IvyLee Rosario – News Writer –
The American Association of University of Professors has filed a grievance against the administration based on confusion brought up within the process of tenure, said the AAUP Chapter President for Southern Dr. Michael Shea.
“No matter what the outcome,” said Shea, “both we, President Papazian, and Provost Kennedy see the need for a university-wide discussion about how we conduct the tenure process. We need to discuss procedures and mostly go over clarification—not making changes.”
The AAUP is a professional organization that ensures that professional standards are upheld in the university for faculty and student learning.
According to the AAUP’s website, “The AAUP’s purpose is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good.”
The grievance was filed to reexamine the tenure contract within the university to ensure that the faculty understands what the process entails and that there is no confusion regarding their positions throughout the process.
“I believe this grievance will be helpful in a way that the institution as a whole—both faculty and administration—will have a better understanding about promotion and tenure,” said Linda Cunningham, a membership services coordinator for the AAUP. “Faculty shouldn’t have any surprises and I hope the grievance will lead us in that direction.”
The grievance procedure is a three-step process that provides ways to resolve the issue being filed. The university is currently in step three, which could take between six and eight weeks.
The first step allows the professor who is having the issue to go his or her department chair or director and attempt to solve the grievance.
If no action is taken on behalf of this individual, then the next step is a written grievance. At this point, the union can file a written grievance notifying the Provost of the university of the need to formally meet and resolve the issue.
The last step, if the grievance cannot otherwise be resolved, the union can elect to take the matter to arbitration where a final and binding decision is made. An arbitrator is chosen from an agreed-upon panel to hear the case.
“I help interpret the collective bargaining agreement between the faculty and the administration,” said Steve Larocco, contract administrator for AAUP, “and in this case I am acting as the grievance officer, the person who argues the grievance on behalf of the union.”
This grievance was filed as a chapter instead of as an individual grievance against a particular person in the administration.
The AAUP union was made to protect professors in their research and to preserve the intellectual freedom they have in teaching students. The job of professors is to create knowledge and discover new things in their specific fields, said Shea.
The grievance against the administration was filed due to a difference of opinion regarding the expectations at the end of the tenure process.
“The past years have never been such a difference with so many people,” said Cunningham. “There has been a difference in details but not so divergent as this year.”
The most important part of the AAUP is to make sure everyone is on the same page and to ensure that faculty are able to follow through with their own research and teachings the way they think will be best for themselves and their students.
“Discovering new ideas can be very exciting and dangerous,” said Shea, “but we don’t want people to get rid of a certain professor because they think differently than others or that person has unpopular ideas.”