Informal Resolution Procedures for Students with Disabilities
Rutgers University Commitment
Rutgers University is dedicated to the philosophy that all individuals with disabilities are assured equal opportunity, access and participation in the University’s courses, programs, activities, services and facilities. We recognize that diverse abilities are a source of strength, empowerment, and enrichment for the entire university community and we are committed to the elimination of physical, instructional, and attitudinal barriers by promoting awareness and understanding throughout the university community.
At each Rutgers University campus (Camden, Newark, New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, RBHS) there is an Office of Disability Services (ODS) that provides reasonable academic adjustments, accommodations and services for students with disabilities. For information about the contacts and offices of disability services for each Rutgers campus, please visit the Office of Disability Services’ Contact Us web page. For information on how to apply and obtain academic adjustments, accommodations and services, please visit the applying for services page of the ODS web site.
Overview of the Informal Resolution Process
Rutgers University has adopted this Informal Resolution Process for students with disabilities enrolled at Rutgers University as one of the means to provide for prompt and equitable resolutions to informally resolve problems, issues or concerns related to equal access to University programs, courses, services, facilities, and activities. The objective of the Informal Resolution Process is to provide a means for students to report concerns or issues and for the University to attempt to resolve or mediate the situation in a timely manner. No formal investigation is involved in the Informal Resolution Process. This process applies to students who have problems, issues or concerns related to:
- the Office of Disability Services (ODS) accommodation request process
- receiving their approved ODS accommodations or services
- the accessibility of a Rutgers course, program, service, activity, facility, parking area or transportation
The above concerns or issues should immediately be reported to the appropriate Office of Disability Services personnel (usually the student’s ODS Coordinator) at the campus the student is currently enrolled.
The Informal Resolution Process may be an appropriate choice when:
- the conduct involved is not of a serious or repetitive nature and disciplinary action is not required to remedy the situation.
- attitudinal or behavioral conduct is involved.
- the student has tried to resolve the issue informally with the parties involved (e.g., their professor, the department or school) and a disagreement has occurred.
We have found that most situations are often due to misunderstandings or miscommunications between parties and we have found that the Informal Resolution Process is an effective means to resolve these situations and improve communication among parties.
Initiating the Informal Resolution Process
To initiate the Informal Resolution Process, the reporter (usually the student) should make contact with the appropriate Office of Disability Services on the campus where the student is currently enrolled. This contact can be made by email, phone, in-person or by completing the Informal Resolution Process Form. Completing the Informal Resolution Process Form is the preferred method of submission. Regardless of how the incident is reported, the information requested below must be provided in full or the resolution process may not be able to move forward. Written communication is encouraged, but not required. If a report is made orally, ODS personnel will complete the Informal Resolution Process Form for the reporter and will ask that the reporter acknowledge its accuracy by signing a copy of the completed form.
The following information is required for any informal resolution to move forward regardless of the means filed:
- The name, current mailing address, phone number (where you can be reached during normal business hours) and email address of the person initiating the grievance.
- A full description of the issue or concern in sufficient enough detail to enable the individual examining the matter to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for the report.
- A summary of the steps the complainant has already taken in an attempt to resolve the problem. This would include the names of persons involved; contact information of those involved (if available); and the departments or offices inside and outside of the University already contacted.
- A statement of the requested resolution (What would the complainant like to see happen to resolve this matter).
- Any supporting documentation, including any correspondence related to the matter.
Upon receipt of the Informal Resolution Process Form, the student’s case will be assigned to the appropriate University personnel to oversee the Informal Resolution Process.
The reporter should initiate the Informal Resolution Process within sixty (60) days of the incident.
ODS personnel will promptly acknowledge receipt of the concern or issue (typically, within 5 business days) in writing to the student. ODS personnel will seek to resolve the issue or concern informally within 10 business days. The ODS personnel handling the resolution process will issue a letter of determination to the student and the respondent within 20 business days of receipt of the original notice of the issue. The letter of determination will set forth ODS’s conclusions with respect to the issues raised by the reporter, as well as the proposed resolution. If the student accepts the proposed resolution, the matter will be closed. If the student does not accept the proposed resolution, the student may elect to have the matter reviewed through the University’s Grievance Procedure (provide link) by filing a complaint within the required timelines.
The University recognizes that each case has its own unique circumstances and time frames may vary depending on the details of a case and at certain times of the academic year.
Other processes for handling Disability Complaints
Participation in the Informal Resolution Process is voluntary and the informal procedure will be closed immediately if the student wishes to bypass the informal procedure and go to the University’s Grievance Procedure. A student who opts to pursue this Informal Resolution Process may elect to pursue the University’s Grievance Procedure, at any time after the informal resolution process has been initiated, including after the letter of determination is issued. However, if the student accepts the proposed resolution as part of the Informal Resolution Process, the matter may not be reopened through the University’s Grievance Procedure.
If at any point during the Informal Resolution Process, the facts of the situation indicate that there is a possible violation of University policies and/or procedures, the University reserves the right to investigate the matter even if the reporter and/or student does not wish to formally proceed. Under such circumstances, all efforts will be made to protect the reporter’s and/or student’s privacy and to ensure that they are not subjected to adverse treatment.
Although students are encouraged to attempt to resolve complaints pertaining to disabilities by using the University’s Informal Resolution Process or Grievance Procedures, they have the right to file a complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Enforcement Office, New York, NY 10005-2500 or the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Civil Rights.
The nature of the concern or issue and any information obtained by ODS will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and with sensitivity to the issues involved. However, the University has a duty to respond to allegations of discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), and retaliation, and therefore cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality once allegations are disclosed to university officials. The confidentiality of information disclosed during the course of resolution efforts will be respected to the extent feasible and practical and in accordance to applicable state and federal laws. This means that information about the concern or issue is shared only with those individuals within the University community who "need to know" in order to effectively come to or implement a resolution. These parties will be advised that they should keep the information confidential.
It is a violation of Rutgers policy and Federal regulations to retaliate against anyone who files a grievance or cooperates in the investigation of a grievance. Coercion or intimidation of, threats toward, or interference with anyone because he or she exercised or enjoyed Section 504 and/or ADA rights, or helped or encouraged someone else to do so, is also prohibited.
The University prohibits retaliation against individuals who, in good faith, assert their rights to bring an issue or concern under these procedures. Retaliation is an offense separate from the original complaint of discrimination, and will be considered independently from the merits of the underlying complaint. Complainants who believe they have been subjected to retaliation because they filed an Informal Resolution issue or concern under these procedures should report the conduct to the ADA/504 Compliance Officer or the Office of Employment Equity.
The ADA/Section 504 Coordinator for each Rutgers location and the Associate Vice President/ADA-504 Compliance Officer shall maintain the files and records of all complaints for which he/she is responsible under this Informal Resolution Process.