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Provost reveals new method to improve faculty accountability

Hofstra is trying to expedite the process of reporting faculty by having students send complaints to the newly created, an email system implemented at the beginning of the semester by the Office of the Provost.

Some students have criticized the previous system. There are several current methods of reporting available to students. Some are considered “official” while others “unofficial,” and these different channels can produce different outcomes.

According to Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gail Simmons, the email system will soon begin to be heavily advertised. 

Emails sent to this address will, according to Simmons, be funneled to a specific staff member of the Provost’s Office based on their graduate or undergraduate status. Once read, the Office of the Provost will determine which course of action to take.

Junior video/television and film major Wesley Louis-Charles tried to file a complaint against a professor who Louis-Charles said used racially insensitive remarks in class. The professor had been told by multiple students to stop. 

“The process is so difficult that I couldn’t file the complaint,” Louis-Charles said. “It shouldn’t be [a] culture where students have to deal with professors [to file a complaint].”

In the past, students had to go to the professor first and then the department head when filing a complaint. After the department head views the complaint, they may choose whether or not to pursue it. 

If pursued, the department head may speak with the professor and the student or send it to a channel they deem more appropriate to handle the complaint. Department heads and deans can handle cases on their own if they see fit. Cases are pursued and investigated at the University’s discretion.

If a complaint is made by a student who feels they have been target by a professor based on their race, gender or religion, it can be sent to an appropriate channel outside of the department or school, such as Human Resources or Title IX. 

The department head or dean may be kept in the loop, but there is no specific policy dictating that.

The student can also approach those offices directly with their complaint. However, several students have said that after approaching Title IX with complaints, they were turned away. 

“If the complaint/report/issue with a staff, faculty, or administration member is not of [discrimination on the basis of sex] no involvement from the Title IX office is warranted. 

All other concerns regarding Faculty, in particular those that happen within the classroom, should be handled through the respective department Chair and/or the Provost office,” said Director of Communications for Student Affairs Colin Sullivan.

If the student is unhappy with the way the case was handled, then they can appeal it to the appropriate dean. If still unhappy, they can continue to appeal until a decision is made by the Office of the Provost.

Students can also file complaints with the Equal Rights and Opportunity Officer, Jennifer M. Mone. This process is laid out in the Hofstra University Harassment Policy which was recently shared by the Title IX Office. 

As of right now, not all complaints are kept; however, if the Office of the Provost notices a pattern, a record will be formed of email correspondence and any meetings that are held between the professor, their union representative and the Office of the Provost.

“We’re an academic community, we try to be kind and reasonable with one another. It’s when things progress and [it becomes] clear that there’s a pattern of behavior that we start to take note,” Simmons said. 

“These are human relationships, it’s very difficult to make them cut and dry. It’s going to depend on the case ... Each complaint is unique; they don’t fall into simple categories.”

Students invovled in the Jefferson Has Gotta Go! (JGG) movement have been protesting the lack of infrastructure in the system since the start of the semester. 

The group said they are not simply looking for a way to lodge a complaint, but that they want the school to keep complaints filed against professors and make them public for the sake of transparency. 

Along with this, JGG said they want a centralized system for reporting complaints. This is to ensure that all departments are kept in the loop if a professor has complaints regarding separate issues. 

Senior public policy major Ja’Loni Owens met with Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Sofia Pertuz and Vice Provost Neil Donahue on Tuesday, Oct. 23. 

Owens said that at the meeting they were informed that the school did not have a centralized reporting system, nor was there a record of communication between departments. “I don’t see how an institution can function that way,” Owens said.

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