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Grievance against professor resolved

DeSoto expresses some concerns about process

News Writer

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 13:11

A grievance filed by a student in the National Guard against a University of Northern Iowa professor has been resolved, according to the student.

On Oct. 24, UNI President Benjamin Allen released a statement supporting James Roethler, a freshman psychology major, in his grievance with psychology professor Cathy DeSoto, whom Roethler said would not let him make up a test he missed due to drill for the National Guard. According to Roethler, the issue has now been resolved. Though he could not elaborate further, Roethler said he was content with the result and his grade would not be affected.

How the grievance process started and how it was resolved

The grievance arose when a scheduled test in Desoto’s class was switched from Wednesday, Oct. 17 to Friday, Oct. 19. Roethler could not take the test on Friday because he would be gone for a four-day drill for the National Guard, Roethler said.

He explained that the purpose of his grievance was to have a policy created by the university to cover instances where a guardsman misses class due to drill, which guardsmen are required to attend or they are considered absent without leave. Roethler said his intent was not to attack the professor.

DeSoto said Roethler approached her after class and said “he would miss the exam and asked if there was a special policy on campus for absences related to military duty.” After she responded that she did not know, but would look it up, she said Roethler asked what would happen if such a policy did not exist.

According to DeSoto, she responded that it would be like any other absence, where her regular missed exam policy is initiated.  She explained that her missed exam policy is the missed test is replaced by an in-class quiz or participation grade, which is usually an “A.”  After 4,500 students using this policy, DeSoto said she has never had a grievance before and feels her policy is very reasonable.

Roethler confirmed DeSoto’s account of the situation was accurate.

After talking to DeSoto, Roethler said he talked to several different people to find an applicable policy to his unique situation. After he only found a policy regarding active duty (which does not include drills or other obligations, like natural disaster aid, for the National Guard), Roethler said he filed the formal grievance with Jennifer Yarrow through the Office of the President.

Roethler said since he spent his time before leaving for drill searching for a policy, he was unable to talk to DeSoto before he left.  When he returned, Roethler said, he was so far behind he just filed the grievance.  

“In hindsight, I probably should have talked to (DeSoto),” Roethler said.

According to a press release from faculty leaders across the university, Jordan Bancroft-Smithe, the president of UNI’s student body, put together an appeals panel consisting of UNI faculty and students.

The statement explained the process begins when the student, faculty member in question and the head of that faculty member’s department meet with the panel “in an attempt to encourage an informal resolution agreeable to both parties.”

If an informal resolution is not achieved, according to the statement, the panel issues a confidential ruling binding on both parties.

According to Roethler, DeSoto handled the situation “very professionally,” especially considering the emotional stress she has undergone. He said that never once has anything regarding the grievance process seemed to negatively affect him in class and that DeSoto didn’t “take it to a personal level at all.”

DeSoto said since the grievances were resolved informally, she was very happy with the conclusion and “all that was needed was to sit down and talk.”

Response to press coverage of the grievance

According to Roethler, the only reason he did an interview with a media outlet was to have a policy applying to his situation instated. He said KCRG did a good job with the interview and focused on the points Roethler was trying to make, but other media outlets took his quotes from KCRG and took them out of context.

“I did not like how (the other media outlets) focused on DeSoto and not the policy change,” Roethler said.

According to DeSoto, the press coverage has harmed not only her personally, but her “profession, UNI as a whole and the morale of persons in the military.”

“People have written me as a result of Ben Allen’s press release and the media stories saying I gave a student a zero because he was in the military,” DeSoto said. “They said I am one of many elitist military haters who teach liberal propaganda and that I should be fired, die or suffer for being a spoiled, liberal professor b----.”

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