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Many resources can help solve problems, Senate Assembly is told

Boasting more than 30,000 faculty and staff, U-M experiences its share of conflicts and problems among its employees.

How those problems are dealt with can be the difference between a happy settlement and amicable solution or a drawn-out process and even a lawsuit, said representatives of several campus units who met with the Senate Assembly Sept. 30 in its first meeting of the academic year.

Representatives from the Faculty Ombuds Program, Mediation Services, the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the provost’s office, and the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel presented many problem-solving solutions to the faculty members who make up the 72-member Senate Assembly.

“This is a very complex university, and all sorts of conflicts can arise. Finding ways to deal with them, from informal to formal, is important,” said Paul Courant, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “We are very much in this together.”

Mary Mandeville, research associate in the Faculty Senate Office, said the Faculty Ombuds Program serves as a neutral third party, and anything told to ombuds is kept confidential. She said many faculty do not realize ombuds are available within their own units for problem-solving.

Currently, 27 faculty ombuds serve 18 colleges and schools on the Ann Arbor campus. The position of ombud is designed to increase the probability that resolutions can be reached informally, and to reduce the likelihood of formal grievances.

Before retiring during the summer, associate professor emeritus of psychology Eric Berman served two years as an ombud in LS&A. Berman said he dealt with more than 35 cases during his tenure and 30 percent came from outside his home unit.

“That signals a certain amount of concern and distrust in their own units,” said Berman, who added that more than 60 percent of his cases involved women and 30 percent involved foreign-born faculty. “Many faculty members are afraid to bring grievance procedures because they are afraid of retribution.”

Berman said his cases varied from faculty members upset over parking to merit salary increases. The most difficult situations arose, he said, when faculty were denied tenure.

Sally Johnson, director of Alternative Dispute Services, said Mediation Services is an off-the-record service for faculty members with work-related concerns.

“In any given year, two-thirds to 90 percent of our cases end in success,” said Johnson, who showed data indicating Mediation Services handled 312 cases from July 1, 2000, to Feb. 28, 2002. “There are many cultural issues and department politics involved in cases we have seen. But we will only go as fast as the faculty want.”

The Rackham School has worked to provide a safe place for graduate students to come with their concerns, said Glenda Haskell, assistant to the dean.

“We ask them to slow down, back up and look at the situation,” Haskell said of Rackham’s process for dealing with unhappy graduate students. “We listen to the students, reflect the nature of the problem back to them and ask them to think about it from the faculty member’s perspective.”

The University encourages all faculty and staff to handle their issues and complaints informally and through mediation, the presenters said. However, complaints can proceed to a formal grievance process and are heard by a Grievance Review Board.

A list of problem-solving services can be found at http://www.umich.edu/~manswers/








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