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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

Pending Legislation

Resolution on Consensual Relations Policy

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2018 for consideration at the April 25 Senate meeting.

Sponsors

Professor Richard Bensel (Government)

Professor Ken Birman (Computer Science)

Professor Eric Cheyfitz (English)

Professor David Delchamps (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Professor Richard Miller (Philosophy)

Background

Although we find the general features of CRP-B plausible, we are troubled by two features of this document, made public on Monday,  which, we think, make it worse than the Rough Draft that has been available and was previously discussed by the Senate.

First, although recusal plans are the core of this alternative, guidelines for recusal plans which were part of the Rough Draft are absent.

Second, while the Rough Draft made department chairs appropriate recipients of proposals and (with consultation with the 6.x Office and the Dean of Faculty) possible determiners of recusal plans, CRP-B makes the 6.x Office, an agency solely described as a unit within the Office of Human Resources, the sole recipient of the mandatory disclosures and the sole source of recusal plans.

Of course, worries about this exclusive authority, only constrained by vague general goals, could go into comments submitted along with Yes/No votes. But if one thinks these are serious worries, it can be hard to know whether to vote yes or no to Plan B. Even more important, the proposed voting and commenting procedure does not strike us as a good way for the Senate to serve as an independent voice of the faculty in this important matter. Votes of questionable meaning accompanied by an abundance of individual comments are no substitute for deliberations that forge a genuine consensus.

Resolution

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Senate endorses Consensual Relations Policy B with the following revision.

In “The Disclosure Process,” in the list headed “When the authority is …”, the current items are replaced by the following, which are largely taken  from the Rough Draft. These changes provide more specific guidelines and, unlike the current CRP-B, do not invest exclusive authority in the 6.x office.

  1. The  disclosure should be made to either the 6.X office or the individual who is responsible for the academic workplace that  is shared by the faculty member and the subordinate, e.g., the director of the student’s graduate program or the  chair of the faculty member’s  department.
  2. After consulting with the 6.x Office and the Dean of the relevant College, the recipient of the disclosure develops a Recusal Plan or determines that one is unnecessary. The Recusal Plan  identifies  situations where participation  by the faculty member is limited  because of the potential for conflict of interest, thus mitigating the academic power imbalance. For example, the authority should not be involved in decision processes that determine TA assignments if the subordinate is in the TA pool. The authority must not be involved in any decisions that allocate resources to a student cohort that includes the subordinate.
  3. The Recusal Plan is signed by the faculty member, forwarded to the 6.x Office, and enforced by the recipient of the disclosure. It must be renewed every year.
  4. The subordinate is  contacted by the 6.x Office shortly after the disclosure is made to inform them of the disclosure and of relevant resources

 

Reference

The resolution proposes replacement of  the following  CRP-B disclosure process steps:

  1. The disclosure shall first be made to the Policy 6.X Office to ensure protection of the subordinate. Faculty may also consult with the Dean of Faculty.
  2. In consultation with the authority, the Policy 6.X Office develops a Recusal Plan or determines that one is unnecessary. The Recusal Plan identifies situations where participation by the authority is to be limited because of the potential for conflict of interest, thus mitigating the academic power imbalance. The plan must also specify who in the workplace needs to be informed of its existence.
  3. The subordinate is contacted by the Policy 6.X Office shortly after the disclosure is made to inform them of the disclosure, the proposed Recusal Plan, and of relevant resources.
  4. The Recusal Plan is signed by the authority and the subordinate and filed in the Policy 6.X Office. The Recusal Plan identifies those who are responsible for its enforcement and the terms for its renewal.

Last Updated: April 21, 2018 at 6:44 am

Comments

  1. By replacing the 6.X office with “the individual who is responsible for the academic workplace” as the recipient of disclosure, this proposal significant weakens the subordinate protection offered by CRP-B. I wonder how many individuals who expressed support for CRP-B will still favor the amended proposal over CRP-A. If anything, this proposal should be treated as CRP-C rather than an amendment to CRP-B.

  2. I support this resolution and agree that it adds clarity.

  3. Things should never be “contained” within the academic unit; the 6.x office must always be involved.

    I might change item 2. to ” The 6.x Office and the recipient of the disclosure (if it is not the 6.x Office), in consultation with the Dean of the relevant College, develop a Recusal plan . . . i.e., I want the 6.x office centrally involved, not just consulted.

