Southeast Missouri State University

Senate Bill 07-A-03 Grievance Policy (VETOED)

TITLE: Faculty Senate Grievance Policy

WHEREAS: The current size and success of the University warrants an increase in communicative materials that assist the faculty community in the maintenance of a harmonious and unified body, and,

WHEREAS: Faculty may occasionally require a clear and well-defined method of redress when policy and procedure that maintain this harmony and unity are breached, and,

WHEREAS: The existing section of the Faculty Handbook that contains grievance procedures is insufficient in satisfactory explanatory text on the grievance process,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That a new section I, Grievance Policy, be added to Chapter 2, Faculty Policies and Procedures, in the Faculty Handbook.

Governance Committee-Generated Policy
To Be Inserted in the Faculty Handbook as a
New section I, Grievance Policy, to be added to
Chapter 2, Faculty Policies and Procedures, in the Faculty Handbook.

GENERAL STATEMENT OF POLICY
The purpose of this grievance policy is to provide faculty members with a process to address and resolve differences only on matters pertaining to the specific application of University policies and operating procedures. It is appropriately utilized to address allegations of violations of due process. These matters include, but are not limited to, operating procedures, policies, practices, or standards in connection with specific application of decisions, academic freedom, retention, promotion, tenure, privileges and responsibilities, and terms and conditions of employment, etc. This grievance process does not apply, however, to issues that arise out of the application of a policy or procedures for discrimination and harassment issues, which should be addressed to the Assistant to the President for Equity Issues and Diversity. With respect to tenure and promotion, the Grievance Policy applies only to misapplication of policy and procedure during the tenure or promotion process. When faculty disagree with tenure or promotion decisions reached through or the appropriate application of tenure or promotion policies, these disagreements must be resolved using the existing tenure or promotion appeals process.


The grievance process is an advisory process. The role of both the administrators and the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee is to hear and make appropriate decisions and recommendations on grievance complaints. The role of the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee is to determine whether established policies and procedures have been appropriately applied and properly followed and to advise the Faculty Senate Executive Committee of their findings. Faculty and administrators are strongly encouraged to resolve their differences through informal means whenever possible. Should such informal efforts fail, however, the grievance process provides an opportunity for a faculty member or group of faculty members to seek formal resolution of complaints.


GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE


I. Informal Dispute Resolution Procedure
The informal grievance process is initiated by the grievant without the submission of a Faculty Senate Grievance Form, which formalizes the grievance process. Individuals are strongly encouraged to follow the informal grievance process, although it is not required. The informal process is designed to facilitate a timely resolution at the lowest level possible and with minimal paperwork. The first meeting is initiated in writing to inform those who will participate in the informal resolution and to document the beginning date of the process, but is not to be part of any personnel file.


A. The faculty member, or "grievant," who believes he/she has a grievance concerning the application of a specific policy or procedure should first discuss the matter informally with his/her department chair and attempt to develop a satisfactory resolution. The faculty member should initiate this informal discussion by making a written, dated request for a meeting with the chair. The request should also identify the specific policies and procedures in question, and briefly describe the nature of the action(s) being grieved.


B. During the meeting with the Chair, the faculty member should: (1) indicate that the grievance is at the informal discussion stage, (2) explain the action(s) giving rise to the grievance; (3) explain how the faculty member believes the specific policies and procedures in question have been violated; and (4) indicate how the faculty member believes the issue(s) should be resolved.


C. The informal meeting(s) may include the department chair, the grievant, and the party against whom the grievance is directed. The meeting(s) of the chair with the grievant and the individual (or administrative committee or body) against whom the grievance is directed may also be conducted separately if it would be helpful in facilitating resolution of the issues. The objective of the informal discussion process is to see if the issues can be resolved at the informal meeting stage without the faculty member having to initiate the formal grievance resolution procedure.


D. Any resolution and/or decisions arrived at during the informal discussion stage should be communicated verbally by the department chair to each participant within ten (10) business days from the date of the informal discussion meeting. The chair's statement of resolution(s) and/or decision(s), if deemed acceptable by all parties, the matter will be considered closed. If a resolution is reached, any submitted documentation will be returned to the grievant. If the resolution has been made clear to all parties, but the grievant is not satisfied, the grievant may initiate a formal grievance. If no satisfactory resolution is reached through the informal discussion process, the chair should so indicate to each participant. The chair should also record the date and that the grievance was not resolved, but should not include details of the informal grievance in any official file. The faculty member may then elect to file a formal written grievance by following the process outlined below.


E. Department chairs may not propose or approve any resolution that is inconsistent with University policies, procedures or practices.


F. The informal discussion should be held with the party's immediate supervisor or next level of supervision. For example, if the grievance is initiated by or against a department chair, the informal discussion should be held with the grievant's college dean, following the same process outlined above.


