Mountain Empire Community College endeavors to find an equitable resolution to all student complaints at the lowest administrative level. MECC students have the right to file formal and informal complaints regarding MECC personnel or actions. Verbal complaints are considered informal and the procedure for informal complaints is to be followed. Written complaints (hard copy and e-mail) are considered formal and the procedure for formal complaints is to be followed. This policy does not apply to (a) student grade appeals, (b) all human resource policies, (c) all appeal and grievance policies and procedures explicitly described in the VCCS Policy Manual, (d) any formal appeal or grievance covered by another MECC policy (e.g., code of conduct, admissions, financial aid, satisfactory academic progress, etc.).
In matters pertaining to an Informal Complaint, a record of the complaint and response are maintained by the college administrator in receipt of the complaint, i.e. Division Dean or Department Manager. Formal complaints of an academic nature which rise to the level of appeal are maintained by the Vice President of Academic and Student Services. Student conduct complaints are logged by the Dean of Student Services and maintained within that office.
Elements of a Formal Complaint of an Academic Nature
The elements of a formal complaint of an academic nature may vary based on the nature of the complaint. In general, academic-related complaints are first addressed by the Dean of the academic area for which the complaint originates. If the complaint is resolved at this level, documentation of the initial complaint and resolution remains in the office of the Dean of the academic area. Documentation of complaints that are not resolved at the Dean’s level are provided to the Vice President of Academic and Student Services upon appeal. A copy of the complaint and the written response is placed on file with the Vice President of Academic and Student Services in the event of an appeal. Elements of a formal complaint under appeal include:
- The initial complaint, including any information gathered from the complainant.
- A written response (hard copy or e-mail) sent to the complainant by the Academic Dean.
- A copy of a written complaint of appeal, if the Complainant chooses to file a written complaint to the Student Affairs Committee.
- A written response of the Student Affairs Committee to the complainant with a copy to the Vice President of Academic and Student Services.
- An appeal to the Vice President of Academic and Student Services, if the Complainant chooses to file said appeal.
- The final response of the Vice President of Academic and Student Services to the Complainant’s appeal.
Elements of Student Conduct Record
In accordance with Federal law and College policy, student conduct records are kept separate from academic records at MECC. Student conduct records are maintained by the Office of Student Services. The content of a student’s conduct record includes the following material:
- The incident report, indicating the alleged misconduct, which includes any information that was presented to support or refute the alleged violation;
- The formal notification to the student of the alleged charge(s) to the student;
- The disposition of the conduct resolution by the Dean or designee;
- All appeal information, if a formal appeal was filed with the College according to the established student appeal policy; and
- The final disposition of the appeal, if applicable.
MECC students have the right to file formal and informal complaints regarding MECC personnel or actions. Verbal complaints are considered informal while written complaints (hard copy and e-mail) are considered formal. Both formal and informal complaints are managed by a procedure corresponding to the type of complaint as identified within the College’s Student Handbook.
Policy and Procedure for Informal Complaints
Informal (verbal) complaints by students are managed through a face-to-face discussion between the complainant and the responsible college administrator supervising the area. If through this process, a mutually satisfactory resolution of the complaint cannot be reached, the complainant may put the complaint in writing and move to the policy and procedure on formal complaints or the complaint will be considered inactive. Informal complaints are recorded and maintained by the college administrator in receipt of the complaint. Policy and Procedure for Formal Complaints The responsible college administrator supervising the area from which the complaint originated first addresses formal complaints filed by students. Depending on the nature of the complaint, faculty and staff who receive a formal complaint forward it to the appropriate supervisor. Academic-related complaints are addressed to the Dean of the academic area. Conduct or safety-related complaints are addressed to the Dean of Student Services. The administrator handling the complaint thereupon gathers information related to the complaint from the complainant, appropriate individuals with information related to the complaint and/or available documentation related to the complaint. Following the investigation, a written response (hard copy or e-mail) is sent to the complainant. A copy of the complaint and the written response is also sent to the Vice President of Academic and Student Services. If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, he/she may file a written appeal to the Student Affairs Committee.
In cases of appeal, the Student Affairs Committee gathers information and provides a written response to the complainant with a copy to the Vice President of Academic and Student Services. If the complainant is not satisfied with the response of the Committee, he/she may thereupon file an appeal to the Vice President of Academic and Student Services. Upon consideration of the complainant’s appeal, the Vice President of Academic and Student Services provides a final response with his/her decision regarding the complaint. The Vice President of Academic and Student Services maintains a file of all formal complaints and responses that result from an appeal to that office. Student conduct complaints are also maintained in a centralized location by the Dean of Student Services. The external release and retention of a student’s conduct record or any portion of its contents may only occur in accordance with Federal law and established College policy.
Mountain Empire Community College makes every effort to handle student complaints in a timely manner and also strives to resolve complaints to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Student complaint and appeal procedures apply to all MECC students, including those taking classes through distance learning.
SCHEV Authority for Out-of-State Distance Education Students
In accordance with the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), the complaint procedures outlined above are subject to oversight of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) in complaints arising from students living outside Virginia who are enrolled in online course(s) through MECC. Before filing a complaint with SCHEV, students must follow the full complaint process at MECC. Then, if the complaint has not been resolved internally, the student may submit the Student Complaint form to SCHEV for further review. More details on the formal SCHEV student complaint procedure may be found at http://www.schev.edu/index/students-and-parents/resources/student-complaints/student-complaint-form. Grade appeals and student conduct appeals are not allowed under SARA.
Students who feel discriminated against based on race, color, religion, gender, or disability may also seek resolution through the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education. If the college complaint procedure was utilized by the student, the OCR complaint must be filed within 60 calendar days from the date of MECC’s final decision. If the college’s complaint process was not followed, students have up to 180 calendar days from the time of the alleged discrimination to file with OCR. More information on how to file a complaint with the OCR may be found at https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.