Operating Paper Grievance in the College of Science

Last June, the SIUC Faculty Association-IEA/NEA brought a case concerning shared governance in the College of Science to a hearing before an arbitrator. This case is interesting not only because the Dean of the College of Science violated the amendment process for the College of Science Operating Paper – the event which precipitated the original grievance – but also because an arbitrator had to be brought in at considerable cost to the University in order to ensure that Dean Jay Means and Interim Provost Don Rice comply with the decision of Chancellor Samuel Goldman concerning this matter. As the arbitrator Daniel Nielsen stated in his ruling,

“Agents of the University engaged in frivolous tactics for the purpose of delaying and needlessly increasing the costs of grievance processing by refusing to implement the grievance settlement approved by the Chancellor on November 3, 2008.”

The case raises questions whose answers affect the whole University. Are SIUC administrators permitted to be insubordinate without penalty? Does the SIUC Chancellor have the authority to enforce his own directives? Is shared governance important to the SIUC administration?

Interference by the Dean in the COS operating paper amendment vote

In response to a request from the Provost’s Office, the College of Science Policy Committee, which is authorized to conduct such votes, brought language to amend the college Operating Paper to the Faculty of the College of Science for a vote at the end of Spring Semester 2008. The vote took place at the end of the semester and 58 of the 122 eligible Voting Faculty cast ballots. This presented a problem, since the COS operating paper requires a positive vote of 60% of the Voting Faculty in order to approve an amendment to the paper. The Chair of the COS Policy Committee decided to delay completion of the voting process until Fall Semester when enough additional faculty members could submit ballots.

Dean Jay Means apparently overruled this decision and the ballots were opened and counted. On July 16, 2008, Dean Means wrote to Provost Rice, telling him that among the total verified ballots, 50 were Yes and 4 No, and that consequently, the COS Policy Committee’s recommended language had been ratified by the COS Voting Faculty. On July 24, 2008 Provost Rice responded by approving the amendments.

Chancellor concurs with Faculty Association grievance

The faculty in the college received no notification of this approval until October 2008. In the meantime the altered operating paper was posted on the College of Science website. On October 20, 2008 the Faculty Association filed a grievance on behalf of faculty members in the college claiming that the approval of the operating paper amendment by the Provost without the required positive vote by 60% of the voting Faculty was in violation of the approval procedure in the College of Science Operating Paper and that the vote had to be redone, this time properly. On November 3, 2008, Chancellor Goldman responded to the grievance by concurring with the FA’s contention that the voting process was indeed flawed and had to be redone.

Delayed implementation by university administrators

However, the administration did not enforce the Chancellor’s decision. In particular, the altered operating paper was still posted on the College of Science website. Consequently, the Faculty Association contacted Chancellor Goldman on November 14, 2008 requesting that he take additional steps to ensure that his decision be carried out: that he instruct the Dean of the College of Science to remove the improperly amended operating paper from college archives and university web servers, and since the current operating paper gives the College Policy Committee the responsibility for overseeing seeing college-wide voting, that he charge this committee with this task.

Once again, there was no response. After repeated efforts by the Faculty Association to get the administration to carry out the Chancellor’s decision failed, the Faculty Association filed for arbitration at the end of February 2009. Finally, as the date of the arbitration hearing drew nearer, some action took place. At the end of May, the new improperly approved operating paper was finally removed from the website. And on June 3, less than three weeks before the scheduled arbitration hearing, the Chair of the Policy Committee received a letter from the Provost’s Office asking him to initiate a new review of the Operating Paper.

Conflicting testimony before the arbitrator

The arbitration hearing took place on June 22, 2009 before Daniel Nielsen, a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators appointed by the American Arbitration Association. The arbitrator sent copies of his July 21 award report to both parties. In this report, the arbitrator made a detailed summary of the testimony in the case and while focusing his discussion on the long delay in implementing the Chancellor’s decision, he notes,

“Whether this delay was ‘frivolous’ of course depends upon the reason. The record is not clear as to motives. The general tenor of the testimony from the Associate Provost [Susan Logue] would suggest that the reluctance of the Dean was the reason. That is the explanation Logue offered to Daneshdoost in April. Dean Means offered a quite different version of events in his testimony, explaining that he knew nothing of the settlement and that far from asking him to implement a settlement, Provost Rice had told him the University would be contesting the merits of the grievance in arbitration.”

Resistance to the Chancellor’s decision

The arbitrator lays out the basis for his award, continuing:

“Whatever the truth of events, the Chancellor’s decision was binding on both of these officials, and once he had granted the grievance neither the Dean nor the Provost had the right to ignore or subvert his decision. The effort to do so was a frivolous act, in that it could not alter the outcome of the grievance procedure.

“Given the futility of resisting the Chancellor’s decision in the grievance procedure, the only possible result of these tactics would be delay and increased costs in grievance processing. The only reason the matter was filed for arbitration was the refusal to implement the settlement. The only reason the arbitration hearing went forward was the dispute over the delaying tactics…. Without regard to whether it was Dean Means or Provost Rice who tangled the settlement for seven months, it is clear that the involvement of the arbitrator was primarily due to the frivolous tactics of the University.”

As a consequence of the frivolous delaying tactics of administration officials, the arbitrator award assessed all costs of the arbitration against the University.

Faculty concerns

While the proposed amendment to the College of Science Operating Paper might not be controversial, the way the vote over this amendment was handled has serious repercussions for shared governance in the college and university. One also has to wonder whether faculty members would be allowed to ignore or subvert the decisions of the Chancellor or other management officials with such impunity. What does this say about the status of faculty and the importance of shared governance?