Constitution & Bylaws

Bylaws of Northern Illinois University


ARTICLE 7:
APPEAL PROCEDURES FOR PERSONNEL DECISIONS

 

The regular personnel process provides two means by which disagreements over the personnel recommendations described in Article 6 of these bylaws may be resolved through informal consultation and negotiation: the re-consideration procedure on the department level, and the reassessment procedure on both the department and college levels, through which additional evidence may be adduced prior to a final department or college decision on an individual recommendation. It is intended that these procedures provide a means whereby disagreements over personnel recommendations may be resolved, whenever possible, without resort to formal appeal procedures.

Where disagreements are not resolved in this way, any party involved may initiate a formal appeal. The principal objectives of the appeal process are twofold: to provide for consideration of allegations by a faculty member who claims to have been unfairly or inadequately evaluated, or for a department or college which alleges inappropriate actions by higher level committees; and to identify deficiencies in department and college procedures, standards, and policies, so that they can be corrected.

In general, appeal procedures correspond to the jurisdiction appropriate to each level in the personnel process. Thus, appeals to the college are based on actions by departments, and appeals to the university are based upon actions by colleges, except for cases of university-wide concern (described below in section 7.2.1.3). Appeals to the next level shall be reviewed only after consideration and appeal procedures have been exhausted at the lower level. Except for appeals involving issues described under section 7.2.1.3, the right and opportunity for appeal shall extend only to appeals made to the decision level immediately above the level at which the appealed decision originated.

7.1 Appeals at the College Level

7.1.1 Colleges shall entertain appeals, on appropriate grounds, against department recommendations, or against the failure of departments to make recommendations which individuals feel are merited. 

7.1.2 Appeals, which must be filed within 10 working days of notification of the appellant of the appealed action, shall be based on one (or more) of the following general grounds: 

7.1.2.1 That inappropriate procedures were followed by a department; 

7.1.2.2 That insufficient or inappropriate criteria or evidence were used in arriving at a department recommendation; 

7.1.2.3 That other circumstances exist which the college considers a legitimate basis for an appeal. (However, where an appellant alleges actions of the types described under Section 7.2.1.3 the appellant shall address the appeal directly to the University Council Personnel Committee.) 

7.1.3 Appeal statements shall be in writing and shall set forth the specific grounds for appeal and all pertinent evidence. In all appeals of a department action, the department shall have an opportunity to respond prior to a decision by the college. Likewise, the appellant shall be informed of the department statement and shall have an opportunity to respond to it. 

7.1.4 As in the regular personnel process, where a decision involves the professional competence or achievements of an individual faculty member, the department's judgment shall be overridden only on the basis of substantial evidence that inadequate or inappropriate professional standards or evidence were used by the department. The college shall determine how such evidence is to be obtained and evaluated. 

7.1.5 Where an appeal against a department decision is sustained, and if the deficiencies persist, the college shall take steps to correct whatever deficiency in department procedures or standards gave rise to the original decision. 

7.2 Appeals at the University Level

7.2.1 The University Council Personnel Committee is principally concerned with college-wide personnel standards and procedures, and with policy matters affecting the entire university faculty. It is not involved in the professional evaluation of individual faculty members, except for the situations listed in Sections 2.4.2.7 and 2.4.2.8 of these bylaws. In addition, the University Council Personnel Committee shall entertain appeals only when it finds clear, unambiguous, and pressing reason to do so on the following grounds: 

7.2.1.1 Where the procedures, standards, or policies of a college are alleged, by an individual or a department, to be unfair or inappropriate; 

7.2.1.2 Where a college is alleged not to have protected a faculty member from departmental failure to adhere to specific procedural requirements set forth in the University Constitution, in these Bylaws, or in the guidelines currently in force in the college and department, and where that failure, in the view of a majority of the University Council Personnel Committee, affected the recommendations made to the extent that, had the violations not occurred, there might not have been agreement as defined in Section 6.3.4.1 of the Bylaws. In such cases, the University Council Personnel Committee's review of the appeal shall be limited to the procedural questions raised by the appellant and shall not extend to the substantive issues involved in the personnel decision. If the University Council Personnel Committee finds for the appellant in such a review, it shall report its finding to the executive vice president and provost and return the matter to the college and department involved, together with a written statement describing the issues, the evidence, the committee's finding, and the reasons for that finding, and direct the college and department to take appropriate remedial action. Where the UCPC finds that egregious procedural errors have been sufficiently substantial to preclude fair action in the college and department on the action or recommendation appealed from, the UCPC may recommend to the executive vice president and provost, without returning the case to the college and department, the action originally sought by the appellant; 

