Policy Board Minutes—12 April 2017

3:30 p.m.

UC 402/3


PB members: Nola Agha, Rachel Brahinsky, Brandon Brown, Robin Buccheri, Suparna Chakraborty, Jennifer Dever, Joe Garity, Sharon Gmelch, Candice Harrison, Malik Henfield, Richard Johnson III, Gabe Maxson, Elliot Neaman, Mary Jane Niles, Meera Nosek, Julia Orri, Stefan Rowniak, Steve Roddy, Calla Schmidt, Claire Sharifi, Brian Weiner


USFFA members: Kathy Coll, Amie Dowling, Lilian Dube, Tony Fels, Kathy Nasstrom, Charlotte Roh, James Taylor, Annick Wibben.




  1.          The Awards and Retirement dinner will be held on May 6th. We will send out a list of retirees and ask for confirmation due to limited seating. An Evite has been sent out. Next year we will be at the Shattuck Hotel in Berkeley, which seats 200 people.

(Please note that we have since added a second dinner on May 7th to accommodate the larger-than-usual number of people who expressed an interest in attending the dinner).

  1.          Retroactive pay will be added to the April or May paycheck (most likely May). All other items in the contract are now active. Retroactive pay of 2% per month will be added, going back to in July for librarians and September 2016 for faculty.


  1.          The new CBA currently is being red-lined and we hope to get it posted online by the beginning of June and get a hard copy to our members by the end of June.


  1.          Tenure and Promotion info sessions will be held on 15 and 16 May


  1.          15 May is the deadline for pre and post-sabbatical awards (50K available in each fund).


  1.          Next PB will be 10 May (UC 402/3) instead of May 3 (due to Service and Merits Awards).


  1.                                  New Business


  1.         Term faculty—Matula. Ted said that a term faculty was renewed for three years after completing a three year contract during which she was promoted. Past practice recognized newly promoted faculty with a longer contract in such circumstances. Neaman said that according to the provost there is no new policy except that he asks the deans to provide a rationale for new contracts. We will monitor all new contract renewals to see if in fact there is a change in policy.


  1.         PB Member Comment—Brahinsky. Brahinsky proposed that PB meetings open with a short time for members to bring up new issues to PB. She suggests each meeting include a standing spot on the agenda that reserves space for member comment, to improve communication with the membership, and potentially increase participation by the membership. She also would like the minutes to record USFFA members who attend PB as “union members,” rather than guests. Neaman thought that these were good ideas. Niles agreed. The new policies will be implemented.


  1.         Recusal issueNeaman. Neaman said that he will chair the discussion despite a recusal request, but someone from PB could put a motion on the table for an alternate discussion chair if desired. No such motion was put forward. Neaman said that it was important for PB to establish a policy that addresses both the rights of the peer review committees and the rights of the applicants. Neaman had distributed a memo with three possible policy options and relevant documents. At the December 7, 2016 meeting PB voted to create a policy for situations in which a candidate would like to request recusal of a committee member. Neaman stated that in his view the main issue is to determine the best means to achieve that goal.


Neaman stated that the UPRC had proposed that candidates should not be permitted to request any member of the peer review committee to recuse himself or herself. Neaman asked Annick Wibben, a current member of the APRC and UPRC, if that was correct. She asked him to read the original signed statement by 14 of 15 members of the UPRC from January 2017. Neaman read this statement aloud:


The members of peer-review committees are elected by union members who have entrusted them to make critical decisions with integrity.  It is understood that if a peer-review member recognizes a conflict that may prevent them from making an impartial decision, that this member will recuse them self.  The committee believes that the process of recusal should only be initiated voluntarily by a committee member themself and not by a candidate, union official(s), or administration to insure the integrity of the peer review process as outlined in the CBA.


Agha asked for clarification. She asked how often do requests for recusal occur? Neaman said that recently there was a case in 2015 and two in 2016-17 and probably some that were settled without any communication with him.


Dowling said that a recusal request calls into question the peer review process since the committees, which are elected bodies, follow the CBA guidelines. Wibben said that the committees spend a large amount of time ensuring that the criteria in the CBA are met by the candidates for tenure and / or promotion. PRC members are elected by their peers and they take their work very seriously. Wibben said that any member would be especially careful if she or he had a prior conflict of interest with a candidate. She added that now the whole process is being called into question and that the fact that serving on the committee now means that one’s integrity could be called into question by anyone (especially given the second recusal request after the December 2016 meeting), means that it would be hard to find people to serve on the committee.


