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Handbook of Operating Procedures
Chapter 2 - Faculty and Academics
Publication Date: November 6, 2009
Responsible Executive: VP for Academic Affairs

2.34 Faculty Grievance Procedure

  1. Definitions
     
    Grievant:  a faculty member who disputes a grievable action or decision (defined in section III).
            
    Faculty Member:  any individual holding an academic title as defined in Chapter II, Section 2.01 The Faculty, in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP).
            
    Complaint:  the written record of the grievable action or decision under dispute, and all supporting written materials submitted by the Grievant.
            
    Respondent:  the individual or supervisor whose administrative action or decision is in dispute.

    Response: the written response and all supporting written materials submitted by the Respondent.

    Vice Provost
    :  the Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Support.

    Committee:  the Faculty Grievance Committee (defined in section IV).

    Subcommittee
    :  three-members of the Committee who assist in pursuing an informal grievance resolution.

    Review Panel
    :  a three-member panel from the Committee who participate in a hearing of the grievance (defined in section VI).



    Printed Materials
    :  the Complaint, the Response, and the written proposed resolution that comprise the written evidence to be reviewed by the Review Panel.

    Work Days
    :  weekdays during which normal university business is conducted. This excludes weekends and holidays.

  2. Scope of Grievance Procedure
    1. A faculty member (the Grievant) may seek redress of any grievable action or decision as defined in section III, through the following procedures that are intended to assure a timely and thorough consideration.
    2. The grievance procedure as described in this policy is available to all faculty members and is the only authorized grievance process.
    3. Grievants are accorded the following under this policy
      1. A Grievant shall not be penalized, disciplined or in any manner retaliated against for exercising his/her right to make a Complaint or file a formal grievance. A faculty member shall likewise not be penalized, disciplined, or in any manner retaliated against for assisting another faculty member in the presentation of that complaint.
      2. The Grievant may present any documentary evidence to the Respondent, Respondent’s supervisor, and/or Faculty Grievance Committee that he/she considers relevant to the grievance and the resolution of the complaint.
      3. The Grievant may seek the advice of the Vice Provost on procedural matters regarding the informal and the formal grievance process.
    4. A faculty member cannot grieve the actions or decisions proposed during or resulting from the informal grievance process.

  3. Actions Subject to Grievance Procedures
    1. Grievable Actions or Decisions
      1. Grievable actions shall relate to the terms and conditions of faculty employment and shall include one of the following:
        1. administrative actions or decisions that result in:
          1. a denial of or reduction in merit award, or a reduction in salary or rank;
          2. assignment or reassignment of duties;
          3. the denial or withdrawal of a university benefit or privilege, including the use of university
            facilities, equipment, or support staff;
          4. suspension without pay;
          5. performance evaluations; or
          6. other disciplinary actions, such as written reprimands.
      2. Actions or decisions that the Grievant deems to be a violation of contractual rights or an infringement upon the exercise of rights guaranteed by the laws or constitution of this state or the United States.
    2. Non-Grievable Actions or Decisions
      1. Actions or decisions that are not governed by this Grievance policy include those that are reviewable pursuant to other procedures provided by the university or that are addressed in other provisions of the HOP or the Regents' Rules and Regulations.  These actions or decisions include, but are not limited to:
        1. financial exigency;
        2. program abandonment;
        3. non-reappointment of tenure-track and non-tenured faculty member during the stated period of appointment;
        4. dismissal of a tenured faculty member or a non-tenured faculty member during the stated period of appointment;
        5. sexual harassment or misconduct;
        6. discrimination on a basis prohibited by state or federal law;
        7. retaliation on a basis prohibited by state or federal law;
        8. disputes concerning the outcome of a promotion and/or tenure review.
      2. A faculty member cannot grieve the actions or decisions proposed during or resulting from the informal grievance process.
    3. Actions or Decisions that Limit Academic Freedom
      1. Disputes involving administrative actions or decisions which limit the academic freedom of an individual faculty member shall be subject to interpretation under Regents’ Rule 31004 “Rights and Responsibilities of Faculty Members,” and consistent with the  American Association of University Professors’ 1940 Statement on Academic Freedom. All disputes involving academic freedom are governed solely by the process outlined in this section (C).
        1. Such disputes shall be reviewed by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) to determine whether the complaint involves a limitation of academic freedom, as it is specified above.
        2. If the CAFT affirms a finding of academic freedom infringement, it shall forward a recommendation for resolution to the Dean within twenty (20) work days of receiving a complaint. If the Dean is the Respondent in an academic freedom complaint, the recommendation shall be forwarded to the Vice Provost.
        3. The Dean or Vice Provost shall review the recommendation of the CAFT and make a final decision concerning resolution of the complaint. Such resolution shall be communicated in writing to both the Grievant and Respondent within fifteen (15) work days and shall conclude the complaint.
        4. If the CAFT does not affirm a finding of academic freedom infringement, it shall notify the Grievant in writing why the complaint does not meet the applicable standard. This shall conclude the complaint review process.

