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Report of the Ad Hoc Faculty Grievance Policy Committee

View the Faculty Grievance Procedures Faculty Handbook Revision

Members of the Committee

  • Thomas Gibson, Professor of Anthropology, SAS, co-chair
  • Karen Stein, Brody Endowed Professor of Nursing, SON, co-chair
  • Nancy Ares Associate Professor Teaching & Curriculum, WSE
  • Zachary Bernstein, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, ESM
  • Peter Christensen, Assistant Professor of Art History, SAS
  • Miriam Weber, Associate Professor of Neurology, SMD
  • Kevin McFarland, Professor of Physics, SAS, SEC liaison
  • Jean Bidlack, Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, SMD, SEC liaison

Report of the Committee

On November 15, 2016, Professor McFarland announced to the Senate that the SEC had agreed with President Seligman to begin work on revising the policy on faculty grievances, and that Provost Lennie and University Counsel Norris would represent the administration. On December 16, Professor Curry noted that an informal subcommittee had been bench-marking grievance procedures at other universities. On January 24, 2017, McFarland announced to the senate that the subcommittee was paying particular attention to grievances related to the infringement of academic freedom.

A set of revisions were discussed with Counsel Norris on January 30, 2017. The text was modified in response to their concerns about avoiding conflicts of interest, baseless complaints, and breaches of confidentiality. The revisions were discussed with Provost Clark on February 20, and the text was modified to ensure that otherwise confidential materials could be share with the special committee.

On March 30, 2017 an updated set of revisions was sent the administration with a summary of the principle changes that were being proposed. Other business took precedence during the April and May 2017 meetings of the Senate, and this set of revisions was held over to the 2017-2018 academic year. On October 24, 2017, Professor McFarland announced to the Senate that an ad hoc Faculty Grievance Policy Committee (FGPC) was going to set up to carry forward the work from the previous year.

In his original charge to the newly constituted ad hoc FGPC, McFarland included a review of grievances related to harassment and discrimination, which are covered under Policy 106. When it subsequently became clear that the Commission on Women and Gender Equity planned to set up a subcommittee of its own to review procedures relating to these grievances, a meeting was held on December 8 attended by McFarland and Curry, the co-chairs of the SEC; Gibson, co-chair of the FGPC, and Amy Lerner, co-chair of the CWGE. It was agreed that the FGPC would concentrate on the other two types of grievance procedure discussed in the handbook.

The FGPC met for the first time on November 10, 2017. Karen Stein (School of Nursing) and Thomas Gibson (Anthropology, School of Arts and Sciences) were chosen as co-chairs. The other members were Nancy Ares (Teaching and Curriculum, Warner School), Miriam Weber (Neurology, School of Medicine and Dentistry), Zachary Bernstein (Music Theory, Eastman School of Music), and Peter Christensen (Art History, School of Arts and Sciences).

The Committee met on a weekly basis in November and December to work through the revised text once again and to schedule meetings with deans in different schools. Bernstein and Christensen met with Dean Jamal Rossi of ESM on December 14; Gibson and Christensen met with Dean Olivares of SAS on December 11; Gibson and Weber met with Dean Jeffrey Lyness of SMD on December 21; Gibson met with Dean Heinzelman on February 27; and Gibson and Stein met with Provost Clark on March 5.

On February 6, 2018, the entire Committee met with Sarah Kerns, Chair of the Medical Faculty Council, Lisa Norsen, Chair of the School of Nursing Faculty Council, SEC member LaRon Nelson of the SON, and SEC member Anne Nofziger of the SMD to discuss how the proposed revisions might affect the faculty in their schools, particularly those who are up for reappointment every one or more years.

In response to comments from these deans and faculty representatives from various schools, the proposed text has again been extensively revised. In particular, the meaning of “academic freedom” was clarified by reference to the definition formulated in 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and endorsed by more than 250 scholarly and educational groups. It has been adapted to the current situation of both tenure-track and non-tenure track professors at the University of Rochester. Note also that it is up to complainants to make the case that an administrative decision has infringed upon their academic freedom.

On February 23, Version 18 was circulated to the following administrators:
President Richard Feldman, Provost Robert Clark, Associate Provost Joan Saab, Dean Richard Waugh (ASE), Dean Gloria Culver (SAS), Dean Wendi Heinzelman (SEAS), Dean Jamal Rossi (ESM), Dean Mark Taubman (SMD), Dean Kathy Rideout (SON), Dean Andrew Ainslie Dean Rafaella Borassi (WSE), Dean Jeffrey Lyness (SMD), and Dean Beth Olivares (SAS).

It was circulated at the same time to the faculty council representatives of each of the schools:
Professors Kevin McFarland, MJ Curry, Co-chairs of the Faculty Senate; John Givens, Chair, AS&E Faculty Council; Sarah Kerns, Chair, Medical Faculty Council; Lisa Norsen, Chair, SON Faculty Council; Henry Klumpenhouwer, ESM Representative; Avi Seidman, Simon Representative; Nathan Harris, Member, Warner Steering Committee.

Version 18 was modified in response to comments from MJ Curry of the SEC and Amy Lerner of the CWGEIA. It received further feedback from Dean Wendi Heinzelman on February 27 and from Dean Lyness on February 28. The resulting Version 21 was discussed in a meeting with Provost Clark, Senate Co-Chairs Curry and McFarland, and Committee Co-Chairs Gibson and Stein on March 5. It has been further revised in response to comments by Gail Norris and Rick Crummins of the Office of Council.

Version 22 was presented to the Faculty Senate during the March 20 meeting and circulated to the Grievance Committee for final comment on March 22.

A summary of the proposed revisions can be stated as follows:

  1. The handbook section relating to grievances concerning a decision related to tenure is expanded to include decisions relating to the reappointment and promotion of any full-time faculty member, whether tenure-track or not. The determination of the ranks that confer faculty status continue to be left to each school, as in the existing handbook. These grievances will be investigated by a Faculty Grievance Committee consisting of five or more members appointed from a list of fifteen faculty nominated by the president and provost.
  2. Grounds for the appeal of tenure, reappointment and promotion decisions are expanded beyond procedural irregularities to include violations of academic freedom as defined by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and as modified to fit the particular situation of faculty in the various schools of the University of Rochester.
  3. Given the complexity of the legal issues involved, the section in the existing handbook relating to grievances over harassment and discrimination simply refers the reader to “the procedure described in ‘Procedure for grievances alleging discrimination….’”. This is a reference to Policy 106. A subcommittee of the Commission on Women and Gender Equity is now at work on revising the procedures relating to this category of grievance.
  4. The section relating to general grievances over decisions relating to matters such as salary, space and other resources is revised. The existing procedure for appealing such decisions calls for a formal hearing with the department chair, with the option of appealing the resulting decision to the dean and then to the provost. In the proposed revision, an additional procedure is added for complainants who believed that a decision resulted in the violation of their academic freedom. These complainants would now be entitled to request an investigation by the same sort of Faculty Grievance Committee used for grievances related to tenure, reappointments and promotions.
  5. An explanation of the outcome of the process will be communicated back to the complainants, the respondents, and the UCTP in the form of a report from the president, provost, senior vice president for health sciences, dean, or program director, as appropriate.

Last Revised: March 26, 2018