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Faculty grievance procedures revised

Faculty members who file grievance appeals can expect speedier resolutions, thanks to a streamlined appeals process that was approved by the Faculty Senate on Dec. 4.

Previously, the university's policy required that when a grievance leads to reconsideration, that reconsideration was first to be made at the level where the complaint occurred. While a case could be remanded to the original decision-making body for various reasons, such a review will no longer be mandated under the new legislation.

"We think it will serve the grievants better and we think it will serve the entire administrative structure better," said Provost Condoleezza Rice, who presented the proposed changes to the Statement on Faculty Grievance Procedures to the senate.

Faculty who have grievances currently pending will be given a choice about which version they'd like to proceed under, Rice said.

Russell Berman, professor of German studies, voiced departmental support for the amendment.

"There's an interest on the department side as well to move the decision up to the next level," Berman said. "As it swelters in departments for review once again, all the disruption, all of the personal disputes that are necessarily involved in these things keep coming back and back. As soon as it's moved out of the department, one can hope that some decision will come forward more expeditiously."

Arthur Veinott, professor of engineering-economic systems and operations research, offered an opposing view, saying that departments are most likely to be able to understand the nuances of a case and to gather appropriate information to reconsider a departmental decision.

Rice assured Veinott that based on her five years of experience dealing with grievance appeals, she is confident that all of the information concerning a case is made available to those reviewing at higher levels. She also pointed out that the criteria for appeal are largely on procedural, not substantive, grounds.

Other modifications to the statement included simplifying the language and organization of the document and, in non-appointment-related grievances, adding a provision for reporting informal resolution efforts at the initial stage of filing a grievance.

At the meeting, Rice also submitted changes made to an associated document, called the Standing Rules of Procedures Governing the Filing and Appeal of Grievances.

Unlike the revised statement, which had to be adopted by the senate before being enacted, the standing rules document was drafted and promulgated by President Gerhard Casper and members of the Advisory Board. It will become final if the senate does not veto it at its next regular meeting.

Modifications to the standing rules include the addition of specific time frames for decisions to be rendered and editorial changes to make the document more readable.

Asked if these changes to the statement and rules were sufficient, Rice said that there are other improvements to the faculty grievance process that can be made, but the larger question is whether the grievance process can continue to rest on the notion of peer review, with grievance officers who are busy faculty members, not trained in the legal profession.

"I do think that we may want at some point to have a wider faculty discussion, and I want to emphasize faculty discussion, about what it is we're doing in the grievance procedures, what they are for and how they are structured. Because they are, indeed, very, very hard to manage. But I think we manage them well currently."


By Marisa Cigarroa

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