New faculty grievance process awaits trustee approval

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    The draft for a new faculty tenure appeal policy, designed to resolve grievances in a quicker way, has reached its final stages and is expected to reach the board of trustees for approval later this year, a former Faculty Senate representative said.

    Stuart Youngblood, professor of management and former faculty senator who is working on the draft, said the Faculty Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion Appeal Policy will speed up and clarify the process of submitting grievances. The document is intended to replace the current Faculty Grievance Policy, which was revised in 1998.

    The proposed policy, which was passed in the Faculty Senate in May 2008, introduces a facilitator, a neutral representative charged with making sure the appeal process is fair and assisting the parties in using appeal procedures. The facilitator, a tenured faculty member, will receive 40 hours of training in dispute resolution as required by state law.

    Unlike the current policy, which requires a faculty member to first notify an administrator about a grievance that then undergoes review by three Faculty Senate committees, the proposed appeal process begins when a faculty member contacts the facilitator, who advises the faculty member, according to a draft of the policy. The appeal then proceeds from the academic unit where the denial took place and moves to higher levels. For example, if a tenure denial took place at the department level, the appeal is reviewed by the department chair and the Department Advisory Committee, a group of tenured faculty who review tenure nominations at that level. If the denial is upheld, the appeal proceeds to the college level and then to the Faculty Appeal Hearing Committee, a panel of five faculty members. Cases that fail to be resolved at the university level are also referred to the FAHC, which either upholds the denial and ends the appeal process or upholds the appeal and forwards a recommendation to the provost.

    Informal facilitated discussions with mediators are available throughout the process at the request of the parties, according to the draft.

    Youngblood said the Faculty Appeal Policy gives faculty members an opportunity to exercise due process because faculty deserve notice, the opportunity to be heard and feedback.

    Cynthia Chapa, the past Tenure Promotion and Grievance Chair and instructor of German, said the revisions for the current policy ensure there are no loop holes.

    “It had to be scrutinized by university lawyers,” Chapa said. “This policy will be used as a legal document.”

    The Faculty Senate designated two senate representatives, Youngblood and Chair-elect Dianna McFarland, to work with the provost to fine-tune the document based on feedback from university attorneys, Youngblood said.

    “Most of the things we have gotten back are just helping present the document in a clearer way,” Youngblood said.

    If the policy is changed in a substantive way, it will have to be presented to the Faculty Senate again for approval, Youngblood said. The Faculty Appeal Policy has not appeared before the board of trustees yet because the senate representatives and the Provost are still perfecting the document, Youngblood said.

    Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said that once a final version of the Faculty Appeal Policy is complete, it will go to the board of trustees for final approval, which is expected to be in November.

    The two Faculty Senate representatives and the provost will meet Oct. 6 to continue to move the proposal in front of the board of trustees, Youngblood said.

    Current policy: A faculty member notifies the department chair, dean or provost about the grievance, which mediators try to resolve through informal proceedings. If the case cannot be resolved, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee reviews the validity of the grievance and may refer the case to the Faculty Senate hearing committee, which issues recommendations for the chancellor to accept or reject.

    Proposed policy: A faculty member notifies the facilitator about the grievance, which proceeds from the academic unit where the denial took place and then moves to higher levels. The appeal process ends with the Faculty Appeal Hearing Committee, a panel of five faculty, which reviews the appeal. If the appeal is upheld, FAHC forwards a recommendation to the provost. If FAHC upholds the denial, the appeal ends.