  4. The Faculty Grievance Committee
    TheFaculty Grievance Committee (hereafter, the “Committee”) is authorized to review individual grievances, governed by the following provisions and responsibilities:
    1. Committee Membership
      The Committee consists of:
      1. one voting member from each Department chosen from the tenured faculty according to the Department’s written procedures and subject to approval by the President or designee. These members shall serve two-year overlapping terms, with half elected each year; and
      2. eight (8) voting members appointed by the President from the faculty at large, four (4) new members each year serving two-year overlapping terms.
    2. Committee Chair
      1. The Chair of the Committee shall be nominated by a vote of the whole Committee and serve for a term of two (2) years as Chair. The appointment of the Chair is subject to the approval of the President and is renewable. The Chair’s membership on the Committee shall be extended until completion of the term as Chair.
      2. The Chair of the Committee shall provide copies of all records pertaining to the grievance to the various parties involved in the grievance process.
      3. The Chair of the Committee shall, in addition, provide the Provost, the Faculty Senate, and the University Assembly an annual report summarizing the Committee's work
    3. Committee Responsibilities
      1. The Committee will delegate advisory informal assistance on cases to Subcommittees of three members selected at random, as outlined in section V.C.1.; and will delegate review functions on cases to a Review Panel of three members selected at random, as outlined in section VI.A.4.a. No members shall serve on both the Subcommittee and the Review Panel for a given grievance case.
      2. Committee Members are not precluded from filing their own grievances simply by virtue of their membership on the Committee. However, Grievants may not serve on the Subcommittee or the Review Panel for their own grievances.
      3. Unless authorized by applicable law, all members of the Committee, Subcommittee, and Review Panel shall not disclose or discuss the facts related to any and all grievances with third parties who are not directly involved in the processing or resolution of the grievance or who do not otherwise have a legitimate need to know.
    4. Vice Provost Assistance to the Committee
      1. The Vice Provost shall assist the Committee, the Subcommittee, and the Review Panel in the process of implementing this policy. All procedural questions from both faculty and administrators regarding this policy shall be directed to the Vice Provost.  The Vice Provost may consult with The University of Texas System (UT System) Office of General Counsel to resolve questions about procedural matters. The Vice Provost shall annually summarize the past years’ grievance processes for the Faculty Senate.
      2. The original grievance records will be maintained by the Vice Provost and can be reviewed by the Chair of the Committee. The Vice Provost shall keep a record of the date for various actions to be taken so that the grievance proceeds in a timely manner in accordance with the time limitations expressed in this policy.  Requests for extension of indicated deadlines shall be directed to the Vice Provost who shall have authority to grant said extensions, including the deadline for initial filing of a formal grievance.
      3. At the conclusion of the grievance process, the final deciding official shall forward the grievance file to the Grievant’s department for retention in the Grievant’s department file.

  5. Informal Resolution Process
    1. Verbal Notice
      1. The Grievant shall first seek informal administrative solutions to complaints through direct conversations with the Respondent, the Grievant’s Department Chair and Dean, and, if requested, the Vice Provost.
      2. In the event that an ombudsman has been appointed to provide services to faculty on campus, a grievant may choose to use the services of the ombudsman chosen if agreed upon by the Respondent.
    2. Written Complaint
      1. The Grievant shall present the Complaint in writing to the Respondent for discussion, consideration, and resolution within forty (40) work days from the date the Grievant is notified of an administrative action or decision grievable under this policy.
      2. The Respondent must respond in writing within ten (10) work days after receipt of the Complaint. If the Respondent is the Grievant’s immediate supervisor, the Grievant may alternatively address the Complaint to the Respondent’s immediate supervisor who will then request a written response from the Respondent.
    3. Committee Assistance
      If steps A and B do not result in a resolution to the Complaint, the Grievant shall request in writing the informal assistance of the Committee.
      1. Upon receipt of a written request for informal assistance with a Complaint, the Chair of the Committee shall appoint at random within ten (10) work days a Subcommittee of three faculty members from the Committee to assist the Grievant and advise all parties in an effort to achieve a resolution.
      2. No member of this Subcommittee shall have been involved in any way in the grievance.
      3. In conducting informal negotiations between the Grievant and other relevant persons, the Subcommittee may urge resolution of the Grievant's Complaint by appropriate administrative officers or withdrawal or modification of the Complaint by the Grievant.
      4. The Subcommittee shall notify the Chair of the Committee within thirty (30) work days of reaching its results in providing the informal assistance to the Grievant.
      5. Successful informal resolution of a grievance shall be documented in writing by the Subcommittee and submitted to the Chair of the Committee and the Vice Provost, thereby concluding the grievance process.
      6. If there is no informal resolution to the Complaint, the Chair of the Committee shall then inform the Grievant that he/she may initiate the formal grievance procedure.

