Complaints Policy

Background

In the course of life at University students may encounter problems that will lead them to consider making a complaint. This policy is designed to clarify what processes exist within the Students’ Union in relation to SU membership and where and how complaints about the SU can be made.

Complaints Policy - Conduct

This complaints procedure covers allegations of misconduct that breach the Warwick SU Code of Conduct and By Laws. For example aggressive behaviour at a student union function, bullying by a club or society executive member, inappropriate use of SU/Club/Society social media.

Members of the Students’ Union (see Section 1.9 for definition) are expected to conduct themselves in a reasonable and responsible manner particularly when acting in any Union capacity (e.g. as an officer, Councillor, Executive Committee member, SSLC representative, society, club or student group member) whilst using Union facilities or participating in any Union activity/ event including club and society events, or whilst representing or acting on behalf of the Union.

1.1 Context

This policy has been developed in line with best practice and takes account of relevant legislation including but not limited to the Data Protection Act 1998, Equalities Act 2010, Education Act 1994 and the Charities Act 2011.

1.2 Exclusions

Items that are NOT covered by this complaints procedure include:

  • A general enquiry or feedback - address this to reception@warwicksu.com, enquiries@warwicksu.com or feedback@warwicksu.com
  • A complaint from a member of the public. Complaints from members of the public can be made via complaints@warwicksu.com. Any complaint from a member of the public will be responded to within 3 working days.
  • A difference in political opinion
  • A complaint regarding the conduct of SU elections. This should be raised with the Elections Adjudication Panel as specified in By Law 9
  • A complaint regarding academic issues or services provided by the University. The University has developed a Students Complaints Resolution Pathway which should be used.
  • Items related to contractual or legal issues such as Memoranda of Understanding or partnership agreements. Such legal documents will have their own specific channels for raising complaints.
  • Employment issues – these should be addressed via the staff Grievance Procedure – refer to the HR department.
  • Request for disclosure of personal information – this is covered by the Data Protection Act and should be submitted via a Subject Access request.
  • Consultation feedback on a specific area of work e.g. Strategic Review, development of service. Details of how to feedback will be provided with the publication of any consultation.
  • A disagreement about policy content– this should be raised through the democratic processes outlined in the By Laws.
  • A complaint about the quality of food, drink or entertainment provided by the Students Union. This is dealt with under a separate process Complaints Procedure – Catering, Hospitality and Entertainment Services

Warwick SU encourages respect and tolerance and all organisations, clubs, societies and other student groups that we work with commit to these values. We will work with clubs and societies to resolve complaints, but we will not intervene where individuals, not acting in an official capacity, have disagreements. We will offer guidance and support on coping in these situations wherever we can.

1.3 Scope

In order to use our charitable funds proportionately we do not investigate minor, misconceived, hypothetical, repetitious or vexatious complaints which are not supported by evidence of a breach of standards or complaints that are abusive or offensive.

1.4 Objectives

  • To clarify the roles and responsibilities of the complainant and Warwick SU
  • To increase transparency so that all involved know what to expect of the process
  • To encourage the resolution of issues and complaints informally and at the earliest stage possible
  • To adopt best practice in dealing with complaints fairly and independently.
  • To learn from complaints and make improvements where appropriate
  • To provide an independent view at each stage of the process
  • To provide a mechanism for appeal

1.5 What Complainants Can Expect from the SU

We will treat anyone who complains with courtesy and respect. The issue will be taken seriously and every effort will be made to try and resolve the complaint. In the first instance we will try to resolve complaints informally. Confidentiality will be respected. We will seek permission where others need to be involved. Any complaint will be acknowledged and will be dealt with by an appropriately knowledgeable person. A response will be provided within a reasonable timeframe and we will keep the complainant informed about that timeframe and any delays.

1.6 What the SU Expects from any Complainant

We expect to be treated with courtesy and respect and reserve the right to discontinue correspondence if a complainant does not behave in this way. We expect honesty and patience and the complainant’s cooperation in resolving the issue. We ask that the complainant follow the process described including a clear initial description of the issue and a statement of the resolution they would like to see. We expect that the complainant keeps appointments and keeps to any agreed actions.

1.7 Confidentiality

At all times during investigations, confidentiality and discretion will be maintained by all those involved. If the complaint indicates evidence of potential criminal activity or harm to an individual, Warwick SU reserves the right to break confidentiality. If there is a need to break confidentiality, this will be approved by the President or their representative. Complainants are expected to abide by the same rules and any breach of confidentiality will be investigated as a disciplinary matter.

1.8 Monitoring Complaints

A report to the Trustees on complaints made through this process will be prepared on an annual basis. This will review the number and nature of complaints and identify lessons learned and improvements that can be made. Information will be anonymised unless there is a specific reason to waive this.

1.9 Definitions

Who can complain?

Any person, including the Union acting through its Chief Executive or a Trustee, can make a complaint against a Member, club or society whose behaviour contravenes the Union’s Code of Conduct or By-Laws or amounts to general misconduct.

Anonymous complaints will not be dealt with. If a student wishes to remain anonymous they can submit general feedback using feedback@warwicksu.com.

