Resolution of Grievances: General Guidelines
“The quality of life in a college such as Mount Holyoke relies on the conscious choice of students, faculty, and staff members to commit themselves to active and honorable participation in the creation and preservation of the college community" (Faculty Legislation). To enhance such participation, each person must abide by the principles of respectful and open communication. However, conflicts and misunderstandings may occur. It is important, therefore, to find constructive ways to resolve these various disagreements.
The guidelines and procedures outlined here were established by the College to aid in resolving grievances alleging violation of the Mount Holyoke College Statement on Individual Rights and Community Responsibility, and grievances related to College employment policies, procedures, or regulations as defined in the Staff Handbook, the Handbook of Faculty Legislation and Related Information, and the Student Employment Manual. The procedures are available to those who are either employed by or enrolled at Mount Holyoke College at the time of the incident or occurrence giving rise to the grievance. They are not intended to impair or limit the rights of any individual to seek a remedy available under state or federal law, nor does their availability establish any contractual rights or imply that the handbooks and manuals establish contractual guarantees. The guidelines and procedures may be revised or amended by the College at any time. Although members of the collective bargaining units may use the College resources for purposes of consultation and advice, union members must use the applicable grievance procedures outlined in their contract for formal grievances.
The procedures that follow constitute the usual process for presenting of grievances. Members of the Mount Holyoke community are encouraged to begin all grievance procedures in the informal process. The process becomes formal when a written grievance is filed by a grievant with the Affirmative Action Officer or the Senior Administrative Officer in conjunction with the Director of Human Resources. This may follow after efforts at an informal resolution do not resolve the grievance or if the grievant chooses to bypass the informal process. If the Affirmative Action Officer, the Senior Administrative Officer, or the Director of Human Resources, for reasons of conflict of interest, illness, or prolonged absence, is unable to carry out his or her responsibilities, he or she shall remove himself or herself from the process and a designee shall be appointed by the President of the College.
Often, the most effective avenue for addressing concerns is direct conversation with the person(s) alleged to have caused the offense; reasoned discussion of the issue will often bring about a resolution and new understanding. Individuals who believe they have a problem find it useful to first consult with one of the following people:
- Immediate Supervisor
- Department Head or Chair
- Director of Human Resources
- Associate Dean of the College/Dean of Students
- Dean of Faculty
Affirmative Action Officer(s):
Dean of Faculty (AAO for Faculty)
Director of Human Resources (AAO for Staff)
These consultations may aid an individual in determining whether or not to try to resolve the situation on his or her own; may help the individual understand the College's grievance procedures; or may simply provide a safe and confidential setting in which to discuss the incident(s) that gave rise to the concerns. These consultations are not, however, considered a part of the actual grievance procedure. It is important for individuals who are considering going forward with either the informal or formal grievance procedures to be mindful of all filing deadlines.
The deadlines given in this document for the various stages of grievance procedures are designed to make it possible for an individual to proceed through every stage of the College’s informal and formal procedures and still have ample time to file a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) within the 180-day and six (6) month periods set by those agencies.
Thus the grievant is strongly encouraged to begin informal procedures within ten (10) working days of the incident or occurrence. A grievant wishing to proceed from informal procedures to formal procedures should file a formal grievance in writing within five (5) working days after the informal process ends. A grievant choosing to bypass the informal procedures should file a formal written grievance within ten (10) working days of the incident.
As a general rule the College considers six (6) months as a reasonable outside limit for bringing a grievance. The College may, for compelling reasons, allow a grievance to be filed beyond the six (6) month limit.
The College will attempt to respect an individual's desire for confidentiality. However, the College may be legally required to take action depending on the nature of the grievance or complaint and may not be able to honor the request for confidentiality. The grievant will be informed if, in the course of satisfying this obligation, the College may be unable to comply with the request for confidentiality.
Retaliation against a grievant for having filed a grievance, or against any individual who participates or cooperates in the grievance proceedings, will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.