UC Berkeley student’s grievance procedure delayed again by campus

Just a day before the campus deadline to complete an investigation into a UC Berkeley graduate student’s grievance over campus student conduct proceedings, the deadline was pushed back, raising frustrations in a process that has already suffered delays.

According to an Oct. 31 letter to campus graduate student Aakash Desai from Dean of the Graduate Division Andrew Szeri, the deadline to investigate the grievance and put together a case report for Szeri to consider in his final determination will be extended from the initial deadline of Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 due to a need to substitute complaint resolution officers.

In June, Desai filed the formal grievance alleging that unfair application of campus policy over the course of his student conduct proceedings, which stemmed from the November 2009 Wheeler Hall occupation.

The deadline extension is the second delay in the process for addressing Desai’s grievance, which has been drawn out over the course of more than four months. According to Desai, this most recent setback is not surprising, given the previous delays.

“I’m not surprised, but I’m still frustrated every time they delay the process,” Desai said. “I certainly can’t say I’m hopeful at all about this process, but I am resolute. We don’t have any intent of backing down.”

Sheila O’Rourke, the appointed complaint resolution officer until the switch, could not be reached for comment.

According to Szeri’s assistant, Sharon Page-Medrich, Szeri has invited Desai and his adviser Thomas Frampton, a campus School of Law student and member of the Campus Rights Project, to meet with him to discuss questions about the process.

While campus officials have previously maintained that they are unable to comment on ongoing student grievances, Felicia Lee, chief of staff for the campus Office of Student Affairs, said in an email that, in general, having to substitute a complaint resolution officer midway through a grievance is “unusual,” and the Student Grievance Procedure does not explicitly provide for a substitution process.

“The grievance procedure does not provide a process for ‘substituting’ a CRO, and that is not something that would probably ever happen,” she said in the email.

She added that possible reasons for having to replace resolution officers could include deciding they could not continue to serve, or becoming disabled or dying.

She said if a complaint resolution officer were to be replaced, a replacement would be appointed quickly to comply with the grievance procedure’s requirement for timely responses.

According Frampton, the delays and timeline violations represent “disregard and even contempt for students’ basic rights at this university.”

“This grievance, in part, deals with the university’s refusal to follow its own procedural rules,” he said. “It’s ironic to say in the least that the university is showing the same cavalier attitude towards its procedural rules in adjudicating the grievance.”