Boulder Faculty Assembly to vote on faculty grievance advisory committee
At their Thursday meeting, the Boulder Faculty Assembly will decide whether or not to establish a committee that would advice faculty members about where to go with their grievances.
While there are many procedures already in place on campus for faculty members to solve their grievances, there is a considerable amount of confusion on just where to go with certain problems. There are grievance committees designed to address salary issues, misconduct issues and various other specific problems, but the system is not always clear on where to go to have other grievances addressed.
Jeffrey Cox, associate vice chancellor for faculty affairs and professor of comparative literature and humanities, explained why it is so unclear.
“There are all sorts of systems in place for dealing with different kinds of grievances or different kinds of disputes,” Cox said. “What is not often clear is what is the best avenue for a faculty member to follow.”
The faculty grievance advisory committee, a proposal that was drafted by members of the BFA and of the administration, would provide more clarity in the system, so that when a faculty member has a problem, he or she can go to colleagues on the committee, explain the nature of the problem and find out where to go in order to get their grievance resolved.
“The hope is obviously that this will streamline grievance processes and make what can seem like a bureaucratic mess clearer to people,” Cox said.
Barbara Buttenfield, an at-large BFA member and professor of geography, also explained the purpose of the committee.
“Overall, the role of this committee is to direct and guide the process and monitor it to make sure that grievances are handled fairly and in a timely fashion,” Buttenfield said.
Buttenfield added that many of the grievances on campus are already handled well.
“A lot of grievances on campus are probably handled very well and you never hear about them because they’re handled well,” Buttenfield said. “But I would stress that when a faculty member decides to initiate a grievance, they very often feel vulnerable and that there’s no support for them. So, the faculty senate wants to make sure that that gap is filled in.”
Uriel Nauenberg, chair of the BFA and professor of physics, said he agreed.
“I think this is an important deal,” Nauenberg said. “To get these things moving along is important.”
Paul Levitt, a professor of English, said that the plan for the committee was initially different than the proposal that will be voted on.
“The original motion called for a grievance committee that is not advisory – that is to say that its decisions would be binding,” Levitt said. “It would be composed of faculty members and if the grievant didn’t like the decision on the part of the faculty members, the person could of course go upstairs. We wanted faculty to have more than just an advisory say in the matter.”
Levitt said the executive committee of the BFA took this original motion from his committee and formed its own committee, one that he was not a part of. It came back with the decision that the faculty grievance committee should be advisory.
Levitt said while he supports the idea of the advisory committee, and while “something is better than nothing,” he said he thinks that “you can’t have these committees always being advisory because it undercuts the faculty authority.”
Levitt said faculty control is important.
“The BFA advertises itself in engaging in shared governance,” Levitt said. “There is no shared governance. The faculty shares its opinion with the administration and the administration does as it wants. Some of us think that the faculty ought to assert itself and be more independent, or have some real say in the university. There are others who are very happy to be merely advisory.”
Cox said, however, that the formation of a non-advisory faculty grievance committee is not something that the university could do on its own.
“The changing of who actually has the final say on personnel matters would require regent action,” Cox said.
Another issue that will be presented to the BFA on Thursday is a model document for putting in grievance procedures at the unit level. This particular model will not be mandated, but it tells everyone that they do need a process to deal with grievances. The model can be used to help departments get processes in place if they don’t already have one.
“Our concern is that we have adequate grievance procedures in place to protect the faculty,” Cox said. “I think it’s a good step forward.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Kaely Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.