Policy Board Minutes—13 Sept 2017
PB members: Nola Agha, Rachel Brahinsky, Brandon Brown, Robin Buccheri, Doreen Ewert, Joe Garity, Candice Harrison, Richard Johnson III, EJ Jung, Dorothy Kidd, Gabe Maxson, Matt Monnot, Elliot Neaman, Gleb Nikitenko, Mary Jane Niles, Meera Nosek, Julia Orri, Sonya Poole, Steve Roddy, Calla Schmidt, Claire Sharifi, Betty Taylor, Brian Weiner
USFFA-FT members: Kathleen Coll, Justine Withers, Kathy Nasstrom, Lillian Dube, Christina Purpora
USFFA-PT member: John Higgins
1. Minutes from 30 August 2017 were unanimously approved.
A. Trustees Dinner: Neaman reminded members of the dinner with the Executive Committee of the USF Board of Trustees this coming Friday, September 15, at 6pm.
B. Post-sabbatical Merit Award Committee. Weiner renewed his call for volunteers to serve on this committee, explaining that the Committee would meet on Wednesday, September 27. The following members agreed to serve, along with Weiner: Brown (Sciences), Maxson, Agha (Arts), Johnson (SOM), Taylor (SOE), Sharifi (Gleeson). There also will be a volunteer from SONHP.
C. Faculty and Staff Lounge: a range of concerns have been voiced lately regarding food quality, price, crowding, etc. Weiner explained that he is in touch with someone in Bon Appetit regarding the food quality.
D. Peer Review of teaching in the School of Management: Neaman explained that he had been in touch with Poole, and Comiran regarding this matter. Poole said that if a disclaimer is added to the worksheet/form that is to be completed during the observation, it would be okay. The peer review exercise is voluntary but the concern remains that junior faculty might feel pressured to participate. Poole said she would produce a draft of the disclaimer. Johnson III said that in the SOM the sheet is voluntary—not meant to be punitive. Taylor asked about the purpose of the observation. Johnson III shared a copy of the sheet. He said that people have the right to be concerned. Ewert said that in her department they have to observe over 100 adjuncts with the need to determine teaching quality in advance of re-hiring.
E. USFFA-FT budget: Neaman said that work on a budget is in progress.
F. Arts Representative: Neaman mentioned that there is an opening in Arts for Policy Board rep. A call for nominations / election will be held in that Division. He added that the USFFA-FT website will be updated to reflect the new PB membership.
3. Open Forum.
A. Jung asked that the USFFA-FT put together a statement, to be sent to the University community, supporting DACA, similar to those statements put forth by AFT, and by the University President. Jung agreed to draft such a statement. A motion to draft such a letter was seconded and approved unanimously.
4. Unfinished business—Neaman.
A. Conflict of Interest Proposal (Language from Brandon and Brian).
At the beginning of the discussion the issue arose as to whether or not to stipulate that such a document should be signed by every PRC member. A discussion began. Brown was not totally in favor of signatures, but did not have a strong opinion either way. He asked if we need a new policy on recusal requests from applicants as well? Agha said that this was the crux—does the applicant have the right to ask for a recusal? Do we feel this document, to be used internally, is sufficient to protect the applicant?
The following language is based on a draft of the document presented to the board and modified as a result of the discussion. It is still a DRAFT:
Conflict of Interest Document for Peer Review Committees
Members of the Peer Review Committee may recuse themselves from participation in the discussion of applications and may abstain from voting on recommendations. Recusal is an entirely voluntary act.
Please ask yourself the following question: Could any condition interfere with your ability to make a judgment that would not be fair and impartial? If so, please notify the chair of your Peer Review Committee of the application for which you wish to recuse yourself.
The conditions under which a recusal may apply could include the following:
1. The TPPRC member
a) has or has had a family relationship with one of the parties involved in the peer review process.
b) has or has had a sexual and or romantic relationship with one or more of the parties involved in the peer review process.
c) has or has had close collaboration in research (e.g., a co-principal researcher or co-author) and or teaching (e.g., co-teaching of courses) with one or more of the parties involved in the peer review process.
d) has or has had a personal or financial interest in one or more of the parties involved in the peer review process.
e) is aware of any prejudice, pro or con, that seems likely to impair his or her judgment in the case of one or more of the parties involved in the peer review process.
