E. Grievance Procedures

(1)   Guidelines for the Resolution of Faculty Grievances

In addition to the FAS’s policies and procedures specific to sexual and gender-based harassment (please see Section F, “Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment”), please note the following. Any faculty member may bring forward for resolution on his/her/their own behalf any grievance that alleges discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, protected veteran status, disability, genetic information, military service, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, or other protected status or that contends that a material deviation from proper procedures may have affected a promotion or reappointment outcome. The review process, which includes both informal and formal mechanisms for the resolution of grievances, consists of four stages:

a.   A faculty member with a concern should, in the first instance, take the matter to the appropriate department chair.

b.   If the issue cannot be resolved satisfactorily between the faculty member and the department chair, the faculty member may consult on a confidential basis with either the Dean for Faculty Affairs and Planning or with a designated equal employment opportunity officer within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as appropriate. These advisers are presumed to be well informed about the procedures and policies of the Faculty. At the request of the grievant, they will attempt to resolve the issue.

c.   If the faculty member has taken these steps and the matter is still unresolved, the faculty member may elect to file a formal grievance.

i.   A formal grievance is a complaint in writing to the Dean of the Faculty that claims that discrimination (on any of the bases enumerated above) or a material deviation from proper procedures in a promotion or reappoointment case has occurred. It also gives a detailed account of the circumstances and grounds on which the grievance is based. Complaints should be submitted within eight weeks of the action or decision that is the subject of the grievance.

ii.   The Dean will promptly acknowledge receipt of the written grievance and submit it to the elected members of the Docket Committee of the Faculty for preliminary screening. This group is empowered to dismiss the complaint if it is found to be without merit.

d.   If the complaint is not dismissed, the elected members of the Docket Committee will advise the Dean to appoint an ad hoc grievance panel chosen from a pool composed of current members of the Faculty Council and members of the Faculty who have served on the Faculty Council during the preceding five years and who have had no conflict of interest or involvement of significance in the issue.[1] The ad hoc grievance panel will consist of three members chosen from this pool as follows: one by the grievant; one by the respondent or relevant department chair as appropriate; and the third by the Docket Committee itself. This last member will serve as chair of the panel.

i.   The grievance panel will conduct an inquiry in an informal manner, providing for the orderly and careful consideration of all points of view. It will devise procedures appropriate to the case to include the right of the grievant and respondent to appear before it.

ii.   Every effort will be made to protect the privacy of individuals and the confidentiality of documents, including letters written with the understanding that they will not become public. However, in order to provide full and fair consideration of the grievance, the panel may require access to confidential documents. All requests for access to confidential documents must go through the Dean of the Faculty, who, in consultation with the panel chair, will judge which materials are relevant. Such confidential documents as the Dean deems relevant will be held in the office of the Dean with access limited to members of the panel, unless, in the Dean’s view, specific circumstances require otherwise.
iii.   Proceedings of the panel are not those of a court of law, and it is a matter of considerable importance to maintain an atmosphere of collegiality. Consequently, the presence of legal counsel on behalf of either party to the grievance is not permitted during the proceedings.
iv.   When appearing before the panel, both the grievant and the respondent are entitled to be accompanied by a member of the Faculty serving as adviser. Advisers may participate in the proceedings in the same way that the grievant and the respondent participate.
v.   The grievance panel will prepare a draft report summarizing the relevant evidence obtained. This draft will be circulated to the grievant, the respondent, and the Dean in order to permit them the opportunity to respond before a final report is made.
vi.   The final report, presenting in summary the panel’s conclusions and reasons, will be sent to the grievant, the respondent, and the Dean. (The panel is not obligated to inform any other person of its conclusions and normally will not release the report to the public.) If, in the case of a reappointment or promotion, the panel judges it appropriate, the report may recommend reconsideration of the decision. In cases of discrimination, the panel may suggest a resolution appropriate for each case.
vii.   Following receipt of the report, the Dean may:

 a)      Dismiss the panel and take whatever action, if any, the Dean believes the report warrants and so advise the grievant and respondent; or
b)      Ask the panel to consider the matter further. Upon completion of the review by the panel, the Dean will take whatever action, if any, the Dean believes the report warrants and so inform the grievant and the respondent.

The final action by the Dean completes the grievance procedure in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

For more information on the FAS Grievance Procedures, please contact the Secretary of the Faculty at secfas@fas.harvard.edu.

(2)   The Commission of Inquiry

The Commission of Inquiry serves as a clearing house for inquiries or complaints brought to it by members of the Faculty or of the student bodies of Harvard College or the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. It consists of three faculty members and two students.

Complaints or inquiries should be addressed to the Commission of Inquiry c/o the Secretary of the Faculty at secfas@fas.harvard.edu. The Commission will then direct the complaint or query to the appropriate agency of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. If such an agency does not exist, the Commission will attempt to aid in resolving the matter. The Commission is sometimes instrumental in establishing a new agency for handling recurrent issues. Although the Commission has no power to make rulings, it can play an advocacy role in pressing for the resolution of issues.



[1] In both Section E.1.c.ii (regarding the Docket Committee) and Section E.1.d (regarding the ad hoc grievance panel), members of the Docket Committee and the grievance panel must have no conflicts of interest or significant involvement in a case. The following criteria are among the reasons why a Docket Committee member or potential panelist has a conflict of interest or involvement of significance and should, therefore, not participate in a case:

  • If the individual’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned (e.g., the individual was/is an advisor or co-author of one of the parties).
  • If the individual has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party involved in the grievance, or has personal knowledge of disputed facts.
  • If the individual has a financial interest in the matter or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome.
  • If the individual is likely to be a material witness in the case.
  • If the individual has, at any time, made a public statement that appears to commit them to reach a particular conclusion.
  • Romantic involvements, including the existence of a romantic relationship or the desire or pursuit of a romantic relationship with a party associated with the case, require that an individual not serve on a case.
  • Friendships with a party associated with the case require disclosure but not necessarily disqualification, and the latter depends on whether the facts and circumstances involving the degree of friendship might reasonably call the individual’s impartiality into question.
  • In addition, all panelists and Docket Committee members must hold the rank at least equivalent to the lowest ranking member of the group that made the decision being grieved.

If a member of the Docket Committee needs to recuse themself due to a conflict of interest, they will be replaced on the screening panel by another member of the Faculty Council, who will be chosen by lot.