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Old 22nd August 2016, 4:26 PM   #1
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Responding to Grievances in Academia?

I teach a couple of classes at a local college. Last week, I was informed in an email from my director that two grievances were filed against me, that it is "very serious", and if I could come in on Day X at Time X to talk. I live and work at another job over an hour away from the college and wasn't able to meet the specific day/time she suggested, so I told her a couple of others days and times I could come to meet. She never wrote me back.

My department chair sent me an email the next day about something benign and administrative. When I wrote him back I asked him if he was aware at all about what was going on because I hadn't heard back from my director. He never responded either.

Is this a really bad sign or something? I literally have no idea what to expect. I have a couple of students who were unhappy with their final grades and so I assume it is that, but then again, anytime I've had grade-related student issues someone just calls me on the phone about it or something. And there is no way I'm going to get accused of harassment here. I am at a total loss.

Anyone have experience with stuff like this who can give me advice or tell me what to expect? It's driving me nuts and not making any sense why they won't write me back.
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Old 22nd August 2016, 4:34 PM   #2
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Call your Director.
Why wait on emails?
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Old 22nd August 2016, 5:40 PM   #3
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Agree with Gemma. Make some phone calls and find out what's going on.
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Old 22nd August 2016, 8:07 PM   #4
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What I'm really wondering though is why I'm not getting any responses. It is very unusual. Something is off. Someone recently advised me to not respond, because it might come off as being pushy or paranoid (Duh! Right?). Anyway, I'm not so sure responding again is smart after I already have.
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Old 22nd August 2016, 8:44 PM   #5
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What time did you send those emails? How long have you been waiting for a response?

Either they're just incompetent at their jobs or some new development occurred and they are trying to figure out how to handle it. It's possible the grievances have now been passed to a higher level of administration.

Sounds like you're in trouble either way, but if it's serious, trust, they will get in touch with you.

I had a grievance filed against it me over a grade and it was horrible. But I saw it coming bc my student was a clear jackass. Anyway, the department tried to intervene but then the student went above their heads to the college and then the department wiped their hands clean and acted like they had nothing to do with it.

It's a fcked up situation and they will certainly jerk you around a bit but all you can do is ride it out. and make sure you save any documents related to students' grades if you still have it.

Also, they may be taking some time to get back to you on the date of the meeting because your director won't be the only person there, so they may have to check with the dean and whoever else is going to be there.
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Old 22nd August 2016, 10:20 PM   #6
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What time did you send those emails? How long have you been waiting for a response?

Either they're just incompetent at their jobs or some new development occurred and they are trying to figure out how to handle it. It's possible the grievances have now been passed to a higher level of administration.

Sounds like you're in trouble either way, but if it's serious, trust, they will get in touch with you.

I had a grievance filed against it me over a grade and it was horrible. But I saw it coming bc my student was a clear jackass. Anyway, the department tried to intervene but then the student went above their heads to the college and then the department wiped their hands clean and acted like they had nothing to do with it.

It's a fcked up situation and they will certainly jerk you around a bit but all you can do is ride it out. and make sure you save any documents related to students' grades if you still have it.

Also, they may be taking some time to get back to you on the date of the meeting because your director won't be the only person there, so they may have to check with the dean and whoever else is going to be there.
This pretty much echoes my fears. I'm 99% sure the grievances are a grade issue. I have no reason to suspect it would be anything else, other than imagining that some students might be so vindictive that they will attempt to retaliate any way they can. I am confident that I graded objectively with rubrics that were posted well in-advance, and grades that were rationalized based on these rubrics.

If you don't mind me asking, what was the outcome of your situation? How did the department or the college treat you throughout this ordeal? Were they neutral, or did you feel that they sided with one party or the other? How long beginning to end did the whole process take? How did this affect your career, if at all? Did you have to get legal support at all? It all sounds like such a headache to me. You can PM me if you prefer.

It was nearly a week ago that the original emails were exchanged. I'm also confused why they don't at least clue me in on what's going on. Don't employees have a right to know what the dispute is prior to meeting? I couldn't find anything in my employee handbook on due process for grievances.

But you're right in saying that all I can really do is ride it out. There is literally nothing else to do.
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Old 23rd August 2016, 6:44 PM   #7
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This pretty much echoes my fears. I'm 99% sure the grievances are a grade issue. I have no reason to suspect it would be anything else, other than imagining that some students might be so vindictive that they will attempt to retaliate any way they can. I am confident that I graded objectively with rubrics that were posted well in-advance, and grades that were rationalized based on these rubrics.

If you don't mind me asking, what was the outcome of your situation? How did the department or the college treat you throughout this ordeal? Were they neutral, or did you feel that they sided with one party or the other? How long beginning to end did the whole process take? How did this affect your career, if at all? Did you have to get legal support at all? It all sounds like such a headache to me. You can PM me if you prefer.

