2023-2024 Catalog and Handbook 
    
    Feb 28, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog and Handbook

Student Services


Mission Statement

The Office of Student Services exists to help students adjust to college life, to assist in co-curricular concerns, and to aid in the selection of careers and lifetime goals. Among the functions of this office are counseling, testing, new student orientation, student activities and wellness events, student conduct, college success skills courses, disability services, career services, student support services, and service learning. The Office of Student Services is located in Holton Hall.

Counseling

As a service to students, the College maintains a staff of academic counselors and advisors to assist students in making decisions regarding career and educational plans. The College does not provide mental health service, but works closely with local community services and makes referrals for students with issues beyond those which can be addressed in an educational setting. Currently enrolled students may access counselors by making an appointment in the Office of Student Services, Holton Hall.

Career Services

The Career Center offers computerized career assessments and career planning to help students determine career goals and thus a college major. To schedule an appointment, call 276.523.9106.

Disability Services

Consistent with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the VCCS guarantees that no qualified individual shall by reason of disability be denied access to, participation in, or the benefits of college. Each qualified person shall receive appropriate, reasonable accommodations upon request to insure full and equal access to educational opportunities, programs, and activities. In order to provide appropriate, reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities who seek them, colleges should require documentation from a qualified professional that includes a full clinical description and current functional limitations. This documentation should also include information about the methodology used to make a diagnosis, specific results of the assessments used, summary data, and specific assessment scores based on adult norms where having such additional information will assist colleges in engaging in a deliberative and collaborative decision-making process that considers each student’s unique situation and experience, but not where requesting such information becomes overly burdensome to a student. To schedule an appointment please contact the Disability Service Coordinator at 276.523.9108 or visit the Office of Student Services.

Policy for Service Animals, Service Animals In-Training, and Comfort Animals

A. Background

Mountain Empire Community College is committed to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA Amendments Act) and Section 504 or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. Mountain Empire Community College will also comply with the Code of Virginia, § 51.5. Rights of Persons with Disabilities (http:// law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title51.5/chapter9) and all state laws pertaining to individuals with disabilities.

B. Purpose

This document establishes the policies governing the presence of service animals, service animals in-training, and comfort animals on College campuses facilities, and applies to faculty, staff, students, and the public who utilize any college-owned or leased facility. This document is written in accordance with ADA guidelines pertaining to the use of such animals (https://www.ada.gov/topics/service-animals) and Code of Virginia, § 51.5

C. Service Animals

1. Mountain Empire Community College uses the ADA-approved definition of a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

2. Mountain Empire Community College also recognizes service animals in-training as those animals that are being trained by both students/faculty/staff with disabilities and experienced trainers who may or may not be disabled, provided that all of the following Virginia law conditions are met (Va. Code Section 51.51-44).

  • The dog is at least six months of age;
  • The dog is either (i) in harness and in training as a guide dog for the blind or visually impaired, (ii) on a blaze orange leash and in training as a hearing dog, or (iii) in a harness, backpack, or vest identifying the dog as a trained service dog, and in all such cases accompanied by a person who is experienced trainer of such service dogs or is conducting continuing training of a guide/hearing/service dog and is wearing a jacket identifying the recognized service dog organization.

3. In addition to the provisions about service dogs, revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. (Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.) These service animals shall be permitted in Mountain Empire Community College’s facilities where it is reasonable to do so and where they can be accommodated within those facilities.

4. Service animals or service animals in-training are allowed in all public spaces including waiting areas, administrative offices, cafeterias, libraries, bookstores, walkways, streets, open outdoor spaces, theaters, etc., without seeking permission from any College official. Employees, students and invitees may also bring service animals and service animals in-training into classrooms, laboratories, kitchens and non-sterile environments.

D. Fraudulent Representation of a Service Animal

Under Code of Virginia 51.5 44.1, any person who knowingly and willfully fits a dog with a harness, collar, vest, or sign, or uses an identification card commonly used by a person with a disability, in order to represent that the dog is a service dog or hearing dog to fraudulently gain public access for such dog pursuant to provisions in 51.5-44 is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

E. Comfort Animals 

1. Under ADA, comfort animals are not service animals. Comfort animals of any species, which may provide emotional support to a person but are not trained to perform work or tasks related to a person’s disability, are not permitted inside College buildings and facilities.

F. Types of Service Animals

1. Guide animal is a carefully trained animal that serves as a travel companion for persons with severe visual impairments or who are blind.

2. Hearing animal is an animal that has been trained to alert a person with significant hearing loss or who is deaf when a sound alarm occurs.

