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Task force poses new policy

A task force of faculty, staff and students is constructing a new and improved grievance policy this year, hoping to bridge the gap between Mills’ students and its administration.

The Grievance Process Task Force was formed last fall at Dean of Students Dr. Joi Lewis’ request. They will recommend a new policy to Lewis on Feb. 15.

The Task Force is co-chaired by Gina Rosabal, of Student Diversity Programs, and Courtney Young-Law, of Student Activities, who are working with a group of seven students and faculty members to create a better means of communication within the College.

According to Rosabal, the current grievance process is unclear and is not uniform for the entire community. “This is the first time that we will have a comprehensive policy for the campus as a whole,” said Rosabal.

The Task Force has gathered information from the Mills community through surveys and discussions about which issues should be addressed by a grievance process, and how to deal with incidents when they occur.
Mills’ present policy is “more like guidelines,” said Alexa Hall, a junior and one of three students on the Task Force. “That was not cutting it.”

A need to reform the previous grievance process was brought to light after the announcement of former Dean of Students Joanna Iwata’s abrupt departure from Mills in Spring 2007.

Students protested after the departure was announced, saying that the decision only illustrated the wide gap between students and the administration’s decision-making process.

“There was not a strong process in place for everyone in the community to utilize,” Young-Law said. “The main thing we are looking at is what the process should look like so that all parties involved can be heard.”

The Task Force is working to define what kinds of issues should be addressed and how to address them within the community.
“Typically, issues of sexual, racial, or any identity-based harassment, hate crimes, bias-motivated incidents, and general harassment are addressed in a grievance process,” said Young-Law.

Students on the Task Force researched the grievance policies of other colleges, and brought that knowledge into discussion with the rest of the Task Force, said Hall.
On Dec. 11, Cody Manning, a student member of the Task Force, led a small group of students in a discussion about the grievance process. It was important that other Task Force members were not present so that they would not influence the dialogue, Rosabal said. The discussion was recorded on tape for other Task Force members.

Students discussed their expectations and ideas for the new policy and the possibility of putting some of the process online. According to Rosabal, an online form enables members to track trends in complaints easily and would allow anonymity.

In order to collect more student input, the Task Force sent out a request for students to participate in an online survey near the end of last semester. 86 people responded, according to Young-Law.

Lewis, Rosabal and Young-Law will continue to discuss the proposed policy. The policy may or may not be made public after it is recommended.