SA leaders push for vocal grievance policy support

By Jackie Nevarez

University Council will vote on whether to pass a student grievance policy on April 2.

The grievance policy would give students due process to resolve issues and prevent future students from experiencing similar problems, said Bill Pitney, chair of the University Affairs Committee. In order for the policy to pass, it will need a two-thirds majority vote in the University Council meeting.

Currently, there is no formal way for students to express a grievance.

Pitney said he and the University Affairs Committee have been making edits to the grievance policy since receiving comments and suggestions from University Council members at the first reading of the policy on Feb. 26.

“I have been working on a brief presentation to bring council members up to speed on the student grievance process and why such a process is needed,” Pitney said.

Changes from the first reading include exceptions for academic policies which address requirements for students, which would not apply to the grievance policy.

“At the first reading one of the key suggestions was to make sure that one of the exceptions, a reason someone cannot submit a grievance, was enforcement of academic policies and curricular changes,” Pitney said.

If the policy passes in the University Council, it would be placed in the NIU bylaws and can go into effect as soon fall 2014, Pitney said.

“I think, for me, the vast majority of faculty at the institution really care about students and want them to have a positive learning experience,” Pitney said. “And, for a lot of us, when we learn students aren’t being treated with decency and respect, it is disheartening.”

Mike Theodore, Student Association chief of staff, said the policy is a collaborative effort between the SA and the NIU administration. Two years ago, Theodore became a student advocate for the implementation of a grievance policy for students. One year later, Pitney came on board, and the policy has since evolved.

“What I would say to students is to speak to faculty and students they know [are] on University Council and say [the grievance policy] is a good idea,” Theodore said.

Although there is no foreseen opposition to the policy, if it doesn’t pass in the next few meetings, Theodore said it should pass next year.

Theodore encourages students to express any grievable situation they have been involved in to him, SA or the Northern Star.

“We need to show we’re serious about a student approach,” Theodore said.

SA Senate Speaker Dillon Domke said students can speak to the professors who are on University Council and encourage them to vote to pass the policy.

“Anything as important as this, you’ll never get 100 percent support,” Domke said. “One or two votes can be the difference of voting it in or out.”

The grievance policy would hold people accountable for their actions, Domke said.

“It’s a tool for students to use if a wrongful act has been done to them by a faculty member,” Domke said.