3. Support animal is an animal that has been trained to assist a person with a mobility or health impairment. The common tasks a support animal performs include carrying, opening doors, activating elevator buttons, helping a person up after a fall, etc.

4. Seizure Response animal is an animal that has been trained to assist a person when a seizure occurs. Services provided by this trained animal depend on the person’s needs. Animals may stand guard during a seizure, may go for help, or even predict a seizure and warn the person before it occurs.

5. Signal Dog is one trained to assist a person with autism. The dog alerts the partner to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping). A person with autism 24 may have problems with sensory input and need the same support services from a dog that a dog might give to a person who is blind or deaf.

6. Emotional Response animal is an animal that has been trained to assist a person during a panic attack or onset of anxiety. Services provided by this trained animal may be to stand guard, go around corners to alert of possible danger ahead, to paw at the leg to either warn of an oncoming panic attack or avoid the onset by calming the person, or to lay across the lap or the body of a person in order to provide compression to relieve or avoid the onset of an anxiety or panic attack.

G. Faculty and Staff Responsibilities

1. General rules:

  • Do not pet or feed service animals. They are working and must not be distracted. Service animals are working animals, not pets.
  • Do not separate or attempt to separate the service animal from his/her partner.
  • Allow service animals in all permissible places at Mountain Empire Community College pursuant to rules noted below.

2. When in doubt about whether an animal is either a service animal or service animal in-training, College employees can only ask the following two questions of the person with custody of the animal:

a. Is the service animal or service animal in-training required because of your disability?

b. What job or task has the animal either been trained to perform or is being trained to perform?

3. With respect to service animals, College faculty and staff cannot request medical documentation, ask about the person’s disability, request an identification card, proof of training, or ask the person to make the animal perform the activity for which it either trained or is in the process of being trained to perform. If, after asking the two permissible questions, the employee still has concerns about the animal in question, he/she should contact the Office of Disability Services.

4. College faculty and staff may not consider allergies or fear from others as a reason to deny access or provide a service to a person accompanied by a service animal. When a person who is allergic to animal dander and a custodian with a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.

H. Student Responsibilities

1. Suggested student guidelines

  • Speak to the custodian first. The service animal and the custodian are a service team. Remember the service animal is working, and the custodian’s life could depend on the service animal staying focused on the job.
  • Treat the custodian with respect and sensitivity. Assume the service team can handle themselves. Do not ask personal questions about the custodian’s disability or the service animal.
  • Do not pet the service animal without asking the custodian first.
  • Do not assume a sleeping service animal is off duty.
  • Do not deliberately startle a service animal.
  • Do not feed a service animal. Food is the ultimate distraction for a working service animal.
  • Do not separate or attempt to separate a custodian from his or her service animal.
  • Never agree to be a temporary caretaker for a custodian’s service animal.

I. Animal Custodian’s Responsibilities.

  • Custodians are encouraged, but not required, to register their service animal or service animal in-training with Mountain Empire Community College’s Office of Disability Services
  • Service animals and service animals in-training will be the full responsibility of its custodian and shall be under the control of its custodian at all times, and must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the custodian must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
  • Custodians must make sure that all requirements for the presence of a service animal or service animals in-training are met. Current vaccinations (to include rabies, distemper and parvovirus) and identity tags must comply with Virginia requirements and county specific requirements. Dogs must wear a vaccination tag.
  • Custodians accompanied by service animals must follow local ordinances regarding animal feces. If a custodian with a disability cannot pick up the animal’s feces, he/she must make arrangements for cleaning up after the animal.
  • All service animals and service animals in-training must be in good health and custodians are responsible for their animal’s behavior. If the accompanying animal exhibits unacceptable behavior, including but not limited to aggression when not being provoked, the custodian is expected to employ proper training techniques to correct such behavior.
  • A service animal custodian is responsible for ensuring that the animal is kept clean and the service animal is regularly bathed, groomed and treated for ticks and fleas.
  • Custodians will be responsible for any extensive damage to College facilities. This does not include normal wear and tear. Service animals may be asked to wear protective shoes to prevent slippage or damage to floors.

J. Reasons for Removing Service Animals from College Campuses or Facilities

  • The animal is out of control and the custodian does not take effective action to control it. This may include but is not limited to, a service animal presenting disruptive behavior such as barking, walking or running around without the custodian, growling, etc. Custodians will be asked to remove the animal from the classroom or premises until the owner takes measures to correct such behaviors. 25 • The animal’s custodian is mistreating or neglecting the animal.
  • The animal is not housebroken.
  • The dog poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. This may include, but is not exclusive to, showing unprovoked aggression, or serious illness.

