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Handbook of Operating Procedures
Chapter 2 - Faculty and Academics
Publication Date: June 1, 2015
Responsible Executive: VP for Academic Affairs


2.34 Faculty Grievance Procedure


I. POLICY STATEMENT


The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) provides faculty a procedure through which grievances can be pursued. This procedure supports UTSA’s core values of integrity (adhering to a standard core of values and ensuring that one acts in a fair and ethical fashion) and respect (treating others with civility and openness, recognizing the dignity inherent in each individual).


II. RATIONALE


This policy provides a grievance procedure for faculty. The University of Texas System Board of Regents' Rules and Regulations, Series, Rule 30602 encourages fair and equitable solutions for problems related to employment relations and to meet the requirements of State and federal law.


III. SCOPE


The grievance procedure as described in this policy is available to all faculty members to address the Grievable Actions or Decisions, as defined in Section VII.  A faculty member (the Grievant) may seek redress of any such Grievable Action or Decision through the following procedures that are intended to assure a timely and thorough consideration.


IV. WEBSITE ADDRESS FOR THIS POLICY


http://www.utsa.edu/hop/chapter2/2-34.html


V. RELATED STATUTES, POLICIES, REQUIREMENTS OR STANDARDS


UTSA or UT System Policies or the Board of Regents Rules & Regulations        
The University of Texas System Board of Regents' Rules and Regulations, Series, Rule 30602


VI. CONTACTS


If you have any questions about HOP 2.34, Faculty Grievance Procedure, contact the following office:

The Office of the Vice Provost for Downtown and Academic and Faculty Support
210-458-2898


VII. DEFINITIONS


Grievant: a faculty member who disputes a Grievable Action or Decision.

Grievable Action or Decision: Those administrative actions or decisions that are subject to these Grievance Procedures. Specifically, those actions or decisions that relate to the terms and conditions of faculty employment. To be a Grievable Action or Decision, it must 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 (note that Annual Performance Evaluation grievances begins at the Formal Grievance Procedure stage and bypasses the Informal Resolution Process); 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.

Faculty Member:  any individual holding an academic title as defined in policy 2.01, The Faculty: Role in Educational Policy Formulation, in UTSA's 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 (described in Section IX.D).

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

Informal Assistance: provided by three-member Subcommittee and includes advising all parties in an effort to achieve a resolution, conducting informal negotiations between the Grievant and other relevant persons, and recommending referral to an appropriate administrative officer or withdrawal or modification of the Complaint.
 
Review Panel
:  a three-member panel from the Committee who participate in a hearing of the grievance.

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

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


VIII. RESPONSIBILITIES


  1. Chair of the Committee
    1. Provides copies of all records pertaining to the grievance to the various parties involved in the grievance process.
    2. Selects Committee members to serve on Subcommittee and Review Panel.
    3. Provides the Provost, the Faculty Senate, and the University Assembly an annual report summarizing the Committee's work.
  2. Committee
    1. Delegates advisory informal assistance on cases to Subcommittees of three members selected at random, as outlined in Section IX.E.3.a; and delegates review functions on cases to a Review Panel of three members selected at random, as outlined in Section IX.F.4.a.
  3. Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Support (Vice Provost)
    1. Assists the Subcommittee, and the Review Panel in the process of implementing this policy.
    2. Responds to all procedural questions from both faculty and administrators regarding this policy.
    3. Annually summarizes the past year’s grievance processes for the Faculty Senate.
    4. Maintains original grievance records which can be reviewed by the Chair of the Committee.
    5. Keeps 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. 
    6. Reviews and responds to requests for extension of indicated deadlines including the deadline for initial filing of a formal grievance.
    7. Forwards at the conclusion of the grievance process the grievance file to the Grievant’s department for retention in the Grievant’s department file.
  4. Dean
    1. Provides written response if Administrative Resolution is requested by Grievant.
  5. Provost's Designee
    1. Provides written response if Administrative Resolution is requested by Grievant when Dean is the Respondent.
  6. Provost
    1. Provides final resolution to all parties if Grievance is not resolved during Administrative Resolution.
  7. Ombudsman
    1. Assists the faculty member in understanding the Grievance Procedure and facilities dialogue between the Grievant and the Respondent.

