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Faculty Grievance Committee

One might paraphrase novelist Charles Dickens in describing the work of this year’s Grievance Committee: “It has been the worst of times; it has been the best of times.” Formal grievance procedures were suspended but Professor Stan Roux (molecular biology) was appointed to the newly created position of ombudsman and, with hard work and good faith on the part of both administrators and faculty, many of the issues that have troubled the grievance procedure over the last six years are being resolved.

The Grievance Committee suspended its formal grievance procedures in September 2004, arguing that numerous obstacles prevented the efficient and effective enactment of the grievance process. In voting to suspend, this year’s Grievance Committee was following a recommendation of the 2003-04 Grievance Committee. The committee pointed to five major issues of concern in coming to their decision:

1. Faculty control of grievance procedure;
2. Cooperation of those against whom a grievance has been filed;
3. Follow-up procedures to enforce hearing panel recommendations;
4. Approval of Faculty Council legislation on disciplining;
5. Approval of Faculty Council legislation on discovery.

Over the course of the year, we believe we have successfully addressed the first three issues. President Faulkner and Provost Ekland-Olson recognized the concern the committee had with the appearance of administrative interference in a faculty procedure. It was suggested that, in future, the president and provost’s office should refrain from intervening in the procedures until the hearing panel forwarded their recommendations to them. Both the president and the provost acknowledged the importance of cooperation from those against whom a grievance has been filed and agreed to encourage attendance at hearing panels. Moreover, the provost’s office will send a representative to attend the hearing should the person grieved against be unwilling to attend. The provost furthermore volunteered to report to the Grievance Committee each semester on actions taken to implement the recommendations of the hearing panel, and the Faculty Council approved this action in February 2005.

The two remaining issues—legislation on discovery and disciplining—are still awaiting final approval from the president. In this, we find ourselves in the same position as we were a year ago when the May 2004 Faculty Council approved these two pieces of legislation, which remained unsigned by the president. After lengthy negotiations with the administration, the Grievance Committee submitted revised versions of these HOP 3.18 guidelines to the Faculty Council, which approved them unanimously (discovery in February and disciplining in March 2005). We are optimistic that, having secured the agreement of the administration in advance of proposing the legislation to the Faculty Council, these two documents will be expeditiously signed by the president—at which point, the Grievance Committee will re-instate the formal grievance procedures.

We are also optimistic that the Faculty Council will be able to approve a revised version of the HOP guidelines on Graduate Student Employee Grievance Procedures (4.03) at its first meeting in September 2005. This revised version will bring graduate student procedures into close compliance with the faculty process.

This year Professor Stan Roux was appointed as University ombudsman, and we believe that Professor Roux has successfully mediated many of the cases that would otherwise have come to the Grievance Committee. The concern felt by some members of the Faculty Council that the Grievance Committee might be jeopardizing the rights of faculty members in suspending the formal grievance procedures seems not to have been justified as no faculty member proceeded beyond the mediations proposed by the ombudsman.

While no new grievances came to the committee in the AY 2004-05, three grievances remained from the previous year. Of those three, two grievances have proceeded to a hearing panel. In the first case, the hearing panel upheld part of the grievant's position; in the second case, the hearing panel rejected the grievant’s complaint, the grievant appealed to the president, who rejected the appeal. The third case will be heard in early May.

I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to my colleagues on the committee whose support, encouragement and energy has transformed this year from an “annus horribilis” to an “annus mirabilis:” Pascale Bos (Germanic languages) Neal Burns (advertising), Alan Friedman (English), Martha Hilley (music), Joni Jones (theatre and dance), Nancy Kwallek (architecture), Desmond Lawler (civil engineering), Paula Murray (management science and information systems), Alba Ortiz (special education), Elizabeth Richmond-Garza (English), Lorenzo Sadun (mathematics), Diane Schallert (educational psychology) Janet Staiger (RTF), Mary Steinhardt (kinesiology and health education), and Karen Wilkins (RTF).

Susan Sage Heinzelman, chair