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DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY

PROPOSAL FROM THE FACULTY GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE TO CREATE AN OFFICE OF THE FACULTY OMBUDSPERSONS

 

On behalf of the Faculty Grievance Committee, Martha Hilley (professor, music) submitted the following proposal to create an Office of the Faculty Ombudspersons. This is a revision of legislation first introduced in D&P 17040-17043.1 The secretary has classified this resolution as general legislation. The Faculty Council will take action on the proposal at its meeting on January 28, 2002.


<signed>

John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty


This legislation was posted on the Faculty Council web site on January 15, 2002. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.


1 Inserted sentence January 22, 2002.


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PROPOSAL FROM THE FACULTY GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE TO CREATE AN OFFICE OF THE FACULTY OMBUDSPERSONS

Background

It is valuable to the University for faculty to have a prompt and professional way to resolve questions, concerns, and complaints beyond turning to their supervisors. The creation of the Office of the Faculty Ombudspersons would provide this service. Such an office would also ease the burden of voluntary service of the Faculty Grievance Committee which is not in a position to answer or mediate quickly many faculty questions or complaints.

For these reasons, the Faculty Grievance Committee recommends the creation of an Office of the Faculty Ombudspersons as specified in the following proposal.

Proposal

I.
Purpose

The Faculty Ombudspersons serve as neutral third parties providing information, counsel, and mediation to faculty (as defined in Regents' Rules Chapter 3, Section 1.8) who have University-related questions or complaints.

II.
Scope and Duties

A. The scope of the Faculty Ombudspersons' concern extends to all aspects of University life, both academic and nonacademic, which affect faculty.

B. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall receive, examine, and channel complaints of faculty to appropriate University officials or University committees (including the Faculty Grievance Committee and the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity) and seek to secure expeditious and impartial redress. The Faculty Ombudspersons may decline to deal with any case which they consider inappropriate for the office or postpone consideration until a final decision resulting from a referral to another University entity is made.

C. For certain complaints, the Faculty Ombudspersons may work with the Faculty Grievance Committee or the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity; however, none of the responsibilities or duties of either the Faculty Grievance Committee or the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity are altered by the creation of the Faculty Ombudspersons' Office. Initiating and pursing a formal grievance with the University will be accomplished through the faculty grievance process. Initiating and pursuing an equal employment opportunity complaint will go through the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. Faculty may always informally pursue questions and complaints through regular administrative channels as well.

D. The effectiveness of the Faculty Ombudspersons' office will rest on its reputation for fairness, objectivity, tact, independence, and respectful concern for the welfare of all members of the University community and the well-being of the University.

E. When investigating a complaint or question, the Faculty Ombudspersons shall have access to all records ordinarily available to University administrators. University officials and employees involved in a case shall cooperate with the investigation in good faith and in a timely manner.

F. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall establish simple, orderly procedures for receiving complaints and for ensuring that case records are maintained in a confidential manner.


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G. The sensitive and confidential nature of the Faculty Ombudspersons' work dictates that office operations be conducted with dignity and integrity. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall maintain the privacy of all persons who solicit their assistance and protect them against retribution.

H. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall recommend to University officials procedures or policies as necessary.

I. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall make a written annual report to the executive vice president and provost and also the Faculty Council regarding the operation of the Office of the Faculty Ombudspersons. This report shall contain a general summary of the ombudspersons' activities for the past year, along with any appropriate recommendations for new policies and procedures. In addition, the Faculty Ombudspersons shall make periodic reports to pertinent University standing committees when issues arise that should be addressed by those committees. Moreover, when the Faculty Ombudspersons deem it necessary, they shall report to the executive vice president and provost or appropriate University committee, including the Faculty Grievance Committee, any valid complaint for which no remedy has been found. The Faculty Ombudspersons may make any recommendations they deem appropriate regarding such unresolved complaints.

III.
Selection

A. When a vacancy occurs, a screening committee, composed of four faculty elected by the Faculty Council and two administrative/staff members appointed by the Executive Vice President and Provost, will be created. In accordance with established personnel policies and procedures, the screening committee shall review applications and nominations for the position and interview candidates as appropriate.

B. Only tenured faculty members already employed at The University of Texas at Austin are eligible as candidates for ombudspersons. Additional qualifications for the position shall include evidence of an understanding of the administrative procedures of the University, strong written and oral communication skills, effective interpersonal skills, the ability to evaluate objectively the facts of a given situation, and the ability to manage the Faculty Ombudspersons' office. Additionally, candidates must demonstrate that they are able to act with fairness, objectivity, tact, independence, and respectful concern for the welfare of all members of the University community and well-being of the University in the conduct of duties. Moreover, the sensitive and confidential nature of the Faculty Ombudspersons's work dictates that candidates be able to perform their duties with dignity and integrity.

C. In its report to the executive vice president and provost, the screening committee shall recommend one candidate for each position for the executive vice president and provost's consideration. If the executive vice president and provost is unable or unwilling to appoint any of the individuals recommended by the screening committee, the Executive Vice President and Provost shall ask the committee for additional nominations.

IV.
Structure and Organization

A. The Faculty Ombudspersons' office shall be housed and funded within the Office of the General Faculty. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall maintain posted office hours during University working days.

B. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall be appointed by and report directly to the executive vice president and provost of the University.


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C. The Faculty Ombudspersons shall be appointed by the executive vice president and provost for a two-year, renewable term. If possible, terms of the ombudspersons will be staggered.

D. One Faculty Ombudsperson shall be appointed to a twelve-month 1000 code (non-academic employee) appointment. Additional compensation will come in the form of course teaching reductions, other reduced workload expectations (research, service), and/or a salary increase as negotiated at the time of appointment. The form and level of compensation will be determined by mutual agreement of the faculty member and provost after consultation with the faculty member's chair and dean. Service as the ombudsperson shall fulfill the total expectations for service to the University for the academic year.

E. Assistant Faculty Ombudspersons will be appointed and trained in the same manner as the primary Ombudsperson. The number of assistants will be determined by the demand for mediation each year.

F. The Ombudspersons shall undergo formal training as mediators through the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution in The University of Texas School of Law. The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost will pay for this training.