Buccheri proposed to rule out (c) since collaboration with colleagues were very common in the SONHP. Weiner said we could modify the language to make it less prohibitive. Brown said that (4) covers the problem addressed in (c). Maxson and Neaman suggested about using “regular” or “close collaborator” (this was added to the draft later). Monnot said that any bias, not just those listed here are the issue. Neaman said that we could leave (c) out entirely if need be. Johnson III did not want the document to be punitive. Schmidt said that the worst case scenario could be included in (d). Brown said that some areas faculty team teach a lot. Brahinsky said that we could add to the list, then combine (d) and (e). She said that we could eliminate (a) and (b) Jung asked to eliminate (c). Agha said that (c) would not prevent faculty collaboration, but is meant to remind a PRC member if they are too close to a candidate to make a decision without clear conflict of interest. Maxson said that this is an issue of conflict of interest. Garity suggested we use (e) exclusively since it covers all issues.
Roddy was against (c). He added that (d) is worded far too broadly, and should be revised or eliminated. Neaman agreed that (e) seems to contain all of the subcategories. He added that this list was inspired by what other universities and professions use in their recusal policies and are supposed to be a basis for discussion, not a comprehensive list. Kidd said that everyone needs to fully consider all of the ways that bias could occur.
Poole made a motion to include only the conditions of (a) or (b). Agha suggested that it be made clear the list is not comprehensive. Poole amended the motion to include some suggested conditions. Maxson said that the purpose of the document was that grounds for recusal are voluntary. Weiner said that this was explicit in Brown’s proposal. Kidd said that there is not a lot of training for the PRC; these decisions are very important and there should be more training.
Neaman suggested the language: “Members of the Peer Review Committee may recuse themselves from participation in the discussion of applications and may abstain from voting on recommendations. Recusal is an entirely voluntary act.” Neaman said in the past that there have been many cases of abstentions in voting for various reasons. Johnson III said that the word abstain is less harsh. Ewert said that we can not use the word abstention.
Brown suggested using both words “recuse from discussion and abstain from voting”. Weiner liked this. Neaman reminded the PB that we were over the time limit for discussing this item.
Dube said that self-recusal was good but what happens if there is no self-recusal? What are the recourses for the applicants? Jung said that in those cases the CBA has language for grievances. Agha said that we are dealing with two issues, one at a time. The first issue is internal to the peer review committees. The second step will be to develop a policy for applicants. Taylor asked about documents regarding ethics of the PRC. Johnson III said that in past years the PB talked about training for the PRC.
Maxson needed clarification about grievability. Neaman said that any violation of the CBA can be grieved, unless explicitly stated in the CBA. Some issues cannot be grieved, and the CBA makes that clear or offers an alternative to grievance. Neaman added that the PRC only makes recommendations; the final decision on tenure and promotion is made by the administration. Maxson asked what the criteria is for settling a grievance of denial of tenure or promotion. Neaman answered that assuming all procedures were carried out correctly, the sole legal issue for the arbitrator is whether or not the denial was “just.”
Poole withdrew her motion so that we could get more clarity on which conditions to include.
Schmidt reiterated that recusal is a voluntary act and noted that recusal has a precise legal meaning. Weiner asked what happens when the individual does not recuse him or herself? He added, if we say there is no process, then the applicant has only recourse to a grievance. Kidd said that this is a two-step process: The committee needs to have the freedom to deliberate and the applicant has the right to grieve. She asked for a definition of recusal. Weiner said it was helpful to have the conditions laid out.
Buccheri suggested removing “co-teaching” from (c). Poole said that all conditions contain potential bias. Kidd reiterated that this was a training issue.
Agha suggested to not use “collaborate” at all in (c). Johnson III said to use external reviewers’ language.
Neaman suggested he write up a draft of proposed language and send it around for consideration at the next PB meeting.
Johnson III noted his appreciation for the constructive environment in which the discussion was carried out today.
The meeting was adjourned at 16:55
Submitted by Julia Orri