  6. Formal Grievance Procedure
    1. Grievance Process
      1. Initiation of the Formal Grievance by Grievant
        1. The Grievant initiates the formal grievance procedure by the submission of the written Complaint, with supporting materials, to the Chair of the Committee no later than ninety (90) work days from the date the Grievant is notified of an administrative action or decision grievable under this policy. This will be the only opportunity for the Grievant to present materials related to the grievance.
        2. These materials may include documentary or other evidence.  Any request for documents by the Grievant is to be submitted to the Public Information Officer or designee and handled in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act. Upon submission of the Complaint, the Grievant shall be advised by the Chair of the Committee of the grievance procedure as outlined in this section.
        3. The burden of proof shall rest with the Grievant to prove, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that the administrative decision or action he or she is grieving under section III.A:
          1. is not in substantial compliance with established university criteria or procedures;
          2. has no rational basis;
          3. was made for reasons that are unlawful under the state or federal constitution, laws or court decisions; or
          4. violates a written agreement signed by the faculty member and an authorized representative of the university, with all the necessary approvals by the university and the UT System.
      2. Respondent's Notification of Grievance and Response
        1. As soon as the Chair of the Grievance Committee is notified of the filing of a formal grievance, the Chair shall notify the Respondent that a formal grievance has been filed and provide the Respondent with a copy of the Complaint along with the supporting materials submitted by the Grievant within five (5) work days.
        2. The Respondent shall be given the opportunity to file a written response to the Complaint, with any relevant supporting materials (hereafter, the “Response”), within fifteen (15) work days of receipt of notification of the Complaint and the Complaint materials by the Chair of the Committee . These materials may include documentary or other evidence.  This will be the only opportunity for the Respondent to submit materials related to the grievance. The Chair of the Committee shall provide the Grievant with a copy of the Response and the associated supporting materials within five (5) work days.
      3. Administrative Resolution
        1. The Chair of the Committee shall forward both the Complaint and the Response to the Dean, who shall then provide a written proposed resolution within ten (10) work days of receipt of the Complaint forwarded by the Chair of the Committee.
        2. If the Dean is a Respondent, the Chair of the Committee shall forward both the Complaint and the Response to the Executive Vice Provost, who shall provide a written response.
        3. The written proposed resolution may either recommend dismissal of the Complaint outright, or suggest a solution to resolve the dispute.
        4. The Complaint, Response, and proposed resolution then comprise the Printed Materials that form the official documentation of the case to be reviewed.
        5. The Chair shall forward the written proposed resolution to both the Grievant and the Respondent. If both parties agree to the written proposed resolution, then the Chair of the Committee shall notify the Vice Provost in writing of the resolution and conclude the grievance procedure.
      4. Review of Grievance by Review Panel and Final Administratative Decision
        1. If the proposed resolution is not accepted by both parties, the Chair of the Committee shall choose three members of the Committee at random within ten (10) work days to serve on a Review Panel (see section VI.B.) to review the Printed Materials. The Review Panel shall select its own chair and no member of the panel shall have been involved in the grievance in any way.
        2. The Review Panel shall meet and  review  the Printed Materials.  The Review Panel shall ensure that all parties are afforded a fair and objective review of the case.  Within thirty (30) work days of meeting and after review of the Printed Materials, the Review Panel shall provide their findings and shall recommend one of the following actions:
          1. dismiss the Complaint due to failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;
          2. dismiss the Complaint due to failure to meet the burden of proof;
          3. accept the proposed resolution of the Complaint;
          4. suggest a modified resolution for the Complaint; or
          5. schedule a limited hearing for the sole purpose of clarifying the written evidence through verbal testimony
        3. All findings and recommendations of the Review Panel shall be determined by a majority of its total membership and shall be forwarded by the Chair of the Committee to the Grievant and the Respondent and to the Provost, along with the Printed Material, for final resolution. 
        4. If the Review Panel recommends a hearing, the Review Panel will notify the Grievant, the Respondent, and the Provost of the specific relevant issues of the grievance that are in conflict for which they need clarification in order to provide a recommendation. The hearing shall be scheduled for the earliest date convenient to all parties and will be conducted in accordance with section VI.C
