Dispute tests procedures
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Dispute tests procedures

by Sara Foss

In March the General Faculty (GF) voted down a proposal which would have amended Appendix H, the section of the Faculty Guide which describes the duties and processes of the Professional Conduct Review Committee (PCRC).

Concern about Appendix H's wording arose amongst some members of the GF after one panel of the PCRC decided it could not hear complaints filed against former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences James Helm and dean of the College Clayton Koppes.

Four members of the nine member PCRC constitute the investigative panel, while the other five members of the PCRC constitute the hearing panel. The investigative panel determines whether the issue under investigation is serious enough to warrant the attention of the hearing panel, which will decide the seriousness of the offense.

Holtzman filed complaints of professional misconduct against Neuroscience Program Director Catherine McCormick, Helm and Koppes. Koppes also filed a complaint of misconduct against Koppes. Because the complaints revolved around the same issues, Secretary of the College Bob Haslun, who convenes the PCRC, decided the PCRC should review them together.

Professor of Biology Richard Levin, Holtzman's faculty adviser, filed a complaint against Koppes with the PCRC alleging professional misconduct. Levin's investigative panel decided it could not investigate his complaint because it was against a dean. The investigative panel for Levin's complaint was the hearing panel for the Holtzman/Koppes complaints. Though the Holtzman/Koppes complaints were reviewed by a PCRC investigative panel, the hearing panel refused to look at them.

As a result, some members of the faculty said that there is no place within the College's governance structure for faculty members to file complaints against administrators. "Faculty members at Oberlin College have no internal recourse," Levin said.

Professor of Politics Ben Schiff said, "I think the Holtzman case and the way it's been handled demonstrate a serious shortcoming in implementing existing procedures as I understand them. Faculty should be concerned that these processes be upheld because it is within these processes that faculty governance itself is maintained."

The General Faculty Committee, Dye said, is the appropriate body for receiving formal grievances against the dean. "It's a procedural glitch," she said. "It doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to make a formal complaint."

To eliminate this procedural glitch, Levin, Schiff, Professor of English Robert Longsworth and Professor of Economics Robert Piron co-authored the proposal.

The proposal stated: "The easiest way to resolve the apparent ambiguity of appendix H is to make explicit its application to administrators holding faculty appointments."

Section D of Appendix H states: "Normally, before the filing of a formal complaint, efforts must have been undertaken to resolve the complaint informally. In cases involving complaints of sexual misconduct, see Appendix G. In other cases, the divisional dean should be involved in the informal resolution of the complaint, if it has not been resolved at the departmental level." To that, the proposal would have added the following clause: "However, should a charge of professional misconduct be directed against the dean, the other divisional dean should assume this function."

The proposal would also have amended Section D, part 9, which states: "The appropriate divisional dean shall participate in all meetings of the Hearing Panel." To this, the proposal would have added: "... unless that dean has been charged with professional misconduct, in which case the other divisional dean should assume this function."

While those who supported the proposal said it was a simple solution that would close the procedural gap, opponents named a variety of reasons for why they were electing not to vote in favor of the proposal.


Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 25, May 23, 1997

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