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Faculty Grievance Committee

For the Faculty Grievance Committee, 2005-06 has been an extremely easy year for handling new individual grievances and a very frustrating year for passing and implementing needed changes to the grievance process.

The appointment of a faculty ombudsman has been a huge success, and Faculty Ombudsman Stan Roux has been doing a superb job. As a result, no new grievances have been filed since September 1. Several cases were resolved informally, although several others may yet result in a grievance.

Professor Roux is completing his second year as faculty ombudsman, and we strongly support his reappointment for a second 2-year term. We are concerned that his workload is larger than anticipated, and we urge the administration to find ways to ease his burden, while respecting the confidentiality of his role. We also support the eventual hiring of a second ombudsman, whose first year would overlap with Professor Roux’s final year so as to allow a smooth transition.

There was one grievance hearing this year, in response to a grievance filed in August 2005. The hearing panel has issued its observations and chose not to recommend any specific actions.

On the legislative front, this has been a difficult year. In September 2004, the Faculty Grievance Committee concluded that the existing grievance procedures were fundamentally unfair, allowing little or no possibility of relief for faculty members grieving against administrators. We suspended the handling of individual grievances until these problems could be fixed. Throughout the 2004-05 academic year, we negotiated changes to HOP 3.18 and HOP 4.03 with the administration. We commend the administration for working cooperatively with us on these changes, and we applaud the eventual legislation that the Faculty Council passed in May 2005. President Faulkner approved the changes in August 2005 and sent the legislation to the UT System office for final approval. In response to these events, and believing that the problems had been successfully addressed, we resumed processing grievances in August 2005.

Unfortunately, the UT System office did not respond to the recommended changes until March 2006, at which time they reported significant objections to the proposed legislation. With the help of President Powers, we agreed on an approach to the outstanding issues and had a very productive meeting with Helen Bright from UT System. We are cautiously optimistic that language acceptable to all can be worked out by the end of the semester and will report back to the Faculty Council the results of our continuing efforts.

However, this would only be a partial fix. UT System has requested and we have agreed to attempt a rewrite of HOP 3.18. This rewrite would not change our procedures in any way, but it would make clear the differences between cases involving termination, denial of tenure, discipline, and other grievances, and clarify the jurisdictional boundaries between the Grievance Committee and CCAFR. It would also clarify how practices at UT Austin adhere to Regents’ Rules. We will begin this task as soon as the legislation that the Faculty Council passed last year receives final approval.

Some of the reforms in that legislation are already being followed on this campus. The most important concerns follow-up procedures to ensure that the recommendations of hearing panels are carried out. An important test case is that of a faculty member whose grievance was heard May 2005. The provost reported at the end of the fall semester about progress toward ensuring the recommendations are satisfactorily accomplished; however, several major ones were still unresolved. The grievance committee discussed this with the provost on April 3, and we are hoping for a report at the end of the spring semester that indicates much greater progress.

HOP 4.03 governs grievances by TAs and AIs, which we hope to amend to make parallel with grievances for faculty. In response to discussion about this during a Faculty Council meeting last year, we drafted a version of HOP 4.03 that would cover all graduate student employees and that would also reflect the changes made to HOP 3.18. This effort is currently stalled as a consequence of the impasse over HOP 3.18. In addition, substantial practical problems remain in extending the HOP 4.03 rules to govern RAs. Our recommendations are that:

RAs be covered by the staff grievance process rather than the faculty grievance process,
While limited to AIs and TAs, HOP 4.03 should be as parallel to HOP 3.18 as possible.

Given our ongoing task of revising HOP 3.18, we think it best to leave HOP 4.03 until HOP 3.18 revisions are finished, presumably during the next academic year.

Lorenzo Sadun, chair

  Updated 2006 August 29
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