Administration creates new grievance policy for students


by Morgan Frideres, Assistant Copy Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Simpson administration created a grievance policy, which was implemented a year ago and was created while the college was preparing for an accreditation review, said Heidi Levine, vice president of student development and planning.

This new policy creates a clear, consistent way for students to report grievances and the college to resolve and track them, college administrators said.

One aspect of the policy was defining what a grievance is. It’s more than just a student complaining about something. It rises to a level of a student truly feeling wronged by the institution or the college acting in a way contrary to their policies, Levine said.

Levine said two grievances were filed in the past year.

“Prior to developing this particular policy and protocol, it’s not that students hadn’t had grievances before, but there wasn’t a clear and consistent way either for them to report those or for them to move through a resolution process, and particularly for them to be tracked,” Levine said.

The U.S. Department of Education requires schools to have some mechanism through which students can file grievances internally, along with a way to track and report to their accrediting agency what the grievances were and what actions were taken to remediate them, Levine said.

The department’s website also says federal law requires these procedures under Title IX, Section 504, the ADA and the Age Discrimination Act.

When a student files a grievance, assuming they fill out the form on the SC Connect portal, a notification automatically goes to Brenda Wickett, the assistant to the president.

Wickett will then assign that grievance to a member of a four-person team who has been delegated the authority to view the grievances.

This team is comprised of Jody Ragan, of the Registrar’s Office; Luke Behaunek, dean of students; Cathy Hoch, of the Business Services Office, and Tracie Pavon, of the Financial Assistance Office. These are the areas where students are most likely to encounter something that would rise to the level of grievance.

“It might be a billing issue. It might be about financial aid. It might be about something related to student life. It might be about an academic records issue,” Levine said.

A member or two from the team review what was submitted in writing and first determines whether the issue meets their definition of a grievance.

“Say someone says they got a grade and, ‘I don’t think that’s the grade I should’ve got,’” Levine said. “Actually, there is a process in place for appealing grades. That’s not a grievance, so that would pretty much begin and end with whoever reviewed it and getting back to that student and saying, ‘Here’s how you can address that issue.’”

If the student’s submission was in fact considered a grievance, then it would be reviewed by a team member or two. They would meet with the student and everyone involved in some way and gather any information they could. Then the team figures out how the situation can be resolved.

Even if there was no wrong done, the team still discovers that perhaps a policy or procedure needs to be refined in some way.

This new policy is more consistent not only in the way a student can file a grievance but also in a way the administration can document and track grievances.

Levine said an annual summary of all the grievances received from the past year are presented to the president and Cabinet for review so they can be aware of any patterns emerging that need to be addressed.

Students can go to Simpson’s website and search for the grievance policy, or on the bottom of every page, there is a link to consumer information which students can click on and find it. The form itself to submit a grievance is on the SC Connect portal.