Non-tenure-track faculty members fill critical roles in the learning, discovery, and engagement missions at Virginia Tech. They are intended to complement the efforts and qualifications of tenure-track faculty, provide access to specialized faculty resources, and allow flexibility to address programmatic needs. As valuable contributors to departmental and institutional missions, they are entitled to fair treatment and compensation, access to professional development opportunities, recognition for their accomplishments, and participation in the life of the university community. The following policies address specific aspects of non-tenure-track faculty appointments. In a few cases, faculty members with regular academic rank (assistant, associate, or full professor) hold non-tenure-track appointments because of unusual job responsibilities and historical lack of appropriate alternative ranks. Policies in this section also apply to those individuals.
Ordinarily a graduate or professional degree is required for appointment to one of these ranks. Appointments are made using established university search procedures.
Academic departments retain the authority and responsibility to decide whether to employ non-tenure-track faculty members to deliver aspects of their instructional program. Departmental policies and practices related to the use of non-tenure-track ranks must be approved by an appropriate departmental committee.
5.1.2 Visiting Professor
Appointment to the rank of visiting assistant, associate, or full professor is for a restricted period to carry out learning, discovery, and engagement responsibilities within an academic department. Professional credentials required for the standard professorial ranks are required for appointment as a visiting assistant, associate, or full professor. A visiting faculty member may not serve in such a position beyond six years. Tenure cannot be awarded at this rank.
Full-time service at this rank may or may not be counted as part of the probationary period if the faculty member is subsequently appointed to a tenure-track position. As with prior service credit from another institution, the decision to include all or some of the years of service from a visiting appointment is at the discretion of the faculty member. However, this decision must be made at the time of appointment to the tenure-track position and documented as part of that initial contract.
5.1.3 Adjunct Professor
Appointment to the rank of adjunct assistant, associate, or full professor is reserved for persons whose primary employment is with another agency, organization, or educational institution, or with a non-instructional unit of the university. Professional credentials required for the standard professorial ranks are required for appointment as an adjunct assistant, associate, or full professor. Appointments may be renewed annually, but tenure cannot be awarded at this rank. The professor of practice series titles may be used for wage adjunct faculty appointments in lieu of the adjunct assistant professor, associate professor, or professor titles, if appropriate for the assignment and credentials of the individuals. (See section 5.1.4, “Professor of Practice Ranks.”)
Adjunct faculty must present credentials appropriate to the level of the course they are teaching. It is the responsibility of the department to verify documentation of appropriate credentials for adjunct faculty members prior to the start of the course. (See section 2.5.9, “Faculty Credentialing Guidelines,” or the provost’s website.)
If deemed qualified and appropriate by the host department, authorization for an adjunct faculty member to serve as principal investigator on a sponsored project may be requested. The department, with the approval of the dean, submits a written request for such authorization to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Wage adjunct faculty do not typically submit an annual faculty activity report or have an annual evaluation because their employment is temporary. Although wage adjunct faculty may be hired repeatedly to teach a course or courses, they are not considered to be continuing faculty for the purposes of evaluation. Per course stipends paid to wage adjunct faculty are not fixed university-wide, but rather are determined on a departmental basis. Payments typically reflect the experience and credentials of the wage adjunct faculty member, the level of demand (market) for the necessary expertise, and general salary levels in the discipline.
A “How To Guide” for processing P14 actions is available on the human resources website.
5.1.4 Professor of Practice Ranks
Academic departments retain the authority and responsibility to make decisions about whether to employ professors of practice to deliver aspects of their instructional program or to carry out other aspects of the departmental mission. Departmental policies and practices related to the use of non-tenure-track ranks must be approved by an appropriate standing committee in the department, such as a promotion and tenure or executive/personnel committee, the department head or chair, and dean.
For disciplines where professional preparation of students is a major goal, the involvement of experienced practitioners in teaching the skills and values of the profession, overseeing internships and project experiences, and career advising, for example, are a vital aspect of a successful program. Professional programs often have a deep commitment to on-going continuing education of practitioners in the field, resulting in a greater commitment to delivery of outreach programs than is typical of a tenure-track appointment outside of extension. Programs in the arts may wish to attract resident artists or performers for a period of time to contribute to the program. The professor of practice rank series may be appropriate in these and other roles that typically do not reflect the same range of responsibilities required for tenure-track faculty members.
The professor of practice series provides for short- or long-term, full- or part-time, non-tenure-track faculty appointments for individuals who bring specialized expertise to the instructional programs of the university, thereby complementing the qualifications and contributions of tenure-track faculty. (These rank titles may also be used for wage appointments in lieu of adjunct assistant, associate, or professor, if appropriate for the assignment and credentials of the individual.) Individuals appointed to these ranks are expected to be successful and effective professionals in a given field. They must be effective teachers of the profession or discipline and they are expected to be able to understand and evaluate the research that applies to their field and to teach it to students. While professor of practice faculty members may conduct research and present their findings in professional venues, there are no expectations for an extensive research program as is typical of tenure-track faculty appointments.
