Students' Civil Rights

February 25, 2016

Kathy Rogers

A message from the President's Office by Vice President & General Counsel Kathy Rogers

This week, Vice President & General Counsel Kathy Rogers and I share our thoughts on the fifth of the ten demands, students’ civil rights. We are pleased to explore how we educate the Simmons community about their civil rights, what current policies and procedures are in place, and how we believe our community can best respond to the raised concerns.

In its broadest terms, the fifth demand seeks knowledge about how students can exercise their civil rights. It reflects a desire to understand more fully the body of rights students are entitled to as citizens of this country and state, as college students generally, and as members of the Simmons community more specifically.

Understanding Your Rights

Understanding one’s civil rights is a basic tenet of participating in the American experience. As educators, we realize the importance of understanding and exercising our freedoms for which a civil society stands. For example, we believe it may be useful to the community to develop a program of education around civil rights that would possibly involve such tools as: online or printed resources; presentations from faculty, administrators, guest speakers, and others; and any other teaching mechanism to convey topics related to rights and responsibilities and their exercise. We believe such a program, aimed at educating ourselves about what we owe one another as teachers, students, administrators, staff, and fellow members of the Simmons community, could go a long way toward promoting understanding.

Current Policies & Procedures

In addition, it is important to be aware that Simmons has several policies and procedures in place to protect the rights of all members of our community; to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, religion, or disability; and to define the process members of the community, including students, may use to voice grievances.

For example, our Statement on Non-Discrimination and Grievance Procedures advises in pertinent part:

If you have a complaint about unlawful discrimination or harassment and you are a student, you should bring your concerns to the Dean of your school or to the Dean for Student Life.

If you have a complaint about unlawful discrimination or harassment and you are an employee, you should bring your concern to the attention of the Vice President of Talent and Human Capital Strategy. Complaints or inquiries concerning the College's policies and compliance with applicable laws, statutes, and regulations may also be directed to the College President's Office, or to the College's General Counsel.

Your complaint should contain your name and address, so that we can contact you, and give a brief description of the actions you believe to be unlawful..The appropriate College officer will conduct an investigation, if it is deemed necessary, and issue a written decision on the complaint in a timely manner.

The Simmons Statement on Non-Discrimination and Grievance Procedures was adopted in the 1980s and has not been subject to a thorough review since that time. Similar to the comprehensive assessment we recently undertook for the Title IX Gender-Based Misconduct Policy, our Statement on Non-Discrimination and Grievance Procedures merits careful review. We recognize that there is room for improvements to both the policies themselves and the language that describes them to better meet the expectations we all have for the preservation of civil rights on campus. This fifth demand has prompted us, as President and as General Counsel, to call for such a review.

Moving Forward

In the coming weeks, we will form an on-campus committee to evaluate and recommend revisions to our non-discrimination grievance policy. We will seek students, faculty, and staff as members of the review committee to ensure the revised Statement more adequately safeguards every member of our community’s right to receive respectful treatment from everyone on campus, and ultimately promotes a more inclusive environment for every member of the Simmons community.

President Drinan and I intend to focus our energies on providing the requisite education and guidelines related to civil rights in the coming months. The work to provide more detailed and thorough information and to clearly define and publicly promote a fair and judicious grievance process is not easy—but few goals of importance ever are.

We are committed to addressing these issues, and we encourage and welcome your input, ideas, and energy as together as a community we endeavor to make Simmons better for all.