MU faculty trying new grievance process

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri in Columbia and two other UM system campuses have been trying a new grievance process for the past two years, and will vote soon on whether to make the pilot process permanent.

Critics of the new process say not one faculty member has actually won a case since the process went into effect, according to The Columbia Daily Tribune.

Under the pilot process, a faculty member files a complaint against a superior, usually a department chair or dean, and the panel reviews the case to make sure it fits university criteria. Of the nine grievances filed under the new process, four have been dismissed at this stage.

If a case is accepted, the panel then collects evidence and interviews those involved before making a decision. That’s a switch from the former process, which required a grievance officer to collect that evidence and turn it over to an all-faculty panel. The new process lasts about three months; the old system could drag a grievance on for years.

Under both processes, the chancellor has the power to veto the panel’s decision. The new model, though, adds an oversight committee to make sure procedures are followed and to track the chancellor’s final decision.

Faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and University of Missouri-St. Louis have already approved the plan, and professors on the Rolla campuses voted it down. Three of the four campuses must approve it for the grievance process to be implemented systemwide.

About a dozen Missouri faculty members issued an open letter calling the process “fundamentally flawed” and asking faculty to vote against continuing it.

The most common complaint about the pilot grievance process is that an administrator — Deputy Provost Ken Dean — is a member of the three-member grievance panel. Having an administrator on board gives the committee an administrative viewpoint during the review, which some say is an advantage.

However, a recent faculty forum on the topic drew only 15 people.

Lack of interest could stem from a lack of familiarity with the process, said math Professor Stephen Montgomery-Smith.

“When you haven’t dealt with it, you assume that everything is fine and it is just a few whiners who are complaining,” he said. “But once you do go through it, it is a very painful experience, made more so because people often only learn how loaded the process is when they finally get to the end.”

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