COLORADO COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM
SYSTEM PROCEDURE

Student Complaint Procedure

SP 4-31a

EFFECTIVE: July 1, 1998
RETITLED: September 14, 2000
RETITLED: August 25, 2001
REVISED: April 20, 2011
REVISED: May 9, 2012
REVISED: July 11, 2013
REVISED: January 20, 2015
REVISED: December 8, 2021
RETITLED: December 8, 2021

REFERENCES: Board Policy 4-31

APPROVED:

/ Joe Garcia /
Joseph A. Garcia, Chancellor

Application

The procedure applies to students within the Colorado Community College System (CCCS or System).

Basis

This Student Complaint Procedure is intended to allow students an opportunity to present a complaint which they feel warrants action, including the right to secure educational benefits and services.

If the basis of the claim is discrimination and/or harassment, based on federal or state civil rights laws, the student must file a complaint under System Procedure (SP) 19-60, Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct Resolution Process. If the basis of the claim is a violation of the Code of Student Behavioral Expectations and Responsibilities, the student must file a complaint under SP 4-30a, Student Behavioral Expectations and Responsibilities Resolution Procedure.

Definitions

“Student(s) Issuing the Complaint” includes an active student per SP 4-10a who is subject to alleged violation or inequity as it applies to Board Policies, System Procedures or College Procedures.

“Complaint” is a claim addressing an objectionable offense.

“Person/Entity Responding to a Complaint” includes a person/entity whose alleged conduct is the subject of a complaint. For purposes of this procedure, this can be a CCCS employee(s), student(s) who was enrolled at the time of the alleged incident, authorized volunteer(s), guest(s), visitor(s), or College.

“Preponderance of the Evidence” is the standard of proof that shows more likely than not that a violation occurred, based on what a reasonable person would consider.

“Senior Student Affairs Officer (SSAO)” is the College employee designated by the College President to oversee student affairs and address student complaints under this procedure. The SSAO may delegate this responsibility to another person. *Note: Previously referred to as Chief Student Services Officer (CSSO); other Policies and Procedures may also refer to this role as CSSO.

Procedure

Scope of Student Complaint and Filing Complaint:
An objectionable offense that may be included in a student complaint is any alleged action which violates or inequitably applies Board Policies, System Procedures and/or College Procedures.

The following matters are not subject to review under this procedure:

  • Matters over which the College is without authority to act.
  • Grades and other academic decisions unless there is an allegation that the decision was motivated by discrimination and/or harassment which should be filed under the appropriate Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct Resolution Process.

Students must submit all complaints in writing to the SSAO. The student issuing the complaint should describe the alleged incident(s), when and where it occurred, any previous efforts to resolve the issue(s) with a description of the discussion and the manner of communication made in the course of each effort, the desired remedy sought, and include any supporting documents. The supporting documents should be referenced within the body of the complaint.

The complaint should be signed by the student issuing the complaint and submitted via hand delivery, certified mail, or email to the SSAO. The complaint must contain the name and all contact information of the student issuing the complaint. All complaints shall be made as promptly as possible after the occurrence, so that the SSAO can more effectively address the reported concerns. A delay in reporting may result in the loss of relevant evidence and witness testimony, and may affect the ability of the SSAO to substantiate the allegations.

False reporting could lead to referral under SP 4-30a.

Student Complaint Process:
The SSAO shall determine whether the student complaint can be addressed or not under this SP:

  • If the complaint addresses an objectionable offense covered under this procedure, the SSAO shall give written notice of the complaint to both the student issuing the complaint and the person/entity responding to the complaint via personal delivery, certified mail, or emailing the parties.
  • If the SSAO determines the complaint is not subject to review under this procedure, they shall inform the student filing the complaint of this decision in writing.

