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1997-98 Annual Report of the Faculty Advisory Committee

November 30, 1998


1997-98 Annual Report

In nearly every employment setting there arise from time to time problems or disputes, some between those in authority and those performing the work, others between colleagues. The University of Illinois is no exception. On this campus, the Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) exists to assist faculty members who encounter problems in their dealings with the Administration-at any level-or their colleagues, and to provide for the orderly voicing of suggestions for the good of the University. In performing its functions, the Committee makes investigations and holds consultations as it deems to be in the best interest of the University.

What is the FAC?

The FAC is a nine-member committee, chosen through annual campus-wide elections. Members make themselves available to faculty members who think that they have been treated unfairly by colleagues or administrators. The Committee gathers facts on the faculty member's complaint and advises the grievant of possible sources for redress. Should FAC take the issue as a case, a formal investigation is conducted by a two- or three-member subcommittee, which prepares a report for the entire Committee containing recommendations for dealing with the problem. In trying to resolve problems involving individual faculty members, sometimes broader, and perhaps more systemic, issues become apparent. In these situations, FAC will bring such issues to the attention of deans, the Provost and the Chancellor. There have been several frank and forthright discussions between FAC and members of the Administration on many of these issues. Additionally, FAC has been asked to provide nominations for membership on various campus ad hoc committees and has representation on the Advisory Committee to the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program.

Committee Activity

The issues in many of the FAC cases are often recurring, but each has its individual twist. For example, this year there was a long-term professor who felt unfairly treated in annual salary adjustment, an associate professor with national recognition was denied course assignments in an area of specialization, an assistant professor with superlative teaching ratings was turned down for tenure at the college level despite receiving overwhelming support from the department, and a retired professor was prohibited from entering a certain campus building. These are typical of the cases addressed by FAC.

The Committee makes a distinction between formal investigations (cases) and informal inquiries (consultations). If an inquiry or grievance cannot be resolved informally, FAC may choose to elevate the consultation to case status where a more thorough investigation of the situation is then initiated.

In addition to seven cases carried over from the previous year, the Committee received 23 new inquiries. Nine of these were resolved or discontinued, five remain on the Committee's agenda as ongoing consultations, and the rest (nine) resulted in formal investigations. Although issues tend to overlap, the consultations and cases can be categorized as follows:




    Administrative Action

    Teaching Assignments

    Salary Inequity/Evaluation

    Sexual Harassment


    CONSULTS (14)








    CASES (16)








At the time of this writing, only four of the 16 cases remain open. Of the 12 cases that were closed, five had a favorable outcome for the faculty member. In four of these instances, FAC recommendations to administrators to reconsider the matter were followed, one with the assistance of University mediation services, and in the fifth case, FAC monitored the situation while a mediation agreement was negotiated by University administrators. Of all the cases brought before the FAC this past year, nearly half were settled in terms considered favorable by the faculty member. Given the complexities of some cases, and sometimes unrealistic expectations by faculty members in others, we consider our efforts in promoting fairness and dignity on behalf of the faculty to have been successful. Even in situations where the faculty grievant does not "win," FAC can gauge a certain measure of success if a grievant accepts our findings, or the Committee was instrumental in offering an alternate solution.

Sometimes a given case provides the stimulus for needed change in campus or unit policies and practices. A prime example was a case where a promotion to professor was stymied. In this case, faculty below the rank of professor were voting upon the promotion. After FAC brought this to the attention of the campus Administration, Interim Provost Mengler issued a letter (September 29, 1998) to deans, directors and unit heads stating that faculty should not be involved in consideration or voting upon cases of candidates at their own rank or higher. The FAC appreciated his forwarding a clarification of this campus practice.

Continuing Issues and Recommendations

First, FAC would like to see problems thoroughly considered and more often resolved at the unit or college level. Often faculty members approach FAC for assistance, totally unaware of the mechanisms in their own units for addressing their problems. FAC has encouraged deans and college executive committees to be sure their bylaws contain meaningful avenues of appeal. We recommend that each college maintain a standing appeals committee and issue an annual report to the college's faculty summarizing the number and nature of cases and the outcome of these reviews.

