The Daily Northwestern

Faculty Senate discusses possible changes to Grievance and Appeals policy

Faculty+Senate+President+Robert+Hariman+speaks+at+Wednesday%E2%80%99s+meeting.+Senate+discussed+potential+changes+to+the+Grievances+and+Appeals+policy.
Faculty Senate President Robert Hariman speaks at Wednesday’s meeting. Senate discussed potential changes to the Grievances and Appeals policy.

Faculty Senate President Robert Hariman speaks at Wednesday’s meeting. Senate discussed potential changes to the Grievances and Appeals policy.

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Faculty Senate President Robert Hariman speaks at Wednesday’s meeting. Senate discussed potential changes to the Grievances and Appeals policy.

Cameron Cook, Reporter

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Faculty Senate on Wednesday discussed a revamp of the Grievances and Appeals process, which would include the creation of an ad hoc committee and stricter time limits for appeals.

The process is used to determine whether action needs to be taken when a student files a complaint against a faculty member. In the new plan, an ad hoc committee will be convened. That committee’s decision will be reviewed by the dean, who can then impose a sanction. Afterwards, the faculty member may appeal within 20 days, and the dean then has another 20 days to file a response.

The inclusion of specific time limits would ideally streamline the process, which Feinberg Prof. Lois Hedman said can otherwise be long and drawn-out.

However, Communication Prof. Carol Stern said that the 20-day restriction could be “frustrating” and hard to meet during the summer.

The Faculty Handbook and Rights and Responsibilities committees are collaborating to revise the process. Hedman and linguistics Prof. Jennifer Cole gave a presentation in which they laid out problems with the current process and suggested changes that could make it easier for faculty to navigate grievances.

Hedman said she and Cole have been working with the the Provost’s Office and multiple deans since August 2017.

Their plan aims to “simplify, clarify and specify the process for faculty discipline” as well as “ensure that faculty are informed when they are the subject of a grievance” and “provide a mechanism for investigation that precedes decisions about sanctions,” according to their presentation slides.

Communication Prof. Robert Hariman, the president of Faculty Senate, said the current system lacks coherence, due process and sound evidentiary procedures. He added that the process does not lead to “effective and just” conflict resolution.

Hariman said he spoke with all the deans and members of the administration, and no one believed the current system was working effectively.

In an attempt to find alternate methods of conflict resolution, Hedman, Cole and their committees conducted a review of peer institutions. The survey found that other schools handled grievances in a variety of different ways based on the nature of the complaint.

“We just wanted to see what was out there,” Hedman said. “We just wanted ideas. When you construct something new, you want to see how other people — our peers — have solved this.”

The proposed changes do not include directives for handling sexual misconduct, discrimination and harassment, for which legal provisions already exist. Conflicts between members of the faculty are also not covered, Hedman said, because they tend to be more complicated.

Senate had a discussion about the plans, and Hedman and Cole will be accepting feedback on their ideas until May 30. Though the reforms will not affect the majority of faculty, the simplification of the process should save everyone time and effort, Hedman said.

“Very few people have to go through these processes,” Hedman told The Daily. “But when you are in that circumstance, it can become your whole life. For those individuals that are part of this process, it should make a big difference to them.”

Senate also voted unanimously in favor of measures to strike language that made it necessary to consult the entire Senate when forming the Executive Committee and to expand the use of Care.com child care services to include faculty families.

Email: cameroncook2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @cam_e_cook

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