Procedures for Resolving Faculty Disputes

Policy Memorandum No. 46

Recommended by: Commission on Faculty Affairs
University Council Approval: June 6, 1983
President's Approval: June 6, 1983
Effective Date: Immediately

At its last meeting of the 1982-83 academic year, the University Council approved the following document setting forth procedures for resolving faculty disputes. The approval came after more than four months of consideration at the Council level. The document originally was developed by a committee of the Commission on Faculty Affairs and has the support of the Faculty Senate. The document sets forth procedures for the Appeals of Decisions on Reappointment, Tenure, or Promotion, and also Faculty Grievance Procedures.

The following document presents the procedures as approved by the University Council, with the addition of paragraph numbers that are to be used when the policy is published in the Faculty Handbook. Because this document will be included in the Faculty Handbook, it is now being distributed only to vice presidents, deans, directors, and department heads; all faculty are being advaised that they may see the document in these offices.

The document follows:

2.7.6 Appeals of Decisions on Reappointment, Tenure, or Promotion

A faculty member who has been evaluated for a term reappointment during the probationary period, or for a continued appointment, or for a tenured appointment, or for promotion, and who has been notified of a negative decision and who believes that the decision has been improperly or unfairly determined may appeal for review of the decision under conditions and procedures specified in this section. Such an appeal must be filed, in writing, within fourteen (14) calendar days of formal notification of the decision, which shall make reference to appeal procedures. The appeal can only be based on grounds that certain relevant information was not provided or considered in the decision, or that the decision was influenced by improper consideration. The written appeal must specify the grounds and the basis for such an allegation. Although the provisions for appeal described below are designed to give faculty members protection against capricious or arbitrary decisions, the faculty member who believes that these procedures have been improperly followed may, at any point, seek advice from the Chairman of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation(3) and may subsequently make such a claim in writing to that Committee for its consideration. In this Section, the terms "departmental committee" and "department head" refer, where appropriate, to "divisional committee" and "division director."

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3 This committee's charge is as follows: 1. To offer advice and counsel to faculty members who seek it. 2. To consider private matters of privilege, academic freedom and tenure submitted to it by members of the Faculty or Administration. 3. To assist members of the Faculty and the Administration to resolve such questions as those of academic freedom and tenure. Faculty members on probationary term appointments should make no presumption of reappointment. Non-reappointment is determined by the department head with the advice of the departmental personnel committee or the faculty development committee. Notice of non-reappointment is furnished according to the schedule in the FACULTY HANDBOOK (Section 2.8.3). The specific reasons for the decision shall be furnished to the faculty member in writing.

2.7.6.1 Probationary Reappointment and Continued Appointment

If the decision is based primarily on evaluation of the faculty member's performance, including perceived lack of potential for further professional development, then the faculty member may request a review of the decision by the dean of the college. If the dean sustains the departmental decision, the faculty member may request, through the dean, the further and independent review of the decision by the properly constituted college committee on promotion and tenure (see Section 2.7.5.2). The faculty member will present the appeal in writing as specified in the first paragraph of this Section. The faculty member may elect to present oral arguments to the committee. The college committee will make recommendation to the dean, who will inform the faculty member of the committee's recommendation and the dean's subsequent decision. The dean's decision will close the appeal process unless it is at variance with the college committee's recommendation, in which case the faculty member may appeal to the University Provost for a final decision.

Procedures for term reappointments and continued appointments for members of the Library Faculty and the faculty of the Extension Division are described in PROCEDURES ON EVALUATION, PROMOTION: UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES and GUIDELINES FOR THE PREPARATION OF CREDENTIALS FOR PROMOTION CONSIDERATION AND ANNUAL FACULTY REVIEW: EXTENSION DIVISION (see also section 2.1.2 and 2.1.3). A decision for non-reappointment to a term or continued appointment, based primarily on performance evaluation, is final if it is reached at the department or unit level and is sustained at the Library or Extension Division level. If the decision is reached at the Library or Extension Division level in contradiction to the recommendation at the department or unit level, the faculty member may request the decision to be reviewed by the University Provost for a final decision. The faculty member will present the appeal in writing as specified in the first paragraph of this section. The Provost may ask the University Promotion Committee for Non-college-based Faculty to review the case and make recommendation as an aid to that decision.

