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Faculty Grievance Committee

2006-07 has been a busy year for the Faculty Grievance Committee (FGC) and an important one for the faculty grievance process. This report discusses: 1) a brief historical perspective; 2) approval of HOP 3.18 by Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie and President Bill Powers; 3) the important role of Ombudsman Professor Stan Roux; 4) current grievance cases and faculty contacts with the chair of the committee; and 5) future directions of the FGC.

Brief historical perspective
In September 2004, the FGC suspended the processing of grievances because we believed that the grievance process was broken and that all our attempts to fix it had failed. Throughout the 2004-05 academic year (AY), we negotiated changes in HOP 3.18 with the administration, and the Faculty Council approved the legislation we submitted in May 2005. President Larry Faulkner approved these changes in August 2005, and the FGC showed its good faith by resuming processing grievances even though UT System had not yet approved the changes. The revised HOP 3.18 document was sent to UT System for final approval, but the response we received in March 2006 raised significant concerns. During the 2006-07 AY, a subcommittee of the FGC worked with Managing Attorney Helen Bright of UT System and Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs Susan Bradshaw of UT Austin to write a version that everyone could endorse. As noted below, Provost Leslie and President Powers have now approved the revised HOP 3.18.

Approval of HOP 3.18
I reported to the Faculty Council in November 2006 that Helen Bright approved the negotiated changes to the HOP 3.18 document. In February 2007, a subcommittee of the FGC met with Provost Leslie (and others) to seek his approval of the document. Minor revisions to the document were proposed at this meeting. Further, the FGC was asked to develop four flowcharts that corresponded to the procedures outlined in the HOP 3.18 document. These flowcharts would guide faculty and administrators through the process, and include: Flow Chart 1: Termination of a Tenured Faculty Member or Termination Before Expiration of an Appointment; Flow Chart 2: Denial of Tenure or Non-Renewal of Tenure-Track Faculty; Flow Chart 3: Standard Grievance Process; and Flow Chart 4: Discipline of a Faculty Member. The FGC is grateful for the assistance and support of Helen Bright and Susan Bradshaw during the complex process of creating these flowcharts. The flowcharts are an excellent addition to the HOP 3.18 document.

On May 11, 2007, Provost Leslie wrote to President Powers “to formally recommend that you approve the enclosed revised Handbook of Operating Procedures, Chapter 3 – Faculty and Academics, Section 3.18, Faculty Grievance Procedure.” On May 25, President Powers wrote to Dr. Geri Malandra, Executive Vice Chancellor Ad Interim, “to recommend approval of the enclosed revisions in The Handbook of Operating Procedures of The University of Texas at Austin. These revisions concern Chapter 3 (Faculty and Academics), Section 3.18 (Faculty Grievance Procedures).” Further, President Powers wrote, “The revision and flowcharts are the result of extensive discussions, including consultation with the Office of General Counsel of The University of Texas System. With the concurrence of the Faculty Council, Faculty Grievance Committee, and the Executive Vice President and Provost, the enclosed revision and flowcharts replace the original recommendations of the Faculty Council (viz., D 3719-3720, D 3721-3722, and D 3734-3736).”

The Faculty Grievance Committee considers the approval of HOP 3.18 and the accompanying flowcharts our most significant contribution during the 2006-07 AY.

Role of Ombudsman
Ombudsman Professor Roux attended a meeting of the FGC in October of 2006 and discussed his role, activities, and annual report for the 2005-06 AY. Professor Roux supported the appointment of an assistant ombudsman, which current legislation recommends. Our committee drafted a document that addressed the assistant ombudsman issue, as well as oversight and continuity of the ombudsman’s office, and presented it for consideration by the Faculty Council at its December meeting (see D 5191-5194). The proposal was approved by the Faculty Council at its January 2007 meeting and transmitted to the provost for approval on January 23, 2007.

Current grievance cases and faculty contacts
No formal grievances have been filed since September 1, 2006. As chair, I have been contacted by four individuals and worked informally with them regarding complaints involving alleged retaliation and/or discrimination, salary issues, and denial of promotion and tenure. I also joined one of these individuals at an informal meeting with Faculty Ombudsman Stan Roux. One formal grievance, a tenure denial case, filed by a faculty member in May of 2006 is still in process. The FGC, under the leadership of Professor Lorenzo Sadun (chair 2005-06), will continue to work with the administration on this case; a hearing is anticipated to take place in September of 2007. Finally, in April of 2007, I gave a talk and met with several faculty groups at the University of Michigan as their faculty were benchmarking our procedures and desired to learn more about how we strengthened the faculty grievance process at The University of Texas at Austin.

Future direction of the FGC
Pending final approval of the revised HOP 3.18 from UT System, the FGC will begin a similar process with respect to HOP 4.03, which governs grievances by TAs and AIs. Other issues and current challenges for the FGC to consider during the 2007-08 AY include:

1) Work with Ombudsman Stan Roux and Provost Leslie to establish and fill the position of assistant ombudsman (see D 5191-5194).
2) Identify a mechanism for training unit leaders in how to resolve issues before they become grievances and help them understand the grievance process.
3) Create a list of “lessons learned;” such a list would be created by the informal committee of past chairs of the FGC and the ombudsman and used to educate current members of the FGC as well as the larger University community; such a list would also foster the perception of fairness with respect to the FGC procedures.
4) Address the lack of access  to free legal counsel for faculty during the grievance process.

Finally, our committee has selected Professor Alan Friedman as chair elect for the 2007-08 AY.

I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to my colleagues on the committee who have given of their time and expertise during this academic year and to the members who will serve on subcommittees over the coming months.

Submitted on behalf of the members of the Faculty Grievance Committee.
Mary Steinhardt, chair