Student Disability Grievance/Appeal Policy and Procedure
Occidental College is committed to providing equal educational opportunities for students with disabilities, who are otherwise qualified, in an academic environment free from harassment and discrimination. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), Occidental College does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the administration of its education-related programs and activities.
The grievance procedure set forth below is applicable to all students of the College and visitors. It covers all complaints in regard to contesting accommodations or access to programs or activities. All other allegations of disability discrimination covering all complaints alleged to have occurred in any College program or activity can be reported via the College's Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Policy. In general, the Disability Grievance Policy is designed to address all disability-related disputes concerning the following:
A. Disagreements regarding disability status, requested service, academic accommodations or auxiliary aids, or modification of a college/course practice or requirement.
B. Inaccessibility of a program or activity.
C. Violation of privacy in the context of disability.
Students or visitors may file a grievance through an informal and/or formal process. It is generally recommended that students attempt an informal resolution before filing a formal complaint; however, this is not always the most appropriate action and students have the right to request a formal resolution at any time.
For grade disputes involving a claim of harassment or discrimination on the basis of disability, please follow this grievance procedure, not the Grade Appeal Policy as noted in the College Catalog.
Optional Informal Resolution
- Students or visitors are encouraged to discuss the matter in person or in writing with the Director of Disability Services.
- If the Director of Disability Services is unable to assist in informally resolving the concern(s), the student will be referred to the formal complaint procedure.
- If the Director of Disability Services is involved in the concern(s), the student should report to the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs and follow formal complaint procedures. The Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs has the discretion to designate an appropriate officer to review the appeal (“designee").
When to File Complaint
Complaints regarding academic or housing accommodations (including, but not limited to, auxiliary aids and accommodations/adjustments) should be filed as soon as possible, but no later than 30 calendar days of the judgment they wish to appeal.
What to File
A complaint must be in writing and include the following:
1. The complainant’s name, ID number (if student), address, e-mail address, and phone number.
2. A clear statement of the request or concern, identifying the type of grievance and the grounds on which the complaint is based. Please select one or more of the following statements:
- Disagreements regarding disability status, requested service, accommodation, or modification of a College/Course practice or requirement.
- Inaccessibility of a program or activity.
- Grade disputes based on denial of accommodations.
- Violation of privacy in the context of disability.
3. The date of action the student's alleged discrimination occurred.
4. The names of all Occidental College community members involved.
5. A description of what efforts, if any, have been made to resolve the issue informally.
6. A statement of the remedy requested.
Where to File Complaint
The complaint shall be filed with the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs or designee.
Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs:
Caro Brighouse, Ph.D
Associate Dean Suite
Johnson Hall, Room 111
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Notice of Receipt
Upon receipt, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs or Dean of the College Office designee will review the complaint for timeliness and appropriateness for this grievance procedure, and provide the complainant with written notice acknowledging its receipt. If, upon receipt, it is clear that the complaint should be reviewed through the College’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation policy, the complainant will be notified and referred to the proper policy.
Privacy and Confidentiality
The College is committed to protecting the privacy of all individuals involved in the investigation and resolution of reports under this Policy. With respect to any report under this Policy, the College will make reasonable efforts to protect the privacy of participants, in accordance with applicable state and federal law, while balancing the need to gather information to make an informed decision.
The Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs or Dean of the College Office designee shall promptly initiate a thorough and impartial investigation. In undertaking the investigation, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs or Dean of the College Office designee may interview, consult with and/or request a written response to the issues raised in the grievance from any individual believed to have relevant information, including faculty, staff, and students, and will produce an investigative report. The investigative report may include information including relevant documentation, recordings of interviews, and witness statements.
When a grievance is filed, the complainant will be notified of the investigative role of the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee. Within 2 days of receipt of this information, the complainant may challenge the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee fulfilling this role on the grounds of bias or conflict of interest by submitting such a challenge, in writing, to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College or Designee. Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College/designee may disqualify the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee if, upon review, the claims of bias or conflict of interest are substantiated. The Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee will remove themselves from the committee if they believe they have a bias towards the complainant. In the case of a substantiated bias or conflict of interest, the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College/designee will appoint a new designee.
