Faculty Handbook Appendix- F FAQ: Conflict Resolution

Faculty Handbook Appendix- F FAQ: Conflict Resolution

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This appendix of the Faculty Handbook is designed to be helpful in providing illustrative guidance across a variety of situations related to Conflict Resolution.
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Appendix-F FAQ: Conflict Resolutions

Disclaimer

The “best practices” in this Appendix shall not be viewed as the “only allowable” practices, or as encouragement in a particular situation to diverge from the terms of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies. This FAQ is designed to be helpful in providing illustrative guidance across a variety of situations, but the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies and any other relevant official UAB policies supersede this FAQ in all cases. Further, this FAQ is not an official interpretation of such handbook or policies, nor are the suggestions in this FAQ official policies of UAB.

In most cases, differences and issues that faculty have can be resolved through several mechanisms that include discussions with departmental and school/college faculty affairs committees, chairs and deans and their designee, and the UAB Human Resources department and interactions with Student Services and the Graduate Dean's Office. The grievance policy allows a faculty member to address important issues that cannot be resolved through these lower level mechanisms and should be reserved for use in otherwise unresolvable situations. The FAQ and flow chart below provide guidance as to when it is appropriate to use each remediation/intervention mechanism.

  1. What is the purpose of this FAQ?

    The purpose of this FAQ (frequently asked questions) document is to provide guidance to anticipated questions regarding resolution of work-related conflicts. Members of our university community inevitably will have disagreements, both inside and outside of the exchange of criticism and ideas that are a part of academic life. This FAQ, developed by the UAB Faculty Policies and Procedures Committee (FPPC), is applicable only to UAB faculty members. The FAQ is not official policy or procedure but is intended as a helpful guide to direct faculty to such policies.

  2. Where is guidance for conflict resolution?

    Usually, the first step in resolving conflict is to determine whether the behavior of another individual violates a standard of behavior set by UAB for its community members. There are a variety of policies describing the behavior expected of and toward faculty members, including Section 3.6 of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies and the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct. If a faculty member believes that another individual has violated a standard of conduct in any such policy, then he or she should first seek to resolve the dispute informally with the other individual. If resolution is not possible, then the faculty member should pursue the matter with his or her Chair. In some, but not all cases, a policy may have a specific conflict resolution mechanism. As described below, for example, the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies, defines certain complaints as “grievances” and provides a specific mechanism for reaching resolution of those complaints. Additional guidance may be sought with the UAB Ombuds Office, which is a neutral, independent, confidential resource available to all UAB faculty. This office does not act in any official capacity on behalf of either side in a conflict.

  3. What is a grievance?

    The dictionary definition of a “grievance” is a formal expression of a cause of distress, such as an unsatisfactory working condition, felt to afford reason for complaint or resistance. 1 At UAB, grievance has been more narrowly defined in Section 2.19 of the Faculty Handbook as “an action or decision that has materially and/or adversely affected his or her professional faculty capacity at UAB and appears to have been reached unfairly, improperly, or in violation of University policy.” A grievance typically concerns a faculty member in conflict with another individual acting on behalf of the institution. Procedures to execute a grievance are outlined in Section 2.19.1 and Appendix A. The UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies requires that schools and colleges have their own policies for handling grievances at the unit level. As described elsewhere in this FAQ, there may be other policies that provide for mechanisms for resolution of certain disputes, such as reappointment, promotion, or the granting of tenure.

  4. What is not a grievance?

    There are various actions, decisions, or conflicts that are excluded from being grievances at UAB. Section 2.19 outlines the specific instances which are not considered grievances within UAB policy, and the decision tree in Figure 1 applies criteria in 2.19 to determine if the action or decision is a grievance. The remainder of the FAQ addresses each type of action or decision with a process of conflict resolution, both those that are based on a “grievance” and those that are not based on a grievance but nonetheless have a resolution mechanism provided, such as an “appeal” of a denial of reappointment, promotion, or granting of tenure. UAB encourages informal resolution of all conflicts, whether or not considered “grievances.”

  5. What if the action or decision involved reappointment, promotion, or tenure?

    Section 2.17 of the Faculty Handbook describes the appeal procedures for a negative decision of promotion, tenure, or reappointment. Promotion is described in Section 2.16, while tenure is described Section 2.15. Reappointment and non-reappointment of non-tenured faculty are located in Section 2.13 while termination of employment of tenured faculty are addressed in Section 2.18.

  6. What if the action or decision involved a judgment of professional qualifications of a faculty member?

    Assessment of professional qualifications are usually determined within an academic unit by faculty peers or unit administration. If the action or decision clearly breached ethical standards of the university, then it may be grievable. A faculty member may also seek advice from the Ombuds Office.

  7. What if the action or decision involved termination?

    In most cases, termination of the employment of non-tenured faculty occurs by non-renewal of an appointment, for which notice is required in accordance with Section 2.13.3 of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies. Terminations for non-tenured faculty prior to the end of an appointment are covered in Section 2.13.5. Terminations of the employment of tenured faculty are covered by Section 2.18 and Appendices B and C. Any request for reconsideration of a tenure or promotion must be addressed through these mechanisms.