Professor of practice faculty members are expected to remain active in their professions in ways that contribute to their assignment—teaching, consulting or doing outreach, serving in technical and professional societies and associations, and similar activities. Where appropriate to their assignment, they may serve on graduate committees and interact with graduate students and interns; however, they may not chair graduate committees. They may also be expected to serve on departmental, college, or university committees as contributing members of their departments and the broader university community.
Individuals appointed to a professor of practice rank must have a graduate or professional degree in the discipline (or a related discipline), professional certification(s) if relevant, and/or significant professional experience. Any appointment without the relevant terminal degree in the field must be certified by the department as appropriately credentialed for the faculty member’s particular instructional assignment in accordance with guidelines for regional accreditation and university policy and procedures. Documentation supporting alternative credentials certification is required. Further information regarding appropriate credentials for the teaching faculty is found in section 2.5.9, “Faculty Credentialing Guidelines,” and on the provost’s website.
A record of significant professional achievement is expected for appointment at the associate or full level; initial appointments at such ranks require approval of the appropriate departmental committee and head or chair. Appointment to one of these ranks may be from one to five years and is renewable without limit.
Promotion within these ranks may be pursued through procedures outlined in this section. Tenure will not be awarded at any of these ranks and service at these ranks is excluded from the probationary period if the faculty member is subsequently appointed to a tenure-track position.
Assistant Professor of Practice: Persons appointed at this rank have a graduate or professional degree in the discipline (or a related discipline), professional certification(s) if relevant, and/or significant professional experience. Experience and a demonstrated competence in practice of the profession are expected. Credentials must be relevant to the field and type of assignment.
Associate Professor of Practice: Persons appointed at the associate professor of practice rank have a graduate or professional degree in the discipline (or a related discipline), professional certification(s) if relevant, and/or significant professional experience. Credentials for appointment or promotion to this rank must document a record of significant professional experience and accomplishments relevant to the field and type of assignment.
Professor of Practice: Professor of practice is the capstone rank in the series. Appointment to this rank denotes distinguished professional achievement, and regional, national, or international prominence in the field. Credentials for appointment or promotion to this rank must document a record of significant professional experience and accomplishments relevant to the field and type of assignment. External validation of such accomplishments and leadership in the field is expected at the time of appointment or promotion.
5.1.5 Clinical Faculty Ranks
General collegiate faculty members with responsibilities primarily in instruction and/or service in a clinical setting, such as veterinary medicine, are considered clinical faculty. The following clinical faculty appointments are intended to promote and retain clinical educators and to complement the clinical activities of the university. The clinical faculty track provides for long-term, full-time or part-time faculty appointments to individuals whose primary responsibilities are in clinical settings and in the instructional programs. While clinical faculty may conduct clinical research and present their findings in professional venues, there are no expectations for an extensive research program as is typical of tenure-track faculty appointments. Tenure cannot be earned in these ranks and time spent in one of these ranks is not applicable toward probationary tenure-track faculty service. The clinical faculty ranks include:
Clinical Instructor: Persons appointed to this rank must have the appropriate professional degree. Preference is given to individuals eligible for, or certified by, the most appropriate specialty college or organization recognized by the profession. Appointments at this rank are typically for one year and are renewable.
The clinical professor series is designed for clinical faculty members who have extended appointments and who are expected to interact with graduate students/residents and interns, serving on committees or supervising their training. Appointment to one of these ranks may be from one to five years and is renewable without limit. Normally a national search is conducted for appointment at one of these ranks (or an approved exemption sought for exceptional skills or similar justification).
Clinical Assistant Professor: Persons appointed to this rank must have the appropriate professional degree and eligibility for, or certification by, the most appropriate specialty college recognized by the professional organization. Credentials shall be consistent with those for appointment to assistant professor, with an expectation for primary commitment to the instructional and clinical teaching setting.
Clinical Associate Professor: Persons appointed to this rank must have the appropriate professional degree and be a diplomate in the appropriate specialty college recognized by their professional organization. Credentials shall be consistent with those for appointment to associate professor, with an emphasis on clinical accomplishments.
Clinical Professor: Persons appointed to this rank must have the appropriate professional degree and be a diplomate in the most appropriate specialty college recognized by their professional organization. Credentials shall be consistent with those for appointment to professor, with an emphasis on clinical accomplishments.
Further detail on the duties and responsibilities of these ranks, criteria and the process for promotion, and the terms and conditions of employment for clinical faculty are established by the respective academic departments and approved by an appropriate college-level committee and the dean.
