Wednesday, January 29

UCLA faculty apprehensive about proposed changes to conduct policy

News, UC

James Chalfant, chair of the University of California Academic Senate, started soliciting comments about proposed changes to faculty conduct and discipline policies. (Mackenzie Possee/Assistant Photo editor)

Some UCLA faculty said they were concerned about potential changes to faculty conduct and sexual assault policy.

The University of California Academic Senate proposed a revision to the Academic Personnel Manual and its bylaws to specify that sexual violence and harassment violate the faculty code of conduct. Other proposed revisions would establish a shorter timeline for discipline proceedings.

The systemwide senate proposed the changes based on recommendations from the UC Joint Committee of the Administration and Academic Senate on investigation and adjudication processes for sexual harassment and sexual violence. UC President Janet Napolitano convened the committee in October 2015 to examine how the UC manages disciplinary proceedings for faculty respondents in cases alleging sexual assault, violence or harassment, referred to as SVSH.

The joint committee submitted recommendations to Napolitano in two reports in April and July, all of which she agreed to follow. The senate began reviewing the revisions in September. The systemwide review solicited comments from the academic senates of individual campuses.

Susan Cochran, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate, said the systemwide senate assembly requested comments on Sept. 22, which UCLA’s senate passed on to its members.

“We transmitted a request for comments to various entities, such as committees of the senate,” Cochran said. “Faculty (can) forward their individual comments to the senate office and these will be included in our comments back to systemwide.”

The deadline to submit comments was Nov. 18.

Revisions to the Faculty Code of Conduct, or APM – 015, aim to clarify when the chancellor knows about an SVSH allegation, when the chancellor must initiate disciplinary action and how the chancellor informs the respondent of disciplinary action.

The proposal also added language explicitly stating that no time limit exists for someone to report an alleged violation of the conduct code.

James Chalfant, chair of the UC Academic Senate, said one of the joint committee’s findings was that many people misunderstood an existing three-year time limit. The limit referred to when a chancellor must notify a respondent of proposed disciplinary action, not a deadline for a person to report a violation.

“The new language simply clarifies that there has never been a time limit for bringing forth a complaint,” Chalfant said.

Proposed changes to the University Policy on Faculty Conduct and the Administration of Discipline, or APM – 016, would require the chancellor to inform a faculty member within five days of placing him or her on involuntary leave of the reasons for the leave, when charges might be brought and when the leave might end.

In a letter on behalf of the committee, Areti Tillou, chair of the Faculty Welfare Committee of the UCLA Academic Senate, said its members were concerned about the statement clarifying the lack of a time limit for bringing forth a complaint.

“Although the committee understands that limitation provision may be strict on victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment, members do not see the reason for extending this no limitation standard to all alleged violations,” Tillou said.

Tillou added the revision did not require an anticipated end date for the involuntary leave, which might give the chancellor authority to keep faculty members in a state of involuntary leave for an extended period of time.

Alistair Cochran, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate’s Committee of Privilege and Tenure, said in submitted comments that committee members found the removal of a time limit for reporting complaints unworkable.

“Generally, time limits for complaint processes serve a good purpose both because evidence and witnesses may become more unreliable and because addressing older, more difficult-to-address complaints could only serve to slow responsiveness to more current complaints,” he said.

Jody Kreiman, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate’s Academic Freedom Committee, said in the committee’s comments that members opposed giving administrators the power to place faculty on paid leave with minimal involvement from the academic senate and giving the UC president the power to place faculty on involuntary unpaid leave.

“The problem is that putting somebody on involuntary leave in many cases gives the administration extreme leverage in settlement negotiations, especially if the faculty member cannot conduct his or her research without using university resources,” Kreiman said.

Chalfant said the systemwide senate could make further revisions based on comments from campus academic senates, or move forward to adopt the current language as policy.

The UC Academic Senate aims to finish the process of amending policies and bylaws by the end of the academic year.


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