Procedures for Grievances Related to Community Rights & Responsibilities
Individuals who believe they are experiencing harassment or discrimination (as outlined in the Mount Holyoke College Statement on Individual Rights and Community Responsibility) are strongly encouraged to seek the counsel of the Ombudsperson within ten working days of the occurrence giving rise to the grievance.
The grievant, in consultation with the Ombudsperson, shall decide, normally within five working days, the appropriate steps toward resolving the problem; action shall normally begin within ten working days. These steps may include:
- direct communication between the grievant and the respondent
- mediation (see below) agreed upon by grievant and respondent and conducted by the ombudsperson
- an impartial and confidential inquiry by the ombudsperson resulting in recommendations for resolving the problem informally
- referral of the grievance to an appropriate administrative officer for assistance in reaching a resolution
Mediation is the process whereby a neutral third party seeks to bring the parties together to resolve a dispute in a way that is mutually acceptable. The ombudsperson provides neutral mediation services. The ombudsperson shall consult with the grievant and shall meet with the individuals separately and/or together to attempt to reach a resolution that is agreeable to all parties to the dispute. No written records, other than the final resolution, shall be retained by the ombudsperson. Original documents shall be returned to their source or to another site as agreed in the resolution. All other notes shall be destroyed. If the dispute is not resolved through mediation, the ombudsperson shall immediately inform all affected parties and discuss with the grievant other alternatives. The mediation process, if unsuccessful, will not prejudice the rights of either party to the dispute. Therefore, should mediation be unsuccessful, neither the reasons for the failure of mediation nor any material or statements made during the process may be utilized in any subsequent proceedings or forums.
When efforts to resolve a dispute informally fail, the grievant who chooses to file a formal grievance should do so normally no later than five working days after the informal procedure ends. If the grievant has chosen to bypass the informal procedures, the written grievance that initiates the formal procedure should normally be filed within ten working days of the date of the occurrence that gave rise to the grievance.
In a written grievance, the grievant must present clearly and concisely his or her description of the incident(s); identify the respondent(s) to the grievance, and suggest a desired remedy. The grievant must file this written statement with the faculty or staff affirmative action officer who, in turn, will contact the senior administrative officer(s) responsible for the departments or areas in which the grievant and respondent are employed or located. The associate dean of the College/dean of students is contacted about grievances filed against students. Students should refer to the Student Handbook under “Honor Code Council” for the procedures that apply when a student is the respondent.
The senior administrative officer responsible for the department or area in which the grievant is employed or located, or his or her designee, will then begin the investigation of the grievance after consulting with either the faculty or staff affirmative action officer. (In cases where the dean of faculty is the senior administrative officer, the investigation will normally be conducted by the associate dean of faculty.) This investigation may include discussions with the grievant, the respondent, the department head or chair, the immediate supervisor, or any other individuals believed to have knowledge pertinent to the grievance. The senior administrative officer will submit a written report to the affirmative action officer setting forth the findings and recommendations, normally within ten working days of the filing of the written complaint.
After considering the findings and recommendations of the senior administrative officer, the affirmative action officer will send a written decision and explanation of the decision to the grievant, the respondent, and the senior administrative officer(s) responsible for the departments or areas in which the grievant and the respondent are employed or located. The written decision will normally be sent no later than ten working days after the senior administrative officer has submitted his or her findings and recommendations.
When the affirmative action officer concludes there is a reasonable basis for believing that the grievance has been substantiated, appropriate action will be taken by the senior administrative officer within ten working days after receiving the affirmative action officer’s written report.
Appropriate action for staff can include any of the following:
- a plan to discuss and set goals designed to stop the offending behavior, including possible training or counseling
- a written warning or directive placed in the respondent's personnel file, including remedial action
- suspension with or without pay
- termination of employment
Appropriate action for faculty is governed by the Handbook of Faculty Legislation and Related Information, under Section Seven: “Faculty Rights.”
Since Mount Holyoke College views acts of harassment and discrimination as intolerable, any one of the actions stated above, including termination, may be taken immediately if the infraction warrants such action.
If either the grievant or respondent believes the action taken by the affirmative action officer is unjust or inadequate, he or she has the right to appeal the decision in writing to the president of the College. Such an appeal must normally be received in the Office of the President within ten working days after the grievant, the respondent, and the senior administrative officer(s) have received written notification of the action. The president’s decision will normally be rendered within ten working days of the receipt of appeal and will be final and binding within the College. In the absence or unavailability of the president, the dean of faculty will normally review and decide the case. Should the dean of faculty be ineligible by the nature of the case, the chair of the board of trustees will act for the president.
When a faculty member is the respondent, faculty legislation should be consulted for the applicable appeals process.
The College reserves the right to extend any of the above time periods when circumstances so warrant in the judgment of the College.