Informal Resolution:
The student filing the complaint is encouraged to resolve the issue with the party/entity responding to the complaint through an informal process as facilitated by the SSAO. If the complaint cannot be informally resolved or the student issuing the complaint chooses not to informally resolve it, the SSAO will formally investigate the complaint and issue a decision.

Formal Investigation:
The SSAO will request meetings with each of the parties involved. If the complaint is against the SSAO, the College President will designate someone to perform the duties of the SSAO under this procedure.

Both parties will be given the opportunity to discuss the allegations of the complaint and may offer any documentation, witnesses, or other materials in support of the complaint. If any party is not cooperative or responsive, the SSAO may make a determination based on the information available.

The SSAO may also contact or request a meeting with relevant college staff, students, or others as part of the investigation.

In meeting with the SSAO or designee, the parties are responsible for presenting their own information. The parties have the opportunity to be advised by an individual of their choice, at their expense, at any stage of the process and to be accompanied by that individual at any meeting or hearing. An individual who chooses to advise a party may only consult and advise the party they are working with, they may not speak for the student being represented at any meeting or hearing. The SSAO may remove or dismiss an individual who chooses to advise a party and becomes disruptive or who does not abide by the restrictions on their participation.

Decision:
Based on the preponderance of evidence, the SSAO shall issue a written decision to both the parties and make a recommendation(s) to resolve the issue(s) in accordance with Board Policies and System Procedures. The parties shall be advised of their right to appeal the decision, subject to the grounds below, by filing an appeal with the SSAO within ten (10) business days of the decision.

Appeal:
In the event of an appeal, the SSAO shall give written notice to both parties via personal delivery, certified mail, or email. The party responding to the appeal shall be given five (5) business days to submit a response in writing unless additional time is needed per the consent of the SSAO. All appeals and any responses to the appeal are then forwarded to the appeals officer or committee for initial review to determine if the appeal meets the limited grounds and was timely filed within ten (10) business days. The original decision will stand if the appeal is not timely filed or does not meet the appealable grounds as described below, and the decision is final.

The original decision is presumed to have been decided reasonably and appropriately. The ONLY grounds for appeal are as follows:

  1. A procedural error occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the decision (e.g., substantiated bias, conflict of interest, or material deviation from established procedures). The written appeal shall specify the procedural error and how it impacted the outcome of the decision.
  2. The findings are not supported by substantial evidence in the investigation report or the report does not articulate a rational connection between the facts found and the decision made. The written appeal shall specify the finding(s) not supported by substantial evidence or for which the report does not articulate a rational connection between the facts found and the decision made; or
  3. To consider new evidence, unavailable during the original investigation, that could substantially impact the original finding(s). Any new evidence and its impact must be included in the written appeal.

If the appeals officer determines a procedural error occurred that significantly impacted the outcome of the decision, the appeals officer shall return the complaint to the SSAO with instructions to convene a new investigation or the appeals officer shall otherwise cure the procedural error. In rare cases, where the procedural error cannot be cured by the SSAO, in cases of bias, the appeals officer or committee may order a new investigation by a different individual acting in the place of the designated SSAO. The results of a reconvened investigation cannot be appealed. The results of a new investigation can be appealed once, on the applicable grounds for appeals.

If the appeals officer determines the findings were not supported by substantial evidence in the investigation report, the report does not articulate a rational connection between the facts found and the decision made, or new evidence substantially impacts the original finding(s), the appeals officer shall conduct or request appropriate additional steps (such as requesting the SSAO to reconsider in light of new evidence only) and/or modify the findings accordingly.

Written notice of the outcome of the appeal shall be provided simultaneously to the parties.

Retaliation

It is a violation of this procedure to engage in retaliation, such as taking educational action, against any person who makes a complaint or because of the person’s participation, or perceived participation, in any aspect of this procedure. Retaliation includes acts to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purposes of interfering with any right or privilege provided by this procedure.

Revising this Procedure

CCCS reserves the right to change any provision or requirement of this procedure at any time and the change shall become effective immediately.