MU Faculty Council holding forum to debate grievance policy

Sunday, February 27, 2011 | 9:25 a.m. CST; updated 9:37 p.m. CST, Monday, February 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — After a two-year trial run of a new grievance policy, faculty will be able to weigh in with their opinions on Tuesday.

The MU Faculty Council will stage a faculty forum from 3:30-5 p.m. in Chambers Auditorium, Missouri Student Unions.

A pilot program was developed in 2008 to address procedural concerns by faculty members, Faculty Council Chair Leona Rubin said.

Issues centered on the length of the process, difficulty seating a grievance panel and the stage of review by the chancellor.

One essential difference between the old and new processes is the point where a grievance is sent to the chancellor for review.

The old process began with the chancellor reading a grievance, then sending it to a standing faculty grievance committee to decide if it should be pursued. Once evidence was gathered by an investigator, the information was sent to a faculty hearing panel to make a recommendation to the chancellor for a final decision.

The new procedure still gives the chancellor authority to rule on a grievance, but now the grievance goes immediately to a resolution panel with two senior-tenured faculty members and one upper-level administrator for review.

Before an investigation, the panel attempts to mediate an informal resolution. If a resolution cannot be reached, evidence is collected and a recommendation forwarded to the chancellor.

The main area of contention with this pilot process has been the addition of an administrator to the grievance resolution panel, Rubin said.

“This is an opportunity for people who don’t like the policy to speak up and talk about their concerns,” she said.

To protect the interests of the faculty members and promote fairness, the pilot program created an oversight committee. One member of the three-person oversight committee is present for every meeting of the grievance panel to record all actions and provide an ongoing report to the council and ultimately the faculty.

In an October 2008 Missourian article, Laurie Mintz, former investigative officer for the grievance process, called the committee a “safeguard” to the process.

Before the pilot program was endorsed by the council in the fall of 2008, the grievance process was more onerous. Rubin said grievances would take one to two years and often end with both parties getting angry.

The efficiency of the process has improved, she said. The panel now requires that each grievance be handled within a span of three months.

Rubin said that she hopes issues such as the composition of the panel will be addressed on Tuesday. So far, those who have been loudest are opposed to the new policy, Rubin said.

“An awfully lot of the faculty that are happy with this process are not being vocal,” she said.

Members of the Faculty Council, the grievance oversight committee and the grievance review panel will be on hand Tuesday to answer faculty questions, Rubin said.

The UM System Board of Curators needs a recommendation from all four campuses to accept the new policy or discard it and return to the old process.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Missouri-St. Louis have already voted to use the new pilot process on their campuses, Rubin said.

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