      Brown said he was sympathetic to the perspective of the PR committees, but stated that a clearly written set of recusal guidelines, shared with committees and candidates alike, could only help in future cases. Buccheri said that she has served on both the college-wide and university-wide peer committees and observed that there is a formal step missing in the current practice and suggested that an e-mail should be sent from the college-wide peer review chairs to each individual committee member and from the university-wide peer review co-chairs to each individual committee member asking (prior to meeting):  “Can you consider the merits of each application without prejudice?  If not, please notify me of the application for which you wish to recuse yourself.”  


Wibben said that these questions are addressed through a self-recusal process instigated by the PR committee chairs. Agha liked Buccheri’s suggestion and referred to the UC Berkeley document distributed by Neaman which outlines exact criteria for when a recusal must take place. She said that in the Berkeley Model committee members must recuse themselves in those cases; it is not voluntary. Agha stated that bias does exist in some cases. Wibben asked how bias would be determined – given that this is a highly charged category? Johnson III asked how a PR committee member would know in some cases if the applicant does not bring it up?


      Weiner said we have already begun thinking about a policy that is based on the appearance of fairness and integrity, even when there is no obvious case of conflict of interest. He said that the candidate should have the sense right from the beginning that his or her application is protected from any conflict of interest or bias.


      Dever said that this is a slippery slope if based only on appearance of bias and that we need to let the process stand as is, since there is a grievance process already in place. Neaman said that we have an obligation to protect our members beforehand, since the grievance process is an uphill battle to undo what has already been done.


       Fels asked why we should assume the worst of people? There are, in his view, legitimate occasions when the impartiality of the peer review committee should be called into question.  Most candidates are not out to manipulate the process, he noted, but there needs to be procedures in place when a recusal is necessary.


     Nasstrom asked if the system is not broken, why fix it?  Chakraborty looked for a middle ground. She asked what if there was public knowledge of a conflict–could that be shared with the committee members? This could give both sides a chance to assure transparency. Brown asked if the request could be made to the chair of the relevant committee. He was concerned about confidentiality. Agha added that, from the perspective of someone going through the process, all power is in the hands of the PR committee members. She said that it is not easy to raise the recusal issue. She also brought up the issue of rights, specifically the right to ask for recusal. Shouldn’t there at least be the basic right for an applicant to ask?


     Harrison said that conflicts of interest are easy to identify but it is difficult to identify bias and prejudice. One needs special training, and experts should be consulted for any policy PB establishes. Wibben said that the current process works very well as is, evidenced by the fact that most people get tenured and promoted.


Fels said that there were other victims besides the PR committee members who feel their integrity is being called into question. There are also the applicants to consider.


     Neaman asked PB to consider the three options as well as the “leave as is” option. Brown wanted clarification on the “leave as is” option. Weiner said that at the Dec. 7 PB meeting we voted to establish policies and procedures, beyond “leave as is”. He emphasized that the vote had a broad consensus. Schmidt said we need to clarify the circumstances of recusal.


     Roddy asked why the lawyers who were consulted about this said that the grievance process does not adequately protect our members? Neaman answered that it is very hard to win a grievance. The lawyers’ and consultant’s position is that we could be liable as a union if we do not protect our members all along the various steps of the peer review process, not just at the end.


Dube expressed how emotionally difficult her request for a recusal was in the Fall of 2016.


Taylor said that the union does not protect the members of the PR committee when there is a stigma associated with a recusal request. He stated that there is nothing wrong with the current process. Taylor expressed how emotionally damaging the recusal request had been for him personally.


     Brown said that he felt terrible about seeing the effects on our members in last year’s recusal requests. The idea of a new policy would be to avoid such a recurrence in the future.


     Gmelch added that the candidate should be able to write a statement outlining that they have potential issues with a member of the committee. Neaman said that this could be considered—similar to the Berkeley document. Brown asked who would receive the statement? This could involve confidentiality issues. Chakraborty said that the burden is on the chair of the committee. Neaman said he had checked with the highest levels of USF’s HR department and was told no confidentiality rules were broken in the Fall 2016 cases.


     Harrison said that real injury results from these conflicts. Weiner said that while very true, we have to take into consideration the legal aspects as well.


      Charlotte Roh observed that, as a new probationary librarian, she felt the need for a recusal policy for untenured faculty – on the basis of a traditional conflict of interest definition. She said that when a judge recuses her- or himself  due to a conflict of interest there is no stigma attached. It is seen as the right thing to do. Why should that be any different at USF?


      Brahinsky suggested not voting on a policy today and suggested a committee should be formed with someone trained in dealing with bias. She added that the process should have real integrity. Weiner said we should not consider the issue based upon particular cases but rather a general policy for possible future cases.


    Neaman agreed that we are not ready yet to vote and a task force may be a good idea. He suggested we need to come up with the best categories of expertise of potential members for any future task force.


The meeting was adjourned at 17:07.


Submitted by Julia Orri

USFFA-FT Secretary