Faculty grievances remain at low level

Report: Effective campus processes in place; faculty insecurity may be factor

A Faculty Council committee report indicates a low number of faculty grievances this year, a rate that reflects effective processes on campuses – and possibly faculty insecurity.

Clayton Lewis, chair of the Privilege and Tenure Committee, presented (via phone) the report during the Faculty Council’s March 15 meeting at 1800 Grant St. In the current academic year, three grievances have been filed – two at the University of Colorado Boulder, one at the University of Colorado Denver. Two inquiries – CU-Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus – took place but did not lead to grievances. No cases are currently active.

“The low rate reflects, in part, more effective grievance and settlement processes on the campuses,” the report reads. “It may also reflect faculty insecurity.”

Because of the current budget climate, Lewis said, “Maybe faculty don’t feel this is the time to put their heads above the parapet, so to speak.”

Still, Lewis said that the committee is effective and efficient in its mission, which is to provide faculty members a hearing for grievances involving perceived violations of rights or privileges – a due-process vehicle.

He also said issues are being dealt with early, so they don’t have the chance to grow into grievances.

“On the Boulder campus, for instance, we know it’s not that there aren’t any problems, but more are being handled at a lower level – which is terrific,” he said.

Room for improvement across the system remains, too, he said. The committee and University Counsel continue to review proposed changes to Board of Regents policy, including development of a fast-track process.

Attention may be needed for a new policy as well, Lewis said: how best to handle situations when a faculty member is grappling with mental health or substance abuse problems.

“Options for intervention are limited when faculty have mental health or substance abuse problems,” the report states.

University of Colorado Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak brought the issue to the attention of the committee. CU Denver’s Bill Cherowitzo is working with University Counsel on addressing the challenge.

In other action at the March 15 Faculty Council meeting:

  • CU President Bruce Benson spoke in his role as head of the Faculty Senate, talking about budget issues and taking questions from faculty. He complimented the Boulder Faculty Assembly for leading an analysis of how raises were distributed to faculty, staff and administration earlier in the year. “It shows there was no biases in the raises – that this was a fair deal,” Benson said.
  • Faculty Council Chair Mark Malone said he is asking chairs of the campus faculty assemblies for comments on Colorado House Bill 1252, which seeks more detailed information in the financial data reported by institutions of higher education. One aspect is a searchable database that would include faculty salaries, class loads and other information. Malone is gathering input to take to the next Board of Regents meeting in April.