Faculty committee revisits Office of Institutional Equity grievance procedures

Monday, February 1, 2016 - 6:08pm

John Lehman, SACUA member and Professor of Biology, discusses plans for the Faculty Governance Conference with guest speaker Laura Kipnis in the Fleming Building on Monday.

John Lehman, SACUA member and Professor of Biology, discusses plans for the Faculty Governance Conference with guest speaker Laura Kipnis in the Fleming Building on Monday. Buy this photo
Haley McLaughlin/Daily

 

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs spent its Monday meeting discussing grievance procedures and an upcoming faculty governance conference that the University is hosting in March.

The group continued a discussion of the Office for Institutional Equity grievance appeal procedures, which investigates claims of faculty harassment and discrimination, and have been a focus for SACUA in past months.

In March 2015, SACUA reviewed the OIE's procedures and released a report stating the body saw major flaws in the process for investigating claims of faculty harassment and discrimination. In September, the OIE revised its procedures to address the majority of the body's concerns, which included a shift from a one-step to a two-step process for the initial meeting with a faculty member and measures to ensure full transparancy of the complaints. 

Weineck said despite the September adjustments, the procedure for faculty to appeal  is still unclear and requires clarification.

“The last question we want to resolve is grievability,” Weineck said. “We’ve hit roadblock after roadblock on this question. SACUA decides what is or is not grievable, but only after an appeal.”

The current procedure does not outline a clear appeal process, according to Weineck.

“Everybody who files a grievance and is turned down for lack of grievability can then appeal to SACUA,” Weineck said. “We don’t decide the grievance, we just decide the grievability.”

Lehman said the current process allows for grievances to be determined illegitimate even before they reach official review.

“If somebody files a grievance and it goes to a grievance review board, and they review the case and say ‘No, we don’t think this is grievable,’ then that’s one thing,” he said. “What will happen in these OIE cases is that faculty members might be told, ‘Do not file a grievance because it’s not grievable,' in which case there’s not going to be a finding of non-grievability. You’ve got to somehow get that word out because it’s no longer a matter of a group of their peers, it’s an administrative fiat.”

Weineck said the committee will continue investigating the issue further in future meetings.

In addition to OIE, SACUA also discussed their upcoming faculty governance conference. Faculty governance at other Big Ten schools, as well as at the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley, have all been invited to the conference. According to SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck, most of the schools have confirmed their attendance.

“Almost everybody is coming,” Weineck said. “It’s going to be really fabulous.”

The conference will feature a series of speakers, panels and conversations about faculty governance at respective schools, along with a keynote address from Laura Kipnis, a professor in the School of Communications at Northwestern University.

Last year, Northwestern opened a Title IX investigation on Kipnis after she published an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education on student-faculty relationships at the school. Students accused Kipnis of stating incorrect information on a lawsuit between a philosphy professor and two students who accused him of assault, according The Huffington Post

Kipnis was cleared in the investigation last May.

During the meeting, SACUA discussed ways it could make the conference agenda more inclusive to the other schools attending. John Lehman, ecology and evolutionary biology professor at the University, said the conference would be more beneficial if it solicited participation from attendees.

“If they're invested in this conference, it'll be far, far better than just a random, run of the mill discussion,” he said.  

 

The committee considered having faculty from other schools sit on panels or prepare presentations for the conference. Weineck also suggested that each SACUA member lead or moderate one of the conversations at the conference.

SACUA also discussed upcoming committee nominations. The committee is losing six members in the upcoming academic year and the Senate Assembly will vote on faculty members to fill these positions in March.

Art & Design Prof. Anne Mondro said the nominations committee is actively seeking nominations from University faculty members. According to Mondro, faculty members can either self-nominate or be nominated by a peer.

“Right now we’re just gathering names and giving everyone the potential,” Mondro told the committee.

SACUA voted to create a nominations sub-committee, composed of Mondro and Accounting Prof. Dave Wright, to write the ballots or to suggest a ballot procedure to the Senate Assembly for approval.