Editorial: Grievance policy for NIU a necessary step

The Northern Star Editorial Board believes having a formal student grievance system is an essential step in NIU becoming a student-centered university.

The grievance policy, which is based on the system that mediates issues between faculty members, is in the drafting stage, according to Thursday’s Northern Star article.

Having a system for students to formally submit complaints will develop and maintain accountability for students and professors.

With the policy in place, students who have genuine complaints to file against faculty members can be officially addressed. That way, students won’t just complain about issues with their professors or other faculty members and instead can confront and work to resolve them with the help of the university.

Mike Theodore, Student Association chief of Staff, said the grievance policy has been in the works for 10 years, but only began to pick up speed over the past three.

But now, the grievance policy is being worked out and the first draft is expected to be presented to the University Council in February, Theodore said.

“We have ideas from the faculty and staff about what they want, and it seems like everyone is on board,” Theodore said. “[The Human Resources], in particular, have opened our eyes to the processes they use.”

The cooperation among students, faculty and staff is crucial to the program’s success. Theodore is confident their respective concerns are being addressed.

Of course, with a grievance policy in place, it is possible for some of the complaints students file to be vindictive or inappropriate. Although that’s a concern worth considering, having a grievance policy that sees an occasional whiny student is better than having no complaint system at all.

“Right now there is not [a] formal process … a complaint doesn’t go anywhere, it just disappears,” Theodore said.

The easy solution in regard to unnecessary complaints is to examine each file closely and determine each case individually. Filtering out unreasonable grievances is necessary legwork to find and address the issues that do matter.

This also puts responsibility on the students to use the grievance policy without taking advantage of it. Having the ability to formally raise concerns with faculty means students should have the maturity to discern what issues call for serious attention.

The Northern Star Editorial Board applauds the SA and University Council’s efforts to implement a student grievance policy. It will be another push toward NIU’s success as a student-centered university as long as it works and isn’t swept under the rug for another decade.