K. Complaints

1. Any student who is not satisfied with the decision made concerning a purported service animal, service animal in-training, or comfort animal may file a written complaint using MECC’s Student Grievance Procedure found in the Student Handbook.

2. Any employee with a disability who is not satisfied with a decision made concerning a purported service animal, service animal in-training, or comfort animal may file a complaint under MECC’s employee grievance or dispute resolution procedures, found on MECC’s Human Resources webpage.

L. Inquiries

For general inquiries about this policy, contact the Office of Disability Services (Dale Lee, Student Leadership and Disability Counselor)

M. Voluntary Registration of Service Animal

Individuals using a service animal or service animal in-training may voluntarily register that animal with the Office of Disability Support Services. 

Educational Talent Search

Educational Talent Search is an early intervention program that serves middle and high students in grades seven through twelve in Lee, Scott, and Wise Counties and the City of Norton. The goal of Educational Talent Search is to advise participants in preparing for college. Participants receive assistance with college admission and enrollment, college admission testing, financial aid, career options and improving study skills. For more information, contact the Educational Talent Search Office at 276.523.9073.

Great Expectations

Lockers

Lockers are provided as a service to the students; however, students must provide their own locks. Lockers are assigned by the Office of Student Services. Students requesting lockers may obtain applications from the Office of Student Services. The lockers must be cleaned and locks removed within five days after the last exam day of the spring semester. Failure to comply will result in forcible entry by the College. The College reserves the right to open and inspect the lockers at any time. Maintenance problems should be reported to the Office of Student Services.

Lost and Found

Lost and Found is located in the Office of Student Services, Holton Hall, Room 128.

Selling on Campus

The sale or solicitation of any products, goods, food, beverages, or services on campus by student organizations is subject to the guidelines established by the Office of Student Services. The privilege of selling merchandise of any variety on campus is limited to the Bookstore, recognized MECC student organizations, and those that have valid contracts as concessionaires. The Dean of Student Services or his/her designee has the authority to specify or limit the places and times of such sales. Solicitation for the benefit of recognized charitable or civic organizations on campus shall be made only with the prior written ap¬proval of the Dean of Student Services for each specific fund or drive. Other types of solicitation for funds are specifically prohibited. For sales authorization, contact the Office of Student Services at 276.523.9107 or visit the Office of Student Services.

Student Outreach & Success (SOS Center)

Testing

The MECC Testing Center coordinates testing services for new and continuing students. The center administers placement testing, ability-to-benefit testing, and TEAS testing for Health Sciences. Please email testing@mecc.edu with questions you may have.

Transfer Services

Transfer services are available to any student who plans on transferring to a four-year college or university to complete a baccalaureate degree program. The transfer counselor is available to assist students in planning their course work at MECC to review the transferability of courses to four-year colleges and universities of interest. Students are encouraged to meet with the Coordinator of Advising upon their decision to pursue a transfer degree by calling 276.523.9106.

Tutoring/Student Support Services

The Student Support Services (SSS) Program is a federally funded academic support program. SSS is located in the Learning Center (G216) in Godwin Hall. Students receiving assistance from the SSS Program must be enrolled in a degree program and meet at least one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • First generation college student (neither parent has a Bachelor’s degree or higher).
  • Low income as defined by federal income guidelines.
  • A student with an appropriately documented learning or physical disability, who also meets income guidelines.

The Student Support Services Program offers these services free of charge:

  • Tutoring - Tutoring is available for most classes upon request. • Study Skills Development - Students may request assistance to improve study habits and skills.
  • Information and Referrals - Information and referrals for on and off-campus services are available.
  • Academic & Career Counseling - Academic and career counseling are available upon request. Referrals for other counseling services are available as appropriate.
  • Mentoring - Experienced personnel and students are available to provide advice and encouragement. • Transfer Assistance - A Transfer Counselor is available to ensure a smooth transfer to a four-year institution.
  • Financial Aid - Students may receive assistance in locating scholarships, grants, and other financial awards while at MECC and during the transfer process.
  • Resources - Resources such as calculators, textbooks, etc. are available on a limited basis for students who qualify for this service.
  • Cultural Activities - Students may attend a wide variety of cultural arts and other special events throughout the academic year free of charge.
  • Students who are not eligible for the SSS program will be served through the Parallel Program, funded by the MECC Foundation. All services listed above are included in the Parallel Program.

Telephone Calls

The Office of Student Services will receive emergency messages for students and make every effort to see that they are delivered. College operated telephones should not be used by students for outgoing calls, with the exception of emergencies.