5.1.6 Instructor Faculty Ranks
The responsibilities of a person appointed to one of the instructor ranks in an academic department are focused on undergraduate education, with minimal or no expectation for development of an independent program of research or scholarship. A master’s degree is the usual minimum educational credential for an appointment to the instructor ranks, and generally a minimum of 18 graduate credits in the teaching discipline is required to meet accreditation standards. (Further information regarding appropriate credentials for the teaching faculty is found in section 2.5.9, “Faculty Credentialing Guidelines,” and on the provost’s website.)
While initial appointment is typically at the entry rank, prior experience may be considered for a recommendation of appointment at a higher rank with the approval of the appropriate departmental committee and head. Up to three years of similar instructional service at another accredited American four-year college or university may be counted toward the designated period required prior to review for promotion in rank.
Tenure is not awarded at any of these ranks and all service at any instructor rank is excluded from the probationary period if the faculty member is subsequently appointed to a tenure-track position. Faculty members within the instructor ranks may not chair a graduate committee.
Instructor:The instructor rank is the initial rank for appointment of a full- or part-time faculty member. Primary responsibilities are usually to the instructional program, but assignments vary depending on the faculty member’s expertise and experience and departmental needs. Typically they include teaching undergraduate courses, advising students, developing or revising courses and curricula, and fulfilling other instructional, administrative, or service responsibilities. Appointment at this rank consists of a series of one- or two-year renewable appointments with a minimum of five years of completed service before consideration for promotion.
Advanced Instructor: Consideration for promotion to the rank of advanced instructor may be requested by the instructor or recommended by the department based on excellence in instructional responsibilities and significant evidence of related professional growth and development. Mentoring more junior colleagues or graduate teaching assistants, student advising, course or curriculum development, or exemplary service or outreach are examples of ways in which instructors can make valuable contributions to the instructional programs in a department. Advanced instructors are expected to demonstrate mastery in teaching with significant impact on student learning and the department’s undergraduate programs. Scholarship and publication are not typically an assigned responsibility of instructor positions, but such accomplishments may be considered as part of the evaluation for promotion. Promotion to the advanced instructor rank is generally accompanied by a renewable three-year contract.
A minimum of five years of completed service at the advanced instructor rank is required before consideration for promotion to senior instructor.
Senior Instructor: Senior instructor is the capstone rank in the instructor series and promotion to this rank denotes exemplary instruction, demonstrated continued professional development, and significant contributions to undergraduate education. In addition to teaching courses, senior instructors may have considerable responsibility in mentoring junior colleagues or graduate teaching assistants, overseeing course development or special instructional initiatives, student advising, or other non-teaching responsibilities reflecting their role as instructional leaders. Promotion to the rank of senior instructor is generally accompanied by a renewable five-year contract.
5.2.1 Initial Appointment
All initial non-tenure-track faculty appointments are normally for a period of one year, including appointments at the more senior ranks. Subsequent reappointments may be multi-year, as appropriate for the rank.
Appointments may be regular (renewable) or restricted (with a defined end date), calendar year or academic year, and full- or part-time depending on job responsibilities and available funding. Visiting and adjunct appointments are intended to be temporary in nature and are almost always restricted.
Non-tenure-track faculty positions are term appointments eligible for renewal based on quality of performance, continuing need for services in the unit, and available funding.
Non-tenure-track faculty members on restricted contracts whose appointments will be continued are issued a reappointment contract specifying the new ending date for their appointment. Reappointments typically occur on the anniversary of the hire date or are realigned to coincide with the academic year or other relevant appointment cycle. The practice of issuing repeated one-year restricted contracts for an individual faculty member over many years is explicitly discouraged. It results in exclusion of the faculty member from promotion consideration and can be exploitative over an extended time.
Reappointments for faculty members on regular contracts are usually effective July 1 or August 10, reflecting either calendar year or an academic year appointment. Notice of non-reappointment is in accordance with periods identified in section 2.11, “Retirement, Resignation, and Non-Reappointment.”
5.2.3 Annual Evaluations and Merit Adjustments
Continuing faculty members must submit an annual faculty activity report in accordance with departmental and college procedures and timelines. Timely submission of the annual faculty activity report is required for consideration for a merit adjustment. Annual evaluation of performance by the department head/chair or supervisor (or appropriately charged committee) and feedback to the faculty member are required, and should be consistent with university policies and practices for annual evaluation of tenure-track faculty members.
Non-tenure-track faculty members are entitled to full consideration for merit adjustments as available and warranted by their performance.
5.2.4 Promotion Guidelines for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Appointments
Non-tenure-track faculty members are eligible for promotion in rank in accordance with guidelines established by academic departments and approved by an appropriate college-level committee and the dean. Such guidelines should outline the process and criteria for promotion in rank; they should be widely available along with other departmental and college documents related to promotion and tenure. Faculty members must be in a regular rather than restricted appointment to be considered for promotion.
