Grievance Policy

The mission of the Cornerstone University Student Disability Services (SDS) Office is to partner with students to provide equal access to a quality university education in a community where Jesus Christ is preeminent and learning is viewed as a natural response to His work in our lives.  The SDS staff also strives to be a valuable and informed resource to students, families, and the campus community by promoting accommodations, access, education, and inclusion of all people.

Any Cornerstone University student, employee, or third party who believes that he or she has been subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability or has been denied academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services required by law shall have the right to invoke this Grievance Process.  In general, this Grievance Process is designated to address the following types of concerns:

  1. Disagreements or denials regarding requested services, accommodations, or modifications to University practices or requirements;
  2. Alleged inaccessibility of a University program or activity;
  3. Alleged harassment or discrimination on the basis of a disability; and
  4. Any other alleged violations of the ADA and/or Section 504.

This Grievance Process, however, is not intended and shall not supersede other University policies and procedures for which separate University policies and procedures exist, including, for example, grade appeals and appeals for re-admittance following disciplinary academic probation or suspension.  Individuals are encouraged to consult with the Director of the Cornerstone University Learning Center, the Accommodations Officer, or their respective designees regarding the most appropriate University policy or procedure to address a particular concern. Finally, please note that this Grievance Process does not apply to complaints from applicants for employment or applications for admission to the University.

Procedure Timeframes

Regardless of the specific grievance procedure invoked, all grievances should be filed in written form within 60 days of the specific event or action precipitating the student’s complaint(s).  As an initial matter, all grievances shall be reviewed by the Director of the Learning Center to determine whether they are submitted within a timely manner and/or whether they contain all required information, including a clear statement of all grounds for the grievance.  To facilitate a clear and prompt resolution, a grievance, once initiated, shall not be expanded beyond the issues presented in the student’s initial complaint.  The University reserves the right to redirect a grievance to the proper grievance procedure or to any other appropriate campus review procedure.

Designation of Responsible Employee

Consistent with federal law, Cornerstone University has designated representatives to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities, including any investigation of any complaint communicated alleging its noncompliance.  The name, office address, and telephone number of these employee(s) are indicated below:

              Director of the Learning Center                             Accommodations Officer

             Miller Hall-Learning Center                                    Student Disability Services at the Learning Center

             Miller Hall                                                               Miller Hall

             Phone:  616-949-5300, x1519                               616-949-5300, x1596 (Receptionist)

Availability of the Informal Grievance Process

When a dispute first arises regarding alleged disability-related discrimination, there are several university and non-university resources that a person may access for support and consultation regarding the area of disagreement.   A person may desire attempting first to resolve the issue directly with the individual faculty member, administrator, or staff member(s) involved.  A person may also choose to address his or her complaint informally by meeting with the Director of the Learning Center, the Accommodations Officer, or his or her designee.  However, a person is not required to file an informal grievance as a precursor to filing of a formal grievance process, and he or she has the right to move directly to a formal grievance procedure as detailed below.  A person should also be aware that the Office of Civil Rights can be a resource for pursing both informal and formal grievances, and that a complaint may be filed with the OCR at any time, irrespective of grievance status.

Formal Grievance Process for the Denial of Disability-Related Accommodations and Services (denoted “Grievance Process” in this document)

1.  Any student, employee or third party shall have the right to file a formal grievance and invoke the formal Grievance Process described herein.  A formal grievance should be prepared by the grievant and submitted to the Director of the Learning Center and/or Accommodations Officer, who will review any claim of discrimination based on disability.  This provision includes but is not limited to a person’s right to file a grievance related to concerns about the implementation of appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids; access to physical campus buildings and outdoor areas; access to educational and co-curricular experiences and activities on campus; and wrongful denial of certification of a disability by the University.  A complaint may be filed with the OCR at any time, irrespective of the grievance status in the University Grievance Process.
           