It was nearly a week ago that the original emails were exchanged. I'm also confused why they don't at least clue me in on what's going on. Don't employees have a right to know what the dispute is prior to meeting? I couldn't find anything in my employee handbook on due process for grievances.

But you're right in saying that all I can really do is ride it out. There is literally nothing else to do.
Well mine went on from October until December. The student complained and then the department took his side and told me to allow him to redo the assignment and that one of the chairs would grade it instead of me. He still got a bad grade on it. They basically told me that it wasn't worth the headache the student would cause me if I tried to fight it. But really, they were trying to save their own behinds from the higher ups in the university by giving him what he wanted. (I go to a big 10 school that is focused on engineering and I teach English so the university cracks down on us to make sure their STEM students can pass our 'unimportant' classes).

So even though I didn't agree with the way they had me kissing this student's behind, I went along with it and did everything the department told me to. They even listened in on a meeting between me and the student and finally heard how disrespectful he was to me about the issue.

Even after following their directions, the student was still pissed at me and the department bc he didn't get the grade he wanted. So he made up some bs about me discriminating against him based on his age (He was 21, I was 23.) So then it became a formal complaint with the office of equity where he wrote up his side of the story, I wrote up mine and we had to wait to see what the committee said. During this time, I was freaking the fck out. A few weeks later they ended up dropping his complaint because it was bs and he had no evidence.

My department would not help me once it became a formal complaint. After that it was like, you're on your own.

I didn't need to get any legal support and it didn't really affect my career at the school. I've taught that same class three times since then and I'm teaching another course as well.

I should also note that I'm a graduate student, not an adjunct/lecturer. We have the same responsibilities as far as teaching, but teaching is part of my funding package. If I was an adjunct/lecturer, it's very possible they wouldn't have hired me back the next semester. Just because the situation could have turned disastrous and brought an investigation upon the entire department.

I would also like to add that my school is HORRIBLE as far as how they treat their liberal arts TA's. and just horrible in general. So my situation was very extreme and I think most colleges/universities are better at handling these situations. Especially smaller ones that aren't dependent on alumni donations.

But still, if I were you, I would prepare for the potential outcome of not being rehired (Are you adjunct or long term lecturer?). But it would all depend on how serious the grievance actually is.
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Old 23rd August 2016, 10:34 PM   #8
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Well mine went on from October until December. The student complained and then the department took his side and told me to allow him to redo the assignment and that one of the chairs would grade it instead of me. He still got a bad grade on it. They basically told me that it wasn't worth the headache the student would cause me if I tried to fight it. But really, they were trying to save their own behinds from the higher ups in the university by giving him what he wanted. (I go to a big 10 school that is focused on engineering and I teach English so the university cracks down on us to make sure their STEM students can pass our 'unimportant' classes).

So even though I didn't agree with the way they had me kissing this student's behind, I went along with it and did everything the department told me to. They even listened in on a meeting between me and the student and finally heard how disrespectful he was to me about the issue.

Even after following their directions, the student was still pissed at me and the department bc he didn't get the grade he wanted. So he made up some bs about me discriminating against him based on his age (He was 21, I was 23.) So then it became a formal complaint with the office of equity where he wrote up his side of the story, I wrote up mine and we had to wait to see what the committee said. During this time, I was freaking the fck out. A few weeks later they ended up dropping his complaint because it was bs and he had no evidence.

My department would not help me once it became a formal complaint. After that it was like, you're on your own.

I didn't need to get any legal support and it didn't really affect my career at the school. I've taught that same class three times since then and I'm teaching another course as well.

I should also note that I'm a graduate student, not an adjunct/lecturer. We have the same responsibilities as far as teaching, but teaching is part of my funding package. If I was an adjunct/lecturer, it's very possible they wouldn't have hired me back the next semester. Just because the situation could have turned disastrous and brought an investigation upon the entire department.

I would also like to add that my school is HORRIBLE as far as how they treat their liberal arts TA's. and just horrible in general. So my situation was very extreme and I think most colleges/universities are better at handling these situations. Especially smaller ones that aren't dependent on alumni donations.

But still, if I were you, I would prepare for the potential outcome of not being rehired (Are you adjunct or long term lecturer?). But it would all depend on how serious the grievance actually is.
Thank you very much for all of this information. Yes, I am a part-time lecturer. It is very helpful to me right now in a time when no one in my department seems to be giving me any information on what is going on, not even regarding the grievance process itself, my rights, and what to expect. The only thing I am being told is that it's "very serious" and that we need to "meet so we can talk about the next steps in the process", but nothing more than that.