II. Formal Dispute Resolution Procedure
The formal grievance procedure includes the submission of a Faculty Senate Grievance Form, interviews with administrative personnel at successive levels, and respective opportunities to resolve the grievance. It may also include a review and hearing by the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee, with a recommendation to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, a letter to the Provost from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee which addresses the Grievance Committee's recommendation, and a review and response by the Provost.


A. STEP I: Formal Written Grievance
1. If an acceptable resolution is not reached informally, the faculty member may pursue his/her grievance by submitting a formal written grievance to his/her department chair within ten (10) business days of the conclusion of the informal process. The formal written grievance should (a) indicate whether the informal discussion process has occurred, that the grievance has not been satisfactorily resolved, that the grievance is proceeding to the formal procedure; (b) describe the issue(s) and action(s) encompassed by the grievance and, if appropriate, state the reasons why the informal process did not satisfactorily resolve the problem in the faculty member's view; (c) explain how the faculty member believes the specific university policies or procedures at issue have been improperly applied; and (d) indicate how the faculty member believes the problems(s) should be resolved. Copies of these materials should also be provided to the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed.
2. The department chair will investigate/review the matter and will provide a written response to the faculty member and the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed within ten (10) business days of receiving the formal written grievance. The chair's response will be deemed acceptable by the grievant and the matter will be considered closed unless the grievant initiates a Step II grievance with the dean of the college within ten (10) business days of receiving the chair's response.
3. The department chair may not propose or approve any resolution that is inconsistent with University policies, procedures, or practices.
4. If the grievance is by or against a department chair, Step I of the formal process should be submitted to and conducted by the chair's college dean, following the same process outlined above.


B. STEP II: Review of Step I Grievance Response
1. If the grievant is not satisfied with the response provided at Step I of the formal grievance process, he/she may appeal the decision by submitting a written appeal to the appropriate college dean (or a vice provost if the grievant is a college dean) within ten (10) business days of receiving the Step I response. This appeal must include copies of the original formal grievance, the department chair's or college dean's response at Step I, a statement by the grievant specifying why he/she believes the Step I decision is incorrect or unacceptable, and a proposed resolution. Copies of these materials should also be provided to the Step I responder and the individual(s) or parties against whom the grievance is directed.
2. The appropriate college dean/vice provost will meet with the grievant and conduct an investigation/review of the grievance appeal. Within ten (10) business days of receipt of the appeal, the appropriate college dean/vice provost will provide a written response to the grievant, with copies to the Step I responder and the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed.


C. STEP III: Request for a Hearing with the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee
1. If the decision at Step II of the grievance procedure is not satisfactory to the faculty member, the faculty member may request a review and a hearing before the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee. Any such request for review shall be filed with the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee within ten (10) business days after the grievant has received the Step II response.
2. The request for review shall include (a) a copy of the original formal grievance, (b) copies of the written response to the grievance provided at Step I and Step II, (c) copies of the appeal filed at Step II, (d) an explanation of why the grievant believes the Step II decision is unsatisfactory or unacceptable, and (e) a proposed resolution. The faculty member shall simultaneously provide copies of these materials to the Step I and II responders and to the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed.
3. Within twenty (20) business days of the request for review, the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee Chair shall notify the faculty member and the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed in writing whether the committee believes a hearing is warranted and if so, the notice should include the date, time, and location of the hearing. The parties must be given at least twenty (20) business days written notice of the hearing date. The hearing date may be rescheduled by the parties only upon a showing of good cause as determined by the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee.
4. The Faculty Senate Grievance Committee chair shall also instruct the parties to identify the witnesses, if any, that they may wish to present and the general subject matter of each witness's anticipated testimony. This information should be provided to the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee Chair and to the other party or parties no later than ten (10) business days before the hearing date. The Faculty Senate Grievance Committee chair has the authority to limit the number of witnesses if it is determined that the proposed witnesses will present repetitive, unnecessarily cumulative, or irrelevant evidence. The parties shall be responsible for ensuring that their witnesses are present for the hearing.
5. The hearing is not a formal legal proceeding and formal rules of evidence shall not apply. The committee shall, however, have the authority to reject or curtail evidence that is repetitive, that unnecessarily protracts the proceedings, and/or has no relevance to the grievance. The proceedings will be recorded by a professional transcriptionist and transcribed.
6. The hearing will be a closed proceeding, with only the committee members, the parties, and the witnesses (who will be present only during their testimony). The grievant and the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed may, however, each be accompanied by an observer. The observer may consult with and assist the grievant, but may not conduct any portion of the hearing. The observer may not be acting in the capacity of an attorney; no party may be represented by an attorney at the hearing.
7. The Faculty Senate Grievance Committee shall make a written recommendation within ten (10) business days of the conclusion of the hearing and receipt of the transcribed proceedings. The recommendation will be sent the same day to the grievant, the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed, and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. The Faculty Senate Executive Committee will be provided with materials regarding the grievance. The Faculty Senate Executive Committee shall within ten (10) business days review the recommendations of the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee and will construct a written response that includes the following: the recommendation of the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee and a statement of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee's support or nonsupport of those recommendations. The Faculty Senate Grievance Committee's recommendation and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee's response will be forwarded by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee simultaneously to the Provost, the grievant, the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed, and the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee. The Provost will be provided with the materials regarding the grievance.