7.2.1.3 Where an agency or individual within the university is alleged to have discriminated against a faculty member during the personnel process on the basis of sex, race, national origin, marital status, age, color, political views or affiliations, religious views or affiliations, sexual orientation, handicapped status, or other such factor unrelated to professional performance; 

7.2.1.4 Where a faculty member alleges that an agency or individual within the university has infringed upon the faculty member's academic freedom. 

7.2.2 Appeals to the University Council Personnel Committee shall be filed no later than 10 working days after notification to the appellant of the appealable action. Appeal statements shall be in writing and shall set forth the specific grounds for the appeal along with all pertinent evidence. Before accepting an appeal, the University Council Personnel Committee shall make an inquiry to determine whether the grounds are sufficient to justify an appeal at the university level. 

7.2.3 When accepted, appeals of types 7.2.1.1 and 7.2.1.2 will be heard by the University Council Personnel Committee. Appeals of type 7.2.1.3 will be heard by a special hearing board established in accordance with section 7.2.5 of these bylaws. Appeals of type 7.2.1.4 will be heard in accordance with the procedures set forth in section 10.1 of these bylaws. All parties to the dispute shall have a right to be heard. 

7.2.4 Where a department or college persists in its use of inappropriate procedures or inadequate standards, the committee on the next higher level may recommend appropriate sanctions to be imposed by the chief administrator on that lower level. 

7.2.5 Special Hearing Board for Appeals Filed Under Section 7.2.1.3: The appeal procedures of the university policies and regulations regarding the personnel process provide that appeals at the university level which involve an allegation of discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, marital status, age, color, political views or affiliation, religious views or affiliation, sexual orientation, handicapped status, or other such factor unrelated to professional performance shall be heard by a special hearing board established in accordance with university policy. This hearing board shall be available to any faculty or administrative employee with the exception of operating staff, whose appeals are conducted under civil service provisions. 

7.2.5.1 Membership: The Hearing Board shall consist of 15 faculty and administrative employees to be selected at the beginning of each academic year by the University Council Personnel Committee from a list of names, five names submitted by each of the respective college personnel bodies and five from the supportive professional staff. Within the 15 members, there may be persons who have had prior involvement in a case brought to the board who would wish to disqualify themselves from participation in the hearing of that case. Either party may request the disqualification of any member(s) of the Hearing Board on the grounds of conflict of interest. Those members of the board not challenged shall determine the validity of a challenge. In the event that more than five members of the board are disqualified, the University Council Personnel Committee shall name additional member(s) - from the original individuals nominated - to insure a minimum of 10 members of the board hearing any given appeal. Women and members of minority groups shall be represented on the Hearing Board. Consequently in nominating individuals for the Hearing Board, the college personnel committees and other groups shall endeavor to insure that women and minority groups are appropriately represented. The chair of the Hearing Board shall be selected by the membership of the Hearing Board. The chair should be a member of the university community with appropriate qualifications or experience in this capacity. If the chair is selected from among the membership of the board, the chair shall have a vote. The Hearing Board may consult with the director of the office of Affirmative Action and the university general counsel on questions relating to federal and state laws regarding affirmative action, university regulations and policies relating to affirmative action, and procedural requirements applicable to the board's work. 

7.2.5.2 Cases to be Considered: Appeals involving allegations of discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, marital status, age, color, political views or affiliation, religious views or affiliation, sexual orientation, handicapped status, or other such factor unrelated to professional performance received by the University Council Personnel committee shall be referred to the Hearing Board with a notice to the office of Affirmative Action. Also, the office of Affirmative Action may refer grievances involving allegations of discrimination filed with that office to the Hearing Board. In all cases the allegation must be forwarded in written form over the signature of the person making the appeal. When an appeal is forwarded to it, the Hearing Board shall first make an inquiry to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to justify a hearing. In all cases where a judgment of insufficient grounds is rendered, the Hearing Board shall report this to the University Council Personnel Committee and provide the complainant and the Affirmative Action office with a summary of the judgment rendered. When an appeal or grievance is found to have sufficient grounds to warrant a hearing, the Hearing Board shall schedule a hearing. 

