Faculty members’ names, with the exclusion of GovCom Chair Keith Berland, have been omitted in accordance with the terms that allowed the Wheel to attend the faculty meeting.
College faculty voted down a motion on Wednesday to reverse the College Grievance Committee’s decision to reject a grievance filed by 18 faculty members in the spring.
The 13-page grievance, filed in April, claimed that the procedures leading to the department changes violated faculty governance principles and bylaws.
It extensively cites Emory bylaws, minutes from Faculty Governance Committee (GovCom) and faculty meetings, governing principles and letters sent to administrators.
In a response from the Grievance Committee dated April 14, the committee wrote that it does not have “any recommendations to make at this time.” The grievants have since expressed frustration over the fact that the response only addresses two sections of the entire grievance.
LTF Appeal Motion Voted Down
In addition to the grievance, three lecture-track faculty members are currently challenging the University’s termination of their contracts as a result of last fall’s department changes. However, GovCom recently declined to place this issue on the agenda for this past Wednesday’s faculty meeting. At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, a faculty member made a point of order to put the recent lecture-track faculty appeal on the agenda.
“The Governance Committee is doing all it can to sort through this confusion including having invited the appellants to the most recent Governance Committee meeting at which we heard the concerns of the appellants, and the committee has not had the opportunity to meet again since we’ve heard from them,” GovCom Chair and Professor in the Department of Physics Keith Berland said.
He added that the committee did not think the issue would dissipate if it was not heard at Wednesday’s meeting.
Ultimately, Berland denied the request to put the appeal on the agenda because he said the issue had yet to be fully deliberated on by GovCom.
A faculty member then motioned to appeal Berland’s decision.
The faculty voted against the appeal 47-31.
Grievance Discussions and Vote
When Berland presented the agenda point regarding the Grievance appeal hearing to the faculty, one professor clarified that the wording that was sent by appellants to the committee chair presented as part of the motion was not intended to be the motion for debate.
He instead presented a two-part motion, asking the faculty to vote to “reverse the Grievance Committee’s decision to reject the grievance, using the prerogative given to the faculty in the bylaws, and at a later date, consider the findings of the forthcoming report from the Shared Governance Committee in order to decide the merits of the grievance itself.”
The faculty then entered initial discussions over whether the Grievance Committee’s decision should be reversed.
Some of the appellants and faculty members questioned the processes by which the Grievance Committee came to the conclusion to reject the grievance as the committee operates in confidentiality.
“Rather then fully investigating the grievance, the Grievance Committee held a single meeting, and they consulted the minutes from a single GovCom meeting which was in October 2012 after the cuts were announced,” one of the appellants said. The chair of the Grievance Committee read a statement clarifying the issue.
“Like the Promotion and Tenure Committee and other bodies charged with addressing important, sensitive personal issues, the work of the grievance committee is confidential and is treated as such in accordance with the official Emory standards of conduct,” the Chair said.
The Chair said the committee wrote a letter to Dean of the College Robin Forman and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Claire Sterk that summarized the committee’s findings in an effort to preserve confidentiality.
The Chair explained that the letter was then forwarded to the petitioners as a courtesy and never intended to be a full accounting of the procedures.
The Chair added that therefore, the motion’s description of the process followed was inaccurate.
The point of confidentiality made understanding the processes by which the Grievance Committee made its decision difficult, according to some faculty members.
“You send [an appeal] into a committee – they don’t have to tell you what they do. They don’t address a thing. They reject it. You come to the faculty, and they say, ‘eh, it’s too messy, and there’s going to be blood on the floor, so we’re not going to deal with it,'” one of the appellants said. “Where are we going to end up? It’s carte blanche for people to do whatever they want and walk away.”
Some faculty members said they believe the committee’s confidentiality practices should be observed due to the sensitivity of the information. Some faculty members said the committee made the correct ruling, regardless of confidentiality.
“I do want to express that’s a little frustrating to me that full professors, many of whom have served on the Tenure Promotion Committee, are very well aware of the importance of decisions related to people’s jobs,” one professor said. “To say how we feel based on a letter that does not describe everything that we’re frustrated with – what [the appellants] decided is frustrating to me. These are people who tried very hard to reach a thoughtful decision and were very well aware [of] how important it was.”
Although the committee’s confidentiality was an issue, transparency as a whole in faculty governance at Emory was also discussed.
“Who is it about next time when somebody decides to take similar actions against your program, your job and there is no accountability, no transparency, no response and this faculty fails to act? Good luck. Have a lot of fun with that,” one of the appellants said. “Forget us. You don’t have to like us. You don’t have to agree with us. Think of yourselves.”
After discussing the motion, the faculty determined that it should be split into two motions for the sake of clarity.
The faculty voted against the first motion, which asked to “reverse the Grievance Committee’s decision to reject the grievance, using the prerogative given to the faculty in the bylaws.”
Thus, the Grievance Committee’s decision to reject the grievance was upheld.
As a result of the first motion’s failure, the appellant who raised the motion dropped the second motion, and the meeting was adjourned.
Prior to the debate regarding the Grievance Committee appeal, the Process Review Committee also made five initial recommendations that were outlined in a flyer to the faculty body.
The recommendations included the development of a new vision for the College in consultation with the dean, the establishment of electronic voting to give all faculty a voice, the inclusion of faculty in decisions to create or close programs and a review of the structure and processes of current College standing committees.
The next faculty meeting will be held Oct. 30.
– By Dustin Slade
Correction (9/27 at 6:02 p.m.): The article originally stated that that the motion would consider the findings of the forthcoming report from the Process Review Committee in order to decide the merits of the grievance itself. The motion actually states that it would consider the findings from the Shared Governance Committee.