        5. If the Review Panel decides not to use a hearing, it shall notify the Grievant who may petition the Review Panel in writing to reconsider that decision within five (5) work days of receiving the notification. The petition must state the reason(s) why a hearing could reveal pertinent evidence that was not available in the Printed Materials and that can be provided in oral testimony. The Review Panel shall then have ten (10) work days to render a decision either granting or refusing a hearing. If a hearing is granted, the Review Panel will follow the procedures in VI.A. 4.d. above.
        6. If none of the actions in VI.A.4.b. is taken by the Review Panel within the allotted time period (30 work days), the Printed Materials shall be forwarded by the Chair of the Committee to the Provost for final resolution. The Review Panel may request an extension of this time limitation from the Vice Provost only for reasons of scheduling difficulties and may only request to extend the period by an additional ten (10) work days.
        7. The Grievant and Respondent may submit written responses to the Review Panel’s recommendations within fifteen (15) work days of notification of the Review Panel’s recommendation. Such responses shall be submitted both to the Chair of the Committee and the Vice Provost.
        8. The Provost shall provide a final written resolution to all parties (Grievant, Respondent, Dean, Vice Provost, and Chair of the Committee) within twenty (20) work days of receipt of the Printed Materials, recommendations of the Review Panel, or optional responses of the Grievant and Respondent, whichever occurs later.
          1. The Provost may endorse, modify, or reject the recommendations of the Review Panel.
          2. The Provost's decision shall conclude the grievance process for all those grievances on matters for which he or she has final authority.
          3. If the Provost is a Respondent to the Complaint, then the President's designee shall provide the final written resolution in place of the Provost.
    2. Review Panel Membership
      1. If any member of the Review Panel is of the view that he or she cannot serve with fairness and objectivity, that person shall not participate in the review of the grievance from whatever time that member becomes aware of the impediment to continued service.
      2. Either party may move to disqualify a Review Panel member whose service is alleged to be in violation of these provisions. It shall be up to the Chair of the Committee to determine whether the challenged member can serve with fairness and objectivity in the matter.
      3. If a Review Panel member should need to be replaced, the Chair of the Committee shall assign a substitute chosen at random from the membership of the Committee.
      4. Either party may challenge the overall composition of the Review Panel. Such challenges must be made within five (5) work days of the appointment of the Review Panel. If the challenge is upheld by the Chair of the Committee, a new Review Panel will be selected by the Chair of the Committee in accordance with section VI.A.4.a.
    3. Hearing Procedures
      1. General Guidelines
        1. The purpose of a hearing is not to provide a full review of the grievance but for the limited purpose of providing the Review Panel with relevant verbal testimony to clarify certain written evidence submitted by the parties.  As provided in sections VI.A.1.a and VI.A.2.b., no further documentation is allowed from the parties.
        2. Each party at a hearing may be assisted by an advisor of choice.  The advisor may be an attorney.  If the faculty member’s advisor is an attorney, the institution’s attorney will be an attorney from the UT System Office of General Counsel.  An advisor may converse with and advise the party, but shall not be permitted to question witnesses, make objections or argue to the Review Panel.
        3. Only the Review Panel members may question the witnesses who testify.  Parties and witnesses may speak only after recognition by the Review Panel.
        4. The hearing shall be closed.
        5. The hearing shall be recorded with equipment provided by the university and operated by a Review Panel member or by a university employee who is qualified to operate the equipment.  This recording shall be the official record of the grievance inquiry.  The parties to the grievance may have access to the recording and will be furnished a copy at cost upon request.
      2. Conduct of the hearing
        1. The Vice Provost shall facilitate consultation of the Review Panel with the UT System Office of General Counsel prior to the formal hearing. The Review Panel shall seek counsel's advice on procedural and substantive matters.
        2. At least five (5) work days before the hearing, the Review Panel must notify each party of the witnesses it requests to testify for clarification purposes.
        3. Following the conclusion of the hearing, the Review Panel shall deliberate and submit their findings and recommendations in writing to the Chair of the Committee within twenty (20) work days from the date the hearing concluded. Per section VI. A.4.c., these findings shall be forwarded by the Chair of the Committee to the Provost for final resolution.