The BZC Formal Grievance Process exists to address situations that threaten the sangha’s integrity: an action or pattern of behavior that breaks the precepts and thus disrupts the community’s harmony, endangers its members, or goes against BZC’s mission and values. The Process aims to foster a culture where justice is realized not through the assignation of blame and infliction of retribution, but by truly seeing the extent of another’s suffering, and understanding the dependently co-arisen nature of that suffering.
Bringing a Grievance
The Grievance Process is initiated by submitting a Letter of Concern to the BZC Sangha Council. The Letter of Concern should include:
- A statement that the grievance process is being requested;
- The name of the person or people whom the Letter of Concern involves;
- A concise statement of the concern, including a description of the concerning behavior;
- A history of attempts, if any, to resolve the concern.
Accepting the Concern
The members of the Sangha Council (SC) will determine whether the claims, if true, would threaten the sangha’s integrity (as defined above). If so, the SC will initiate a Formal Grievance Process.
If the issue does not rise to the level of a serious ethical breach, at least two SC members will meet with the sangha member to explain their conclusion and help identify an alternate response.
If the SC feels more information is needed to determine whether or not a Formal Grievance Process is appropriate, the SC may consult with the Practice Council, Board, or Teachers. The SC will communicate with the person bringing the concern about an expected timeline of action.
In some instances, such as an ethical concern involving senior leadership, the SC may request outside help, such as mediation from a Restorative/Transformative Justice Facilitator, Teacher in a different sangha, or the BZC Elders Council (to be formed).
Forming a Committee: The SC will convene a Grievance Hearing Committee to inquire into the claims contained in the Letter of Concern, share their findings with the parties, and formulate an appropriate response. This Committee will be made up of three people: one member chosen by the SC to act as a facilitator, and one member chosen by each party involved in the concern. (Parties may not ask Teachers to serve on the Committee.)
Understanding the Concern: The facilitator will schedule closed sessions where all parties will be given a chance to present their understanding of the conduct or incident. The Committee may also ask other sangha members to offer statements. The facilitator will document the proceedings and summarize the substance of each party’s understanding.
Each party will be given a copy of this written summary, and all parties will have an opportunity to respond and provide additional information or clarification in writing or in person. The written summaries and all related documents will remain confidential, unless directed by court order.
Once all information has been gathered, the Committee will review and discuss their findings, and attempt to reach consensus on a response that works towards healing and protects the integrity of the sangha. This decision will be issued in writing and will include a follow-up plan for all parties. If consensus cannot be reached, both a majority and minority decision may be issued.
All parties will reconvene in person and the Committee will read aloud its decision and follow-up recommendations. (This meeting is for the Committee to clarify its decision, not to seek to change the decision or recommendations.)
The Committee is authorized by the SC and Board of Directors to carry out the decision in any manner that it regards appropriate. Examples of committee decisions include: requesting a formal apology either to the parties involved or the sangha, recommending a series of followup meetings with a Teacher or affinity group, removal from a leadership role at BZC, temporary suspension from BZC pending a change in behavior, or any other action that addresses the issue, and lies within the ethical and legal authority of BZC. The Committee is also authorized to decide which, if any, of their findings need to be made known to the wider sangha.
Any party not satisfied with the Committee’s outcome may appeal the decision to the Board of Directors. This is the last course of action within the Grievance Process.