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Summary: Policy and Process to Address Allegations of Failure to Uphold Professional Standards of the Rackham Graduate Faculty

The Rackham Graduate School Executive Board has adopted into its bylaws a Statement of Values, Privileges, and Responsibilities of the Rackham Graduate Faculty.

Rackham has developed a process to address allegations that a member of the Rackham graduate faculty has consistently or egregiously failed to uphold the professional standards described in that statement. Below is a summary of the full policy and process, which represent implementation in the Rackham Graduate School of the university’s policy for the Professional Standards for Faculty (SPG 201.96).

Rackham has developed a process to address allegations that a member of the Rackham Graduate Faculty has consistently or egregiously failed to uphold the professional standards described in the Rackham Graduate Faculty Statement of Values, Privileges, and Responsibilities. This policy and process represents implementation in the Rackham Graduate School of the University’s policy for the Professional Standards for Faculty (SPG 201.96).

The Rackham Graduate School acknowledges the complex nature of the academic, scholarly, and professional relationships that Rackham Graduate Faculty hold with members of the Rackham community, including Rackham students. Disputes between Rackham Graduate Faculty and others may naturally arise, even in situations when Rackham Graduate Faculty are upholding the professional standards of the Statement. The Rackham Graduate School has already adopted an Academic Dispute Resolution Policy and Procedures to provide both informal and formal mechanisms to address such conflicts, and this method to address disputes will continue to be available. The new policy and procedures discussed here will be used to respond to allegations of a more serious nature and involving a failure to uphold professional standards and responsibilities of Rackham Graduate Faculty.

Allegations can be submitted to the attention of the dean of the Rackham Graduate School. A submission can be brought forward anonymously. The process consists of three stages. Individuals engaged in this process will continue to have access to support and consultation resources, as coordinated by an independent member of Rackham’s Graduate Student and Program Consultation Services (GSPCS) team.

The First Stage

The first stage is a preliminary inquiry of a submitted allegation. The preliminary inquiry will be undertaken by a committee consisting of a Rackham assistant dean and a representative of the GSPCS team. There are three possible outcomes of the preliminary inquiry:

  1. The allegation does not require further action because it does not rise to the status of serious under the policy or there is insufficient information to pursue the complaint;
  2. The allegation should be referred to another University unit to be addressed under its policy and procedures; for example, allegations of sexual and gender misconduct will be referred to U-M’s Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX office (ECRT); the Rackham dean will make the referral to the other unit;
  3. The allegation is recommended for investigation.

The Rackham dean evaluates the preliminary inquiry report and decides whether to accept its recommendation.

The Second Stage

The second stage of the procedure is an investigation of the allegation. The Rackham dean will constitute an investigatory committee consisting of a Rackham divisional associate dean whose responsibility is outside of the division in which the graduate program is located (chair), an associate dean of the academic unit school/college in which the graduate program is administratively located, and a Rackham Graduate Faculty member from outside the discipline, selected by the Rackham dean. All members of the investigatory committee need to report any conflict of interest to the Rackham dean for resolution.

The investigation will include, at a minimum, invitations to meet individually with the committee to the person who submitted the allegation (if known), the Respondent, and the chair(s) of the respondent’s graduate program. Other meetings can be scheduled, or information requested, at the discretion of the committee. With prior notification any participant in this process may bring an adviser (e.g., a friend, colleague, family member, attorney, etc.) to any meetings with the committee to serve in an advisory capacity only. During the investigatory process, the Rackham Graduate School upholds the university’s non-retaliation policy (SPG 601.90) at all times; the investigatory committee will reinforce to all participants that they must do the same.

The committee will submit a written report to the Rackham dean, signed by all members, summarizing the findings of the investigation and a determination, by the preponderance of the evidence, of whether the allegation of consistent and/or egregious violation of the professional standards of the Statement is substantiated. The written report can include a dissent by any member of the committee. The committee will share their report with the respondent who may submit a response to the written report. The final written report and the response will be submitted to the Rackham dean.

The Third Stage

The third stage will establish whether sanctions are warranted and what these sanctions are. Sanctions are limited to actions the Rackham dean can take with respect to the Respondent as it relates to their role as a member of the Rackham Graduate Faculty and can include measures such as exclusion from service on Rackham dissertation committees as well as suspension of membership in the Rackham Graduate Faculty for a specified period of time. After receiving the final written report, the Rackham dean will provisionally decide whether sanctions are warranted and, if so, what these sanctions are. Two steps are necessary before this decision is finalized:

  1. The Rackham dean will share his provisional decision with the academic unit dean in which the Rackham Graduate Faculty member has their appointment and confer with this academic unit dean.
  2. The Rackham dean will summarize the investigative report, the provisional decision, and the result of the conference with the academic unit dean to a standing subcommittee of the Rackham Executive Board. The Rackham dean will receive the counsel of the Rackham Executive Board subcommittee.

After completing these steps, the Rackham dean will issue a final sanction decision and share this with the respondent, their department chair, and the academic unit dean. The respondent may appeal the sanction decision through the Faculty Grievance Procedure of the Rackham Graduate School, with the Rackham dean as the respondent. Any sanctions imposed as a result of this policy and process will take effect only after the appeal process has been completed.

This policy has been approved by the Rackham Executive Board on April 5, 2023 and has been added to the Executive Board Bylaws as Appendix 3. The policy takes effect during the 2023-2024 academic year.

Rackham Graduate Faculty Values Allegation Reporting Form

You may use this form to report an allegation that a Rackham graduate faculty member has seriously failed to uphold the standards outlined in this statement. Persons submitting this form may self-identify or remain anonymous. If you self-identify, you will receive a response and confirmation. Anonymous reporting, however, will limit the university’s ability to respond and support. The information will be treated confidentially.