The University Record, January 16, 1996

The Senate Assembly Legal Advisory Council

By Wilfred Kaplan
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics

 On May 18, 1992, Senate Assembly passed a resolution establishing the Legal Advisory Council charged with maintaining a list of attorneys who could help in grievances or in defense within administrative procedures, and with informing the faculty of the Council's availability. Guidelines for the Council were adopted by Senate Assembly on Oct. 29, 1992. The Council was then appointed and had its first meeting on Feb. 12, 1993. The members were and continue to be five emeriti faculty: Ronald Bishop, Samuel J. Eldersveld, Eugene Feingold, Robert Kahn and Wilfred Kaplan.

On June 29, 1993, the Council adopted the following description of its function:

"The Legal Advisory Council was created to assist faculty who are involved in disputes that may lead to legal action, either initiated by them or by others against them.

"Council members are available for consultation, individually or as a group, providing faculty with an opportunity to discuss their concerns in an informal context. The Council and its members do not provide legal advice. The Council has, however, compiled a list of local attorneys who are interested in providing legal advice and representation for faculty.

"The list contains names, resumes and information about the fees of all attorneys who have indicated an interest in being on the list. The list is not selective, and the Council takes no responsibility for the quality of the legal advice or services provided by anyone on it. It is the responsibility of the faculty or staff member who chooses to consult any attorney on the list to monitor the performance of that attorney.

"The list, and a small library of information about lawsuits by faculty members against their universities, may be consulted in the office of SACUA, 6048 Fleming Administration Building (call 764-0303 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., fax number is 763-0085.)"

Since its formation in February 1993, the Council has assisted six faculty members, one already involved in a lawsuit in which the professor was a defendant, three considering legal action against the University, the other two having serious grievances.

The initial action of Senate Assembly allowed the Council to assist on any legal matter, but in practice only matters related to University employment have come to the Council. Typical areas of concern are all those which occur in faculty grievances, such as promotion, salary, working conditions, harassment and pressure to retire early. In informal meetings, Council members and faculty with concerns discuss the pros and cons of taking legal action. In some cases the Council has sent memoranda to SACUA and/or University administrators in an effort to resolve disputes without legal action.

The Council refers those who consult it to relevant University documents (bylaws, grievance procedures), the AAUP "red book" of policy statements, as well as to the few items (a book on Tenure, Discrimination and the Courts and some articles on the subject) in the Council's library.

Faculty members wishing to consult the Council may call the SACUA office, 764-0303, or me, 662-0119, or send e-mail to wilkap@umich.edu or tomsch@umich.edu for Thomas Schneider of the SACUA staff.