the Student Affairs Officer; and
    3. Mediation.

Step One: Informal Discussion

    1. Students are encouraged to discuss a conflict with faculty members, SFCC staff or their peers in an open, respectful manner as soon as possible.
    2. In most cases, a student who experiences a conflict should first discuss the matter with the individual with whom they are having conflict.
    3. Students are encouraged to use good faith in their informal discussions to ensure their learning environment is as positive and beneficial as possible.
    4. In a situation where a student is unsure of how to approach a faculty or staff member or a peer with their concern, they are encouraged to seek the support and advice of the Student Affairs Officer.
    5. The Student Affairs Officer is responsible for assisting students in resolving their concerns by:
      1. Providing an appropriately confidential, safe and supportive environment to express concerns
      2. Assessing possible options for resolving the dispute, and
      3. Assisting with the implementation of practical solutions.

Step Two: Facilitated Discussion with the Student Affairs Officer

    1. When a student has not been able to resolve a dispute in an informal manner, the student may request a meeting with the Student Affairs Officer.
    2. If it is appropriate, the student and the Student Affairs Officer may involve others who may be involved in the dispute forming the basis of the student’s concern.
    3. If a student has a concern that they wish to raise in this manner, they must request the meeting with the Student Affairs Officer within 10 calendar days from the date of the last effort at informal discussion.
    4. The Student Affairs Officer will arrange a meeting within 10 calendar days of the request and will seek to facilitate a constructive dialogue around the issue between the students and others involved in the dispute.
    5. The Student Affairs Officer will work to resolve the student’s concern fairly and quickly, and should help the student and others who may be involved in coming to an agreement with appropriate solutions to the problem.
    6. In situations where more than two students are involved, the parties are encouraged to meet together to ensure all concerns about the same issue are raised at the same time and can be expeditiously and equitably resolved for all parties concerned.
    7. Since this meeting is expected to be informal, no written record will be maintained. However, if appropriate, the student and the Student Affairs Officer, and others as appropriate, may reach an agreement that they decide to put in writing. In this case, the Student Affairs Officer and the student should retain a copy of the outcome they agreed to.
    8. The College expects that most conflicts should be resolved at this stage and encourages all students to use good faith efforts to resolve disputes.

Step Three: Mediation

    1. If a student is not able to informally resolve their concern in an informal discussion between the parties involved or in a facilitated discussion with the Student Affairs Officer they may, within 10 calendar days of the meeting with the Student Affairs Officer, request mediation to resolve the concern. With the agreement of the Student Affairs Officer, a mediation session will be scheduled within 20 calendar days of the request being received.
    2. Mediation offers an opportunity for parties in conflict to have a constructive conversation with each other, improve their relationship, develop creative options for resolving their dispute and reconcile their differences.
    3. The mediator will not prescribe a solution for the parties. Instead, the mediator will assist the parties in designing their own solutions and will facilitate a process in which the parties will be responsible for the outcome of the mediation.
    4. The mediators will be selected from a list of mediators screened by the College. Mediators may be hired from outside the College or may be selected from a pool of internal mediators trained by the College.
    5. The College will be responsible for convening the mediation and retaining the services of the mediator, including paying the costs associated with the mediation.
    6. The mediator may request that the parties prepare a written statement prior to the mediation or may request other documentation from the College that pertains to the dispute.
  1. Level Two: Complaints
    Students may use the complaint provision of this policy if they are raising an issue about a specific management decision or management action which, if true, directly affects them and would constitute a violation of an express College policy. These policies include, but are not limited to:

    1. A complaint regarding discrimination including discrimination based on race, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental handicap, serious medical condition, veteran’s status or spousal affiliation that the student believes was not properly addressed after reporting the situation to the Office of Human Resources and being advised of the outcome of the investigation;
    2. A complaint about racial or sexual harassment that the student believes was not properly or adequately addressed under Policy 2-22 Student Sexual Harassment or Policy 2-23 Student Discrimination and Harassment; and
    3. Other situations of similar severity.

