Given the scope and size of the DLSU community, it is likely that at least two people would enter into a dispute, whether it is big or small. As a means of dealing with the former of these conflicts, the University offers its students and faculty members the right to file a grievance case against another member of the academic community.
According to Section 6.1 of the General Provisions in the Student Handbook, “A grievance refers to any controversy between a student as the aggrieved party and a member of the academic community as respondent that may be the cause of a complaint.” A grievance case may be done informally or formally, and may be classified as either academic or behavioral.
Student grievances explained
Generally, there are two forms of grievance cases: Informal and formal. In an informal grievance case, students are advised to first discuss the matter with their professor, and seek to settle the issue through simple dialogue. During this time, the complainants are also encouraged to bring up their concerns to the University Student Government (USG) through their respective batch president.
After an attempt to settle things through an informal grievance process, the student(s) involved may decide to pursue a formal grievance case, where students will be asked to meet with the professor(s) involved, as well as their department’s chair and/or college dean — a process that commonly demands a lot of time and patience from both parties.
The ‘grieving’ process
Although the USG encourages Lasallians to exercise this right, only a few students are aware of the full process, and an even smaller amount exercise this right.
Student Advisor (SA) Director Jeremy Michaela Capa of the USG’s Judiciary Branch explains that SAs are tasked to handle student concerns pertaining to the handbook, usually relating to the grievance process.
She estimates that in a given term, only two or three formal grievance cases are filed, with most, if not all of them, eventually being resolved. She adds that their office encounters several students inquiring about the grievance process. These cases usually involve grading concerns, but Capa elaborates that this is not always the scenario.
Even with the poor turnout, several students still express their intent to file grievance cases, but for some reason, do not actually pursue filing one. One such student, Megan Chua (II, ISJ-ADV), reasons that while she has contemplated filing a grievance case against one of her professors, she felt that the process would take a long time to resolve. She also adds that she would have doubted the outcome of the case if ever she did pursue one.
Capa confesses that a grievance case usually takes a full term to be processed and settled. She also recounts that there was one instance where a case took over two terms to be given a resolution. Because of this, the SA director posits that students are less likely to push through with their cases given the long waiting period. “For some of the students, when they have already waited for half a term, they decide to drop the case,” she describes in Filipino.
For some others, though, Capa emphasizes that complainants usually drop the case after an informal grievance is settled. “Usually what happens is the professor already makes the necessary changes after the informal grievance,” she states in Filipino.
Because of the ineffectiveness of the current student grievance process, revisions in its procedure as stipulated in the Student Handbook have been called for by the Legislative Assembly (LA).
The revisions put forward that are being lobbied by the USG and the Graduate Student Council call for the creation of a neutral mediating office that would be in-charge of coordinating the grievance cases.
The proposed Office of the Ombudsman would be a third party that mediates in informal grievance process. The Ombudsman would then provide recommendations to resolve the issue, or suggest raising the matter to a formal grievance process.
Not only for students
There are also instances of grievance between faculty members. As stated in the Faculty Manual, faculty members are able to file grievances against any member of the academic community. As in the case of student grievances, faculty grievances are first settled through a sincere dialogue between the parties involved.
In formal grievance cases, a faculty member files a written complaint either to the Department Chair (if parties belong to the same department), the Dean of the College (if parties belong to the same college), or to the college deans concerned (if parties belong to different colleges). These three mediators will try settling the issue but if the need arises, they may form a grievance committee who will review and intervene on the complaint.
Different officials head the committee depending on the type of the case but among them is a faculty member acceptable to both parties and a Faculty Association (FA) Representative appointed by the FA President.
One example of an ongoing behavioral grievance case was filed by Atty. Mark Tolentino of the Commercial Law Department under the College of Business (COB) against another professor.
Atty. Tolentino filed a formal complaint last September 2. Taking it one step further, he also filed a criminal case at the Department of Justice. “[The process] is stressful but as litigation lawyer, that is my job every day,” he admits.
As of press time, the case is being investigated and reviewed by a board consisting of School of Economics Dean Dr. Lawrence Dacuycuy, COB Dean Dr. Ma. Luisa Delayco, and Gokongwei College of Engineering Dean Dr. Rosemary Seva serving as its chair. Other members of the board include Dr. Brian Gozun, selected and agreed upon by the complainant and respondent, and Dr. Roberto Raymundo, appointed by the FA president. The board was convened by Vice Chancellor for Academics and Research Dr. Myrna Austria.
Atty. Tolentino maintains his belief that justice delayed is justice denied, and expresses that he hopes the case will be settled sooner rather than later.
The process exists for the sole reason to resolve conflicts among members of the Lasallian community. It is included in both the Student Handbook and Faculty Manual because filing a case is a right given to all stakeholders.
For as long as majority still feels cynical towards the outcome of the process, the full potential and power of the grievance policy will not materialize. Proper administration of the process should also be given importance in order to make the policy more effective.