Promotion in rank for any non-tenure-track position is not a requirement of continued employment, or an entitlement for years of service without evidence of exceptional merit, continued professional development, and contribution in the assigned role. An approved promotion in rank is recognized by a change in title, increasing length of appointment contract, and a base salary adjustment as identified in the annual faculty compensation plan approved by the board of visitors. (See section 2.4, “Faculty Compensation Plan.”)
Consideration for promotion in rank includes preparation of a dossier using a common university format, which may be based on relevant elements of the promotion and tenure dossier format for tenure-track faculty members. Typically such a dossier includes a statement of professional direction and accomplishment, a full curriculum vitae, and documentation of contributions associated with the instructor’s appointment. These contributions can be to instructional programs or administrative and/or service responsibilities. Colleges and departments may request supplemental materials. The appropriate college committee and dean approve guidelines for dossier development and departmental policies and procedures for the promotion process. External evaluations of credentials are not necessary for promotion consideration for non-tenure-track faculty, except for promotion to clinical professor.
The promotion dossier is reviewed at three levels: by an appropriately charged departmental committee and the department head or chair, by an appropriately charged college-level committee and the dean, and by the provost. Given the wide variation in representation of non-tenure-track instructional appointments in the various academic colleges, some latitude is provided in the nature and make up of such committees. For those departments with significant numbers of instructors, it is expected that the committee charged with such reviews would consist of majority representation of advanced and senior instructors (or associate or full clinical professors). In departments with very few such appointments, the existing departmental promotion and tenure committee may review the dossier(s) and make recommendations. Similarly, at the college level, either a special committee may be formed to review promotions of non-tenure-track instructional faculty with majority representation of those in the advanced level of such ranks, or existing promotion and tenure committees may be assigned such review and recommendation responsibilities. While the procedures vary to recognize practical issues and varying numbers, the guidelines for review should be in writing and adhered to for consistency and fair treatment of all candidates. A faculty member may not serve on any committee that is evaluating a spouse, family member, or other individual with whom the faculty member has a close personal relationship (see section 2.16.2, “Potential Conflicts Involving Spouses and Immediate Family Members”).
The department head or chair and dean make separate recommendations to the subsequent review levels. The provost reviews college and dean recommendations and makes recommendations to the president. The board of visitors grants final approval.
Given that promotion decisions do not carry the same “up or out” decision associated with tenure, a negative recommendation on a promotion request need not translate into termination of employment. Indeed, a faculty member may remain at the initial rank as long as their performance warrants continued employment and serves departmental needs. If the promotion request is not supported on the first submission, it may not be appealed until at least a second review has taken place in a subsequent or later year.
Following the same pattern as review of tenure-track faculty members, a positive recommendation from either or both the departmental committee and the department head or chair automatically advances the dossier for promotion to the college committee level. Similarly, at the college level, a positive recommendation from either or both the college committee and the dean results in automatic advancement of the recommendation to consideration by the provost. The decision of the provost is final and cannot be appealed.
Faculty members should be provided written feedback in the case of a negative recommendation at either the department or college level so that they might improve their performance or dossiers for a later submission.
5.2.5 Appeal Procedures
Following a second negative review by both the departmental committee and department head or chair, the decision may be appealed to the college committee, but only on grounds that relevant information was not considered or that the decision was influenced by improper consideration. The appeal must be filed within 14 days of official notification. A negative recommendation from both the college and the dean ends the process. There is no appeal available when both the college committee and dean vote “no.”
Significant procedural violations may be grieved under the faculty grievance process described in section 5.7, “Faculty Grievance Policy and Procedures.”
Members of the non-tenure-track faculty may be removed from their position by one of the following three procedures: removal for just cause, non-reappointment, or termination of position because of insufficient funds or no further need for services. Notice of non-reappointment for non-tenure-track instructional faculty members on regular appointments is addressed in section 2.11, “Retirement, Resignation, and Non-Reappointment.”
5.3.1 Dismissal for Cause
Stated causes for removal shall include, but are not limited to, professional incompetence; unacceptable or unsatisfactory performance after due notice; unethical conduct or misconduct that interferes with the capacity of the employee to perform effectively the requirements of the position; violation of university policy; or falsification of credentials, experience, leave reports, or other official university documents. Filing a grievance shall not constitute just cause for termination.
When it becomes necessary to terminate a non-tenure-track faculty member for unsatisfactory performance prior to the end of the appointment period, the following procedures apply:
For termination for cause for reasons other than unsatisfactory performance, the faculty member shall receive written notification of the reasons for termination and shall be allowed an opportunity to respond within five workdays. With the approval of the provost, a faculty member may be suspended with or without pay pending an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing.
