Conflicts and complaints between students and teachers are inevitable, and it is critical to have a fair and reasonable policy in place to address these situations. Such a policy would ideally be developed in consultation with students and faculty as well as the union leaders for both groups.
For many years the union has been arguing at the Union College Committee (UCC) that such a policy needs to be developed. Last year the college created the “Conflict Resolution Policy” which is supposed to be applied in any cases of conflict, whether between faculty and students, or between staff members. Our main interest has always been its application ins the case of student complaints.
The union Local’s opinion has always been that the vast majority of student complaints can be addressed and solved directly by the professor if they are made aware of the issues and given the chance to address them. All too often student complaints are made directly to a Coordinator, a Dean or to Student Advising, and investigations and intervention are undertaken before the faculty member is even made aware that there is an issue. The current policy does make the point that an attempt should be made to “resolve [the complaint] through discussions with the other person where possible. ” However, that suggested process is too often ignored, and third parties seem to get involved too quickly without letting the professor attempt to resolve the issue first.
We are also aware of at least one recent incident where the prescribed steps for investigating complaints, which are designed to give all parties a chance to hear and respond to the allegations, have been completely disregarded. In order for this policy to work, it must be followed. In the case of student complaints against faculty, that means that:
- The faculty member must be made aware of the issue immediately and given a chance to resolve the situation without the interference of managers or other third parties.
- If the faculty member is unable to resolve the situation, then the procedures listed in the policy must be followed in attempt to meet the policy’s goal of resolving the issue ” quickly, fairly and without reprisal”
If you become aware of student complaints, and you feel the proper process was not followed, then you should let a union steward know about your situation.
Local 415 at Algonquin College has recently raised concerns about student complaints as well. They make the point that there should be “some type of meaningful consequence for students bringing forward false complaints and allegations.” This is a good point, and one that we may need to address here at Northern as well. You can read the full post on this issue at the Local 415 website: Student Complaint Policy