1.10 Data Protection and Retention

Data and information collected during the complaints process will be treated as confidential as per 1.7. This information will be used for monitoring purposes and will be stored securely. Data will be retained in line with the Warwick SU Data Protection Policy and will be destroyed after seven years.

2. Process

There is a three stage resolution process, but all complaints start at the same point with an individual making the decision to lodge a complaint. All complaints must be submitted in writing using the standard form which can be found here and should be emailed to complaints@warwicksu.com. The person making the complaint is asked to be clear about:

  • What is the specific allegation(s)
  • What remedy is being sought
  • What supporting evidence/information exists.

Once the complaint has been submitted it will be acknowledged within three working days.

The complaint will then be screened by a sabbatical officer. The aim of the screening will be to check that the complaint is appropriate to the procedure i.e. not excluded. If the complaint is excluded, under the grounds outlined in 1.2 and 1.3, this will be communicated to the complainant. If the complainant does not accept this decision they can request that this decision is reviewed. A different sabbatical officer will review the exclusion and confirm the exclusion or allow the complaint. If the exclusion is confirmed the decision is final and there is no further appeal.

At all stages of the process the Officers of the Students’ Union will be provided with appropriate advice and support by the SU management team.

2.1 First Stage - Informal

If the complaint is covered by this procedure there will be an informal review by a sabbatical officer. The purpose of this review will be to seek an informal resolution. This may involve discussions with other relevant individuals (e.g. Club and Society representatives). This process will be concluded as quickly as possible and the officer will recommend an appropriate course of action to resolve the issue.

Typical remedies that may be recommended by the first stage:

  • An apology
  • Removal of material on SU or Clubs and Societies social media
  • Mediation
  • This list is not exhaustive and officers will use their discretion

If the problems raised by the complainant may constitute a serious breach of the SU Code of Conduct, the issue will be referred for investigation under the Disciplinary Procedure as set out in By-Law 12. This decision will be made by the Democracy and Development Officer.

If the complaint is made by a member of staff regarding a student, or a student regarding a member of staff, this will be dealt with under the Staff/Student Protocol.

2.2 Second Stage – Formal

If an informal resolution has been attempted and has failed OR the complainant remains dissatisfied following receipt of the recommendation from the First Stage OR the remedies determined above are not enacted e.g. there is no apology, then the complaint will be dealt with under the second stage procedure. At the second stage of the complaints procedure a complaints panel will be established which will consist of two SU officers, one of which will act as the Investigating Officer. The role of the Investigating Officer will be to establish the facts of the case promptly, obtain written evidence, interview witnesses and keep written records. In conducting interviews the Investigating Officer will state the issues as known; ask for information and explanations, and inform the person of the next steps and timelines. They will consult with staff advisers as necessary and prepare a written summary of findings.

The panel will review the information provided and agree what action is appropriate. A record will be kept of the actions taken and information collated.

If new information has come to light that suggests that there has been a serious breach of the Code of Conduct, the panel can refer the matter to the Disciplinary Process. In these circumstances any notes or evidence collected by the Complaints Panel can be used and referred to by the Disciplinary Panel

At the end of this process the panel will recommend an outcome.

Examples include:

  • An apology
  • Mediation (recognising that this is voluntary)
  • Referral to the Disciplinary Procedure
  • Training
  • Removal of material on SU or Clubs and Societies websites
  • Referral to the relevant sports club or society committee for action
  • Other appropriate dispute resolution

2.3 Third Stage - Appeal

In the event that the complainant does not accept the outcome from Stage 2, they can use the appeals process. An appeal must be lodged in writing within 10 working days of the outcome of stage 2 being communicated. An appeals panel will be established that will include a sabbatical officer and two other SU officers. The panel members must not have been involved in the original hearing nor have any other material conflict of interest.

The complainant will have the opportunity to explain (in writing) the grounds for review. The appeals panel will review the information and make a final decision. This decision will be communicated to the complainant in writing. A record will be kept of the actions taken and information collated. There is no further appeals process. If the complainant is dissatisfied with their dealings with the Students’ Union, they may register their dissatisfaction with the University Registrar under Ordinance 23 Education Act 1994. The Registrar may delegate an alternative University Officer to respond at her/his discretion. It should be noted that recourse to the Registrar does not constitute a further appeals process.

2.4 Referral to the Disciplinary Process

If the initial review concludes that the disciplinary process should be followed, then this will be conducted in accordance with By Law 12 Appendix 3. A disciplinary hearing may result in a range of sanctions and includes a provision for an Appeals process.

2.5 Withdrawal of a Complaint

An individual may choose to withdraw a complaint at any stage of the process. A decision to withdraw the complaint must be made in writing and submitted to complaints@warwicksu.com. In these circumstances the Students’ Union will assess the information submitted to identify any potential risks or legal responsibilities. If there is a potential risk the Students’ Union may continue to investigate and will retain information in line with 1.10. If there is no risk identified the Students’ Union will review whether there is any need to retain information, and if not, the information will be destroyed.