Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Career Consultants

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Career Consultants

Article excerpt

DEAR BI CAREER CONSULTANTS:

What are the critical factors in determining whether litigation is my only option in a promotion dispute, and if I do sue my institution, is that tantamount to career suicide?

JONATHAN R. ALGER,

COUNSEL,

AMERICAN

ASSOCIATION OF

UNIVERSITY

PROFESSORS,

WASHINGTON, D.C.

We live in a litigious society in which the media portray courts as the forum of choice to handle all sorts of disputes. In reality, however, litigation is expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining. Without compelling evidence of discrimination, contractual violations or retaliation for engaging in protected activity, courts are reluctant to second-guess promotion decisions made by educational institutions.

First, determine whether your institution's own procedures provide for grievances, appeals or reconsideration, Don't bypass such steps because you assume that a fair hearing is impossible on campus - if you file suit, a court will ordinarily want to see that you have exhausted all internal options.

Look for possible allies in or outside the decision-making structure. Solicit guidance from potential resources who could influence or intervene in the process, such as faculty senate leaders, organizations such as the American Association of University Professors and union leaders with well-reasoned, non-accusatory, written documentation of the process, including any irregularities. Such a record is helpful if litigation becomes necessary. Consider using a lawyer or other advocate prior to litigation to send a message to the institution that you are serious about pursuing your rights. If you suspect discrimination, talk to a campus affirmative action officer, the US. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a similar state agency.

Litigation is feasible only if a violation of a specific legal right can be identified. The law does not protect against general unfairness, personal animosity or incivility, When a lawsuit is filed, positions harden and individuals on all sides become less willing and able to cooperate.

If you must litigate, you can best protect your career by continuing to act professionally. Don't burn bridge-, unnecessarily, and surround yourself with friends on and off campus who can support you throughout the process. RENEE F. WILLIAMS,

J.D. PROFESSOR,

COLLEGE OF

BUSINESS,

CHICAGO STATE

UNIVERSITY AND

FORMER GENERAL

COUNSEL,SPELMAN

COLLEGE

Before you consider any options at all, you should first assess the merits of your case. …

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