D. STEP V: Review of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee Recommendation by the Provost
The Provost will conduct whatever review he/she deems necessary, and will make a recommendation. The Provost will provide a written response within ten (10) business days of receiving the recommendation from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. This written response will be sent simultaneously to the grievant, the individual(s) against whom the grievance is directed, the appropriate department chair and dean, the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee, and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. If the Provost's decision is appealed by the grievant, then the documentation materials, including all previous recommendation materials and the written response from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, will be forwarded to the University President. If no appeal is made, and the grievance process is concluded, the documentation materials will be sent to the Faculty Senate Chair (see section III.F.).


E. Appeal to the President
1. If the grievant is dissatisfied with the decision of the Provost, he/she may request reconsideration by filing a written request with the President no later than ten (10) business days following the receipt of the Provost's written decision.
2. Following receipt of the request for reconsideration, the President shall conduct whatever review he/she deems necessary to resolve the issues that have been raised. The President will provide a written decision regarding the appeal within ten (10) business days of receipt of the request for reconsideration. The President's decision shall be final. The original documentation materials can then go to the Faculty Senate Chair for storage.


F. Report to the Faculty Senate
Following resolution of the grievance, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee may report issues to the Faculty Senate when it believes a grievance has raised an issue of broader relevance to the faculty. The report shall not include names or identifying information, and may be reserved for a semester-end or year-end summary of the state of all grievances brought against the University in the previous semester or year.


III. GENERAL PROVISIONS


A. Failure to Meet Timelines
1. A faculty member's failure to submit a grievance or appeal within the time frames set forth in the grievance procedure will end the faculty member's ability to pursue the matter and the grievance shall be deemed resolved based on the University's last action or response.
2. For purposes of the time frames set forth herein, "business day" will be defined for timeliness purposes as any weekday, Monday through Friday, when regular Fall, Spring, or Summer semester classes are in session and campus offices are open. University break times will not be counted.
3. In the event the appropriate administrator or committee fails to make a timely response as herein stipulated, the faculty member may proceed to the next step in the grievance process.


B. Extensions of Timelines
1. The timelines at each level may be extended by the parties involved and the appropriate administrator or committee chair.
2. For good cause shown, including, but not limited to, sick leaves, funeral leaves, university-related business travel, unavoidable absences from campus or other unavailability of participants, the appropriate administrator or committee chair may grant a request for extension by either party. Any extension granted should be as brief as possible and practicable under the circumstances.
3. At any level, if the appropriate administrator or committee chair deems the complexity of the grievance such that the response deadline is unrealistic, up to an additional ten (10) calendar days may be added to the response deadline by the administrator or committee chair, who shall be responsible for providing notice and justification of the extension to the parties within the originally designated time frame.
4. Notice of any change in timelines or scheduling must be provided in writing to all participants by the appropriate administrator or committee chair. For purposes of the Step III hearing, the respective parties are responsible for notifying their proposed witnesses.


C. Joint Proceedings
If more than one faculty member grieves the same action, they may, by mutual agreement between themselves and the Provost, pursue their grievances jointly under these procedures. The group may, by mutual agreement, elect one or more of their number to act on behalf of the group throughout the grievance procedure. In such circumstances, the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee reviewing the grievance will conduct a joint hearing, which all members of the group may attend.


D. Confidentiality
The grievance procedure shall be conducted with the highest level of sensitivity to the privacy of all concerned. Members of the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the Provost, the grievant(s)', respondents, colleagues, witnesses, and all others concerned are expected to treat as highly confidential the oral and documentary evidence presented and the deliberations occurring at all stages of the processing of grievance, except as necessary for the preparation of a grievance or grievance response, or consistent with the notice requirements set forth herein, and/or as otherwise may be required by law. Similarly, except as otherwise provided herein or as authorized by the Provost or the Chair of the Faculty Senate, or as may be required by law, the decisions and responses at each level shall be treated as confidential by all participants and by all members of the University community.


E. Reprisal or Retaliation
No faculty member shall be subjected to disciplinary action or retaliation because he/she has initiated or participated in good faith in the processing of a grievance.


F. Storage of Materials Related to the Grievance
Supporting documents, files, transcription, or any other media shall be stored in a locked file cabinet in the Faculty Senate office for a period of seven (7) years, after which time they will be destroyed.

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