IX. PROCEDURES


  1. Grievance Parameters
    1. A faculty member (the Grievant) may seek redress of any Grievable Action or Decision 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 available to address Grievable Actions or Decisions.
    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 Compliant 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 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.
    5. Steps in the grievance process, as described below in Section IX.F and IX.G, must be followed in their sequential order before progress to the next step can occur.

Actions or Decisions that are subject to this Grievance policy are defined as Grievable Action or Decision (See Section VII).

  1. Nongrievable Actions or Decisions
    1. Actions or decisions that are not governed by this Grievance policy (Nongrievable Actions or Decisions) 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 facuty 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 or by UTSA or UT System policy;
      7. retaliation on a basis prohibited by state or federal law or by UTSA or UT System policy;
      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.
  2. 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 (D).
      1. Such disputes shall be reviewed by the Senate 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) Business 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) Business 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.
  3. The Faculty Grievance Committee
    The Committee is authorized to review individual grievances, governed by the following provisions and responsibilities:
    1. Committee Membership: The Committee consists of:
      1. One (1) 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.
    3. Subcommittees and Review Panels
      1. Subcommittees offer informal assistance and Review Panels review cases.
      2. No members shall serve on both the Subcommittee and the Review Panel for a given grievance case.
      3. 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.
      4. 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. Informal Resolution Process
    The faculty member shall first discuss the administrative action/decision in question with the administrator who took that action or made that decision in an attempt to resolve the issue. Requests for exceptions to the timeline outlined below should be submitted to the Vice Provost who will make the decision on approval of such expectations.