I have had to dig around for information on the grievance process myself. It's very frustrating to feel like everyone but me knows what is going on, has had time to prepare, but I'm the one it's going to get sprung on. I went through more than enough with the course they asked me to teach. In all of my years teaching, I've never experienced a group of students so difficult. I spent the whole summer talking about it in therapy; it was that bad! Several times, I considered quitting. I regularly sent details of classroom behavior to my director. Now this is what I get.

We're hoping to actually meet in the coming days, but it will probably have been almost two weeks since the initial grievance was made when we do actually meet. I'm pretty confident this is retaliation over final grades. If so, I can see myself getting put through a situation similar to what you described. I can't think of any instances from the class that would portray harassment, but I won't be shocked if someone tries to pull this or the discrimination card on me. I can handle that though. The grades though, I really hope I'm not forced to re-grade some of these students just so they can get pushed through the rest of the program. What kind of message are we sending college students these days?

Last edited by TunaInTheBrine; 23rd August 2016 at 10:42 PM..
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Old 24th August 2016, 11:03 AM   #9
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As a former instructor myself, I agree with JewelD. Try not to worry.
Bring all your documented records when the time arrives. Or maybe the
meeting will be canceled.

If you are asked to change the grade, be gracious about it, even if you hate to do it. Avoid showing anger at anyone. This is very common-- every student thinks they can appeal grades and the administrators want students to be happy and return next semester. So they are very nice with them.
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Old 24th August 2016, 11:30 AM   #10
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1) Make sure you're entirely familiar with the grievance process at your school, particularly the grade appeal process.


2) Wait until it's been around a full week, and politely email your director and department head to reiterate that you've been informed that grievances have been filed against you but to date you've received no further information and are eager to have the opportunity to address any concerns.


Is your letter of appointment for the semester or the full academic year? Is there anything like an ombudsman at your school who may be able to intercede for you?
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Old 24th August 2016, 2:42 PM   #11
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1) Make sure you're entirely familiar with the grievance process at your school, particularly the grade appeal process.


2) Wait until it's been around a full week, and politely email your director and department head to reiterate that you've been informed that grievances have been filed against you but to date you've received no further information and are eager to have the opportunity to address any concerns.


Is your letter of appointment for the semester or the full academic year? Is there anything like an ombudsman at your school who may be able to intercede for you?
I did recently receive a response from my director saying that I would not receive any information about the grievance until I was there in person. I wonder if that's even ethical. If they want an effective meeting, having knowledge in advance could help me prepare any documents (e.g. assignments, rubrics, emails) before arriving. Putting people on the spot in a highly anxious situation sounds like an interrogation to me.

My appointment is for the academic year. I did suggest having a third party who is neutral to the situation join us. I believe that will happen.
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Old 24th August 2016, 2:48 PM   #12
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I did recently receive a response from my director saying that I would not receive any information about the grievance until I was there in person. I wonder if that's even ethical. If they want an effective meeting, having knowledge in advance could help me prepare any documents (e.g. assignments, rubrics, emails) before arriving. Putting people on the spot in a highly anxious situation sounds like an interrogation to me.

My appointment is for the academic year. I did suggest having a third party who is neutral to the situation join us. I believe that will happen.

Good on the third party being present. My advice is go ahead and get the information regarding the grievance in person, but keep your responses to a minimum until you've had a chance to thoroughly understand the nature of the grievance. "I will be in a position to give a more comprehensive response once I've had time to review the grievance".
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Old 24th August 2016, 3:07 PM   #13
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Since it sounded serious and you were worried about it, I would have rearranged my other plans to meet the director at the first date/time he suggested (those are super hard to organize with 2 or more senior people present); but it depends on how much this job is important to you. I kind of feel you have dropped the ball there a little.
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Old 24th August 2016, 4:36 PM   #14
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Since it sounded serious and you were worried about it, I would have rearranged my other plans to meet the director at the first date/time he suggested (those are super hard to organize with 2 or more senior people present); but it depends on how much this job is important to you. I kind of feel you have dropped the ball there a little.
I do work other jobs and am unfortunately limited in my ability to rearrange my schedule. I also believe there is something to be said for doing things carefully in these situations. The idea of bringing a third person in didn't arise until more recently when I had suggested it.
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Old 26th August 2016, 3:37 PM   #15
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I don't know anything about how this stuff works, I am a college student. Having said that, I have seen some outlandish requests by students to professors and I truly hope this works out for you (if you did nothing wrong). It sounds like you had no ill intention so I believe you will be fine. Just say the truth, when they suggest something, just politely agree and move on with your life...college administration is there to make the college money. They do not always necessarily care about what's fair or justified. Hope this becomes water under the bridge soon.
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