Faculty Senates Sue Districts over Hiring Rules

Article excerpt

MISSION VIEJO, CALIF.

In an unprecedented move, the academic senates of Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges have voted to sue their district chancellor and trustees over a new districtwide hiring policy that gives more power to administrators at the expense of faculty.

Faculty within the South Orange County Community College District were particularly unhappy with new rules allowing the district's human-resources director to change the scores awarded by committee members if she deems them too far off the norm. The rules also will allow the human resources director to unilaterally change interview questions, according to Irvine Valley instructor and attorney Wendy Gabriella, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the academic senates.

Professors also were displeased with a new ethics-and-confidentiality section of the hiring policy that allows the human resources director to investigate and punish any member of a hiring committee who is accused of violating confidentiality.

"The policy allows the human resources department to accuse hiring committee members of bias, change their scores and discipline them without any due process or opportunity for appeal," Irvine Valley Academic Senate President Greg Bishopp says.

Filed earlier this month in Orange County Superior Court, the suit seeks a judge's order to set aside the new hiring policy because it was not approved in advance by each college's faculty senate.

In January, when the hiring policy came before the board of trustees, faculty representatives pleaded for more time to discuss them and potentially make changes. A divided board voted 4-3 to institute the new policy over the protests.

"We have already spent eight to nine months developing this," district chancellor Raghu Mathur said in January at the board meeting where the new hiring practices were adopted.

The state's education code requires that hiring criteria and policies for new faculty members must be developed "and agreed upon jointly" by board members and the academic senate. …