H. Grievance Procedures
Faculty Personnel Policies
Faculty Handbook Revision February 25, 2000
III. H. 1. Overview
- Standard for a Grievance:
The following guidelines and procedures are intended to facilitate a fair and timely review of faculty grievances in cases of perceived violations of faculty rights. A grievance may stem from an administrative decision and/or be brought by a faculty member(s) against another faculty member(s). Such cases include violations of academic freedom, College procedures, or other faculty rights set forth in individual faculty contracts, the Faculty Handbook and other appropriately authorized College documents, and in other disputes that do not fall clearly under other established grievance policies and procedures. Other procedures are in place for cases of sexual harassment or discrimination. (See Faculty Handbook, section on "Discrimination and Sexual Harassment.")
In general, a grievance may not be raised over the merits of a tenure, promotion or reappointment decision. A grievance may be directed at a failure to comply fairly and fully with the rules and regulations that govern the tenure, promotion, or reappointment process as specified in the current edition of the Faculty Handbook and in other relevant College documents. In addition to the established rules and regulations, it should be made explicit that tenure, promotion, and reappointment may not be denied for reasons that violate academic freedom, and that such a violation will constitute grounds for a grievance.
- Filing a Grievance:
The grievance must be initiated through written notification to FASCom.
- The Grievance Procedure:
A grievance may be resolved through an informal process, here termed 'mediation,' or through a formal hearing. An attempt to resolve the grievance through mediation may fail and lead to a formal hearing; or a grievant may elect to pursue the grievance through a formal hearing without any attempt at mediation. Similarly, a person accused in a grievance may elect not to participate in an attempt for a mediated settlement. A faculty member who is considering filing a grievance should seek the counsel of others before proceeding; these may include the department chair, a senior colleague, a member of FASCom, the Dean, or the President, as appropriate.
It serves the best interests of all individuals as well as the community at large when a grievance is resolved through mediation. If mediation fails, a grievance Hearing Committee will adjudicate the case. These grievance procedures shall not stay a termination or suspension of employment, although the grievant may later be reinstated.
Section III.H.2 outlines the course that mediation should follow; section III.H.3 outlines the course of adjudication by a Hearing Committee.
III. H. 2. Resolution of a Grievance through a Third Party Mediator
Although the grievant has the right to proceed directly to adjudication by a Hearing Committee (III.H.3), every effort should be made to resolve the grievance through mediation. In attempting to resolve the grievance through mediation, FASCom will facilitate the choice of mediator and the mediation procedures. No member of FASCom who is involved in the grievance may participate with FASCom in this process. While the mediator must ultimately be the choice of the grievant, all parties to the grievance must endorse that choice.
The mediator is an advocate for a fair and impartial process, whose role is to guide the parties in achieving consensus. The mediator is to help clarify issues for both sides and to keep an accurate record of the conversation. The mediator has no authority to impose a solution, but is to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable outcome. The mediator should not be a member of the administration, a member of the Faculty Personnel Committee or FASCom, a member of the grievant's department or a person in any other way associated with the dispute.
If the grievance is successfully resolved through mediation, FASCom must be informed in writing. All parties to the grievance must sign that document. The President (or if the President is a party to the grievance, the Board of Trustees) may sustain, modify, or overrule the mediated resolution.
If the grievant decides to withdraw the grievance or to proceed to adjudication by a Hearing Committee, the grievant must inform FASCom in writing. All materials pertaining to mediation shall be kept in the Personnel Office as a part of the permanent records of the College.
III. H. 3. Adjudication by a Hearing Committee
Should the grievant feel that mediation would be unproductive, or that attempts to resolve the grievance through mediation have failed, the grievant may then proceed to adjudication by a Hearing Committee. This section (III. H. 3) outlines the successive stages of the adjudication process: (i) the procedure for initiating adjudication by a Hearing Committee, (ii) the role of FASCom in the adjudication by a Hearing Committee, (iii) the procedure under which the Hearing Committee determines whether there is a prima facie case, (iv) the procedure under which a Hearing Committee conducts a full hearing, and (v) reaching the finding.
- The Procedure for Initiating Adjudication by a Hearing Committee
The grievant initiates the process of adjudication by a Hearing Committee by submitting to FASCom a one-page summary of the grievance. The summary must include the names of administrative agent(s) or faculty members against whom the grievance is brought, the reason for the charges, and an explicit request for the appointment of a Hearing Committee.
- The Role of FASCom in Adjudication by a Hearing Committee
Upon receipt of a request from the grievant, FASCom shall appoint a Hearing Committee composed of three to five members of the faculty who are not members of the grievant's academic department, who are not involved in any way in the dispute, and who are not members of FASCom. Either the grievant or those against whom the grievance has been brought may refuse for just cause any member of the Hearing Committee appointed by FASCom. The Hearing Committee shall elect its own chair and secretary.
