Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Senate Assembly endorses changes to faculty grievance policy

The Senate Assembly on Monday endorsed a new model policy for resolving faculty grievances, including a provision that hearing panels draw a majority of their members from outside the unit in which the issue arose.

The policy will serve as a model for the grievance procedures adopted by each U-M school or college. Provost Teresa Sullivan and the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs also have endorsed the policy.

"The revised procedure was designed to make the process both more comprehensible to the participants and more efficient. It is designed to ensure prompt and fair resolution of grievances," says Christina Whitman, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs.

A key revision calls for two of the three tenured faculty members on each Grievance Hearing Board (GHB) to be from outside the academic unit where the grievance originated; the third comes from inside the unit. The previous policy called for hearing boards with two members from within the unit and the third from another unit.

The change was proposed to ease fears that insiders would have prior knowledge of the grievance or that they could be subject to “negative repercussions” by unit administrators, says Theodore St. Antoine, a former Law School dean who chaired the 12-member task force that proposed the revised procedure.

Another change is that SACUA will be the final appeal on issues of “grievability” — whether a complaint meets the criteria for a grievance hearing. Under the former model, the grievance board decided whether an issue is grievable.

The revised policy is the culmination of a process that began in 2007 when a SACUA task force laid out what it considered to be several deficiencies in the grievance system. Following that report, Provost Teresa Sullivan appointed a series of two task forces to look into the procedure and suggest revisions.

The grievance process provides for redress when a department, school or other unit at the Ann Arbor campus takes action concerning a faculty member’s conditions of employment that he or she believes violates university policy or is otherwise “manifestly unfair.” It would apply to tenured, tenure-track, clinical or research faculty. It would not apply to adjunct or visiting faculty or lecturers.

In other action, the Senate Assembly also adopted a resolution calling on the administration to alter the way universitywide committees charged with health care and retirement benefits issues are formed and operate.

The resolution urges that committee members be appointed based upon “the recommendations of the respective segments of the University community,” and that the committees “function in an open style that promotes dialogue and communication, and encourages outside inputs.”