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New professional guidelines established for faculty interaction

By Anastassios Adamopoulos, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 23, 2014

Faculty members who disagree with their colleagues will need to carefully consider their conduct, according to new professional guidelines set by the University.

This week, the University’s Office of the Provost announced the uniform adoption of the Standard Practice Guide for faculty, formally known as SPG 201.96. The guide has been in place since fall 2013.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said although the University has guidelines that clarify unacceptable behavior, expectations would be outlined in a more positive way if presented in the form of best practice standards.

“This is more of a policy statement about what the University expects of the faculty, while many other SPGs focus on specific actions that will not be tolerated,” Christina Whitman, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, said in a statement.

The new guidelines contain expectations for proper conduct among faculty members while upholding free speech. While dissent is welcome in an academic environment, the guidelines will ensure faculty members act respectfully toward other faculty members and their work.

The guidelines note that failure to uphold the standards could result in University sanctions or dismissal. Such punishable actions include bullying as well as verbal and physical threats.

The SPG was partly drafted by the Secretary of the University Advisory Committee, which conducted a study on bullying in the University workplace.

Classical Studies Prof. David Potter, chair of the Secretary of the University Advisory Committee, said the SPG has been three years in the making.

He added that said the Office of the Provost did carefully took into consideration the Secretary’s recommendations, addressing bullying and setting standards for faculty.

Potter also noted that the concern for workplace bullying extends beyond faculty.

“It is very disappointing that we don’t have a similar SPG protecting staff,” he said. “The climate of bullying has been outrageous.”

Potter also said the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs has pushed for a similar framework for staff, and asked why such a measure had not been formalized.

“There are specific units that I can think of on campus where there are serious issues with bullying,” Potter said.

He also recalled one former head of staff in a unit who “took no effective action to end bullying in the unit despite repeated notifications.”

The SPG also describes how a faculty member accused of violating the standards will be reviewed. The process will begin internally — a committee composed of faculty will convene to examine the matter and advise the University administration accordingly.

Rex Holland, a dentistry professor and SACUA vice chair, said the SPG is here “to formalize what have, in fact, been academic community standards accepted from time immemorial.” He added that it will help foster a happy environment.

“Faculty were involved in the drafting of the guidelines and SACUA approved them,” Holland noted.

However, in an e-mail interview, Karen Staller, chair of SACUA and associate professor of social work, said the concern for workplace bullying was raised in a SACUA meeting.

“I know that the University Record reported that SPG was initiated by the provost’s office in conjunction with SACUA but that is not accurate,” Staller wrote.

She said Potter’s committee did considerable work on the topic before proposing a SPG. That proposal was then used by the Office of the Provost, along with another SPG on “faculty fitness for duty.” Staller said that package of proposals morphed into the current form without the active participation of SACUA.

Business Prof. Scott Masten, a member of SACUA, added that the SACUA members did not have the opportunity to alter the guidelines presented to them. He added that there were concerns from some members about the vagueness of some terms in the SPG.

However, Fitzgerald said the Office of the Provost presented a draft of the SPG to SACUA for input during the winter term last year, but SACUA offered no suggestions for modifications.

SPG 201.96 will be reviewed again in November 2017.