7.2.5.3 The Hearing: The Hearing Board shall provide opportunities for all parties to the dispute to be heard. All parties shall be allowed to have observers (not to exceed three for each party) and each may choose a faculty or administrative employee as a representative. The executive vice president and provost or an Affirmative Action officer shall, if requested by the complainant, assist the complainant in finding a suitable representative. No party to the dispute shall be accompanied by, or be represented by, general counsel. The Hearing Board shall act as a fact-finding body with the right to call witnesses, ask questions, hear evidence presented by both parties, and examine university documents pertaining to the case. At the hearing, either party or a party's representative shall have the right to call witnesses, to ask questions of all witnesses, and to examine university documents pertaining to the case and evidence submitted to the Hearing Board. If a dispute should arise over access to, or relevance of documents or information, the University Council Personnel Committee shall review the material, along with any recommendations the Hearing Board may wish to make as to its relevance, and determine whether the information shall be released to the concerned parties. The Hearing Board shall base its decision exclusively on information presented during the course of the hearing and thereby available to all concerned parties. Reasonable provision shall be made for university employees to appear as witnesses or representatives at the hearing on behalf of either party without loss of pay. A transcript of the hearing shall be kept and be made available to all persons involved in the dispute. The chair shall make and enforce such rules for the conduct of the hearing that provide for an orderly and fair hearing for all parties. The recommendation of a majority of the Hearing Board present and voting shall be the decision of the Hearing Board. This recommendation, along with the rationale for the recommendation, shall be forwarded to the president, to all parties involved in the appeal or grievance, to the office of Affirmative Action, and to the University Council Personnel Committee within seven (7) days after the closing of the hearing. If no recommendation is made by a majority of the Hearing Board, the recommendations and rationale of each faction shall be forwarded to the president and others as indicated above. 

7.3 Due Process

This section provides principles and procedures for the resolution of questions resulting from the dismissal for cause of a tenured member of the faculty, or from the dismissal for cause of a non-tenured member of the faculty before the expiration of that faculty member's contract period. These principles and procedures do not apply to probationary tenure-track faculty members whose contracts are not renewed or expire during or at the end of their probationary period, or to temporary faculty members whose appointments are not renewed at the end of their contract period. 

7.3.1 Statement of Principles 

7.3.1.1 Established and orderly procedures insuring fairness afford the best protection of the rights and welfare of both the faculty member and the university. Such procedures are also indispensable for safeguarding the public interest in the integrity of the university as a center of higher learning. 

7.3.1.2 If it is recommended that a tenured member of the faculty be dismissed for cause, or that a non-tenured member of the faculty be dismissed before the expiration of the contract period, the burden of proof that such action is justified shall be satisfied only by clear and convincing evidence in the record considered as a whole. 

7.3.1.3 Adequate cause for dismissal must be related, directly and substantially, to the fitness of the faculty member in the member's professional capacity as teacher, scholar, or colleague. Dismissal will not be used to restrain faculty members in their exercise of academic freedom or of their rights as American citizens. 

7.3.2 Statement of Procedures
A faculty member recommended for dismissal shall be guaranteed academic due process in accordance with the following procedures:

(A) Step 1: Informal Efforts at Conciliation
It is appropriate for the university, including the interested personnel committees at the department and college levels and the appropriate officers of academic administration, to seek to resolve differences without recourse to a formal hearing. In an effort to secure such resolution, both the university administration and the faculty member should consider inviting the assistance of additional parties. In informal discussions involving the faculty member and representatives of the university, the faculty member shall have the right to be accompanied by an academic adviser of the faculty member's choice. Since these discussions look toward conciliation, no transcript or recording shall be made of such meetings. The faculty member may waive informal discussions.

(B) Step 2: Preliminaries to a Hearing
In advance of a hearing in which the university administration will attempt to substantiate charges against a faculty member, the executive vice president and provost shall send the faculty member:

1. A copy of the Board of Trustees Governance Documents, the university constitution and bylaws, and such other statements as may concern the rights of the faculty member;

2. A copy of specific charges against the faculty member;

3. A summary of the principal evidence presented in support of the charge, and a preliminary list of witnesses the university administration plans to call;

4. The names of the members comprising the Hearing Panel;

5. Notice of the date of the hearing, insuring that at least 20 days elapses between the date on which the chair of the Hearing Panel notifies the faculty member of the hearing date and the date of that hearing so that the faculty member can prepare a defense;

6. A formal invitation to attend the hearing and notice of the right to be accompanied to the hearing by an NIU faculty colleague and general counsel. The faculty member shall acknowledge to the executive vice president and provost, in writing, receipt of the notices.

