PROPOSAL FOR A COVENANT ON FAIR DEALING

The following statement is a preliminary draft prepared by the Chapter Executive Committee.  A subcommittee has been working on the issues described with a view to formulation of a position paper which can be disseminated to appropriate faculty and administrators.  The goal of this effort is made clear in the present draft.


In December of 1999 the AAUP Chapter on the Ann Arbor campus sponsored a program on "conflict resolution", in which several difficult disputes concerning administrators' treatment of faculty were reviewed.  Comments were made on the difficulty of resolving such disputes through the Faculty Appeal Procedure or through litigation.

In response to this discussion, the chapter Executive Committee has been seeking an alternative approach to the problem, one avoiding the known difficulties of present methods: long delays, uncertainty of unbiased evaluation of complaints, damage to collegial relations, financial burdens, interference with research and other scholarly endeavors. 

The Committee herewith proposes such an approach, whose goal is the avoidance, to the greatest extent achievable, of the need for grievance procedures and litigation: namely, to obtain full endorsement by faculty and administration of a set of principles governing their behavior in the University community.  It is our hope that acceptance of a statement embodying these principles  and steady publicity to maintain awareness of the statement will discourage actions leading to disputes such as those in the recent past.

We refer to the statement as a Covenant on Fair Dealing.  A different name for it will presumably evolve after it takes definitive shape.  Some existing University documents, such as those on integrity of scholarship and conflict of interest, contain items which could be reworked to become some of the principles sought.  Also documents of other organizations are an important source of ideas of what should be included; as examples, we cite the Code of Ethics of the National Association of College and Business Officers, A Guide to Conflict of Interest and Disclosure issued by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, a 1970 statement on Responsibilities of Administrators by the American Association of University Administrators, and various statements in the Red Book of national AAUP, especially one on Professional Ethics.

We propose that faculty governance bodies and the officers of the University consider our idea of adopting a Covenant of Fair Dealing.  If, as we hope, they see the benefits to be gained by its creation, we then propose that an appropriate committee of faculty and administrators be charged with drafting the text of the Covenant.  On behalf of the AAUP chapter, we offer our services in support of this work.

Creation of such a Covenant would have significance for higher education generally.  By promulgating one and making it work well at the University of Michigan, one might well be providing the seeds for similar efforts elsewhere, to the benefit of relations between faculty and administrators across the country.


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