Editorial: Student grievance policy: Vote yes, but amend

A student grievance procedure has been discussed for more than 10 years. Today, it is time to end that discussion with a vote to initiate the policy into the bylaws of NIU.

But, certain amendments to the policy must be made to ensure it is truly just for students.

The student grievance policy, if implemented, would be the first of its kind at NIU.

This policy would enable students to file a grievance against a member of the university who has acted unjustly against them and have university personnel evaluate it.

It is important to note exceptions not applicable to the policy. Academic policies such as grade appeals and course rigor are not acceptable, likewise with cases of discrimination and sexual harassment. If a student files a grievance on those grounds, he or she will be forwarded to the appropriate department.

Informal resolution

As a prerequisite to filing a grievance, a documented attempt at informal resolution must be made between the alleged perpetrator and victim.

William Pitney, chair of the University Affairs Committee of University Council, said the informal resolution was included to encourage students and faculty/staff to work together and not wait too long to resolve an issue.

“In some instances, it might just be a misunderstanding,” Pitney said. “Some things may just be taken care of with an honest discussion.”

The informal resolution is a great idea as it may lead to a more prompt solution, but it may also be intimidating for the student who wants to file a grievance. Students may be uncomfortable with discussing the problem directly with the alleged perpetrator or their supervisor due to their authoritative positions.

Adding an unbiased mediator to these informal meetings would allow both parties to speak freely without power being a deciding factor.

The Office of the Ombudsperson, an office that emphasizes its role as a safe place for the community to discuss university conflicts, would provide qualified candidates to the mediator position.


At maximum, the grievance process should only be a 90-work-day ordeal.

The possibility of the process lasting up to 120 work days delays a student receiving timely closure or the accused faculty/staff member receiving consequences if necessary. It may open up an intentional delay by a guilty party, such as a dishonest student or an offending faculty member.

Alleged perpetrators and victims are given 20 work days to attempt an informal resolution and a possible 20-work-day extension if an informal resolution is not reached.

It is unnecessary to delay the grievance process and offer that 20 work day extension. If an informal resolution is not reached, the grievance should immediately move into the grievance process.

The executive secretary of University Council is allowed up to 10 work days to choose the Student Grievance Committee, which would examine the grievance. If the executive secretary is choosing from the Grievance Panel, an already-set pool of 60 candidates, it should not take more than a week, or five work days, to decide who is available to examine the grievance.

To arrive at a decision, the Student Grievance Committee is allowed a 15-work-day window. The three-week decision period should be cut down to a maximum of two weeks, or 10 work days. After waiting for months, by this point, to see the fate of the grievance, students and faculty/staff deserve a resolution that does not drag out any longer.

For the student grievance policy to be entered into the NIU bylaws, two-thirds of University Council, or 41 members, must be present for voting. Of those 41, two-thirds must vote yes to secure the policy’s place into the NIU bylaws.

The Northern Star Editorial Board encourages voting members of the University Council to attend today’s meeting at 3 p.m. and vote yes to this policy, while keeping in mind the flaws that need to be addressed in the future.