Connected Campus

4.5 Student Complaints

 

The institution has adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints and is responsible for demonstrating that it follows those procedures when resolving student complaints.

 

_X_  Compliance           ___  Partial Compliance          ___  Non-Compliance

 

Narrative

 

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (MABTS) has an open door policy [1] when advising students or receiving complaints. The seminary has policies in place for reporting grievances [2] which are divided into four main categories. First, academic grievances are those related to academic issues concerning grades, course information, course content, faculty conduct, performance, or attitude. Second, administrative grievances concern administrative issues related to support services. A third category concerns sexual harassment, which is for all grievances related to sexual harassment. A fourth and final area concerns the honor code. The policy for reporting grievances outlines the specific steps, wherein the student begins the process by filling out the Student Grievance Form. Information about the Student Grievance Policy and Procedure is found in the 2014-15 Student Supplement and Housing Handbook [3] and also on the seminary’s website (http://www.mabts.edu/campus-life-news/student-grievance-policy-and-proce...), where the student may download the Student Grievance Form [4]. 

 

The record of all student grievances are located in the Campus Life office of the seminary. In accordance with seminary policy, the record of sexual harassment complaints are additionally located in the office of the President. The Campus Life Director is responsible for maintaining all student grievance forms [5] and the maintenance and storage of sexual harassment complaints of faculty, students, and staff are maintained by the executive assistant to the President [6].
 

The Seminary also invites students to critique practices of the school through an annual Student Forum [7] and Student Survey [8].  

 

A description of the Student Grievance Policy and Procedure [2] is presented, followed by two case studies to establish that the school follows its published policy in resolving student complaints. The first involves an academic complaint against a professor’s online classroom habits and the second involves an honor code violation.

 

Student Grievance Policy and Procedure

 

All grievances are weighed for redress in a four-step process before the Student Grievance Policy and Procedure (SGPP) is used. First, students are to review documents associated with the potential grievance (syllabi, policies and procedures, etc.). Second, they are then to “prayerfully consider” the validity of the grievance, and third, they are to discuss the grievance with the professor or administrator if possible, excluding sexual harassment. If a student feels that he/she has been sexually harassed, “the offense is to be reported to the President’s office within 48 hours” [2]. Fourth, if the issue cannot be resolved, they are to complete the SGPP, which is designed to address four types of grievances:

 

Section I – Academic

Section II – Administrative

Section III – Sexual Harassment

Section IV – Honor Code Violations

 

Section I – Academic Grievances

 

For Grievances of Academic Issues Related to Grades, Course Information, Course Content, Faculty Conduct, Performance, or Attitude. 

 

The seminary specifically assigns to the individual faculty member responsibility for establishing grade criteria and the subsequent assignment of grades upon evaluation of student work. 
 

(Matters related to dropping and adding are dealt with by petition through the Registrar’s Office. Matters related to excessive excused or unexcused absences are dealt with by petition through the Masters and Undergraduate Committee.)

 

In the case that a discussion of the issue with the professor or administrator involved does not resolve the issue, the following procedure should be followed:

 

  1. The student completes and delivers the Student Grievance Form to the appropriate administrative personnel, who will then contact the appropriate person(s) to attempt to establish a resolution to the grievance.
  2. If the situation remains unresolved, the matter will be addressed by the Academic Vice President, who will attempt to establish a resolution to the grievance. The student may request that a student council representative or another faculty member attend the meeting.
  3. The Academic Vice President will make a final decision concerning the grievance.

 

Section II – Administrative Grievances

 

For Grievances of Administrative Issues Related to Support Services

 

The student completes and delivers the Student Grievance Form to the appropriate administrative personnel, who will then contact the appropriate person(s) to attempt to establish a resolution to the grievance.

  1. If the situation remains unresolved, the matter will be addressed by the Executive Vice President, who will attempt to establish a resolution to the grievance. The student may request that a student council representative or another faculty member attend the meeting.
  2. The Executive Vice President will make a final decision concerning the grievance.

