After members of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs raised concerns earlier this month with the University’s Office of Institutional Equity, University Provost Martha Pollack addressed the issue at the body’s meeting Monday.
A significant portion of the meeting focused on the status of a SACUA report released earlier this month that detailed what the committee saw as major flaws with OIE’s process. OIE is the University unit tasked with investigating and resolving incidents of discrimination and discriminatory harassment at the University.
The report expressed concerns with the adequacy of due process as employed in OIE procedures. The report specifically considered the application of OIE procedures in the cases of three faculty members who submitted complaints about the process to SACUA.
“The evidence available to us, examined in the course of reviewing OIE’s practices, raises serious doubts about the validity of the OIE findings in these cases,” the report read. “SACUA does not take a position on the outcome of these cases. But our findings regarding lack of due process necessitate reconsideration of these cases.”
Pollack noted she would not discuss the three individual cases mentioned in the report, but said the University must now move forward and think about how the process can be improved.
During the meeting, she discussed the committee’s recommendations individually and emphasized the importance of allowing for flexibility in the process.
“While I think there are a lot of ways to improve due process, we can’t have a rigid, one-size-fits-all procedure,” she said.
Pollack said she hopes to release material in May that will clarify how the grievance hearing board will specifically address cases. She added that said she wishes to reconvene with SACUA on the issue by the end of the summer.
However, the initial SACUA report recommended that the verdicts in the cases in question be reversed until they could be “reconsidered in a forum with appropriate due process protections.”
Before concluding the conversation, SACUA Chair Scott Masten, a professor of business economics and public policy, emphasized the importance of addressing the issue.
“I know on the report we said we didn’t take a position, but my personal response is less balanced,” Masten said. “It still remains a huge disappointment. It bothers me immensely as an institution that we can’t find a way to redress these problems.”