Consumer Protection (Title IV) Student Complaint Process
The Higher Education Act (HEA) prohibits an institution of higher education from engaging in a substantial misrepresentation of the nature of its educational program, its financial charges, or the employability of its graduates. Below you will find the Pierce College process to review and appropriately act on complaints concerning the institution including enforcing applicable state laws. The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) maintains a process to investigate complaints of this nature brought by community and technical college students in the state of Washington. For information, contact SBCTC Student Services, PO Box 42495, Olympia, WA 98504-2495, 360-704-4315.
Pierce College Statement of Purpose
The purpose of this procedure is to establish a process for students to express and resolve misunderstandings, concerns, or grievances they have with any college employee in a prompt, fair and equitable manner. This procedure emphasizes an informal resolution.
In accordance with the Pierce College Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy, (WAC 132K-126-080) the intent of this procedure is:
- Students are guaranteed the rights of free inquiry, expression, and assembly upon and within college facilities that are generally open and available to the public.
- Students are free to pursue appropriate educational objectives from among the college's curricula, programs and services, subject to the provisions of this chapter and statutory limitations of RCW 28B.50.090.
- Students shall be protected against prejudice or arbitrary and capricious academic evaluation. At the same time, they are responsible for maintaining the standards of academic performance established by each of their instructors.
- Students have the right to a learning environment which is free from unlawful discrimination, inappropriate and disrespectful conduct, and any and all harassment, including sexual harassment.
- Students are protected against improper disclosure of information about their views, beliefs, and political associations that instructors acquire in the course of their work as instructors, advisers, and counselors. Such information is considered confidential. Students have the right to privacy of all student records according to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.
Matters not Grievable Under This Procedure
- Actions by another student are not grievable under this procedure. Instead, they are subject to the Pierce College Student Rights & Responsibilities/Student Code of Conduct Policy (WAC 132K-126). Any student who believes that he or she has been the subject of actions by another student that are in violation of the Pierce College Code of Conduct shall request a meeting with the college's judicial advisor to report the action.
- Grade appeals.
- Sexual harassment grievances against a college employee. Any such grievances shall be reported to the college's judicial advisor Appropriate actions will be taken in accordance with the Pierce College Preventing Sexual Harassment Policy (1.17.0000) and related procedures.
- The outcome of summary or other disciplinary proceedings, as described in the Pierce College Student Rights and Responsibilities/Code of Conduct Policy.
- Federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations.
Withdrawal of Grievance
At any time during the grievance procedure the student may withdraw the grievance. In addition, a failure by the student to appear for any scheduled hearing, without prior notification or evidence of extenuating circumstances shall constitute withdrawal of the grievance or appeal.
Time Limits on Filing a Grievance
A student must file a grievance by the last day of the academic quarter following the action that gives rise to the grievance (excluding summer quarter). The appropriate judicial advisor may suspend this rule under exceptional circumstances such as extended illness, sabbatical leave or absence of one or both parties to the grievance. All grievance records will be held by the judicial advisor for one year after disposition of the complaint, at which time they will be destroyed.
Administration of this procedure is delegated by the Vice Presidents of Learning & Student Success to the college's judicial advisors (Fort Steilacoom or Puyallup).
Any student believing that he or she has been unfairly treated by an employee of the college, as described in the Purpose of this document, shall pursue the grievance as follows.
Informal Grievance Procedure
Step 1 - Direct Discussion with College Employee
The student shall meet with the college employee with whom they have the grievance, and in a good faith effort, attempt to resolve the dispute promptly and fairly.
**At this step, and all subsequent steps in this procedure, the student may utilize the college ombudsperson for support and assistance. Contact the Office of the Vice President for Learning and Student Success for the identity of the college ombudsperson.
Step 2 - Discussion with Supervisor, Division Chair or Site Director
If a satisfactory resolution is not reached after direct discussion with the individual with whom the student has the grievance, the student shall request, a meeting with the appropriate supervisor, division chair or site director. Supervisors, division chairs or site directors will hear the student's concern and determine if they may be able to resolve the issue in an informal manner.