  8. What if the action or decision involved discrimination or harassment?

    Several types of harassment or discrimination are considered through other policies, and therefore, they are not “grievances” under this FAQ’s definition of “grievance.” The excluded actions include the following:

    Section 3.8 lists University policies addressing illegal discrimination including sexual harassment. As provided in the definition of “grievance” in Section 2.19 of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies, resolution of allegations of discrimination covered by such policies are handled pursuant to these policies and not as “grievances” in the Faculty Handbook.

    In the Equal Opportunity and Discriminatory Harassment Policy, both Sections B and C within the Policy are relevant to accusations. In the Title IX Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements are described in Section VII-D and VII-G and respondent investigation is described in Section XI-B. However, appeals in Title IX are addressed in Section V-D-2 of the Procedures for Resolution of Sexual Misconduct Complaints.

  9. What if the action or decision involved research misconduct?

    Ethical conduct in research and scholarly activity are covered in Section 3.5 of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies. Written appeals are described in item #8 of the description of investigation procedures within the Policy Concerning the Responsible Conduct of Research and Other Scholarly Activities.

  10. What if the action or decision involved dissatisfaction with existing policies, procedures, or guidelines?

    Disagreement with existing policies and procedures can and should be addressed within a department, school, college, or library or university. The UAB Faculty Senate may be helpful in seeking a long-term solution. Advice can also be sought from the Ombuds Office. Faculty initiated concerns have been frequent motivators for change and improvement within UAB.

    Note, if a policy, procedure, or guideline has been misapplied or otherwise unfairly employed, that action or decision may be grievable as described in Sections 2.19, 2.19.1, and Appendix A of the Faculty Handbook.

  11. What if the action or decision involved decisions made by administrators in the ordinary course of their administration?

    Administrative decisions made in the routine course of UAB business are not grievable unless the decision, or a history of decisions, have been reached unfairly, improperly, or as a misapplication of UAB policy or procedure, as provided in Section 2.19 of the Faculty Handbook and Policies. Examples of decisions that may not be grieved include assignment of effort in teaching, research, or service, allocation of resources or space. In cases of disagreement with such decisions, faculty should pursue resolution as informally and directly as possible within his or her department, school, college, or library. Advice can also be sought from the Ombuds Office. However, if the decisions were made on the basis of documented incorrect actions by an administrator and that administrator does not address the concerns, the decision may be grievable.

  12. What if the action or decision involved negative evaluations of an individual faculty member's professional work?

    A negative assessment of professional work is not “grievable,” unless the decision has been reached improperly through a misapplication of departmental, school, libraries, or UAB policy or procedure. If the assessment was part of an annual faculty evaluation, the appeals procedure outlined in Section 2.14.3 of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies is applicable. Note that a negative evaluation that constitutes violations of academic freedom (Section 3.2) may be grievable, as provided in Section 2.19 of the Faculty Handbook. Advice can also be sought from the Ombuds Office.

  13. What if a conflict is between faculty members?

    The grievance process is typically applicable when a faculty member has issue with an administration of the institution. If the other faculty member is acting in an administrative capacity relative to an action or decision resulting in conflict, then a grievance may be applicable. Faculty interactions are guided by the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct. Otherwise, consider conflict resolution within the unit or obtaining advice from the Ombuds Office.

  14. What if the action or decision involved dissatisfaction with a salary or other compensation decision?

    Unless policy has been applied unfairly or improperly, or a series of decisions that constitute an inappropriate or unfair application of policy, the grievance procedures do not apply. See Section 2.19 of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies. Therefore, compensation concerns should be addressed within the unit. Advice can also be obtained by contacting the Ombuds Office.

  15. What if the action or decision involved decisions made by UAB public safety officers with respect to a faculty member?

    Actions by the UAB Police and related safety officials within their capacity of their normal course of duty are not subject to the grievance policy, as provided in Section 2.19 of the UAB Faculty Handbook and Policies. Conflict resolution may involve or require personal legal consultation.

  16. What if the action or decision is perceived to be retaliation for reporting or raising concerns of wrongful conduct?

    Faculty are expected to report wrongful conduct within the UAB Enterprise and are protected from retaliation by the Duty to Report and Non-retaliation Policy. Retaliation in any form is prohibited at UAB and is inconsistent with the UAB Enterprise Code of Conduct. Concerns of retaliation for reporting or raising concerns of wrongful conduct may be brought to unit administration or by contacting the UAB Office of Compliance & Risk Assurance at 205-996-6540 or the UAB Ethics Hotline (these can initially be made anonymously). Specific non-retaliation provisions and procedures associated with discrimination, harassment, and/or Title IX violations are described in FAQ#8.


Figure 1

Figure 1. Decision tree for conflict resolution.

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“Grievance.” Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grievance. Accessed 02/16/2019.