After months of deliberation, the University Grievance Code Committee ruled on Friday to uphold a grievance filed by Medical Center faculty against a new policy, implemented on July 1, to alter their compensation plan. The 11-3 decision, which is still confidential, rejected an appeal by the university against a lower panel’s May 5 decision. The committee ruled in the decision, a copy of which was obtained by The Hoya, that “the committee agrees with the reasoning of the panel that the new compensation policy of the Medical Center administration . violates the tenure contracts of the grievants.” The university has said that if it does not appeal the decision it would annul the policy and readjust any faculty salaries adversely affected by it, the decision says. The grievance, originally filed Dec. 23 by 18 Medical Center faculty members, claims that the university committed a breach of contract by requiring that faculty members’ salaries be tied in part to the amount of outside research grants they brought in. The grievants said that the university policy, called the Compensation Plan for Tenured Faculty, not only removed the financial security of their tenure but also, in tying their salary to incoming grants, represented an unfair disciplinary action. The grievance also claimed the university discriminated against Medical Center faculty because the plan affected only one part of the university. The grievance cites, among other things, item B(4) of the Faculty Grievance Code, which states that a “reduction of individual salary” is a grievance situation. The university argued that the policy was not an automatic reduction in compensation, but a redefinition of the formula by which compensation is calibrated. It also argued that while faculty members are contracted to the university, their compensation was under the jurisdiction of the individual campuses. According to a university spokesman, “the university is committed to achieving the financial turnaround of the Medical Center and believes that reforming faculty compensation . while protecting tenure is necessary for ensuring a stable financial future for the Medical Center.” The decision, however, argues that financial exigencies do not justify such a change in faculty compensation. Under the new policy, “The financial pressure created by the new criterion threatens the essential tenure requirement of financial security and inevitably must have a detrimental effect on academic freedom, teaching and scholarship.” The decision concludes that “the administration’s chosen solution sacrifices tenure protections on the altar of fiscal need.” The dissenting committee members argued in a separate statement that the economic straits of the Medical Center justified the new policy. “. it appears reasonable to us to assume that everyone would rather accept reductions in salaryrather than have the entire medical school close .” According to the Faculty Grievance Code, University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., who is named in the grievance, has 15 days to appeal the decision. Such an appeal would normally go to O’Donovan, but because he is named in this grievance, it would go to an executive vice president. Though the university has not named the executive vice president to hear the case, many have suggested that responsibility would fall to Law Center Dean Judith Areen. The chairman of the committee, Prof. WilliamVukowich of the Law Center, said he could not comment on the reportbecause of its confidentiality and that neither the decision nor the report would be made public. The case first went to a three-person panel that ruled for the grievants in May of this year. The university appealed the decision to the full committee. Steve Hoffman, the lawyer for the grievants, said, “I was pleased [with the decision] – it came out the way we thought it would, and upheld some of the big principles of tenure.” According to a number of faculty members, the university’s appeal to the full committee argued that the change in compensation was justified by the need to improve the financial situation of the Medical Center, which has come under significant strain in the past few years. The appeal is also considered confidential and will not be released, said Vukowich. However, faculty members have attacked the policy’s focus on faculty compensation as a means of debt reduction. Citing the financial drain of the hospital and various unbudgeted expenses, one grievant said, “The argument of the administration is that the faculty is not pulling its own weight, but that’s not true … The faculty brings in more than their share.” “It’s a question of priorities,” the grievant said. “If the faculty is the first priority, then there should be no problem in paying.” O’Donovan’s office has said it would not comment on the grievance because the matter is still open, though, according to Hoffman, it has yet to announce whether it will appeal the decision. Hoffman said that while there were three dissenters on the committee, he did not think O’Donovan’s office had grounds for a further appeal. “The dissent does not raise issues that would warrant overturning the decision,” he said. The Compensation Plan for Tenured Faculty, announced in Sept. 1997, set compensation floors for tenured faculty at $100,000 or their current salary, whichever was lower. The rest of the salary, up to 70 percent in some cases, had to be earned through outside grants. According to a statement released last September by the Medical Center administration, “The policy seeks to encourage faculty productivity, secure the concept of tenure at the Medical Center and safeguard Georgetown’s long-term fiscal health.” However, faculty members protested the policy, arguing that it removed the financial security inherent in their tenure contracts. In a Hoya article last year, microbiologist Gary Pearson, who was one of the initial grievants but who has since retired, said, “Our feeling is that it changes the meaning of tenure totally … Basically, tenure is meaningless.” One of the grievants, who requested anonymity, said, “It was an unrealistic policy . If you require people to bring in 70 percent of their salary, it’s an impossibility. You would need [at least] three grants. You would spend all your time getting grants.” Faculty morale, which reached a low point last spring stemming from the announcement of a plan to buyout the tenure contracts of a number of senior professors and the perceived lack of faculty input on a number of issues, may or may not be bolstered by the committee’s decision. While many faculty members feel vindicated by the grievance’s victory, many also fear this is not the end of the issue. “Whether morale is restored, I don’t know … there are a lot of ifs,” said one grievant. One issue of concern for many faculty members is the university’s decision to go ahead and implement the compensation plan on July 1, 1998, despite the decision of the panel. When salaries were recalibrated, those of a number of professors dropped, according to one faculty member. According to one of the grievants, the university justified its position by saying its decision was a change in compensation, not a disciplinary action, as the grievance claimed. However, according to Hoffman, the university is now required to annul the policy, and recompensate those faculty whose salaries decreased because of the policy. The grievance has gotten some attention outside of the university. The July issue of Academic Physician and Scientist, a nationwide journal for university medical professors, ran an article discussing financial pressures on academic medicine, which featured the Medical Center and the grievance. And while Georgetown’s policy is unique in terms of medical faculty payment, many expect that the decision could set a precedent for future compensation grievances. “I would say the documents from this case could be used on any court of law,” said one grievant. “It would be a framework for any other grievance in the country.

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