Initiation of Formal Grievance
If the student expresses intent to take the grievance to the formal level, despite the efforts for resolution at an informal level, the supervisor, division chair or site director will require that the student submit a written statement, using the Student Grievance Petition in each division office, in the office of student programs, in the office of the college's judicial advisors, in the office of the Vice President, and in administrative offices at college sites.
The supervisor, division chair or site director shall meet with the student within 10 business days after receiving the written request. The supervisor, division chair or site director will investigate the grievance and take appropriate actions to facilitate a prompt and fair resolution. Results of the investigation, recommendation for resolution, and notice of the student's right to appeal to the judicial advisor shall be submitted, in writing, to all parties within 15 business days of the meeting with the student.
If the recommendation for resolution set forth by the supervisor, division chair or site director is not satisfactory to the student, he or she may request a formal hearing before the Grievance Review Committee. This request must be made in writing, to the appropriate judicial advisor within 5 business days of receiving the recommendation for resolution. The written request must clearly state: a) the nature of the grievance, b) details of what actions have been taken to resolve the grievance, and c) statement of requested resolution. The student shall also submit a copy of the recommendation for resolution written by the supervisor, division chair, or site director.
Formal Grievance Procedure
Filing a formal grievance is a serious matter and should be done thoughtfully.
If a student chooses to file a formal grievance, the following will occur:
Formal Grievance Review Hearing
The judicial advisor who receives the request for a formal hearing will review the documentation and determine if there is reasonable basis for a formal hearing, based on the following criteria:
- Has the college employee to whom the grievance is lodged followed all college policies and procedures?
- Has the student provided reasonable/sound evidence that he or she was treated in a partial or otherwise unfair manner?
The student will be notified in writing, within 10 days of submitting the request for a formal hearing as to the decision of the judicial advisor.
If the grievance is determined to have merit, the judicial advisor will convene the Grievance Review Committee. If the grievance is determined not to have merit, the committee will not be convened.
Grievance Review Committee
If determined to have merit, the Grievance Review Committee shall meet within 21 business days after receiving the request. An extended time frame may be necessary to accommodate the college calendar. The Committee shall conduct the hearing according to standard practices as stated in the Student Rights and Responsibilities/Code of Conduct (WAC 132K-126-240). The committee may call any witnesses and hear any testimony needed to recommend a fair resolution to the grievance.
The chair of the Grievance Review Committee shall issue a written decision to all parties, within 3 business days after the conclusion of the hearing.
Composition of the Grievance Review Committee
Members of the Grievance Review Committee shall be assigned as follows, (consistent with the campus or site of the student grievant). The committee recorder shall be assigned by the Vice President who has forwarded the grievance.
- One (1) administrator, assigned by the college President. The administrator will act as the committee chair (non-voting except in the case of a tie vote).
- One (1) faculty member, appointed by the President of the Faculty Association
- One (1) classified staff member, selected by the WPEA Executive Board
- Two (2) students, appointed by the ASPCP or ASPCFS executive board, college committee dependent.
Appeal to the Vice President
If the student is not satisfied with the decision of the judicial advisor or of the Grievance Review Committee, he or she may appeal to the appropriate Vice President, in writing. This appeal must be made within 5 business days of the student receiving the decision of the judicial advisor or the Grievance Review Committee.
The Vice President will review all documentation to include records of the case prepared by the Grievance Review Committee, together with any appeal statement, and shall deliver a decision, based on procedural compliance, to accept the decision of the judicial advisor or the Grievance Review Committee, or to take another course of action. A written decision shall be made within 10 business days after reviewing the case.
The Vice President's decision will constitute final action by the college.
Always follow appropriate procedures in pursuing any grievance. College rules prohibit the following:
- Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures or other college activities. Disruption or obstruction mean conduct which disturbs, interferes with, or prevents normal campus functions and activities. Examples include creating a disturbance by yelling, using profanity, or verbally intimidating or abusing others; or making excessive or unreasonable demands for immediate action, such as demanding an appointment or a response to a grievance on the spot.
- Failure to comply with directions of a college official or resisting or obstructing such officials in the performance of their duties.
The rules contained in this document supersede all former rules relating to student grievances.