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XII. Procedures of the Faculty Appeal Committee For Appeals Related to Procedural Errors

The Appeal Committee considers grievances brought to it by an individual faculty member who believes that a violation of the procedures and principles for the conduct of reviews contributed to a negative outcome in his/her/their review for extension, reappointment, tenure, or promotion.

In such cases, the role of the Appeal Committee is to evaluate whether violation(s) of established procedures contributed to the negative outcome of the review and, if so, to require correction of the review. In such cases "procedural violation” refers not only to procedure in a narrow sense, such as missed deadlines, but also to whether all legitimate evidence was adequately considered, to whether all improper or irrelevant evidence was excluded, and to whether there was adequate consideration about the import of evidence in light of the relevant standards. The Appeal Committee does not substitute its own judgment for that of the reviewers concerning the merits of the decision. Disagreement with the reviewers over the import or meaning of evidence does not constitute a procedural violation, so long as that evidence received adequate consideration in light of the relevant standards.

In the first week of the fall semester, the Dean of the Faculty meets with the Appeal Committee to discuss procedures to be followed in the event that an appeal is filed. The dean also assures the committee of its autonomy and its right to question all parties involved in any case of appeal.

The procedures for the conduct of appeals based on procedural errors are as follows:

Filing an appeal and determining if an appeal is to be heard

  1. A faculty member who is considering filing an appeal may initiate informal and confidential discussion with any member of the Appeal Committee or with the committee as a whole.

  2. If the faculty member then wishes to submit a formal appeal, the faculty member gives the committee a written statement explaining in detail the nature of the grievance, specifying the procedural violation(s) alleged to have occurred and their alleged effect on the outcome of the review. Written appeals must be filed by September 15 of the academic year following the negative review decision, except in the case of appeals of reviews for promotion to full professor, which must be filed by February 1 of the semester following the negative review decision. Only in unusual circumstances, as determined by majority vote of the Appeal Committee, may an appeal filed after the deadline be considered.

  3. Candidates may appeal a negative review decision even in the case of a review that resulted from a prior successful appeal.

  4. On the basis of the written appeal and any preliminary discussion with the appellant, the Appeal Committee decides whether the case falls within its jurisdiction, using the following guideline: A case falls within the jurisdiction of the Appeal Committee if the appellant has alleged in a reasonable way that a violation of the procedures and principles spelled out in the Governance and Faculty Handbook contributed to the negative outcome of the review. If the Appeal Committee decides by a majority vote that a case does fall within its jurisdiction or if the committee's vote is tied, then the committee hears the appeal. If the committee decides by majority vote that a case does not fall within its jurisdiction, then the appeal is automatically denied. In either case, the committee notifies the appellant in writing.

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Hearing an appeal

  1. When the Appeal Committee decides to hear an appeal, the appellant's review dossier is made available to the committee. The dossier includes all materials originally submitted by the appellant for the review being appealed and also all other materials that were available to the Faculty Appointment and Salary Committee (FASC) in its consideration of the review. The Appeal Committee also receives any written communications from the department to FASC, the dean of the faculty, and the president subsequent to the department's recommendation; FASC's written summaries of any meetings between the department and FASC, the dean of the faculty, and the president; and the procedural log kept by FASC for each candidate which records its final vote and the dates on which it met to consider the case, by itself, with the dean, and with the president. The president's letter to the candidate (which includes the reasons for the final recommendation) and any written communications from the candidate to FASC, the dean, and the president can be made available to the Appeal Committee at the discretion of the appellant.

  2. In hearing the appeal, the Appeal Committee affords the appellant an opportunity to present their appeal in person before the committee. When appearing before the committee, the appellant may bring one member of the Vassar Community as an adviser. Except in unusual circumstances, as determined by majority vote of the committee, no new material from the appellant pertaining to the decision under appeal can be considered after the appellant has appeared before the committee.

  3. After the appellant has had the opportunity to present their appeal, the Appeal Committee may also interview other parties it judges to have information directly relevant to the appeal, including, but not limited to, the members of FASC who conducted the review and the members of the department or any program(s) who conducted the review.

    In determining whether an established procedure or principle was violated, the Appeal Committee may consult with the Faculty Policy and Conference Committee (FPCC) for clarification about established procedures.

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Granting or denying an appeal

  1. All appeal decisions are rendered by the end of the semester in which they are heard, except in unusual circumstances, described in a written communication from the Appeal Committee to the president, the dean of the faculty and FASC.

  2. The Appeal Committee grants an appeal if it determines, by majority or tied vote, that procedural violation(s) did occur; that the violation(s) contributed to the negative outcome of the review; and that correction of the violation(s) could lead to a different outcome. A majority vote by the committee against granting an appeal denies the appeal.

  3. The Appeal Committee focuses its investigation on the procedural violations alleged by the appellant in the written complaint or when the appellant appeared before the committee, but the Appeal Committee may grant an appeal based on other violations uncovered during the course of its investigation.

  4. If the appeal is granted, the Appeal Committee notifies the president in writing of its decision, with copies to the appellant, the dean of the faculty, the chair of FASC, the chair of the appellant's department and the director of any program that participated in the review. The letter specifies the violations of established policy that resulted in the granting of the appeal. The Appeal Committee may not suggest changes to the review process beyond requiring that it conform to established procedures.

  5. If an appeal is denied, the Appeal Committee notifies the appellant in writing, with a copy to the president only. Denying an appeal ends the appeals process and excludes further consideration of the case by the committee.

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Changes required by a granted appeal

  1. By granting an appeal, the Appeal Committee requires reconsideration of the review decision. Reconsideration of the review decision necessitates conducting a new review, beginning from the point in the process where the earliest procedural violation found by the Appeal Committee occurred. Normally, the new review conforms to the regular schedule for reviews. The procedural violation(s) identified by the Appeal Committee are corrected to conform with established procedures. The president, after consultation with FPCC and the dean of the faculty if needed, issues any instructions necessary to ensure all parties are aware of established procedures, which must be adhered to in the new review.

  2. Normally, if an appeal is granted, the appellant receives a contract for a supplemental year.

  3. The candidate's dossier for the new review is the same as the dossier for the previous review, except that (1) all procedurally improper documents are removed from it and, where appropriate, replaced with new documents that are in compliance with established procedures, and (2) any documents required by established procedures that were absent from the dossier in the previous review are added to it.

    The new review is conducted by those eligible to participate in the review at the time of the new review.

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Other procedures

  1. All deliberations and any decisions of the Appeal Committee are confidential, except as detailed in the procedures above.

  2. To provide guidance and precedents for cases being heard, the chair of the Appeal Committee maintains a file of letters to the president specifying the outcome of appeals and the reasons for the committee's decision. Names of appellants, departments, and all other identifying features are removed. This file is available to the chair of the Appeal Committee, who may consult it to help guide the committee.

  3. Other functions of the Appeal Committee and the procedures for other kinds of appeals are listed in the Elected Faculty Committees section of the Faculty Handbook.
    (Amended by the faculty February 1995, May 2013, and November 2014)

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