If the non-reappointment is based primarily on other reasons, including programmatic or financial considerations, then the faculty member may choose to invoke the grievance procedures.

2.7.6.2 Tenure Decision

Occasionally faculty members are evaluated for a tenured appointment during the probationary period but prior to the sixth year of probationary service. In such a case, there is no recourse to appeal or review of a negative decision, at whatever level it is reached, in view of the certainty that the evaluation will be undertaken again within a limited period of time.

Evaluation for a tenured appointment is mandated in the sixth year of probationary service unless the faculty member has given written notice of resignation from the faculty. If both the departmental committee and the department head agree that the faculty member's record does not warrant a tenured appointment, there will be an automatic review of the candidate's dossier by the dean. If the dean concurs, the faculty member is notified in writing by the dean of the decision and the specific reasons for it. The faculty member may then request through the dean that the college committee on promotion and tenure independently review the decision. The faculty member will present the appeal in writing as specified in the first paragraph of this Section. The faculty member may elect to present oral arguments to the committee as well. If the committee concurs with the decision, the decision is final, the dean so notifies the faculty member, and no further appeal is provided.

In the course of the automatic review of the candidate's dossier, the dean may wish to reserve judgment; in such a case, the dean will notify the faculty member of the departmental decision and will indicate to the faculty member that the dean is requesting the college committee on promotion and tenure to undertake an independent review as specified in the previous paragraph and to make recommendation to the dean. Should the college committee and the dean concur with the departmental decision, the decision is declared final, the faculty member is so notified, and no further appeal is provided. The specific reason for the decision will be provided to the faculty member in writing.

In any case of college level review of a negative departmental decision, a positive recommendation by either the college committee or the dean is forwarded with the dossier to the University Committee on Promotion and Tenure in the same way as in the normal review process.

If the college committee and the dean undertake the review on the basis of a positive recommendation of either or both the departmental committee and the department head and if the college committee recommends that tenure not be awarded and the dean concurs, the faculty member is notified of the negative decision with reference to appeal procedures. The specific reasons for the decision shall be furnished to the faculty member in writing. The faculty member may then appeal through the Provost for review of the decision by the University Committee which shall make recommendation to the Provost for a final decision. The faculty member will present the appeal in writing as specified in the first paragraph of this section. No further appeal is provided. The University Committee may choose to hear oral arguments.

Should the University Provost not concur with a positive recommendation from the University Committee on Promotion and Tenure, whether that recommendation culminates a normal review or an appeal, the faculty member is so notified in writing of the specific reason for the decision. The faculty member may appeal to the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation. That committee will investigate the case and, if the differences cannot be reconciled, will make recommendation to the President on the matter. The President's decision will be final.

During review following an appeal, the college committee may find reason to believe that the departmental evaluation was biased or was significantly influenced by improper considerations. In that case, the reviewing committee may request that the college dean form an AD HOC committee to reinitiate the evaluation; that AD HOC committee will be composed, as feasible, of faculty members in the candidate's department or in closely allied fields and will not contain any members of the original committee. Should the University Committee make such a finding in the review of an appeal relative to the college evaluation, it will request the dean to form a new AD HOC committee at the college level. The AD HOC committee will make recommendations to the committee which requested its formation.

2.7.6.3 Promotion Decision

There is no specification for minimum or maximum time of service in any rank and consideration for promotion in rank may be requested of the department head by a faculty member at any time if the department head or committee has not chosen to undertake such an evaluation. However, appeal of a negative decision is provided only if the faculty member has been in rank for at least six years and if the faculty member has requested consideration for promotion in a previous year. In such a case, for a member of a Collegiate Faculty, an appeal will follow the same procedures as in Section 2.7.6.2.