Once the Hearing Committee has been appointed, FASCom maintains a procedural review of the process, but does not in any way participate in evaluating the substantive merits of the grievance. No member of FASCom who has a conflict of interest may participate in the selection of members to the Hearing Committee or in any of the procedural reviews.
- The Procedure under which the Hearing Committee Determines Whether There Is a Prima Facie Case
The Hearing Committee shall consider the grievant's full petition, including the summary and supporting evidence, and gather any facts required to determine if there is a prima facie case for a grievance. The Hearing Committee shall determine the scope of evidence it wishes consider in order to determine whether there is a prima facie case for a grievance. Grounds for a prima facie case exist where the grievant's rights, as enumerated in paragraph (a) above, appear to have been violated.
The Hearing Committee, at the conclusion of its review of the prima facie merits of the grievance, shall report to FASCom. If FASCom determines that the Hearing Committee has not adhered fully to the prescribed procedural guidelines, FASCom will instruct the Hearing Committee to re-commence its review. If FASCom determines that the Hearing Committee has followed its procedural guidelines, FASCom will convey the report to all parties. If the Hearing Committee report has not found sufficient prima facie grounds for a grievance, FASCom will convey that finding to all parties and thus terminate the case. If FASCom determines that the Hearing Committee has followed appropriate procedural guidelines and that the Hearing Committee has found sufficient ground for a prima facie case, the grievance will proceed to a full hearing by the Hearing Committee.
- The Procedure under which a Hearing Committee Conducts a Full Hearing
The chair of the Hearing Committee (hereafter, "the chair") shall notify all parties that a full hearing has begun, and a copy of the grievant's summary of the grievance shall be provided by the chair to those named in the grievance. In consultation with all parties, the chair shall promptly set a time and place of the hearing. The hearing should usually commence within fifteen days after the Hearing Committee determines the existence of a prima facie case.
No later than five days prior to the date set for the hearing, each party shall notify the chair and the opposing parties of any witnesses that are to be called, and each party shall provide the chair and the opposing parties with copies of all written evidence and/or other documentation that is to be introduced. Additional witnesses and documents may be introduced on shorter notice only on terms deemed fair by the chair to both parties. The chair may adjourn the hearing to permit either party to obtain further evidence. Each party is responsible for arranging the attendance of its witnesses.
All parties may examine any evidence submitted to the Hearing Committee from any source, and all parties may question any witness brought before the Hearing Committee. A transcription or electronic recording of the hearing shall be kept, and the College shall furnish a copy to either party upon request. Each party is urged to choose an advisor who will attend the hearing.
A grievance hearing is not a formal judicial proceeding. Its ultimate purpose is to evaluate the fairness of the administrative or other action that gave rise to the grievance. To achieve that end, the Hearing Committee shall establish the rules of the proceeding. For example, the Hearing Committee may exclude irrelevant issues or evidence and may place reasonable limits on argument, the gathering and presentation of evidence, and the questioning of witnesses. The Hearing Committee may decide when it has enough information to decide the merits. The Hearing Committee shall determine only whether the grievance has merit. The Hearing Committee shall then forward its finding to FASCom.
A grievance may be withdrawn by the grievant at any time prior to the decision of the Hearing Committee. The grievant must notify FASCom in writing. The withdrawal of a grievance shall not prevent the Dean or President from investigating the charges contained in the grievance or related matters.
Except as disclosures are reasonably necessary to the investigation, hearing, and final disposition of a grievance, the grievant, those charged in the grievance, members of the Hearing Committee, and others having knowledge of the substance of the grievance are expected to preserve the confidentiality of the grievance.
- Reaching the Finding
Although the Hearing Committee shall alone evaluate the merits of the grievance, FASCom shall review the procedure used in reaching the recommendation of the Hearing Committee.
If FASCom determines that the procedures have not been correctly followed, then FASCom shall determine whether the Hearing Committee shall reconvene its hearing or a new committee must be appointed. If FASCom determines that the procedures have been correctly followed, FASCom will send the finding of the Hearing Committee to the President, except in those cases where the President is central to the dispute, and a copy shall be sent to the grievant and to those individuals named in the grievance.
If the Hearing Committee decides that the President is central to the grievance, FASCom, in consultation with the Hearing Committee, may decide that the finding of the Hearing Committee should be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for review.
The President (or the Board of Trustees, where the President is deemed central to the dispute) is responsible for reviewing the finding of the Hearing Committee. The President (or the Board of Trustees) may sustain, modify, or overrule the finding of the Hearing Committee. It is the responsibility of the President (or in those cases where the President is central to the grievance, the Board of the Trustees) to determine what institutional action should be taken in response to the Hearing Committee's finding.
All documents pertaining to the Hearing Committee shall be kept in the Personnel Office as part of the permanent records of the College.