After almost three and a half years of debate, University President Peter Salovey on Jan 30. formally accepted a revised set of faculty standards and procedures to be added to the Yale Faculty Handbook, marking the end of a contentious drafting-and-revision process that began in 2014.
The revised Standards of Faculty Conduct require that Yale faculty members understand the “common-sense and reasonable” responsibilities that arise from their roles as educators, scholars and members of the Yale community. The accompanying revised version of the Review Procedures for Complaints about Violations of the Standards outlines procedures for people who wish to file a complaint of faculty misconduct that is not addressed by other specific University procedures — such as Title IX proceedings that deal with issues of sexual misconduct — or that cannot be resolved by the dean who supervises the faculty member against whom an allegation is made.
The new procedures cover a wide range of misconduct, including discrimination in hiring and promotion decisions and the exploitation of the faculty member–student relationship. And they reflect revisions demanded by faculty members after an initial draft of procedures was published.
“Right now, very serious misconduct goes to University Tribunal and there are specific [procedures for types of] misconduct like sexual misconduct, but the vast forms of misconduct that can happen and can be serious, there’s nothing written about them, so you have a kind of hole in the administrative structure which needed to be filled,” said former Law School Dean Robert Post, who was involved in drafting the procedures.
Under the new procedures, if a misconduct complaint cannot be resolved informally or through existing procedures, the complainant can alert the University provost, who can then submit the complaint to a newly created Faculty Standards Review Committee, an elected body consisting of faculty members. The complaint falls under the jurisdiction of the committee if a faculty member’s actions cause serious harm to the University or a member of the University community and are “substantially inconsistent” with the Standards of Faculty Conduct, as well as “reckless or intentional.”
Under the new rules, once a complaint is submitted to the Faculty Standards Review Committee, the chair will appoint five committee members to serve on a hearing panel and will designate one of those members as panel chair.
The panel will present a written report outlining its findings and conclusions and recommending disciplinary actions if it concludes that the respondent has violated the faculty standards of conduct. Potential disciplinary actions include leave for one leave cycle, limitations on eligibility for grant funding, reduction in salary and suspension without pay. However, if the panel believes more severe penalties are justified, it may recommend that the provost forward the matter to the University president, who may convene the University Tribunal. The provost can then accept, modify or reject the panel’s conclusions or any of its recommendations.
“The important reason to have standards is to create a transparent culture,” said Faculty of Arts and Sciences Deputy Dean for Diversity and Faculty Development Kathryn Lofton. “We need to have a consistent and transparent way to think about best conduct and moments in which faculty [members] fail to meet that standard.”
Although there are similarities between the procedures of the new Faculty Standards Review Committee and the University-Wide Committee for Sexual Misconduct, which was established in 2011, Lofton said there are a series of “very substantive” differences between the two. Members of the UWC are appointed by the provost rather than elected, and the UWC has jurisdiction over a wider range of complaints. Complaints accepted by the Faculty Standards Review Committee must have named complainants.
Salovey’s formal approval of the standards and procedures comes after the deans of Yale’s schools unanimously recommended that Salovey accept the proposals. According to faculty Dean Tamar Gendler, each of the deans was encouraged to reach out to their respective faculty in order to canvass opinions about the revised procedures.
To gauge the sentiments of members of the faculty, Gendler said she hosted open office hours in which faculty members could share thoughts about the procedures. In addition, on Jan. 30, Gendler hosted an open meeting with the faculty Senate in which the 30 attendees cast an advisory vote in favor of the standards and procedures.
Gendler told the News that she expressed her support for the standards and procedures to Salovey because “the FAS faculty as a whole seemed committed to these as appropriate standards and appropriate processes and procedures.”
Faculty Senate chair Matthew Jacobson also said he approved of the new regulations.
“I believe that most faculty [members] feel very well represented in this process, and most agree that the final document was a huge improvement over what had been originally proposed, both for its clarity and for its minute attention to fairness and due process,” Jacobson said.
The process of writing and revising the procedures, which began in 2014, has at times been arduous and controversial.
In fall of 2014, the provost appointed a University-wide faculty committee to develop standards of conduct, which were then revised based on faculty comments and implemented as policy in September 2015. The same committee proposed draft procedures for responding to alleged violations of these standards.
But in the 2015–2016 academic year, faculty members objected to the existing standards and to the proposed procedures. The faculty Senate released a report on faculty conduct standards and procedures in March 2016, which expressed concerns about the standards and procedures outlined by the committee in 2015. The report criticized the draft procedures as vague and flawed, arguing that they were not grounded in specific accounts or discussions of the kinds of misconduct occurring at Yale that the original standards were designed to prevent.
In September 2016, the provost appointed a second committee, chaired by Lofton, to research policies at peer institutions and meet with faculty members to get a better sense of the need for standards and the best policies for adjudicating faculty misconduct. A revised set of procedures circulated in April 2017, and Lofton presented the document to both the faculty Senate and the deans of the professional schools. Lofton also established a website to receive faculty feedback, and several comments were posted publicly or anonymously by the close of the comment period last October.
Based on those comments, Lofton’s committee made additional revisions, which included underscoring the use of department chairs in the informal resolution of complaints and requiring that the chair of the Faculty Standards Review Committee join the provost in determining jurisdiction over formal complaints. It was this version that Salovey finally signed into effect at the end of last month.
As part of its report, Lofton’s committee recommended that in three years, the provost appoint another faculty committee to review “the University’s experience under these standards and procedures.”
“The three-and-a-half-year history of discussion of these standards of procedures, shows … how profound our culture of faculty governance is. This is a place that truly believes — and, I think, rightfully believes — that faculty should govern faculty and that there should never be an instance where a new rule or principle arises without serious faculty consideration and consent,” Lofton said. “I have been honored and impressed by the ways that faculty critique has created a much more robust set of standards.”
Adelaide Feibel | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Feb. 23: A previous version of the article stated that the UWC oversees anonymous complaints. In fact, the committee cannot accept cases unless the complainant is named.