Members of the Library Faculty, Faculty of the Extension Division not holding appointments in a collegiate department, or the Administrative Faculty whose request for consideration for promotion has not been recommended favorably to the University Promotion Committee for Non-college-based Faculty (section 2.7.7) may appeal to the University Provost who will ask that Committee to consider the appeal. The faculty member will present the appeal in writing as specified in the first paragraph of this section. The Committee will make recommendation to the Provost. If the Committee and the Provost concur with the negative decision, the decision is final; if not, the President will make a final decision.

2.10 Faculty Grievance Procedures

The Governor of the Commonwealth in 1972 by Executive Order and then the General Assembly by legislative action in 1978 and in later amendments ensured that classified employees in the Commonwealth have an effective procedure by which grievances could be fairly and objectively reviewed and resolved. These grievance procedures excluded academic employees of Statesupported colleges and universities. Therefore, the following procedure is provided to serve as the means for effective resolution of grievances experienced by any employee who is a member of the general faculty of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

2.10.1 Grievable Issues

A grievance shall be defined as a complaint alleging a misinterpretation, incorrect application, or violation of a policy, procedure, or practice of the University, not pursued by the faculty member in some other forum. Some examples of "grievable issues" are the following: the application of policy, salary levels, or salary adjustments, teaching load/work load, reprisals, discriminatory actions, EEO complaints, and facilities/space.

  1. Non-grievable Issues: While it shall be the intent of the University grievance policy to see that most faculty disputes may be resolved by means of this procedure, not all issues may be grieved. The following issues may NOT be grieved:

    1. determination of policy (which is the domain of the governance system);

    2. those items falling within the jurisdiction of other University appeal procedures;

    3. the contents of personnel policies, procedures, rules, regulations, ordinances, and statutes;

    4. promotion and tenure.

  2. Timeliness of Grievance: The faculty member shall identify the grievance verbally to the immediate supervisor (i.e., the department or division head or the dean/director responsible for the performance appraisal of the aggrieved faculty member) in an informal meeting within fourteen (14) calendar days after discovery of the event or action which is the basis for the grievance. No grievance need be accepted for processing under this procedure after this fourteen (14) day period.

  3. Collegial Communications: Most faculty concerns or complaints can be resolved informally through normal colleague communications. Accordingly, faculty members are encouraged to take their complaints to their immediate supervisor in the normal spirit of faculty problem solving. Should these efforts be unsuccessful, the faculty member may request the assistance of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation in fashioning an equitable solution. If the faculty member has requested assistance of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation, that Committee must invoke a postponement of the time limits indicated in the following procedure. If the assistance of this Committee has not been requested, or if this Committee determines that it cannot provide assistance in the matter, within the time limits indicated, the faculty member may pursue the issue through the following procedure. Department/division heads, deans/directors and other administrative faculty shall assist the faculty member in the processing of the grievance.

2.10.2 The Procedure

  1. Step One: The faculty member shall identify the grievance orally to the immediate supervisor in an informal meeting within fourteen (14) calendar days after discovery of the event or action which is the basis for the grievance. The supervisor shall provide an oral response to the faculty member within five (5) week days following the meeting. If a resolution is not reached at this point, the faculty member shall within five (5) week days submit to the supervisor, on the Faculty Grievance Form, the nature of the grievance and the specific relief requested. The supervisor, in turn, shall give the faculty member a written response on the Faculty Grievance Form within five (5) additional week days.

  2. Step Two: If the first step written response is not found acceptable, the faculty member may advance the grievance to the second step by indicating this desire on the Faculty Grievance Form. The Grievance Form must be submitted to the next direct level of University administration within five (5) week days following the receipt of the Step One reply. (The next direct level of administration for collegiate faculty will normally be the college dean). Following receipt of the Grievance Form, the Step Two administrator or designee shall meet with the faculty member within five (5) week days. The Step Two administrator may request the immediate supervisor to be present; the faculty member may similarly request that a representative of his/her choice be present. The Step Two administrator shall give the faculty member a second step written response on the Grievance Form within five (5) week days after the meeting.

