SAC Cares streamlines grievance process for students

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Program revamps website, boosts campus presence and seeks student volunteers for advocacy group.

By Alison Graef

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

An initiative that supports students who experience discrimination, harassment, abuse or other mistreatment at this college is increasing its presence online and on campus.

SAC Cares: A Culture of Respect was created in fall 2013 to foster a safe environment of learning. The initiative handles non-academic grievances, academic grievances, non-academic misconduct, Strategies of Behavioral Intervention (SOBI) and Title IX.

“I want students to know we’re here to protect their rights,” said Jacob-Aidan Martinez, director of student conduct in the office of student success. “We’re here to ensure there’s a safe environment for them. We’re here to assist them with resources. The office is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and students can reach us 24/7 online.”

Martinez said the program was revamped in August of last year.

“We used to be more reactive,” Martinez said. “Now we’re being more preventative.”

SAC Cares has updated its online appearance and information, and is striving to be more visible and involved on campus.

“We have monthly programming,” Martinez said. “Last month was ‘Know Your 9.’ This month is ‘What is Consent?’ to raise awareness about sexual consent.”

To educate and raise awareness about sexual consent, the office of student success will be handing out informational flyers and running booths at student life events and the Antojitos Festival this month.

Additionally, as a part of their new, more proactive initiative, SAC Cares has held many training sessions to ensure that faculty and staff know what students’ rights are and how to handle situations in which a student needs intervention. Training sessions are available upon request for individuals, classes and departments. To schedule a training session, contact Martinez at jmartinez932@alamo.edu.

Another new part of the program is individual incident report forms online rather than the single form that was used for every incident. Martinez said the single form was inconvenient for the people filing the reports because it was not specialized for the distinct types of incidents such as academic and non-academic grievances, misconduct, Title 9 and SOBI.

The office of student success now has its own phone line, making reaching people in the office easier. Martinez said anyone can call to ask for assistance with filing a complaint, to check on status of a complaint or to speak to a staff member. Before they got the line, each person in the office had to be contacted directly. The phone number is 210-486-0926.

The office of student success is developing a student advocacy group to raise awareness of issues among their peers and be available to talk with other students who might otherwise feel uncomfortable asking questions or reporting concerns they have to SAC Cares.

“It’s more relatable when it’s your peers you’re talking with,” Martinez said of student advocacy. “What better way to get them to tell us what they are struggling with?”

Student advocates also would be a part of current student culture and therefore more likely to know about unique, ever-evolving issues that face today’s students.

The advocacy group will be launched this month and fliers promoting the group will be displayed around campus. The program will be new and still in development, so the first student advocates will play key roles in developing its identity, Martinez said.

Students who are interested in becoming advocates or want to learn more about the program should contact Jacob-Aidan Martinez at jmartinez932@alamo.edu.

Martinez said this campus is the first in the district to have his position. He said his position is more common at four-year institutions than two-year.

“SAC has always been a trailblazer and that is what this department is doing,” Martinez said. He said it has been challenging to not have any predecessors to look to as models, but he has enjoyed getting to define what his position stands for.

Before becoming student conduct director in Sept. 2015, Martinez was the coordinator of student success in the office of student life for four years.

St. Philip’s is in the process of creating a director of student conduct position.

As director of student conduct, Martinez oversees all of the processes in the department and investigates cases of academic misconduct.

Because of the sometimes-immediate nature of incidents, Martinez said prompt response is important.

“Sometimes my deadline is way more urgent than what another director’s would be,” Martinez said. “For example: If I hear that a student is threatening others. If I’m on vacation and something happens, I need to respond.”

  • Non-academic grievances should be filed when a college official has abused, discriminated against or harassed a student.
  • Academic grievances should be filed when a faculty member has treated a student unfairly in evaluating, testing, teaching or through a method of classroom management.
  • Non-academic misconduct should be filed when there has been a violation of the Student Code of Conduct or in situations involving academic integrity.
  • SOBI should be filed when students observe hostility, verbal aggression, depression, isolation or withdrawal in their peers.
  • Title 9 should be filed when an employee or student has experienced gender discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence.

Reports can be filed either online or in person. To file a report, visit www.alamo.edu/sac/SACCARES/.

Students are encouraged to report concerning behavior to the SOBI response team.

“The police have the slogan ‘See something? Say something!’ and we believe the same,” Martinez said. “If you are concerned about another student, we will investigate it and see what is wrong.”

Students sometimes don’t report concerning behavior because they are unsure if there is a serious enough problem, or they may be afraid of retaliation from the reported student. However, it is better to report a concern and have it turn out to be innocuous, rather than not report and allow the issue to remain unaddressed.

Students who file SOBI reports often remain anonymous to the reported. However, with conduct and Title 9 reports, it is more likely that their identities will be known. Students are protected under a retaliation policy and, if needed, no-contact orders, which prohibit contact between parties, can be issued.

For more information, call 210-486-0926 or visit alamo.edu/sac/SACCARES/.

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