Section III – Sexual Harassment

 

For Grievances of Academic or Administrative Issues Related to Sexual Harassment

 

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary respects the personhood of all individuals, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or religion. The seminary, therefore, will not tolerate the abuse of individuals in regard to these matters. It is our policy to maintain a workplace free from all forms of harassment, which includes sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical. 

 

Sexual harassment is prohibited by the seminary’s policy as well as by federal and state law. Sexual harassment includes all unwelcomed sexual overtures or advances including, but not limited to, offensive jokes, comments, innuendos, or other sexually oriented statements; requests for sexual favors; and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

                       

·      Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly as terms or conditions of a student’s academic achievement, or

 

·      Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for decisions regarding the student’s academic status, or

 

·      Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a student’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning environment.

 

If a student feels that he/she has been subjected to any type of harassment, the offense is to be reported to the President’s Office within 48 hours. A written complaint should include the name of the person(s) involved, the specific nature of the offense, and the date that it occurred. The President’s Office will conduct a thorough investigation of the complaint, and appropriate remedial action will be taken. Any information gathered will be treated as confidentially as practical. Where investigation confirms the offensive behavior, prompt corrective action will be taken with appropriate redress to the complaining party. Students reporting incidents of sexual harassment or cooperating with an investigation thereof will be protected from reprisals in any form. The confidentiality of the parties involved will be protected throughout the investigation, and only those parties whom the President deems necessary to have knowledge of the case will be informed.

 

Any employee found to be guilty of violating this policy will be disciplined, up to and including termination. Likewise, disciplinary measures will be applied in any instance determined fabricated for malicious reasons.

 

If the student feels that he/she has been subjected to any type of harassment, the offense may be reported to the President’s Office or the student may follow the steps below:

 

  1. The student completes and delivers the Student Grievance form to administrative personnel, who will forward the grievance to the President’s office within 48 hours to establish a resolution to the grievance with appropriate personnel.
  2. If the situation remains unresolved, the matter will be addressed by the President, who will attempt to establish a resolution to the grievance.
  3. After a thorough investigation, the President will make a final decision concerning the grievance.

 

Section IV – Honor Code

 

Each Student Agrees:

           

·      I understand and will support and follow the Honor Code.

 

·      I will not personally use unauthorized materials, and I will not participate with others in cheating.

 

·      I will not facilitate cheating, and if I become aware of violations of academic or moral integrity, I understand that I have a responsibility to the seminary community and will at least say something to the student involved or discuss the situation with a professor or the appropriate Dean.

 

Academic work is evaluated on the assumption and the expectation that the work presented is the student’s own, unless designated otherwise. Anything less is unacceptable and is considered academically dishonest. Collaboration, plagiarism, and cheating—all defined below—are considered forms of academic dishonesty and students guilty of such are subject to disciplinary action.

 

1.     Collaboration: Submission of a paper that is paraphrased from, or identical to, another student’s paper. A “paper’ is defined as “any materials submitted by a student for credit in a course.”

 

2.     Plagiarism: Submission of a paper in which substantial portions are paraphrased without documentation or are identical to published or unpublished material.

 

3.     Cheating: The improper use of books, notes, another student’s tests, or other aids during an examination. It is the responsibility of the student to get approval for the use of such aids prior to the time of the examination, and without such approval they will be considered improper. An “examination” is defined as “any testing situation in which the score will be used for credit in a course.”

 

Failure on a student’s part to live up to this Honor Code becomes the concern of the appropriate Dean and faculty advisor. (It is assumed, however, that any matter of concern in this area between members of the seminary community will first be dealt with according to the principles of Matthew 18:15-22). All disciplinary matters are subject to review before a Student Disciplinary Committee. This Committee at the Cordova Campus is composed of the Dean of Women or the Dean of Men, as chairperson, the Faculty Advisor of the student in question, the President of the Student Council, and one other faculty member. At the Northeast Campus, this Committee will be appointed by the Director of the Northeast Branch and will include one student participant.  

