The Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities will start hearing faculty grievances again after endorsing a joint statement with the Faculty Senate and the University administration at last Thursday's faculty meeting, according to CFRR member Aida Wong (FA). The statement elaborates upon the roles of the CFRR, the dean and the provost with regard to the Faculty Handbook.

According to the statement, "If the Academic Dean rejects a specific judgment of the CFRR, he or she must give a substantive reason for the rejection, fully and fairly addressing the arguments made by the CFRR in support of its opinion." Grounds for rejecting an opinion of the CFRR cannot be cited as precedent in future cases, according to the statement. The statement also said that "the CFRR interprets the Handbook on behalf of the faculty, and faculty have a right to rely on CFRR's interpretations of Handbook rules and procedures as being the interpretation of the faculty."

"There are going to be some difficult faculty discussions around the [Curriculum and Academic Restructuring Steering committee] recommendations, and we did not want this unresolved issue between CFRR and the administration to hang over those discussions," Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe wrote in an e-mail to the Justice. Provost Marty Krauss added that it is important "to have a functioning mechanism for resolving [disputes regarding CARS recommendations] or at least processing them."

The resolution comes two years after a dispute arose between the respective parties over penalties placed on Prof. Donald Hindley (POL) for allegedly making racist remarks. A monitor was placed in Hindley's classroom, and he was also ordered to attend anti-discrimination training. The CFRR deemed the penalties were excessive and should be withdrawn, but Krauss did not follow the CFRR's ruling and said in March 2008 that the CFRR was an "advisory committee, as it says in the [Faculty] Handbook." The CFRR decided to defer hearing faculty grievances untill its role regarding the Faculty Handbook had been clarified as a result of the confusion regarding the roles of the respective parties.

"It is only reasonable that, despite the disagreement, both sides may be correct; then, instead of saying that the administration is always the more correct party, we agreed that in fact the opinion of the administration [would not be the basis for judging] future cases in these extraordinary circumstances where they disagree with CFRR," Wong said.

"The key point to the joint statement is that, essentially, if disagreement happens, the interpretation of the CFRR will still stand and it will still represent the opinion of the faculty," she explained.

Previously, there was some confusion regarding whether the decision of the committee reflected the opinions of its members or the faculty as a whole. Although the final decision on how to resolve a dispute still lies with the provost, Wong said that now "no matter what the provost decides to do, that the process we undergo to hear grievances would result in an opinion that represents the faculty's opinion."

According to the statement, "To resolve differences of opinion, the Dean shall work prospectively with the CFRR and the Senate to clarify or change the Handbook." In an e-mail to the Justice, Jaffe explained, "If the Handbook is producing a result that is not in the best interests of the university, we would want to change it. Changing it requires a vote of the faculty and approval by the Board of Trustees." Jaffe also wrote, "It has always been our practice to consult with the CFRR and get their views. We will continue to do so."

The released statement will not be included in the Faculty Handbook because "it is a statement of practice under the Handbook, not a part of the Handbook itself," Jaffe wrote. "[The statement] is an elaboration and clarification of the positions and a pledge from all parties to respect the handbook. It's not equivalent to the handbook, but it's a pledge to the spirit of the handbook," Wong said.

Wong said that "[the statement] is an elaboration of the Handbook, which is a contract for faculty, ...something that faculty agreed upon when they join[ed] the University [and is binding as long as they maintain their status as faculty]."

However, Krauss said, "I don't know if [the statement] has legal standing-it represents a consensus statement between the administration and the faculty."

"I'm very pleased that we came to a resolution. It was difficult to have this unresolved for so long; it's good for the University to have this resolved," Krauss said.