2.  To initiate the formal University Grievance Process, the grievant shall fully complete a Request for Review of Disability-Related Access and Services Form (“Review Request”) and forward it to the Director of the Learning Center within 60 days following the date of the alleged discrimination.  A student may obtain a copy of the Review Request form from Student Disability Services in the Learning Center in Miller Hall, and it is also available on the University website.  The student’s completed Review Request must clearly state:

  1. (a) The basis and rationale for the review;
  2. (b) The specific facts and/or policies supporting the students position;
  3. (c)  Identification of any witnesses and/or evidence that the grievant wishes to present; 
  4. (d) The remedy and resolution desired by the student; and
  5. (e)All other information required on the form.

A timely Review Request will not be considered filed unless it includes all of the required information.  The grievant is solely responsible to supply all required information in the Review Request.  Upon receiving a timely Review Request, the Director of the Learning Center shall send a written acknowledgment of receipt to the grievant. 

3.  The Director of the Learning Center and the Accommodations Officer shall together assess the Review Request and review all information necessary to render a written determination.  If requested, the grievant shall supply any additional information and/or documents as requested by the Director or Accommodations Officer.  The grievant may also request a meeting to present any witnesses and/or evidence to support the complaint.  The Director or designee will issue a written SDS Letter of Determination on the grievant’s Review Request within 30 days after receiving the grievant’s completed Review Request, or as soon as possible thereafter.  Furthermore, the Director shall provide the grievant with a copy of the SDS Letter of Determination and take any steps necessary to implement his or her decision, including, but not limited to, providing a copy of the Letter of Determination to appropriate University faculty members and officials.

4. Within ten (10) calendar days following receipt of the Director’s written SDS Letter of Determination, if the grievant disagrees with the determination, the grievant may seek a review with the Associate Provost to which the Director of the Learning Center and the Accommodations Officer report.  The grievant shall submit a written letter requesting a review of the SDS Letter of Determination to the Associate Provost, with a copy sent to the Director of the Learning Center, setting forth:

  1. (a) The name, address, e-mail address and phone number of the grievant;
  2. (b) The specific facts and grounds which form the basis for the grievant’s appeal, including the specific basis of the grievant’s disagreement with the Director’s Letter of Determination; and
  3. (c) All other information which the grievant reasonably believes is relevant to the appeal.

A timely request for review of the Letter of Determination will not be considered to have been filed unless the grievant’s letter of appeal includes all of the required information.  Upon receiving the grievant’s letter requesting a review by the Associate Provost, the Director of the Learning Center shall forward a copy of the original Review Request Form, the SDS Letter of Determination, and all other records or documents forming the basis of the Director’s determination to the Associate Provost.

5.  Upon receiving a timely letter seeking a review of the SDS Letter of Determination, the Associate Provost shall send the grievant a written acknowledgment of receipt.

6.  The Associate Provost, or designee, shall review the grievant’s letter, the original Review Request Form, the SDS Letter of Determination, as well as any additional records or documents forwarded by the Director.  The Associate Provost, at his or her sole discretion, may also gather additional information necessary to the consideration of the grievant’s appeal, including, but not limited to, interviewing individuals, including the grievant, who may possess relevant information.  If requested, the grievant shall supply any additional information and/or documents as requested by the Associate Provost.  The Associate Provost shall complete his or her review within 30 calendar days or as soon as possible thereafter.

7.  After completing his or her review, the Associate Provost shall send a written Letter of Determination to the grievant to explain his or her decision.  Further, the Associate Provost shall take any steps necessary to implement his or her decision, including, but not limited to, providing a copy of the Letter of Determination to appropriate University officials.  The Associate Provost’s Letter of Determination shall constitute the final decision of the Student Disability Services office in response to the grievant’s complaint  (“SDS Final Grievance Response”).

8.  Within ten (10) calendar days following the receipt of the SDS Final Grievance Response, if the grievant disagrees with the Associate Provost’s response, the grievant may submit a written appeal to the Provost, with a copy to the Associate Provost and the Director of the Learning Center.  The grievant’s letter of appeal shall be in writing and must including the following information:    

  1. (a) The name, address, e-mail address and phone number of the grievant;
  2. (b) The specific facts and grounds which form the basis for the grievant’s appeal, including the specific basis of the grievant’s disagreement with the SDS Final Grievance Response; and
  3. (c) All other information the grievant reasonably believes is relevant to the appeal.

