During the Senate Assembly’s final meeting of the academic year Monday afternoon, the faculty governance body discussed concerns with Office of Institutional Equity procedures, reviewed a number of standard practice guidelines and discussed the potential for fossil fuel divestment.
One of the primary focuses of the meeting was reviewing a report SACUA filed in March which detailed a number of concerns with OIE’s process for handling allegations of instances of discrimination against faculty or misconduct.
The report’s central concerns focused on the adequacy of due process protections in OIE procedures, as well as how OIE’s has applied of those procedures in the cases of three faculty members who submitted complaints to SACUA.
At the meeting Monday, SACUA Chair Scott Masten, a professor of business economics and public policy, said SACUA was “pretty disappointed” with the written response the faculty governance body had received from University Provost Martha Pollack.
George Garcia, professor and chair of medicinal chemistry, said OIE’s current procedure, where the same person investigates and adjudicates a complaint, is not proper due process.
“That is wrong,” Garcia said. “That is not due process. It’s a huge flaw in their system.”
In an interview with the Daily, University Provost Martha Pollack said two of the three faculty members who filed complaints to SACUA are no longer employed by the University. She also said the University plans to change the way respondents are notified of complaints lodged against them. The process will now occur in two stages, instead of simultaneously.
In March, Pollack joined SACUA to address the report. During the meeting, Pollack said she would not discuss the three individual cases mentioned in the report and emphasized the importance of moving forward.
At the time, Pollack said she hoped to release material in May that would clarify how the grievance hearing board will specifically address cases. She added that she plans to reconvene with SACUA on the issue by the end of the summer.
SACUA also provided updates on the University’s Standard Practice Guide Fitness for Duty policy.
In October 2014, SACUA began working to revise the University’s Fitness for Duty policy. The policy offers protections to University faculty and staff if they find themselves physically or mentally unable to perform their jobs, including financial compensation during the investigation and one-year severance pay if they are let go due to their condition.
The new policy aligns more closely with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which places emphasis on job performance and not the reason the individual is unable to perform their job.
Though Masten said SACUA had several additional concerns, he added that the provost has made it clear that they are not willing to address the remaining issues.
SACUA also discussed a request for the consideration of a resolution to support the formation of an ad hoc committee to review the University’s investments in oil and coal.
A similar proposal was also introduced to Central Student Government in March. If formed, the committee would research the University’s investments and use that research to inform recommendations to the University’s Board of Regents about whether or not the University should continue to invest in fossil fuels.
At an April 6 meeting, SACUA voted to present the proposal to the Senate Assembly.
However, not all members were in favor of this decision. Masten did not want to bring it to the assembly because he thought SACUA should not have a singular opinion on policy issues.
“There’s scope for a lot of disagreement,” Masten said at the April 6 meeting. “I think there’s a huge variety of opinion.”
Masten noted a 1978 SACUA statement regarding the University’s decision to divest from companies that operated in apartheid South Africa.
The statement said the University should only divest in cases of extraordinary social evil and that the decision must express the broad position of the campus community.
LSA junior Nicholas Jansen, the director of “Global Divestment Day,” wrote in an e-mail interview that because the University is such a large institution, it has a responsibility both to continually contribute to and heed scientific research.
“It is important for the faculty senate to be aware of this because the coal and oil companies we are asking to divest from are on a decades-long misinformation campaign that goes against some of the very research that the Senate Assembly puts out and goes against some of the very information that assembly members teach,” Jansen wrote.
Garcia said public policy issues like divestment from fossil fuels are more important now than in the past.
“It’s more of an appropriate issue now because the University actually profits from these investments,” Garcia said. “We have a moral obligation to not profit from bad things.”
Astronomy Prof. Sally Oey, SACUA vice chair, said the proposed topic isn’t about oil and coal, but about global climate change.
She described global change as “the thing that is driving a lot of social and political strife and migrations … and all sorts of problems.” She said she wants to support the hard work students put into the proposal.
There were not enough faculty members present to vote on a resolution.