Executive Committee Minutes - April 14, 2004




Present:          Alexander, Beck, Bradford, Fuller, Miller, Shea, Spann, Wunder


Absent:           Buck, Fech, Logan-Peters, Peterson, Whitt


Date:               Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Location:        Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace


1.0       Call to Order

            Wunder called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.


2.0       Announcements

            2.1       Governance Document for the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics       

Wunder reported that he received an email message from Professor Crawford, UNL representative to the Coalition stating that the governance document for the coalition has been adopted. 


3.0       Approval of 4/7/04 Minutes

Spann moved and Beck seconded approval of the minutes as amended.  Motion approved.


4.0       Revisions to Academic Rights and Responsibilities Committee Procedures (Guests:  Professors Bender, McShane, and Works)

Wunder stated that the changes to the ARRC procedures is a serious matter that the Executive Committee intends to consider carefully.  He stated that there needs to be full discussion of the proposed changes with the Senate. 


McShane stated that he has been chairing the committee (Bender, Works, and Beck) working on revising the procedures.  He noted that the original charge to revise the procedures came from Professor Patricia Kennedy when she was President of the Academic Senate.  He stated that the committee wanted to meet to address any questions Executive Committee members might have about the revisions.


Wunder stated that he would like to hear what the most difficult parts of the document were to revise and where the most significant changes occur.  Works stated that the task has evolved over time.  He noted that in the beginning the original issues of concern were dealt with but the committee then realized there were more systemic problems with the documents.  He stated that they want to provide a document that would serve the members of the ARRC the best.  He pointed out that there are no major changes but language has been changed to make the document more clear and implicit.  He stated that the revised grievance procedure is a template that they will use to assist in revising the other code of procedures. 


McShane noted that there is a lot of redundancy between the procedures and the syllabus of the ARRC.  He stated that the committee cleaned up the syllabus, making it easier to understand.  He noted that details concerning the Academic Rights & Responsibilities Panel have been moved from the syllabus into the procedures.  He stated that the guidelines have been clarified and moved to the procedures. 


McShane stated that one of the most sensitive areas of the document deals with what the panel should do if information arises in the investigation that is not part of the original complaint and that a section has been added to deal with that issue.


McShane stated that another area the committee tried to clarify is the conflict of interest issue.  Alexander asked for an explanation of this section.  McShane stated that conflict of interest (having any involvement with the complainant or respondent) will not prohibit people from testifying at a hearing but it will prohibit people from sitting on a special investigative committee. 


Beck reported that another area the committee worked on deals with the draft reports of the special investigative committee.  She stated that the special investigative committee will write the findings of facts first and will send the draft to both complainant and the respondent to insure that the facts of the case are correct.  She noted that this will be done before the committee writes its final report or makes recommendations.  Both parties would then be able to point out errors and McShane stated that the committee can revisit the case if it is determined that a fact is wrong.  He pointed out that this needs to be done before any assessments, conclusions, or recommendations are made. 


McShane stated that the special investigative committee reports are only advisory to the Chancellor.  He stated that it would be good if chancellors agreed with committee findings and recommendations, but in response to Wunder’s question about how often committees are overruled, McShane stated that is usually what happens.  He stated that often, even though a chancellor does overrule a committee, the recommendations end up being carried out in less public ways. 


Bradford stated that he has concerns with the draft of the findings of fact being given to the parties involved.  He asked whether the person who is being accused of wrongdoing would object to the facts in order to see that the outcome is in his or her favor.  McShane stated that it is better to have information that facts might be wrong before a report is written rather than afterwards.  Bradford asked what the benefits are to having this process as part of the procedures.  Beck pointed out that hearings can often be long and tedious and information can be overlooked.  She stated that drafting the findings of the facts insures that all of the facts have been reviewed and are accurate.  She noted that in several previous cases errors have been made by the special investigative committee regarding facts.  Bradford asked about excluding uncontroverted facts (facts that are not in dispute in the case).  Beck stated that uncontroverted facts are not the issue but what is at issue are things that are offered as evidence, with documentation, that the special investigative committee misses.  Bradford pointed out that the special investigative committee members could base their decision on whether a fact is accurate or not depending on which witnesses appear to be providing the most accurate information.  McShane pointed out that most of the people involved in these cases are not experienced in these dealings and that it is possible that errors can be made.  He stated that providing a draft of the findings of facts lets people respond to possible mistakes that might be made.  He noted that the procedures were written to allow the best judgments to be made.  He stated that there needs to be some flexibility in order to be able to deal with the various issues that can arise with cases.  Bender stated that the committee discussed at length this issue of providing a draft of the findings of fact to the parties before the special investigative committee makes its final determination.  He noted that the special investigative committee will include the suggested corrections by either party and an explanation of why the special investigative committee came to the conclusion that it did.  He pointed out that the burden of proof is on the person making the complaint. 


Spann asked if the final report is then distributed simultaneously to the various parties or if the ARRC gets to see the report first to make sure that it has been done correctly.  Works stated that the report does not go to the ARRC first.  He stated that a mechanism is in place if the procedures are thought to have been violated.