A second issue involves membership on appeals or review committees. FAC had one case last year where the appeals committee included members of the original review committee. FAC is of the opinion that an appeal should be a fresh look at the issue. Those involved in previous deliberations could be predisposed against reversing their previous decision. As we stated in our 1996-97 report, the FAC strongly advises that once a committee has submitted a recommendation, none of the members of that committee should be asked to serve on a body that hears an appeal of the decision. Care should be taken to avoid appointing individuals to appeals committees who may have a personal aversion or enmity toward the grievant, or individuals who may have a social or professional collaboration with the grievant. The appearance of fairness is important if the appeal process is to have integrity in the eyes of the faculty.

Third, the FAC was encouraged that the Administration acted upon a recommendation from FAC's 1996-97 annual report to establish a mediation service. This service, presided over by former University Counsel Byron Higgins, has had an impressive first year. The service is operated out of the President's office and is an initiative of President Stukel to resolve disputes in-house. We have seen Mr. Higgins handle some knotty faculty grievances and find him quite effective. Mr. Higgins informed the FAC that he plans to begin training mediators from the faculty ranks to expand the service. FAC considers Mr. Higgins' presence an important addition to the dispute resolution mechanisms available to faculty on this campus.

Fourth, in several cases of denial of tenure that were processed by FAC, the Committee found there was serious lack of mentoring of junior faculty. In almost all of these cases, the faculty member involved felt that the unit's expectations for obtaining a tenured position were never clearly communicated. In some instances, probationary faculty members were given little or no warning that they were at risk, because annual reviews were generally positive and left the impression that the candidate was making sufficient progress for promotion. In some cases, changes in department leadership complicated the situation for the grievant. In nearly all these cases, the FAC investigation determined that those denied tenure received little or no guidance from senior members in the unit. Based upon this experience, FAC believes that mentoring of junior faculty members is an issue deserving of more attention by the Administration and departments.

Fifth, several nonreappointment cases in recent years involved faculty spousal hires. Currently, FAC is reviewing data on spousal hires supplied by the Provost's office. The FAC is attempting to ascertain whether nonreappointment or voluntary resignation rates of spousal hires are greater than those of new hires as a whole. It is FAC's sense that there is a problem with spousal hires. Often these people do not undergo the rigorous scrutiny of regular job applicants, and their success may be considered less important by senior department members.

Finally, FAC issued a formal response to the Chancellor on the draft report of the Sexual Harassment Task Force. FAC agrees that this issue needed top level attention and commends the Administration for commissioning the task force. FAC recognizes that this topic touches upon many peoples' core values and their innermost feelings of propriety. It causes discomfort in some just to discuss the implications of this issue. Nonetheless, FAC's analysis of the draft report took issue with one assertion: the banning of all romantic relationships between faculty members and either students or administrators. FAC questioned the notion put forward in the draft report of "unequal power" that exists between a faculty member and a student or a faculty member and an administrator when a romantic relationship occurs. FAC believes a banning of relationships is extreme and probably unenforceable, and that this issue needs more debate campuswide.

The FAC is fortunate to have the services of Christa Pritchard, staff assistant to the Committee. She has a superb understanding of past business of the Committee, maintains excellent records and frequently serves as initial intake officer for faculty members seeking FAC's assistance.

Respectfully submitted,

    1997-98 Committee
    Ronald J. Peters, Chair
    C. Reid Alexander
    Cleora J. D'Arcy
    Harold G. Diamond
    Janet S. Gaffney
    Edwin E. Herricks
    Nancy P. O'Brien
    Sarahelen R. Thompson
    William J. Tranquilli

    1998-99 Committee
    C. Reid Alexander, Chair
    Roger E. Cannaday
    Cleora J. D'Arcy
    Harold G. Diamond
    Janet S. Gaffney
    Herman Krier
    Nancy P. O'Brien
    Ronald J. Peters
    Stanley Wasserman

The Committee's Articles of Procedure are attached.

November 1998