Step 1: Address the Matter Informally (one-on-one)
If you feel safe and comfortable, first address the complaint or concern with the parties involved (faculty member, staff member, student, etc...) one-on-one. Your goal is to try to resolve the problem on this level amicably. Remember, when attempting to resolve a concern or conflict at this level, it is important to address the concern, not attack the person or persons involved. Just, to the best of your ability, discuss what is concerning you and clarify (to the individual) what you would like to happen to resolve the matter. Most concerns and conflicts can be resolved on this level, so start here first. If unsuccessful, move to Step 2.
NOTE: If your complaint deals with a Title IX offense (sexual assault, sexual harassment) click on the Title IX icon below (contact our Title IX Coordinators whom are identified within our Title IX website) and skip to Step 3 (on this page) and file a complaint immediately. Do not delay in filing sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. Report such claims immediately to the College.
Step 2: Speak with Department Chair or Office Director
If Step 1 was not successful, speak with the individual's direct supervisor or teacher (if dealing with a complaint against another student). Click on the "Find a Supervisor" button below to view our employee directory. Department Chairpersons and Directors are identified by title. First, look up the specific department and search (our Employee Directory) for the specific administrator.
Formal Complaint Process (Steps 3, 4 & 5):
When you move from Step 2 to Step 3, your complaint moves from an informal complaint to a formal complaint (in writing). If the complaint is not resolved by working with the Department Chair, file an official complaint via Lawson's online complaint system (Advocate). Official complaints can be filed after clicking on the Student Portal or Current Students pages. From there, an investigation into your complaint will be lodged and a Dean's Resolution (aimed to resolve your complaint) will be issued.
Although extremely rare, if you disagree or want to challenge the Dean's Resolution, you would then file a Grievance. In doing so, a Grievance Committee will "field" your complaint and any and all challenges you have made of the Dean's Resolution (based on proven facts, not simply disagreement with the Dean's Resolution. Please keep in mind that simply disagreeing with the Dean's Resolution is not enough to overturn a Dean's Resolution. You will have to demonstrate that the Dean's Resolution was insufficient in resolving your complaint. See the Student Handbook for more specifics in filing a Grievance.
Step 4: File a Grievance Online
Step 5: Grievance Hearing
Step 5 is the final step in the Complaint process. Grievance Committee Decisions (which involve Lawson State's Vice Presidents) are final and end the complaint process at Lawson State Community College. Either party, the party who issued a complaint or the party who may have been involved in the complaint, can file a grievance.
Step 6: External Complaints Following a Grievance Hearing: Only use this step if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a Grievance Hearing (which is Step 5 in our process) and have exhausted the complete complaint process here at Lawson State.
Lawson State takes all complaints seriously and will work diligently to resolve any and all matters. If an individual, though, is dissatisfied with the outcome of a fully vetted complaint, he or she should report the complaint to the proper external agency that governs the college.
Lawson State, as are all community colleges in the state of Alabama, are governed by the Alabama Community College System (ACCS). Thus, if an individual goes through the entire complaint process at Lawson State (including the grievance hearing process) and is still dissatisfied with the handling of their complaint, he or she can file a complaint in the Chancellor's Office with the ACCS. External complaints should never be sought if the individual has NOT allowed the college to properly investigate and take action against a complaint in order to resolve such a complaint.
Thus, Step 6 (reporting of an external complaint) should only be sought after the College has vetted the complaint and issued a resolution to the complaint. The final step to all complaints at Lawson State is a Grievance Hearing. For matters that are related to specific accrediting issues, individuals can report such matters to SACS.COC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges). Again, the same stipulation holds in this case as well. All complaints should first be reported to the College in order for the College to respond and settle all complaints first before reporting matters to an external agency.
How to Report Your Complaint to the Chancellor's Office (Alabama Community College System) or to the College's Accreditation Agency
Note: Lawson State falls under the Alabama Community College System. To file a complaint at the System level, be sure you have completed all of Lawson State's internal complaint processes /steps first, including the grievance hearing process. If still dissatisfied, click here to access the steps to file a complaint with the Alabama Community College System:
Alabama Community College Complaint Steps: Click here to view steps.
Note: Before filing an external complaint, be sure you have completed all of Lawson State's internal complaint processes (to resolve your complaint) before filing an external complaint.
Click the provided link below for information on how to file a complaint against an institution with its accreditation agency--SACS.COC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges). : http://www.sacscoc.org/FAQsanswers.asp#q12
Harassment and Retaliation Defined
Lawson State Community College has a zero tolerance policy against harassment or retaliation. Such claims should be filed online immediately and advanced Step 3 (see above) instantly. However, before filing such a serious claim, review the definitions below to ensure you have a claim. Please be advised that knowingly filing false harassment or retaliation claims can have repercussions.
Harassment is abusive or hostile conduct which is directed toward or inflicted upon another person because of his or her race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran's status and which, because of its severity or pervasiveness, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work or academic performance or creates a hostile or abusive work or learning environment for that individual's work, education, or participation in a [college] activity. Harassment is typically based on stereotyped prejudices and includes, but is not limited to, slurs, jokes, objectionable epithets, or other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct that demeans, insults, or intimidates an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran status (UA, 2012).
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of employment or academic advancement; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's performance as an employee or student or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment (UA, 2012).
Retaliation (Against Sexual Harassment Claims)
Retaliation against persons who oppose or complain about harassment is strictly prohibited. Retaliation is any action that has the effect of punishing a person for engaging in a legally protected activity, such as alleging harassment, making a harassment complaint, or assisting in a harassment investigation. Examples of retaliatory adverse employment actions include suspension, demotion, or termination. In addition, this policy prohibits retaliation in the form of harassment, intimidation, threats, or coercion, or in the form of any materially adverse harm that would dissuade a reasonable student or employee from filing a harassment complaint or participating in a harassment investigation( UA, 2012).
Retaliation against persons who oppose, complain, seek a grade appeal or file a grievance or any other issue is strictly prohibited on the campus of Lawson State. Retaliation is any action that has the effect of punishing a person for engaging in a legally protected activity, such as making a complaint or appeal or grievance, or assisting in a complaint or appeal or grievance investigation. Examples of retaliatory adverse employment actions include suspension, demotion, or termination. In addition, this policy prohibits retaliation in the form of harassment, intimidation, threats, or coercion, or in the form of any materially adverse harm that would dissuade a reasonable student or employee from filing a complaint, an appeal or grievance or participating in said investigation (UA, 2012).