Miller asked if chancellors generally accept the special investigative committees’ findings.  McShane stated that most chancellors do not like to accept the recommendations because they don’t want to accept the responsibility of what occurred but they usually accept the report.  Miller asked if the reason why chancellors have not agreed with the findings of the special investigative committees is because factual errors have been made.  Beck stated that a chancellor’s decisions not to accept the recommendations are not related to factual errors having been made by special investigative committees but are related to other issues.


Miller asked if the problems with some of the previous investigations precipitated the revisions.  McShane stated that when the original procedures were written in 1994 the group that wrote them made a commitment to review them in about five years and to revise them as needed.  He noted that in some cases some things have not been done correctly.  He stated that the revisions are being made to try to make the procedures easier to follow so that they are applied more evenly.  Fuller noted that the revisions help the faculty members on the special investigative committees as well as those involved in the complaint.  Beck stated that it helps all of the parties involved with the complaint.


Alexander stated that he has observed with previous high profile cases that some people involved with the case line up against a person for political reasons.  He noted that people will try to protect themselves if they feel that being truthful could harm them in anyway.  He asked if there is anyway to avoid this kind of thing from occurring.  McShane stated that he did not know what can be done if people lie.  He pointed out that now only the people directly involved in a case can be present in the room when people testify and that the only witness who can be in the room is the witness actually testifying at that time.  He noted that people have a professional obligation to be honest and truthful. 


Spann noted that cases can drag on over long periods of time before final reports are written.  Bender stated that timelines had to be incorporated into the documents several years ago. 


Spann asked whether the documents indicate specifically who can file complaints.  Bender stated that the Regents Bylaws stated that anyone can make a complaint of professional misconduct.  Beck pointed out that someone cannot make a complaint on behalf of someone else. 


McShane stated that the process for getting the revisions approved needs to be clarified.  He noted that the Regents may have to approve the documents but not the students.  He stated that they may want to meet with ASUN to discuss the changes with them since students can file a complaint if it is about professional misconduct.  Wunder indicated that he will get clarification on the approval process.


McShane stated that the committee wants to get feedback on the documents because they want to begin working on revising the other code of procedures.


5.0       Unfinished Business

            5.1       Amendment to Changes to Senate Rules

Fuller stated that she has concerns regarding the section of the Rules that deals with nominations for the Executive Committee.  She stated that she wants to make sure that the solution to this issue is a good one.  She noted that the revisions call for the Committee on Committees to solicit nominations and forward the names to the Executive Committee.  She stated that this is placing an additional burden on the CoC and that there are members of the CoC who are not informed about the Senate and Executive Committee.  She stated that she is not convinced that this is the right group.  She stated that she would like to see a nominations committee that is made up of a group of people who are active in faculty leadership.  She suggested that there could be a member from the Academic Planning Committee, the Past President of the Senate, a representative from the Executive Committee, and a representative from the Senate.  Beck suggested that the members of the nominating committee could be elected by the Senate. 


Wunder stated that there are no set procedures in the Rules but he believes that the Senate needs to be more involved in the nomination process.  He suggested that amendments could be made to alleviate the concerns that people have with the proposed revisions. 


Fuller suggested that the Rules Committee might have wanted to use an existing committee rather than create a new one.  She stated that the process should be transparent but not a closed club.  Miller pointed out that it is important for the nominating committee to know that the person being considered is willing and able to do the service that is required of a President.  He suggested that the nominating committee could be made up of members from the Committee on Committees and the Executive Committee.  Spann pointed out that there is a perception that the Executive Committee is operated by a small group of faculty members.  He suggested that chairs of committees could possibly form a nominating group. 


Beck pointed out that whatever the process there needs to be a call for nominations.  Wunder stated that the call for nominations should be made earlier.  He noted that one of the problems in getting people to run for the Executive Committee is that their teaching schedules are already set by the time the call for nominations goes out and they have a conflict with the meeting time of the Executive Committee.  He suggested that the time of the Executive Committee meetings could be set to Tuesday afternoons, eliminating one meeting a month so that the Senate could meet.  Fuller and Griffin noted that eliminating one Executive Committee per month will not allow the Executive Committee to get work done. 


Fuller asked if it is possible to send the document back to the Rules Committee for further consideration.  Bradford suggested that an amendment could be made that would leave this section of the Rules the way it currently reads.  Wunder stated that he will ask Professor Bender if the Rules Committee can look at this section again.  Fuller pointed out that the document is not ready to be voted on.  Griffin stated that a motion can be made at the Senate meeting to postpone voting.  Wunder noted that there is one more Executive Committee meeting before the Senate meeting to discuss the issue further.


6.0       New Business

            No new business was discussed.


The meeting was adjourned at 4:35 p.m.  The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, April 21 at 3:00 pm.  The meeting will be held in 201 Canfield Administration Building.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator and Shelley Fuller, Secretary.