The faculty member may appeal notification of termination for cause to the college dean and the termination will be held in abeyance until the appeal process is complete. The appeal must be made in writing within five working days of receipt of the notification of termination. The dean must respond in writing within ten working days. If the dean’s response is unsatisfactory to the appellant, an appeal may be made to the provost in writing within five working days. The provost appoints a committee of three members of the general faculty who review the case and make recommendations to the provost. The decision of the provost is final. The above time limits of the appeal process may be altered by extenuating circumstances and the agreement of both parties.
5.3.2 Termination of Appointment During the Contract Period
Occasionally a decline in funding resources makes it necessary to terminate an appointment before the end of a contract. While department heads or chairs are encouraged to make every effort to assure continuity of employment to individuals performing satisfactorily, there are circumstances in which this may not be possible or in the best interest of the university. Non-tenure-track faculty appointments may be terminated in the case where there are insufficient funds or no further need for services. Written notice of termination within the contract period shall be at least three months for those who have been in a regular appointment less than two year and at least one semester (if academic year) or six months (if calendar year) for those who have been in regular appointments two years or more. A proposed notice of termination during the contract period because of insufficient funds or lack of need for services requires the approval of the dean and provost.
Salaried non-tenure-track instructional faculty members are eligible to participate in departmental, college, and university committees as appropriate for their assignments. Non-tenure-track faculty members should have meaningful engagement in program planning at the department level, especially as it relates to aspects of the curriculum for which they bear teaching responsibility. Although non-tenure-track instructional faculty members cannot be involved in reviewing cases of promotion and tenure for tenure-track or tenured faculty members, they may otherwise be voting members of the departmental faculty in accordance with the policy set by individual departmental governance.
Those faculty members at the rank of instructor, assistant, associate, or professor, or related rank variations, such as clinical assistant professor, professor of practice, or senior instructor are eligible to serve as voting members of the Faculty Senate.
Non-tenure-track instructional faculty members with appropriate credentials may serve on graduate advisory committees and interact with graduate students and interns where relevant to their assignment and with approval of the departmental graduate program, department head or chair, and graduate school. Faculty members within the instructor ranks may not chair a graduate committee.
Faculty members in a non-tenure-track rank may serve as a principal investigator for a sponsored project or contract with the approval of the department head or chair, the dean, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. A written request for authorization may be submitted by the department, with the approval of the dean, to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
The following procedure is provided as the means for resolution of grievances against a supervisor or member(s) of the university administration brought by members of the non-tenure-track instructional faculty. The grievance process is the same as that for tenured and tenure-track faculty. The Faculty Review Committee of the Faculty Senate conducts the step four hearing if requested.
5.7.1 Faculty Reconciliation and Mediation Services
Informal Dialogue: It should be possible to resolve most faculty concerns or complaints through informal communication among colleagues working together in the academic enterprise. Accordingly, a faculty member who feels he or she has a grievance is encouraged to take it to his or her immediate supervisor in the normal collegial spirit of problem solving rather than as a confrontation between adversaries.
Reconciliation: At the initiation of the grievance procedure, or at any earlier time, the grievant may request the assistance of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation in fashioning an equitable solution. Contacting the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation is not required in filing a grievance, but it may be useful if the grievant feels that the issue may be amenable to, but will require time for, negotiation; or if the grievant is unsure whether his or her concern is a legitimate issue for a grievance; or if personal relations between the parties involved in the grievance have become strained.
For a potential grievance issue to qualify for consideration by the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation, the grievant must contact the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation within 30 calendar days of the time when the grievant knew or should have known of the event or action that is the basis for the potential grievance, just as if beginning the regular grievance process. If the grievant requests assistance from the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation, that committee must request a postponement of the time limits involved in the grievance procedure while it deals with the case. The request is submitted in writing to the associate provost for faculty affairs by the chair of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation. Also, the grievant should reach an understanding with the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation of the time frame planned for that committee’s work on the case, such time not to exceed 60 calendar days.
Faculty members may also consult the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation about serious disagreements with immediate supervisors or other university administrators concerning issues that may not be eligible for consideration within the grievance process. In such instances, the committee contacts the relevant administrator to determine if there is an interest and willingness to explore informal resolution of the dispute; it is not necessary to notify the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost.
Additional information regarding the faculty reconciliation process is available on the provost’s website.
Mediation: Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process through which trained neutral third persons (mediators) assist people to express their concerns and develop solutions to the dispute in a safe and structured environment. Because mediation is voluntary, both parties must agree to participate in order for mediation to occur. Faculty members and supervisors are encouraged to consider using mediation to resolve disputes between them, or to help address a conflict between a faculty member and another member of the Virginia Tech community.
Role of Mediators: Mediators do not make judgments, determine facts, or decide the outcome; instead they facilitate discussion between the participants, who identify the solutions best suited to their situation. No agreement is made unless and until it is acceptable to the participants.