After the investigative report is complete, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee will determine if there is a preponderance of evidence to substantiate the grievance. When appropriate, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee will also apply the following standards: 1) would the accommodation result in a fundamental alteration of the program or an essential academic requirement; 2) would the accommodation impose undue financial or administrative hardship on the institution.
If there is a preponderance of evidence (more likely than not) substantiating the grievance, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee, will then decide on the appropriate resolution for the grievance. Such resolutions will be decided on a case-by-case basis and may include, but will not be limited to, approval and/or administration of a particular accommodation, remediation to address previously available opportunities, and/or facilitation of communications between the complainant and the person against whom the grievance is filed.
Findings and Notification
Upon completion of the investigative process, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs or Dean of the College Office designee will prepare and submit a final written report containing a summary of the investigation, the written findings, determination of whether discrimination occurred, and a proposed disposition to the student. The final written findings will also be provided to the party whom the complaint is directed, and to the Director of Disability Services. A copy of this report will be kept in the student's Disability Services file. This report will be expected within 45 calendar days of the filing of the formal complaint. The deadline may be extended by the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee for good cause. The Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee will notify the complainant promptly if there is a need to extend the deadline. The final report shall also be provided, where appropriate, to any College officer whose authority will be needed to carry out the proposed disposition or to determine whether any personnel action is appropriate.
The disposition determined by the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee shall be put into effect promptly. The complainant or any party against whom the grievance or the proposed disposition is directed may appeal the decision to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College or Designee (procedures set forth below). The appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs or Designee will not suspend the implementation of the disposition determined by the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee, except in those circumstances where the Vice President for Academic Affairs or Designee decides that good cause exists making the suspension of implementation appropriate.
Whenever the application of any of the time deadlines or procedures set forth in this grievance procedure creates a problem due to the nature of the complaint, the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee, at the request of the complainant, will determine whether an appropriate expedited procedure is possible.
Appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College
The complainant or the party against whom the grievance is directed may appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs after completing the Formal Complaint Procedure described above. The Vice President for Academic Affairs has the discretion to designate an appropriate officer to review the appeal (“designee"). If, however, the original grievance was filed against the Vice President for Academic Affairs, any appeal must be filed directly with the President’s Office.
When to File Appeal
Appeals must be filed within 5 business days of receipt of the final disposition of the formal complaint.
What to File
The written appeal must specify reasons for appeal that are not based on disagreement or general dissatisfaction with the standards, policies, and procedures of Disability Services themselves. Specifically, the grounds to appeal must include one or more of the following criteria:
- There is New Information of a Substantive Nature: New, significant or relevant information regarding the case becomes available that could not have been discovered by the student at the time of the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee’s deliberation. Information is not considered new if the student voluntarily withheld the information at the time the committee deliberated regarding those decisions.
- There was a Significant Procedural Error: The specified procedural error or error in interpretation of policies may have substantially affected the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee's deliberations such that the error prevented the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee from rendering a fair decision.
Where to File Appeal
The appeal shall be filed with the Dean of the College, to be reviewed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the College or Designee.
Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the College:
Wendy F. Sternberg, Ph.D
Office of the Dean of the College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
The role of the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Designee as appeal officer is limited. Appeals are not intended to be a full hearing of the complaint, and are confined to a review of the grounds stated above. The findings contained in the final report are presumed to have been decided reasonably and appropriately. The Appellant carries the burden of proof to demonstrate that either the alleged error, or the proposed new evidence, would significantly impact the outcome of the proceeding.
If there is a preponderance of evidence (more likely than not) substantiating the appeal, the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Designee will then decide on the appropriate resolution for the appeal. The Vice President for Academic Affairs/Designee written decision will be expected within 15 business days of receipt, though the deadline may be extended by the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Designee for good cause. If the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Designee determines the new information is not substantive and there has been no significant procedural error, the decision of the Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs/designee will be upheld. This decision of the Vice President for Academic Affairs/Designee is final, and will promptly be communicated to the Appellant, other affected parties, and the Director of Disability Services.
Last updated November 2020