Complaint Review

Students who seek a response under the complaint provision of this policy may use the steps outlined in Level One and may also elect to seek review of their complaint directly before the College Hearing Panel. This involves two steps:

    1. A hearing before the College Hearing Panel; and
    2. A final decision by the College President.

College Hearing Panel

    1. A student who attempted to resolve a complaint through informal discussion and was not satisfied with the results may ask for a hearing before the College Hearing Panel.
    2. The student must submit a Request for a Complaint Review Form to the Student Affairs Officer within 10 days after completing the concern process steps.
    3. A student seeking review of their complaint directly before the College Hearing Panel must submit a Complaint Review Form 10 days after the incident or management decision they are protesting.
      • The form shall include a statement outlining the complaint, the action taken thus far, and the remedy requested. Forms are available from the Student Affairs Officer.
    4. The Student Affairs Officer will screen the request to determine if it is eligible for review under this policy.
    5. If it is eligible, the Student Affairs Officer will request that a College Hearing Panel be convened.

Step One: College Hearing Council

The College Hearing Council members are nominated by governance groups and chosen by the President from all levels within the College. Council members are appointed at the beginning of each academic year. 

Step Two: College Hearing Panel

The College Hearing Panel is composed of three individuals drawn from the larger pool of the Hearing Council.

    1. The Student Affairs Officer and the Office of Human Resources will share the list of College Hearing Council members with the parties involved.
    2. The student seeking the hearing selects one person from this pool and the responding person selects another.
    3. Either person may object to a person selected on the basis of a conflict of interest, such as a current or former relationship, which might lead to the appearance of bias on the part of the person.
      • The Office of Human Resources will evaluate concerns of conflict of interest and make a final determination.
    4. Once two members have been identified, these two select a third member from the pool, who serves as the Hearing Panel Chair.
    5. The Student Affairs Officer will inform the Office of Human Resources of the need for a hearing.
    6. The Office of Human Resources will notify the individuals chosen for the College Hearing Panel within one calendar day of the receipt of a Request for a Complaint Review.
    7. The Chair will consult with the other members of the panel and will set a date for the hearing within 20 calendar days of receiving notice from the Office of Human Resources.
    8. The Office of Human Resources will provide staff support to the Hearing Council.
    9. The Office of Human Resources will notify the student and others involved of the date and time of the hearing.
    10. The student and the responding individual(s) may submit a statement to the panel prior to the hearing.
    11. The parties will represent themselves at the hearing. Attorneys and other representatives (except for translators) are not authorized to attend.
    12. The student and the responding individual(s) will be provided the opportunity to:
      • Make an opening statement to summarize their concern,
      • Present their side of the story, and
      • State the remedy being sought.
    13. The Hearing Council can ask questions of the parties and require other employees and request other students with information relevant to the issue to attend the hearing and answer questions.
    14. The Hearing Panel may set time limits.
    15. Within 10 calendar days of the hearing, the Hearing Panel will submit its report and recommendation to the President.

Step Three: President’s Decision

    1. The President in their sole discretion may accept, modify or replace the decision of the Hearing Panel.
    2. The President will issue a final decision to the affected parties within five calendar days.
    3. The President’s decision is final and binding upon all parties.
  1. New Mexico Higher Education Authority
    A student who is not satisfied with the resolution through this policy may follow the steps below.

    1. Non-distance Education Students
      The New Mexico Higher Education Department has authority to help facilitate resolution to student complaints only after the student has utilized all internal complaint procedures at the educational institution. Please visit http://www.hed.state.nm.us/students/hed-student-complaint-form.aspx for more information about NMHED’s Student Complaint Process for non-distance education students. Complaints regarding grades and student conduct violations shall not be reviewed by NMHED.
    2. Distance Education Students
      The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is an agreement among member states, districts and territories that sets national standards for interstate offering of post-secondary distance education courses and programs. Santa Fe Community College is an NC-SARA approved institution and the New Mexico Higher Education Department is the NC-SARA Portal Entity for New Mexico. Distance Education students attending SFCC who would like to resolve a grievance should follow SFCC’s established Student Complaint Process. However, if an issue cannot be resolved internally, you may file a NC-SARA complaint with the New Mexico Higher Education Department. Complaints regarding grades and student conduct violations shall not be reviewed by NMHED. Please visit https://hed.state.nm.us/students-parents/nc-sara for more information.

Contact:          Bobbie Mascarenas, Student Affairs Officer
505-428-1014, barb.mascarenas@sfcc.edu

Updated:         12/11/2019