 

“Due process” in dealing with disciplinary problems is primarily for the purpose of protecting the reputation of a student against false or unsupported accusations. The purpose of disciplinary action is always redemptive, with every effort made to help the student involved to gain insight into his or her own needs and motivations as a potential minister in Christian service. Where there is evidence of personality and character weaknesses that would make it unwise for a student to continue in preparation for the ministry, the student is given counsel to help him or her see that fact.

 

A Student Disciplinary Committee will handle all cases referred to it by the appropriate Dean and will be the appellate body for decisions made by the Dean that are appealed by the student. The Committee will handle any case involving the possible dismissal of a student, and dismissal may only take place by action of the faculty. The student will receive a written statement of charges against him/her. He/she may be accompanied by a personal representative, may bring witnesses on his/her own behalf, and may choose not to answer any of the questions directed to him/her. If either the Student Disciplinary Committee or the student deems the advice of a lawyer necessary, such a person may give any advice he/she believes pertinent; but he/she may not enter into the proceedings and/or deliberations of a Student Disciplinary Committee.

 

Should the situation warrant it, the student may be given a warning, a disciplinary probation, a required leave of absence, or dismissal. Appeal of any action of the Student Disciplinary Committee may be made to the faculty in writing. Further appeal may be made after the faculty’s decision to the President of the seminary. Such an appeal must be in writing, and a personal interview will be granted with the appeal.

 

If the student feels that he/she has witnessed a violation of the honor code or if they themselves have violated the honor code, they are take the following steps below:

 

  1. The student completes and delivers the Student Grievance Form to the appropriate administrative personnel, who will then contact the appropriate person(s) to attempt to establish a resolution to the grievance.
  2. If the situation remains unresolved, the matter will be addressed by the Academic Vice President, who will attempt to establish a resolution to the grievance. The student may request that a student council representative or another faculty member attend the meeting as well.
  3. The Academic Vice President will make a final decision concerning the grievance.

 

Case Study One – Academic Grievance

 

On February 11, 2015, Kyle W. (alias), in keeping with step one of the academic grievance process, approached the Registrar, Mrs. Rose Mink, with a complaint about a professor’s lack of professional decorum in an online class. The student attached eleven specific grievances to the Student Grievance Form [9] and stated to the Registrar that the professor’s “current teaching skills and style are not entirely compatible for this type of class.”

 

On February 12, 2015, the Registrar informed the Academic Vice President of the grievance and he in turn attempted to establish a resolution to the grievance by writing a coaching memo [10] to the professor in question. After meeting with the professor the coaching memo was signed and placed in his personnel file, thus resolving the grievance.

 

Case Study Two – Honor Code Grievance

 

On December 17, 2014, Britney R. (alias) came to the Campus Life office to discuss a classroom matter in CE 4552 Church Ministries. She perceived that a fellow student was using outside sources on a final examination and reported it to the Campus Life Director, who was also the instructor for the class. According to the 2014-15 Student Honor Code, “cheating” is defined as:

 

“The improper use of books, notes, another student’s tests, or other aids during an examination.  It is the responsibility of the student to get approval for the use of such aids prior to the time of the examination, and without such approval they will be considered improper.  An “examination” is defined as “any testing situation in which the score will be used for credit in a course.”

 

The instructor thanked the student for following the handbook and a student grievance [11] was filled out. The professor assured the student that she would act on her grievance appropriately. The professor scheduled an appointment with the student in question to ask him about the matter in order to establish a resolution to the grievance. After the student explained what happened, the professor deemed that what had appeared to be cheating to the complaining student was not cheating according to the honor code, thus resolving the grievance.

 

Documentation

 

1. 2014-15 MABTS Catalog, p. 64

2. MABTS Grievance Policy & Procedure

3. 2014-15 Student Supplement and Housing Handbook, p. 12-19

4. Student Grievance Form MABTS Website

5. 2014-15 MABTS Employee Handbook, p. 30-31

6. 2014-15 MABTS Employee Handbook, p. 34

7. 2013-14 Student Forum Transcript

8. 2013-14 Student Survey Comments

9. Student Grievance Form - Academic

10. Academic Coaching Memo

11. Student Grievance Form – Honor Code

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