Administration proposes changes to student grievance procedure, accepting feedback

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For the first time in almost two decades, the procedure for filing grievances regarding discrimination on campus may face several updates as administrators and students work to increase the procedure’s accessibility and address criticisms it has received in the past.

The current Berkeley Campus Student Grievance Procedure, which has remained unchanged since 1997, is a way for registered undergraduate and graduate students to resolve their complaints alleging discrimination by the university, either in campus policies or how these policies are applied. Some grievants allege that the current process can be confusing and intimidating, prompting reformations many feel are long overdue.

“It has become outdated and, often times, unsuccessful at resolving disputes that students raise with the university,” said Leah Romm, the undergraduate student representative of the Berkeley Campus Student Grievance Procedure revision committee, in an email.

According to Romm, who works in the student advocate’s office, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande and Graduate Dean Andrew J. Szeri issued a charge letter in September regarding problems with the current grievance procedure.

A committee — with members from the offices of Le Grande and Szeri and the office of legal affairs, along with an undergraduate and graduate student representative — was subsequently formed to design improvements, including clarifications to the procedure’s “purpose and scope” section, more comprehensible language and technological additions to streamline the experience for students.

In terms of purpose and scope, a significant change being proposed is the procedure’s division into three “paths,” with each describing what process an individual should follow according to the nature of the grievance of discrimination being submitted.

Gender identity, pregnancy and medical conditions that are genetic are some of the added grounds upon which discrimination will be prohibited should the proposed changes be enforced. Current grounds include race, color, medical condition, national origin, religion, sex, disability, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation and Vietnam-era veteran or special disabled veteran.

Lee Maranto, campus independent hearing officer and chair of the committee, said changes in language and requirements would help students feel less intimidated by the process.

“They don’t need to provide a legal brief — we really want to lower the threshold of what information they need to provide,” Maranto said. “Some students are really intimidated, thinking they have to talk to an attorney and things like that.”

There are also technological materials being proposed to facilitate the process, such as a web-based, rather than print-based, submission form, according to Maranto.

The proposed procedure is in the public comment period. If the final draft of the proposed changes are approved by Le Grande and Szeri, the procedure will “ideally” be in effect next semester, Romm said.

Contact Jean Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @missjeanlee.