The U-M chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has noted a drastic increase in the number of faculty grievances it is receiving, according to Wilfred Kaplan.
That increase is one of the reasons the local AAUP, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) and the Academic Womens Caucus sponsored a panel discussion last week about U-M faculty grievance procedures, how they work and how they can be improved, explained Kaplan, professor emeritus of mathematics and executive secretary of the U-M chapter.
Panelists were James E. Perley, national AAUP president and professor of biology, College of Wooster; Thomas E. Moore, professor of biology; and Eleanor Kay Dawson, director of academic human resources and special assistant to the provost.
Formal grievance procedures are not the only way to resolve disputes in an organization, noted Dawson.
At the U-M, all of the schools and colleges have ombudspersons. Other alternatives include arbitration, mediation and conciliation.
Although formal procedures dont work for personal disagreements or climate issues, they do provide a forum for complaints about specific decisions and the decision-making process, she said.
Dawson explained the Universitys Model Process, which replaced the Senate Advisory Review Committee in 1983. Adopted in some form by each school and college, the Model Process calls for panels of tenured faculty members to hear from complainants and respondents and to review the decision-making process, not the decision itself. The advisory panel reports its findings to the provost, who makes a decision about the procedures used.
Dawson said two dozen faculty grievances were filed between 1983 and 1993, with three to four being filed annually since 1989.
In 1993 on the Ann Arbor campus, grievances were filed by three out of 3,300 faculty and 26 non-bargained-for staff out of 10,200. That same year 1,250 grievances were filed by bargained-for-employees on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses. Bargained-for employees total 7,300 on the three campuses.
Dawson said the Model Process includes easily identifiable procedures and a time frame for filing and hearing grievances. It requires a clear statement of the problem and documentation. Complaints are confidential and conclusions are issued in a timely fashion and fair way.
Moore cited what he sees as flaws in grievance procedures as they are now constituted, including a lack of recordkeeping on grievances received and their disposition, and failure to adhere to time-lines, particularly on the part of administrators.
Promotion, tenure and salary decisions, and disagreements with administrators were the main reasons 44 individuals contacted their unit ombudsperson during winter term 1993, noted Moore, a member of SACUA.
Mistakes or unfairness in tenure and salary decisions were the most frequently cited reasons for the 20 grievances received by the administration between 1983 and 1993, according to Moore, who also chairs the SACUA Subcommittee on Grievance Procedures.
Moore noted that in addition to the complaints received through the formal grievance procedures and through the ombudspersons, the U-M chapter of the AAUP received 56 requests for help between 1983 and 1993. Those included seven requests from schools and departments.
Moore said issues in grievance procedures that need to be addressed include:
Perley, who served 25 years as the grievance officer for the AAUP in Ohio, said the number of grievances there increased from four in 1973 to 383 in 1992.
This doesnt necessarily mean Ohio is an evil place, he said. Instead, Perley thinks the increase reflects the growing awareness that a mechanism is in place to help.
The complaints ranged from the simple to complex, the unbelievable to the predictable, he noted, and included faculty who thought their deans were crazy and administrators who suspected faculty members of poisoning them.
Responding to the three panelists, Kaplan agreed that training should be provided to persons who receive grievances. At the conclusion of every grievance, a statement of the lesson to be learned from the case should be written and added to a list of mistakes not to make, he said.
Often such mistakes are of a contractual nature, noted Kaplan, who recounted a case in which a department chair offered a person an assignment, complete with conditions and salary, only to have the offer retracted by a dean.
Just as serious are the cases in which faculty are told for six years that they are on the tenure track, and then informed in the seventh year that their services arent needed anymore. The University is within its rights to do that, Kaplan said, but it shouldnt be done unless it is absolutely necessary.
Systematically circulating such a no-no list could avoid a lot of problems, Kaplan predicted.