New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Contract faculty call on NYU to reinstate student complaint policies in handbook

A group of contract faculty wrote a memo to Interim Provost Georgina Dopico calling on the university to reinstate sections of the faculty handbook regarding complaints made by students.
Mikaylah Du
(Illustration by Mikaylah Du)

The Full-Time Continuing Contract Faculty Senators Council, a group of around 30 full-time contract faculty members, sent a letter to NYU administration Tuesday calling on the university to reinstate allegedly omitted sections of the faculty handbook — including those that discuss students submitting faculty complaints. The group argued that the sections are necessary for protecting students’ academic freedom.

In the memo, sent by the group’s chair Noelle Molé Liston, faculty argued that the removed sections of the handbook put university deans in a position to be “gatekeepers” for disciplinary complaints, given that only deans have the power to “initiate” them. The letter also claimed that without those sections, deans would have the “exclusive right” to determine guilt, punishment and “the merits of an appeal.” 

Ryan Poynter, the assistant vice provost for undergraduate and academic affairs, said the C-FSC’s concerns were based in “confusion” and that the change in wording did not indicate a change in policy. He said the provost’s office made the changes to the handbook for clarity, removing information about complaints from the section focusing on disciplinary action. 

“The update to the Faculty Handbook this fall did not change who may file a complaint,” Poynter wrote in a written statement to WSN. “It was intended to make the procedure clearer, but did not in any way alter the procedure itself.” 

The C-FSC received the first copy of a revised handbook in September 2022 and asked that NYU reinsert the deleted passages in January 2023, a request that was rejected eight months later. The C-FSC submitted a second request for the reinsertion on Nov. 9, three days after the revised handbook was published.

“The rights of the students, faculty and staff are being truncated; omitted in such a way that students, faculty and staff wouldn’t even know how to begin to file a disciplinary complaint,” Heidi White, a C-FSC member, said in an interview with WSN. 

At a Student Government Assembly meeting two weeks ago, White noted changes made to the university’s faculty handbook, which she claims had previously stated that students were allowed to submit complaints against faculty members. At the meeting, White said the newer version of the handbook no longer included specific directions for students to submit faculty complaints, and that it now gave deans the ability to initiate disciplinary action against faculty.

“Any officer of the university, any member of the faculty or staff, or any student may file a complaint against a member of the faculty for conduct prohibited by the rules and regulations of the university, or its schools, colleges, and departments,” the archived section reads.

While the revised handbook omitted several paragraphs from the Title IV and Title VI sections, White has frequently referenced the absence of the first paragraph of Title IV Section B, which explicitly granted students, faculty and staff permission to file complaints against faculty to the dean. 

“The new handbook puts the power of enforcement and punishment exclusively in the hands of a single administrator,” White said. “For at least 50 years, no single person at NYU has ever had that kind of exclusive authority.”

Contact Maximus Getty at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Mikaylah Du
Mikaylah Du, Illustration Editor
Mikaylah Du is a first-year studying Media, Culture, and Communication. She's a fine art nerd and one of the few people that actually likes writing essays. Follow her art account on Instagram @mikaylahdoodles to see her post once in a blue moon.

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