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The Student Relations Liaison position is intended as an additional support for students who are seeking information and mediation regarding the grievance processes related to policies described in the Student Handbook. One of the key responsibilities of the Liaison is to create communication between students and their faculty, staff, and administration regarding creation of fair and positive solutions that uphold Pacifica’s standards and values as well as to address student’s questions and concerns.

The Student Relations Liaison can be reached at a confidential phone line (805) 220-8707 or at studentliaison@pacifica.edu.

Procedure for Resolving Academic and Administrative Complaints

Students are encouraged to first discuss complaints with the person(s) who is (are) directly involved in the complaint in an effort to come to a satisfactory, informal resolution.

If these informal direct discussions are not successful, the student may pursue further informal avenues as defined within each academic program. The Program Chair, Student Affairs representative, or Student Relations Liaison may be involved in discussing possible resolutions or can be of assistance in directing a student to the appropriate person. If the matter relates to the student’s financial account, it may be referred to the Student Accounts Committee.

Before filing a formal grievance, Pacifica encourages students to use established program procedures for addressing and resolving complaints whenever possible. In some cases, students or faculty may be directed to the Ethics Committee for consultation or to the Educational Council for consideration of exceptions to academic policies. If it is determined that the student complaint is appropriate for consideration by the Education Council, the Education Council will review the matter in accordance with its procedures and its decision will be final, subject to review by the Provost as described in Education Council procedures. When Education Council review is not appropriate, or where other specific and separate grievance procedures are not applicable, students may file a formal grievance according to the procedures described below. When an Education Council review is conducted, there will not be a duplicative grievance procedure.

Restorative Approach

Conflict on campus takes many forms. Sometimes it involves behaviors that are in clear violation of campus or community norms. Other times, it may be a personal harm that extends beyond campus policy, whether purposeful or unintentional. As part of the grievance process, Pacifica Graduate Institute has adopted a Restorative Approach to addressing conflict.

A Restorative Approach is a process of addressing conflict which focuses on repairing harm and healing relationships. Rather than a directive and punitive responses to wrongdoings, a restorative approach seeks to construct an environment where affected individuals have the opportunity to express their experience in a meaningful way. The fundamental premise of a restorative approach is that when participants understand the position of another person and are able to co-create a mutual resolution, affected individuals are more satisfied with the outcome, rather than having an individual or committee determine if and what punitive measures should be applied.

Restorative Justice is an alternative resolution method for individuals who accept responsibility for the violation of policies and community standards. Those responsible for the violation of policy are joined in a circle with those who were harmed by the incident, supporters of both offenders and harmed parties, as well as affected community members. In the RJ circle, all participants co-create and sign a contract that contains specific actions to be completed in order to repair the harm that has been caused.

Goals of Restorative Approaches

  • Process is Healing and Transformative
  • Outcomes are decided by those most affected by the incident
  • Reduces the likelihood of future violations

Inherent Benefits of Restorative Approaches

  • Those affected have a voice in the resolution process
  • Allows participants to focus on the harm that occurred and decide how to best repair it
  • Facilitates a conversation between those impacted and those who harmed the community

Procedure for Addressing Grievances

The grievance policy and procedures provide students with a method for addressing any concerns that may arise regarding possible violations to Pacifica’s academic or administrative policies that pertain to students, or an arbitrary or discriminatory application of, or failure to act in accordance with, the academic or administrative policies of Pacifica Graduate Institute pertaining to students. The procedure provides a thorough review of the student’s complaint and affords due process rights to dispute participants with the intent of arriving at a mutual agreement. The grievance procedures are only for non-Education Council matters.

Definitions

Complaint
A student complaint is an allegation by a student that there has been an arbitrary or discriminatory application of, or failure to act in accordance with, the academic or administrative policies of Pacifica Graduate Institute pertaining to students.

A student complaint may involve a faculty or staff member(s) and/or the Program Chair or it may be related to an academic or administrative process.

Grievance
A grievance is made when complaints have not been resolved and the student alleges that there has been an arbitrary or discriminatory application of, or failure to act in accordance with, the academic or administrative policies of Pacifica Graduate Institute. A formal written grievance is made by a student to a designated academic (Program Chair) or administrative officer (Director) in which specific remedies may be requested.

Formal Procedure for Resolving Grievances

A grievance is initiated by completing and filing a Grievance Form available on Pacifica’s website or by writing a letter that includes the following description. This form requires a detailed description of the grievance, the parties involved, the attempts to resolve the grievance informally, and the remedies sought.

Most frequently, the grievance is addressed to the Program Chair or, if it involves non-academic matters, to the administrative director of that function, e.g., Financial Aid, Student Accounts Office, etc. If the Program Chair or an administrative director is a party to the grievance, the formal written grievance must be addressed to the Provost, who will assign the matter for review. If the Provost is a party to a grievance, the formal written grievance should be directed to the Chancellor, who will assign the matter for review.

The person receiving the formal written grievance will review it and within 30 days will gather information from the grievance parties, keeping a record and/or summary of this information. He or she will recommend a solution to the grievance based on mutual agreement. If a mutual agreement cannot be reached, a resolution will be determined and the grievant will be notified of the resolution in writing. Copies of all records will be sent to and maintained by the Academic Affairs Office or, for administrative department grievances, by the Human Resources office.

Appeal Process

For both academic and administrative grievances, if the parties accept the resolution, the grievance is considered settled. If the resolution is not accepted, then the grievant(s) may appeal the resolution in writing within 15 days of the date the resolution is mailed to the grievant(s). If the appeal is not submitted within the prescribed time limit, the resolution is final.

If the grievant(s) elects to appeal, appeals are submitted to the Provost, along with the written record from the previous steps. If the Provost is the object of the grievance, the grievance will be referred to the Chancellor.

Within 30 days of appeal to the Provost, the Provost may decide the matter or may convene a Special Hearing Committee to further investigate the grievance. The Committee may include any of the following members, depending upon the circumstances: Core Faculty members, any Administrative Director, Ethics Committee members, or others. The Committee will make its recommendations to the Provost within 45 days after being convened.

The Provost will accept, reject, or revise the Committee’s decision and communicate it to the grievant(s). This decision will be based on the record and the Provost will not reopen the matter for additional evidence or argument. The action of the institutional management will be final.