Report of the 1999-2000 Faculty Grievance Commission

July 10, 2000

During the 1999-2000 term, in contrast, to recent years, the Faculty Grievance Commission had only one grievance brought to it for resolution. The complaint addressed, however, was one that had been in dispute at various University levels and in different faculty committees for more than 10 years. The issue central to the complaint involved the propriety of requiring existing faculty to adhere to new work rules that represent the clearly stated conditions of employment for newly hired faculty. This is a difficult question to resolve when the new rules are forced on the University by serious financial problems but depart greatly from rules in place, and mutually agreed upon, when existing faculty were initially hired and granted tenure.

The Commission met with the grievant and the relevant University officials in meetings that were both cordial and productive and it appears that our efforts at mediating this long-standing dispute were successful. We believe that this case demonstrates the potential for resolving difficult and highly charged problems when goodwill exists on both sides of the dispute.

The members of the 1999-2000 Faculty Grievance Commission were Leonard J. Bello, chair, Fay Ajzenberg-Selove, chair-elect, and Seymour J. Mandelbaum, serving as past chair in place of Yoshitaka Suyama who retired.

--Leonard J. Bello, Chair

Report of the 1998-1999 Faculty Grievance Commission

May 5, 1999

The Faculty Grievance Commission in its report would like to take this opportunity to describe its work and seek the understanding and cooperation of all members of the University of Pennsylvania community. The Grievance Commission is composed of three members serving staggered three-year terms. Our job, in a nutshell, is to provide a forum to resolve complaints by faculty against the administration internally, without the need for outside court intervention. An effective grievance process can help preserve the goodwill, collegiality and reputation of the entire University community. This year we met with extremely heavy challenges and responsibilities in responding to the matters and concerns brought by fellow faculty members who contacted us with grievances. We received urgent calls for help from six faculty members, including full Professors (2), Associate professor (1) and Assistant professor (1), a Lecturer (1) and a Professor Emeritus (1). The grievants came from many different schools and departments within the University. To summarize the nature of the complaints, they involved a wide variety of alleged unfair actions including: charges that a Department Chair's decision about an annual faculty salary raise was arbitrary and unfair, charges of harassment and gender discrimination, charges of discrimination and lack of due process in determining a teaching assignment, charges that the abrupt removal of a faculty member from a regular teaching assignment was motivated by age discrimination, charges of various forms of obstruction of research activities by a Department Chair, charges of lack of due process and arbitrary and capricious action in denying tenure, charges of discrimination and lack of due process by a search committee, and charges of lack of support by the University administration and abuse/harassment by a University Human Resources official.

As per the Faculty Grievance Procedure (Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators), when complaints are brought to the Commission, we are obliged to undertake a preliminary investigation in order to clarify the grievant's charges and determine if they are within the Commission's jurisdiction. We also must decide whether they are sufficiently weighty to be accepted and forwarded to the Provost for formal hearing. Hearings take place before a panel of three faculty members which is presided over by the Past Chair/Hearing Officer (for AY 1998-99, Professor Barbara Bennett Woodhouse). The Chair and Chair-elect (for AY 1998-99, myself and Professor Leonard J. Bello) are also obligated to attempt an informal settlement if possible, before proceeding to a formal grievance hearing. As is easy to understand, these charges are mostly brought against University academic and administrative personnel. These personnel often feel placed on the defensive. However, one of the missions of the Commission is to attempt to resolve conflicts in a mutually amicable manner, thus avoiding the need to forward the case to a formal grievance hearing. In many cases, the cooperation and collaboration of Deans and Department Chairs and Chairs of Committees has made it possible for the Grievance Commission to settle cases amicably or to determine that the case is not one that should be accepted by the Commission and forwarded to the Provost. In other cases, a lack of understanding and cooperation by the school representatives has made the Commission's work more difficult and has blocked our attempts to bring an amicable resolution to not only a grieving faculty member but also to the school in question. Of the six cases mentioned above, four have either been resolved through informal means or have been determined not to be appropriate cases for the Commission to undertake. Two cases have thus far been brought to the stage of forming a panel to hear and decide the case and are currently pending. In one of these cases, the process has been placed on hold while the parties explore a settlement agreement. After hearings are completed, the panels in such cases ultimately present their findings and recommendations to the Provost in writing.

A number of faculty members have generously agreed to be available to serve on such panels, and members are selected by lot from these lists of panelists. We are grateful for the precious hours, days, and energies of these faculty panel members, which are consumed by this important service.

After having experienced the entire grievance processes for the first time as Chair-elect of the Commission last year and Chair this year, I feel compelled to inform everyone in the University community that the full hearings are a very enduring and costly process. Our own faculty members who have given their names on the list of the Grievance Hearing Panel are indeed admirable and benevolent individuals. Needless to say, the Faculty Grievance Commission feels obliged to extend our sincere gratitude to them. It should be understood also that the Commission members and all hearing panel members participate without any compensation and with limited assistance from the University. We are grateful as well to Faculty Senate and its dedicated administrator, Carolyn Burdon. Often, the Commission members must expend much time making appointments, visiting and meeting with those who are involved, writing letters, e-mailing, telephoning, visiting offices, consulting and often attending grievance conferences ourselves.

It seems this year has been an unusually busy year for the Grievance Commission. Needless to say, I cannot comment more in detail on each case that has been brought up to the Commission. As former Commission Chair Seymour J. Mandelbaum put it succinctly, "It is indeed difficult to summarize the work of the Faculty Grievance Commission without breaching the confidentiality of individuals that we are pledged to protect." As the departing Chair, I feel I must express my sincere gratitude to those University faculty members who helped guide us through this difficult task and, at the end, as a reward they made us feel very proud of ourselves serving as a member of the Faculty Grievance Commission and a member of the University of Pennsylvania faculty as a whole.

--Yoshitaka Suyama, Chair

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 3, September 12, 2000