(C) Step 3: The Hearing

1. The Hearing Panel from which a hearing committee may be chosen shall comprise 20 members elected by the Faculty Senate by secret ballot. Prior to the balloting, the Elections Committee shall, by lot, select the names of 34 tenured members of the university's faculty from a list containing the names of all such tenured members of the university's faculty except those members holding a university administrative appointment or those on leave. Members of the Hearing Panel shall serve one-year terms and shall be eligible for re-election. When a hearing is to be held, the chair of the Elections Committee of the University Council shall notify the executive vice president and provost and the faculty member concerned of the names of the hearing panel members. Within a week of this notification, the executive vice president and provost and the faculty member concerned shall, at their discretion, exercise no more than three challenges each. Members of the Hearing Panel may, on their own initiative, inform the chair of the Elections Committee that they wish to be removed from the Hearing Panel because they are interested parties connected with the pending case. The chair of the Elections Committee shall convene the remaining members of the Hearing Panel who shall choose by lot a committee of five to conduct the hearing. The hearing committee shall select one of its number as chair.

2. A hearing shall be closed unless the faculty member requests it to be open; however, the hearing committee may upon its own initiative, or shall in response to a request by the faculty member or the executive vice president and provost, invite one or more educational associations concerned with academic freedom to send a representative as an observer.

3. The hearing committee shall arrange to have a verbatim record kept of the hearing, and shall make a copy of this record available in identical form and at the same time to the faculty member (without charge) and to the president of the university.

4, The hearing committee will grant adjournments to enable either party to investigate evidence concerning which the committee deems a valid claim of surprise has been made.

5. The faculty member will be afforded an opportunity to obtain necessary witnesses and documentary or other evidence, and the executive vice president and provost will, insofar as possible, secure the cooperation of such witnesses and make available necessary documents and other evidence possessed by the university.

6. The faculty member and the university will have the right to confront and question all witnesses. Where a particular witness cannot or will not appear, but the committee determines that the interests of justice require admission of that witness's statement, the committee will identify the witness, disclose the statement, and, if possible, provide for written answers by the witness to questions posed by the parties to the dispute.

7, In the hearing of charges of incompetence, the testimony shall include that of qualified faculty members from this university or other institutions of higher education.

8. The hearing committee will not be bound by strict rules of legal evidence, and may admit any evidence which may be of probative value in determining the issues involved. Every effort shall be made to obtain all such evidence.

9. The findings of fact and the decision will be based solely on the hearing record.

10. Except for such simple announcements as may be required, covering the time of the hearing and similar matters, public statements and publicity about the case by either the faculty member or the university will be avoided so far as possible until the proceedings, including any consideration by the Board of Trustees, have been completed. The president and the faculty member shall be notified of the decision in writing and shall be given a copy of the record of the hearing.

11. If a majority of the hearing committee concludes that adequate cause for dismissal has not been established by the evidence of the record, it will so report to the president. If the president rejects the report, the reasons for the rejection shall be stated in writing to the hearing committee and to the faculty member, and provide an opportunity for response before transmitting the case to the Board of Trustees. If the hearing committee concludes that adequate cause for dismissal has been established but that an academic penalty less than dismissal would be more appropriate, it shall so recommend, with supporting reasons.

(D) Step 4: Appeal to the Board of Trustees
If dismissal or other penalty is recommended, the president shall, on request of the faculty member, transmit the record of the case to the Board of Trustees. If the Board of Trustees agrees to consider the case, the following procedure is recommended. The board's review should be based on the record of the committee hearing, and it should provide opportunity for argument, oral or written or both, by the principals at the hearing or by their representatives. Either the decision of the hearing committee should be sustained, or the proceeding should be returned to the committee with specific objections. The committee should then reconsider, taking into account the stated objections and receiving new evidence if necessary. It is recommended that the Board of Trustees make a final decision only after study of the committee's reconsideration.