  3. Step Three: If the second step written response is not acceptable, the faculty member should send the Grievance Form with the appropriate Step Three request checked, indicating to the Step Two administrator the desire to advance the grievance; the Step Two administrator will direct it to the attention of the appropriate Vice President or Provost immediately. The faculty member shall give the form to the Step Two administrator within five (5) week days after the Step Two decision has been reached. The Vice President or Provost, or appropriate designee, shall contact the faculty member directly within five (5) week days after receipt of the Step Three grievance. A meeting shall be held within the next ten (10) week days. The faculty member and the Step Three administrator shall determine if other than those present in the previous step hearing should be present. The administrator herein referred to shall respond to the grievance within five (5) week days of the hearing.

  4. Impartial Panel Hearing: If the faculty member is not satisfied with the resolution of the grievance as determined by the management steps, the faculty member may petition the President of the University within ten (10) calendar days to review the facts, findings, and proceedings of the management steps. The purpose of the President's review would be to determine if the case warrants a review by an impartial panel.

    If the President decides that the matter should be reviewed by an impartial panel, this step of the procedure will be structured in the following manner. A three-person panel will be constituted. The aggrieved faculty member and the President will each select one faculty member from the University. These two persons thus selected will choose a third University faculty member who shall then serve on the three-member panel as its chair. All faculty members so chosen shall not have had any prior involvement in the instant grievance. Every reasonable effort will be made to assure that the impartial panel hearing will be held within thirty (30) calendar days of the receipt of the request by the President. The panel shall submit its decision within thirty (30) days after the close of the hearing.

  5. Panel Findings: The three-person panel will make a recommendation to the President on their findings and the President's decision will be final.

2.10.3 Other Concerns and Definitions

  1. In cases where off-campus faculty are involved in a grievance and travel to Blacksburg or to other non-work locations IS REQUIRED in the resolution of the grievance, such faculty member WHO IS THE AGGRIEVED shall have all such costs of travel paid by the University.

  2. All costs of legal counsel employed by the grievant shall be borne by the grievant, unless the panel rules otherwise in cases of arbitrary or repeated improper behavior by the University in its actions toward the faculty member in question.

  3. "Week days," as used in this procedure, include the days Monday through Friday only, and only when those days are not state or national holidays.

  4. Time limits are subject to extension by written agreement of both parties; the grievant and the administrator involved at that particular step of the discussion shall be the makers of such agreement.

  5. Failure of a University administrator to respond to a grievance in a timely fashion shall qualify the grievance to be advanced to the next step. The faculty member shall bear the responsibility to file at the next level.

  6. Failure of the faculty member to meet filing deadlines may be cause for refusal by the administration to honor such a grievance.

2.11 Terms of Appointments

2.11.1 Appointment Period

New faculty appointments and renewals of term appointments are made in writing by the department head, division director, or dean. Most faculty appointments in the academic units of the University are for the nine-month academic year, defined to be from September 16 to June 15 inclusive, and are called academic year appointments. No annual leave is awarded within the academic year, but the discretion of the department head is recognized in assigning duties during periods when the University is not in session. Faculty members are expected to inform their department heads of their whereabouts during such periods.

Although the annual salary assigned for an academic year appointment covers only the academic year, the salary is paid in twelve equal installments over the period September 1 to August 31, the payment occurring on the first day of each month, commencing October 1. (Should the first day of the month be Saturday or Sunday, the payment is made on the preceding Friday.)

Faculty members whose appointments are for only one or two of the three academic quarters of the academic year receive a pro rata portion of the annual salary, one-third for each quarter. Details of the calendar of such payments are available in the Payroll Office.


President's Policy Memorandum

URL: http://purl.vt.edu/vtdocs/policies/ppm46