    For FCOI stuff, the development of the FCOI management plan is handled by the central office, and this works fine. There are a finite number of scenarios, and the FCOI office has examined those and developed “standard” plans with customizable elements. I would guess the 6.x office would/could do the same.

    Question: Should information conveyed to the Dean always come from the 6.x office, to ensure standard kinds of information are transmitted? Should the parties be identified in the information conveyed to the Dean? Is that essential? How do we make sure that such information is not prejudicial in, e..g, tenure and other promotion decisions? I could easily imagine how a Dean could misuse it in close cases.

    We want to encourage disclosure. Unless the Dean’s office is to have a role in managing the Recusal plan, I don’t see why they need identifying info. However, the Dean should know, e.g., if half of their College’s cases are coming from, e.g., the Physics Department.

    Regarding item 3.: Should enforcement fall solely to the recipient of the disclosure, in the event that disclosure is made to, e.g., the Department? I could easily imagine that “local” enforcement could slip. In my own FCOI experience, my Department has been less than diligent in fulfilling their oversight role in managing my conflicts of interest – and I have been less than diligent in pushing them to do so. It is better that the primary enforcer be the 6.x Office. In the event the original disclosure is made to, e.g., the Department, they can be involved in information gathering relevant to enforcement, and possibly also enforcement, but the marching orders for enforcement and at least annual review should come from the 6.x office.

    I see the possibility of disclosure to one’s Department as providing an alternative that some faculty/students might be more comfortable with, and also providing another set of eyes to ensure that the faculty member and student are fairly treated. But I don’t think they should have primary responsibility for designing recusals and for enforcement.

    Rob Thorne

  4. We are concerned with three aspects of the resolution.

    (1) It gives the authority the option of choosing who enforces the recusal plan. This paves the way to “ fox guarding the hen house.”
    (2) It is possible to jeopardize the safety and well being of the subordinate by allowing the authority to disclose locally first. To guard against local retaliation and bias it is critical that the 6.x office receive all the facts of the case before anyone in the workplace is brought into the picture.
    (3) It will discourage disclosure because everything goes to the dean no matter what. Involving the dean when nothing is wrong needlessly increases the radius of disclosure which in turn makes confidentiality and privacy harder.

    Here are some more details based on what we learned in going from the disclosure/recusal part of Public Rough Draft (which you liked!) to the disclosure/recusal mechanism that is part of both the CRP-A and CRP-B proposals.

    Regardless, we thank the resolution sponsors for sharpening the dialog on this issue and look forward to hearing what our colleagues have to say at the April 25 Senate meeting.

    Charlie Van Loan and Anna Waymack

    ———————————————————————————

    We altered Step 1 in the Public Rough Draft disclosure process recommending that disclosure be to the Policy 6.X Office first.

    For this, our concern is the safety of community members. Individuals may not wish to out themselves to department chairs or DGSs, as such disclosure may risk harm. The Committee found that the prospect of trained HR professionals in the Policy 6.X Office offered greater security and discretion. This also ensures that students learn about disclosures of their own relationships before the disclosure reaches their chair or DGS. We would hope regardless that authority figures will discuss the prospect of disclosing with their partners before notifying the Policy 6.X Office or others.

    We altered which party develops and enforces a Recusal Plan.

    These alterations were to reduce the all-too-frequent practice of sweeping episodes under the rug, to ensure even treatment across programs and departments, and to protect subordinates from retaliation. It should be remembered that students do not necessarily perceive department chairs and DGSs to be impartial entities, but rather members of a “team” of faculty who may be bound to one another by longstanding friendships and associations. We chose to strengthen the dynamic of partnership between the Policy 6.X Office and the local authority—the chair or DGS—so as to reduce scenarios in which the authority might essentially choose their own restrictions and accountability (or lack thereof).

    If faculty wish to enforce Recusal Plans, we ask whether this entails a willingness to undertake more training (in the best practices regarding such matters), greater workloads, and additional liability.

    We chose not to involve the academic Dean in the recusal process, and to only involve them in cases of violations of the policy. Our reasoning was to minimize the radius of disclosure—subject to the constraint that the subordinate and environment are protected. There is additionally the workload concern and the impracticality of involving academic Deans when an authority is a student themselves.

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