REPORT OF THE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Submitted by Larry Underberg
29 April ‘09
The Grievance Committee processed one grievance this academic year (Summer '08). The complaint was resolved through the formal process to the satisfaction of the petitioner. No formal hearing was required.
1) Provide additional support for faculty who file grievances.
This year was the first year that the University utilized its newly enacted grievance procedure. The new policy is far more specific and detailed than the past policy. Specificity has its advantages but the resulting rigidity makes it difficult to adapt to "novel” circumstances (i.e., temporary absences of parties named in the grievance, changes in administrative personnel, acting chairs, deans, provosts, etc.), where the appropriate decision maker and/or person(s) to be named in the grievance are not clear cut. We believe some faculty may find this process confusing. We are also aware that it is difficult for faculty contemplating a grievance to find the necessary information and support to aid them in the process. As an adjudicating body, the degree to which the Grievance Committee can provide assistance and advice is unclear. Our experience last summer, though only a single case, highlighted these potential shortcomings.
The Grievance Committee's current and former chairs met with the governance committee and fully support the Governance Committee conclusion that a position of "faculty advocate” or "facilitator” should be established to help faculty navigate the process.
2) The Faculty Senate should be more aggressive in insisting that faculty handbook procedures governing the use of student evaluations of teaching be strictly followed.
Over the past five years, the vast majority of grievances (and potential grievances) have asserted IDEA evaluations are given inordinate weight at the expense of other measures of teaching effectiveness that are included in a faculty record of service for promotion and tenure. This committee has seen considerable evidence that while decision makers are aware of faculty handbook procedures they often choose to ignore them to the point of telling petitioners that they consider measures other than IDEA data ambiguous, irrelevant, or, in short, of no consequence. The committee is concerned that it is not a question of people being aware of handbook policy – they are aware of current policy – but that they choose to ignore it.
We know that the senate is discussing the issue of the evaluation of teaching and providing guidance for reporting IDEA information but worry that such "guidance” validates or even elevates the centrality of IDEA data. Guidelines on the reporting of student evaluations (i.e., IDEA) should clearly indicate that there are other measures of teaching effectiveness and that such measures are not inferior to IDEA data.