Requesting Mediation: Mediation is available at any time, without the filing of a grievance. Additionally, mediation may be requested by any party during the grievance process prior to step four. If, after the initiation of a formal grievance, both parties agree to participate in mediation, the grievance is placed on administrative hold until the mediation process is complete. If the parties come to a resolution of the dispute through mediation, the parties are responsible to each other for ensuring that the provisions of the agreement are followed. In the event that the parties are not able to reach a mutual resolution to the dispute through mediation, the grievant may request that the grievance be reactivated and the process continues.
Mediation differs from faculty reconciliation in that mediators do not engage in fact-finding or in evaluation of decisions. Both mediation and reconciliation, however, are voluntary; no party is required to participate in either process.
To learn more about mediation and other forms of informal conflict resolution processes, contact the conflict resolution program manager in human resources at 540-231-9331.
5.7.2 The Formal Grievance Procedure
If the assistance of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation is not desired or is not requested; or if that committee determines that it cannot provide assistance in the matter; or if the grievant finds that the length of time the Committee on Reconciliation plans or takes with the case is excessive; or if the grievant is not satisfied with the recommendations of that committee, the grievant may pursue the issue as a formal grievance through the following procedure. Department heads or chairs, deans, directors, and other administrative faculty will cooperate with the grievant in the mechanics of processing the grievance, but the grievant alone is responsible for preparation of his or her case.
1. Step one: The grievant must meet with his or her immediate supervisor (normally the department head or chair) within 30 calendar days of the date that grievant knew or should have known of the event or action that is basis for the grievance and orally identifies the grievance and the grievant’s concerns. The supervisor provides an oral response to the grievant within five weekdays following the meeting. If the supervisor’s response is satisfactory to the grievant, that ends the matter.
2. Step two: If a satisfactory resolution of the grievance is not achieved by the immediate supervisor’s oral response, the grievant may submit a written statement of the grievance and the relief requested to the immediate supervisor. This statement must be on the faculty grievance form, must define the grievance and the relief requested specifically and precisely, and must be submitted to the immediate supervisor within five weekdays of the time when the grievant received the immediate supervisor’s oral response to the first step meeting. Faculty grievance forms are available on the provost’s website.
Within five weekdays of receiving the written statement of the grievance, the immediate supervisor, in turn, gives the grievant a written response on the faculty grievance form, citing reasons for action taken or not taken. If the written response of the immediate supervisor is satisfactory to the grievant, that ends the matter.
3. Step three: If the resolution of the grievance proposed in the written response by the immediate supervisor is not acceptable, the grievant may advance the grievance to the next higher level of university administration by checking the appropriate place on the faculty grievance form, signing and sending the form to the next higher administrator within five weekdays of receiving the written response from the immediate supervisor. The next higher level of administration for collegiate faculty is normally the college dean. The administrator involved at this next level is hereafter referred to as the second-level administrator.
Following receipt of the faculty grievance form, the second-level administrator or designated representative meets with the grievant within five weekdays. The second-level administrator may request the immediate supervisor of the grievant be present; the grievant may similarly request that a representative of his or her choice from among the university faculty be present. Unless the grievant is represented by a member of the faculty who is also a lawyer, the second-level administrator does not have legal counsel present. The second-level administrator gives the grievant a written decision on the faculty grievance form within five weekdays after the meeting, citing reasons for his or her decision. If the second-level administrator’s written response to the grievance is satisfactory to the grievant, that ends the matter.
4. Step four: If the resolution of the grievance proposed in the written response from the second-level administrator is not acceptable, the grievant may advance the grievance within five weekdays to the level of the provost, including consideration by an impartial hearing panel of the Faculty Review Committee. A description of the charge and membership of the Faculty Review Committee is included in section 188.8.131.52, “Faculty Review Committee.”
Upon receiving the faculty grievance form requesting step four review, the provost, or appropriate designated representative, acknowledges receipt of the grievance within five weekdays and forwards a copy of the Procedures of the Faculty Review Committee to parties in the grievance process. The provost immediately forwards a copy of the grievance to the president of the Faculty Senate, who also writes to the grievant to acknowledge receipt of the grievance within five weekdays of receipt of the faculty grievance form from the provost.
The grievant may petition the provost to bypass the Faculty Review Committee and rule on the grievance. If the provost accepts the request, there is no subsequent opportunity for the grievance to be heard by a hearing panel. The provost’s decision, however, may be appealed to the president, as described in step five. If the provost does not accept the petition, the Faculty Review Committee hears the grievance as outlined in these procedures.
5. Step five: If the provost’s decision is not acceptable to the grievant and not consonant with the recommendations of the hearing panel, the grievant may appeal in writing to the president within 20 calendar days. The president acts as he or she sees fit. The president’s decision is final.
