At Tuesday’s faculty meeting, 77% of faculty voted to approve a motion to integrate the Committee of Grievance and the Procedural Integral Committee, subject to language changes. “Sometimes the scope of the charges of the two committees is overlapping,” said Steven Sloman, professor of cognitive science and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee.
According to the Faculty Rules and Regulations, the PIC reviews “denials of promotion, tenure and reappointment for procedural integrity” and “submits its finding … to (the Tenure, Promotions and Appointments Committee), to the Provost or to the President.” On the other hand, the Grievance Committee resolves issues “relating to violations of Brown University policies, including those concerning academic freedom and research integrity.”
The charges of these committees may overlap, especially when a faculty member believes that a denied promotion is because of an academic freedom violation, Sloman said.
“This is a problem because we can have two committees coming to different resolutions that conflict,” he added. “It can (also) lead to redundant and complicated document requests.”
This change comes at a time when academic freedom is a concern for many faculty members. On Nov. 7, faculty members delivered a letter to President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 urging her to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and “affirm and advocate for the protection and ability of our students, staff and faculty to speak up for Palestinian human rights without censorship or intimidation.”
Paxson responded to some demands at the Nov. 7 faculty meeting: “I wholeheartedly agree that there should be no ‘Palestinian exception’ to freedom of expression … (and) there are no exceptions to Brown’s clearly articulated policy on academic freedom and freedom of expression for views on any issue,” she said.
The new combined committee would have seven members, compared to the current five members on the Committee on Grievance and four members on the PIC. The Committee on Grievance has “only dealt with two or three cases per year,” and the PIC has “had a total of three cases over the past two years,” Sloman said. “It doesn't seem to us that asking for a single committee to do both of those workloads would be overly burdensome.”
Some faculty members expressed concerns over specific language in the motion. Specifically, one section of the motion, which was read by Dean of the Faculty Leah VanWey, states that “should the body or bodies reject the recommendations of the committee there should be an opportunity to meet and provide a response. At the conclusion of the process if the agreement has not been reached, the body or bodies will state in writing and point by point reasons for rejecting the committee's recommendations. If the committee disagrees with the reasons, that case shall go to the Provost for a final decision.” The Herald was not able to independently receive a copy of the motion to confirm its specific language.
Sloman explained that the rationale for this change was to document any disagreements and to ensure that “decisions had a little more weight.”
“It is in accordance with the standards of the (American Association of University Professors) that bodies such as a grievance committee (make) recommendations (that) are as binding as possible,” Chair of German Studies and FEC Vice Chair Kristina Mendicino said.
“One way to ensure that there is accountability on the part of those who choose to ignore the recommendations of the Grievance Committee is to require that a conversation take place and that reasons be stated in writing,” she added.
VanWey proposed that the language could be replaced to make more clear that a meeting should occur between the body that rejects the committee’s recommendations and the committee.
Sloman suggested that this new committee would be headed by faculty that “had experience with promotion and tenure decisions,” including those who had served on TPAC and chaired a department. Associate Professor of Classics and History Amy Russell suggested that these examples should be added to the motion to provide clarity on committee leadership.
The motion to merge the Committee on Grievance and the PIC will be revised in the coming weeks to include these changes.
Ryan Doherty is a Section Editor covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating in chemistry and economics who likes to partially complete crosswords in his free time.