Posted on Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Virginia Community College System is adopting an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program aimed at settling workplace conflicts involving faculty through mediation and negotiation, replacing the more litigious grievance system that had been in place since the 1990s.

Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges adopted the new policy in regular session in Richmond on July 18, 2019.

“This is a significant step forward for our employees and our institutions,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “The old system for resolving disputes offers no mechanism for advancing concerns anonymously or without starting an adversarial, court-like process. Our new approach will offer informal, semi-formal, and formal means to address a range of workplace concerns with the goal of resolving issues quickly, easily, and at the lowest level possible.”

The new alternate dispute resolution and grievance policy has been thoroughly vetted over the past year and was presented multiple times to the Advisory Council of Presidents (ACOP), the Academic and Student Affairs Council (ASAC), the Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee (CFAC), and then to faculty at the Spring 2019 New Horizons Conference. The policy has also received a legal review.

The new policy applies immediately to more than 3,000 full time teaching and administrative and professional faculty across the VCCS system.
“CFAC had an opportunity to review the new grievance procedure at its April meeting,” said Northern Virginia Community College professor Charles Errico, chairman of the Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee. “Our view was that the establishment of mediators to resolve problems before they reached an often confrontational hearing was an excellent idea. Grievances are a distasteful occurrence in a community college system known for its collegiality and camaraderie. Just as an athlete may not agree with an umpire’s call or a referee’s flag, honest disagreements can occur between faculty and their supervisors. Mediators will help prevent those occurrences from becoming heated and negatively impacting the morale of the academic environment.”
A comprehensive training program will occur over the summer and fall for all stakeholders including deans, directors, faculty, and executives. External experts will be engaged to conduct this training.

In addition, a call for faculty who would like to be trained to serve as peer ombudspersons or mediators will be made in the coming weeks.

Faculty with questions are encouraged to reach out to the chief Human Relations officer at each institution.

To read the new policy in its entirety, click here'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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