5.7.3 Timeliness of Grievance and Procedural Compliance
A grievance must be brought forward in a timely manner. It is the responsibility of the grievant to initiate the grievance process within 30 calendar days of the time when he or she knew or should have known of the event or action that is the basis for the grievance. The university administration is not required to accept a grievance for processing if the grievant does not meet the 30-day deadline, except in cases of demonstrated good cause.
Scheduled commitments made prior to the time of filing or advancement of a grievance that preclude action by either of the parties to the grievance automatically extend time limits for their duration unless this would be demonstrably harmful to the fair processing of the grievance. In such cases, on written request by the grievant to the appropriate office for that step, the grievance is advanced to the next step in the grievance process.
If the grievant does not follow the time limits specified in the grievance procedure it is assumed that he or she accepted the last proposed resolution as satisfactory. If the grievant desires to advance the grievance after the appropriate specified time limits have lapsed, the administrator who receives the late submission notifies the chair of the Faculty Review Committee in writing, and the chair of the Faculty Review Committee determines if there was good cause for the delay. If so, the grievance proceeds. If not, the process ends with the most recently proposed resolution in force. The finding on the matter by the chair of the Faculty Review Committee is communicated to both parties in writing.
If either party to a grievance charges the other with procedural violations other than time limit issues, a special committee of the president of the Faculty Senate, the chair of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation, and the chair of the Faculty Review Committee (or the vice president of the senate if the president is also chair of the Faculty Review Committee) is convened to rule on the question, as in disputes about the validity of issues qualifying for the grievance procedure. The special committee has the following options. It can either find no significant procedural violation occurred, in which case the grievance process continues unaffected, or that a significant procedural violation did occur. If the administrator committed a significant procedural violation, the grievance automatically qualifies for advancement to the next step in the grievance process. If the grievant committed a significant procedural violation, the grievance process ends at that point with the last proposed resolution established as the final disposition of the case.
5.7.4 Valid Issues for Grievance
For this process, a grievance is defined as a complaint by a faculty member alleging a violation, misinterpretation, or incorrect application of a policy, procedure, or practice of the university that directly affects the grievant. Some examples of valid issues for filing a grievance are: improperly or unfairly determined personnel decisions that result in an unsatisfactory annual performance evaluation, unreasonable merit adjustment or salary level, or excessive teaching load/work assignments; substantive violations of promotion procedures (see appeal process in section 3.4.5, “Appeals of Decisions [on Promotion]”); reprisals; substantive error in the application of policy; and matters relating to academic freedom.
Issues not open to grievance: While most faculty disputes with the university administration may be dealt with by this grievance policy, the following issues may not be made the subject of a grievance: determination of policy appropriately promulgated by the university administration or the university governance system; those items falling within the jurisdiction of other university policies and procedures (for example, complaints of unlawful discrimination or harassment, or an appeal related to the merits of a promotion decision); the contents of personnel policies, procedures, rules, regulations, ordinances, and statutes; the routine assignment of university resources (e.g., space, operating funds, parking, etc.); normal actions taken, or recommendations made, by administrators or committee members acting in an official capacity in the grievance process; termination of appointment by removal for just cause, non-reappointment, or abolition of position; or allegations of misconduct in scholarly activities.
Adjudication of disputes on the validity of issues qualifying for consideration under the faculty grievance procedures: If a university administrator rules that an issue does not qualify for the grievance process, the grievant may write to the chair of the Faculty Review Committee within five weekdays of receiving such notification and request a ruling from a special committee consisting of the president of the Faculty Senate, the chair of the Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation, and the chair of the Faculty Review Committee. The special committee considers the matter (including consultations with both parties if deemed necessary) and rules by majority vote on the admissibility of the matter to the grievance process. This special committee is called together by the chair of the Faculty Review Committee, who also sends a written report of the results of the deliberations of the committee to all parties concerned.
5.7.5 Particular Concerns and Definitions
Time limits are subject to extension by written agreement of both parties. The grievant and the administrator involved at that particular step of the discussion are the makers of such an agreement. (An agreement form to extend the grievance response time is available on the provost’s website.)
Grievances that advance to step four during or close to the summer and/or teaching breaks during the academic year may require some extension of the stipulated time limits. The principals and the chair of the Faculty Review Committee negotiate such an extension. Every effort is made, however, to stay within the stipulated time limits. In case of disagreement, the Faculty Senate president rules on time extension and procedure questions, which might include a hearing conducted by three rather than five panel members, or other recommendations designed to expedite the proceedings while providing peer review of the grievance.
If a faculty member is away from his or her assigned work location at the time he or she discovers the event or action that is the basis for a grievance, the 30-day period during which the grievant must meet with his or her immediate supervisor to initiate the grievance process begins when the faculty member returns to his or her assigned work location. If the date of return causes a delay of such length that the grievance, or its resolution, is not timely, the grievant may submit the grievance in writing to the immediate supervisor (step two), omitting personal meetings until such time as the faculty member returns to his or her assigned work location.