    Because the Annual Performance Evaluation process includes steps which parallel those in the Informal Resolution Process (discussion between the Chair and faculty member, review by a faculty peer review committee, and the opportunity to provide written objections to the Dean), grievances concerning Annual Performance Evaluations bypass the Informal Resolution Process and begin with the steps described in F. Formal Grievance Procedure.
    1. Verbal Complaint
      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. This dialog between the Grievant and the Respondent should be initiated with the assistance of the Academic Affairs Ombudsperson within thirty (30) Business Days from the date that the Grievant is notified of an administrative action or decision grievable under this policy.
      2. The Ombudsperson shall notify the Provost’s designee that conversations are being initiated to seek informal administrative solutions to a complaint.
      3. The Ombudsperson shall outline the grievance process with the Grievant and shall facilitate the informal dialog between the Grievant and the Respondent.
      4. If the Ombudsperson determines that a successful resolution has not been achieved through the informal dialog within fifteen (15) Business Days, the informal dialog period will be considered complete and the Grievant may make a decision to end the process or to proceed to the Written Complaint.
    2. Written Compliant
      1. Only after the informal dialog period is complete should a written grievance be filed.
      2. The Grievant shall present the Complaint in writing to the Respondent for discussion, consideration, and resolution within ten (10) Business Days from the date that the informal dialog stage is complete.
      3. This Written Complaint shall be the same Written Complaint that will be submitted to initiate the Formal Grievance Procedure if the Complaint advances to that stage.
      4. The Respondent must respond in writing within ten (10) Business 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.
      5. After receipt of the written response from the Respondent, the Grievant may decide that the issue has been resolved or may request Committee Assistance. The request for Committee Assistance must be made within five (5) Business Days of receipt of the written response from the Respondent.
    3. Committee Assistance (the timeline referenced below may be altered during the summer months or between the fall and spring semesters contingent on the availability of faculty to serve on a Subcommittee)
      1. Upon receipt of a written request for Informal Assistance with a Complaint, the Chair of the Committee shall appoint at random a Subcommittee of three faculty members from the Committee to assist the Grievant and advise all parties in an effort to achieve a resolution. The Subcommittee should be appointed within ten (10) Business Days of the Chair’s receipt of the written request. 
      2. No member of this Subcommittee shall have been involved in any way in the grievance.
      3. The Subcommittee shall conduct informal negotiations between the Grievant and other relevant persons, and 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 complete its work within thirty (30) Business Days of its members being appointed and notify the Chair of the Committee of the results.
      5. If the grievance has been successfully resolved by the Subcommittee to both parties’ satisfaction, that resolution 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.
  5. Formal Grievance Procedure
    1. Initiation of the Formal Grievance by Grievant
      1. If the grievance is not resolved in the steps outlined above for the Informal Resolution Process, the Grievant may initiate the Formal Grievance Procedure within fifteen (15) Business days following the notice of the Committee Chair.  Grievances regarding Annual Performance Evaluations begin at this stage.   
      2. The Grievant initiates the Formal Grievance Procedure by the submission of the written Complaint, with supporting materials, to the Chair of the Committee. This will be the only opportunity for the Grievant to present materials related to the grievance.  
      3. If the grievance concerns an Annual Performance Evaluation, the Grievant must initiate the Formal Grievance Procedure by June 15 following the conclusion of the evaluation period. If the grievance concerns a matter other than an Annual Performance Evaluation, the Grievant has fifteen (15) Business Days following the notice by the Chair of the Committee that the formal process may be initiated to initiate the Formal Grievance Process. 
      4. The materials submitted by the Grievant may include documentary or other evidence. Any request for documents by the Grievant is to be submitted to the UTSA Public Information Officer or designee and handled in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act.
      5. 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.
      6. 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 this policy:
        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) Business 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) Business 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) Business Days.
    3. Administrative Resolution
      1. Once both the Complaint and the Response have been received, the Chair of the Committee shall forward them to the Dean, who shall then provide a written proposed resolution to the Chair of the Committee within ten (10) Business Days of receipt of the materials 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 Provost’s designee, who shall provide a written proposed resolution to the Chair of the Committee.
      3. The written proposed resolution may either recommend dismissal of the Complaint outright, or suggest a solution to resolve the dispute.
      4. The Complaint (and supporting materials), Response (and supporting materials), and written proposed resolution then comprise the Printed Materials that form the official documentation of the case to be reviewed by a Review Panel.
      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 Administrative Decision (the timeline referenced below may be altered during the summer months or between the fall and spring semesters contingent on the availability of faculty to serve on a Review Panel)
      1. If the written proposed resolution is not accepted by both parties, the Chair of the Committee shall notify both parties and the Vice Provost. Within five (5) Business Days of such notification, the Grievant may make a recommendation that the Review Panel consider the matter. If the Grievant does not do so, the Grievance is considered withdrawn. The Chair of the Committee shall choose three members of the Committee at random to serve on a Review Panel.  The Chair should choose the Committee members within ten (10) Business Days of receiving the Grievant’s recommendation for Review Panel consideration.
      2. The Grievant and/or Respondent may request that the Review Panel;
        1. Review the Printed Material;
        2. Seek or receive additional written information;
        3. Submit written questions; and/or
        4. Interview witnesses
      3. The final decision as to which of the above actions the Review Panel pursues is made by the Review Panel, but it must review the Printed Material and review any additional information if offered.
      4. The Review Panel shall select its own chair and no member of the panel shall have been involved in the grievance in any way. Review panel membership is defined further by the following:
        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) Business 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 IX.F.4.a.
      5. The Review Panel shall meet and conduct its review. The Review Panel shall ensure that all parties are afforded a fair and objective review of the case.
      6. The Panel may submit written questions to the Grievant, the Respondent, and any witnesses identified by the Grievant or the Respondent if it needs clarification regarding any items in the Printed Materials. Additionally, the Review Panel may interview any of these parties regarding those specific items. The decision to seek additional information or to interview witnesses is left to the Review Panel. The Review Panel can seek more information or conduct interviews even if this is not recommended by the Grievant and/or Respondent as indicated in Section IX.F.4.
      7. Within thirty (30) Business Days of meeting and after review of the Printed Materials and any additional information, if offered, 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 written 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.
      8. 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 and any additional information, if offered, for final resolution.  
      9. If none of the actions in IX.F.4.b. is taken by the Review Panel within the allotted time period (30 Business Days), the Printed Materials and any additional information, if offered, 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) Business Days.
      10. The Provost shall provide a final written resolution to all parties (Grievant, Respondent, Dean, Vice Provost, and Chair of the Committee) within twenty (20) Business Days of receipt of the Printed Materials and any additional information, if offered, 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.

X. SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR INITIAL IMPLEMENTATION


None


XI. FORMS AND TOOLS/ONLINE PROCESSES


None


XII. APPENDIX


None