A timely appeal of the SDS Final Grievance Response will not be considered to have been filed unless the grievant’s letter of appeal includes all of the required information.  Upon receiving the grievant’s letter of appeal, the Associate Provost shall forward a copy of the original Review Request Form, the SDS Letter of Determination, the SDS Final Grievance Response, and all other records or documents forming the basis of the Final Grievance Response to the Provost. 

9.  Upon receiving a timely appeal, the Provost shall send the grievant a written acknowledgment of receipt of appeal.

10.  The Provost or designee shall review the entire written record, including the grievant’s letter of appeal, the Review Request Form, the SDS Letter of Determination, the Final Grievance Response, and any additional records or documents forwarded by the Associate Provost.  The Provost, at his or her sole discretion, may also gather additional information necessary to the consideration of the grievant’s appeal, including, but not limited to, interviewing individuals, including the grievant, who may possess relevant information.  If requested, the grievant shall supply any additional information and/or documents as requested by the Provost or designee.  The Provost or designee will issue a written Letter of Determination on the grievant’s appeal within 60 calendar days after receiving it, or as soon as possible thereafter.  The Provost shall provide the grievant with a copy of the Letter of Determination and take any steps necessary to implement the decision, including, but not limited to, providing a copy of the Letter of Determination to appropriate University officials.  

11.  The decision of the Provost or designee shall be final and no additional University appeals shall be available.

12.  During the Grievance Process, the grievant will be entitled to receive the academic accommodations/services offered, if any, by the University.  Retaliation is prohibited against any person who files a complaint of discrimination based on disability, as well as those who participate in an investigation as witnesses, or those who oppose a discriminatory employment or education practice or policy. The University recognizes the importance of the grievant’s concerns being addressed promptly so that his or her participation in University activities and experiences is not affected.

Time Periods

For purposes of calculating all time periods set forth in this Grievance Process, official University holidays and breaks set forth in the University’s academic calendar (such as Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, and spring break) or dates the University officially closes (such as for inclement weather) shall be excluded in determining the time period for taking any required action.  Moreover, the day of the act or event from which the designated period of time begins to run shall not be included.  The last day of any time period provided in the Grievance Process shall be included, unless it is a Saturday or Sunday, and in such an event, the next business day shall be counted in the time period.

Right to Review Records

A grievant shall have the right to review all records maintained in the grievance file or relied upon by any decision-maker, unless any such review is prohibited by Federal or state law.  Upon a grievant’s request, the University shall establish a mutually acceptable time and location for the grievant to review the requested records.

No Retaliation

Retaliation against any person who files a complaint of discrimination, participates in an investigation (such as being a witness), or opposes a discriminatory employment or education practice or policy is prohibited by University policy and federal and state law.

Self Representation

A grievant exercising his or her right to invoke this Grievance Process is free to consult with others but shall be expected to represent himself or herself directly in the Grievance Process. 

Appeal by Administrator

An administrator who disagrees with a determination made by a decision-maker in a formal grievance process is permitted to appeal the decision by notifying the appropriate University official of the basis of the appeal consistent with the procedures outlined in this policy.

Urgent or Unusual Matters

Depending upon the specific circumstances and the urgency of any issue(s) raised by a student in his or her grievance, the University reserves the right (but shall not be required) to modify its procedures or conduct an expedited review.

OCR Complaint

Although students are encouraged to attempt to resolve complaints pertaining to disabilities by utilizing this Grievance Process, they have the right to file a complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) (Cleveland Enforcement Office):

U.S. Department of Education

Office for Civil Rights

600 Superior Avenue, East, Suite 750

Cleveland, OH  44144

(216) 522-4970

Effective Date

This Grievance Policy is effective May 31, 2013, following final approval by the OCR.  The University reserves the right to amend its Grievance Process.

 

Student Disability Services