“Weekdays,” as used in this procedure, include Monday through Friday only and only when those days are not national, state, or religious holidays relevant to the principals in the grievance.
To protect a grievant from undue pressure in the pursuit of a grievance, if a grievant becomes ill and takes sick leave the grievance process stops until such time as the grievant is able to resume his or her duties. Exceptions to this provision are made at the request of the grievant, but only if the grievant obtains and produces medical certification that proceeding with the grievance will not be harmful to the health of the grievant, or exacerbate the ailment that required taking sick leave.
All costs of legal counsel employed by a grievant are borne by the grievant.
If a grievant is employed away from Blacksburg, and he or she is required to travel away from their duty station in resolution of their grievance, the university pays all travel costs permitted under state regulations.
In the event that a faculty member discovers he or she has a grievance about actions by an administrator above the level of his or her immediate supervisor that directly involve the faculty member, or with actions by an administrator not in his or her department that directly involve the faculty member, the grievant initiates the grievance process by seeking the mediation of his or her immediate supervisor within 30 calendar days of the discovery of the event or action that is the basis for the grievance. If that effort does not resolve the grievance satisfactorily, the grievant, after consulting his or her immediate supervisor, may file the faculty grievance form at the appropriate level or with the appropriateadministrative office to initiate response from the administrator perceived as the source of the action causing the grievance. The grievance process then proceeds from that level onward in normal fashion.
A grievance filed by a faculty member concerning an action of the provost is handled by the chair of the Faculty Review Committee and a regular impartial hearing panel, but the findings and recommendations of the hearing panel are sent to the president of the university for his or her ruling, rather than to the provost. A grievance filed by a faculty member concerning an action of the president of the university is dealt with by a special panel appointed by the provost in consultation with the president of the Faculty Senate.
Any final resolution of a grievance must be consonant with the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia and university policy.
Once a grievance is resolved, either to the satisfaction of the grievant, or if not to the satisfaction of the grievant, by the action of the provost in consonance with the hearing panel recommendations, orby the ruling of the president, that specific grievance is closed and may not be made the subject of another grievance.
5.7.6 Overview of the Formal Grievance Process for Non-Tenure-Track Instructional Faculty
Below is an abbreviated overview of the grievance process and deadlines. Refer to section 5.7.2, “The Formal Grievance Procedure,” for specific details and options available in each step of the grievance process.
Time limits are subject to extension by written agreement of both parties. The grievant and the administrator involved at that particular step of the discussion are the makers of such an agreement. (An agreement form to extend the grievance response time is available on the provost’s website.)
Within 30 days of event 1a. Grievant meets with immediate supervisor (usually the department head).
Within 5 weekdays 1b. Department head provides oral response.
1c. If department head’s response is satisfactory to grievant, that ends the matter.
1d. If department head’s response is not satisfactory to grievant, move to step two within 5 weekdays.
Within 5 weekdays 2a. Grievant submits written grievance to department head.
Within 5 weekdays 2b. Department head responds in writing on grievance form.
2c. If department head’s response is satisfactory to grievant, that ends the matter.
2d. If department head’s response is not satisfactory to grievant, move to step three within 5 weekdays.
Within 5 weekdays 3a. Grievant advances grievance form to the second-level administrator (usually the dean).
Within 5 weekdays 3b. Dean meets with grievant; dean may request DH to be present.
Within 5 weekdays 3c. Dean responds in writing on grievance form.
3d. If dean’s written response is satisfactory to grievant, that ends the matter.
3e. If dean’s written response is not satisfactory to grievant, move to step four within 5 weekdays.
Within 5 weekdays 4a. Grievant advances grievance form to the provost.
Within 5 weekdays 4b. Provost acknowledges receipt of grievance and forwards copy to Faculty Senate president to receive recommendation of an impartial hearing panel of the Faculty Review Committee.
Within 5 weekdays 4c. Faculty Senate president acknowledges in writing to grievant that copy of grievance has been received from provost.
Within 15 weekdays 4d. Faculty Review Committee chair appoints hearing panel from among Faculty Review Committee members; panel holds its initial meeting with both principals.
Within 45 weekdays 4e. Hearing panel concludes its work and makes recommendations to provost and grievant.
Within 10 weekdays 4f. Provost meets with grievant.
Within 10 weekdays 4g. Provost notifies grievant in writing of his or her decision.
4f. If the provost’s decision is fully consonant with (or exceeds) the recommendations of the hearing panel, or if it is satisfactory to the grievant even if it differs from the recommendations of the hearing panel, that ends the matter.
4h. If the provost’s decision is not acceptable to the grievant and not consonant with the recommendations of the hearing panel, the grievant may appeal in writing to the president within 20 calendar days.
Within 20 calendar days 5a. Grievant may appeal in writing to university president.
5b. University president’s decision is final.