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Office of the Provost


Inaugural Faculty Civility Advocate looks back on developing the role

 

For the past four years, Janice Breuer Bass, Professor of Economics, has served the faculty of the University of South Carolina as an advocate to prevent workplace bullying and to promote civility in the workplace.  Bass was the first to hold the position of Faculty Civility Advocate. She resigned this summer after being appointed as the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in the Darla Moore School of Business.  While she officially dealt with faculty-on-faculty bullying complaints, she also worked to help faculty members resolve conflicts.

Vice Provost Cheryl Addy, Ph.D., says, “Dr. Bass has been instrumental in establishing the FCA role and developing our internal procedures to address allegations of bullying and other incivility.  While few of the cases she investigated met the strict definition of bullying, she consistently provided insightful recommendations to address the interactions of concern. Her calm demeanor and meticulous investigations set a high standard for this university.”

As faculty civility advocate Bass noted that, “work life in academia has unique issues.  For example, a change in curriculum, while on the surface may seem to be wholly expected in academia, can have overtones of bullying, if the real reason for the curriculum change is to marginalize a particular faculty member. I think faculty appreciate that they have an experienced faculty member to talk openly with and share information about the personal details of their workplace situation.”

I learned that change must be managed well and that policies and procedures must be clear and must be followed.

Dr. Janice Breuer Bass,
     former Faculty Civility Advocate

When asked what she learned in her four years, Bass shared this advice. “I learned that change must be managed well and that policies and procedures must be clear and must be followed.   I also learned that damage that can be done through email.  Email is sometimes the place where a conflict that could have otherwise been resolved is derailed. I subsequently developed an Email Etiquette guide that I hope helps reduce conflict and the escalation to what can become a toxic work environment for faculty.”

The creation of the faculty civility advocate position was a collaborative effort of the Faculty Welfare Committee, the Office of Legal Counsel, and the Office of the Provost, in 2013, resulting in the university’s Workplace Bullying policy. Vice Provost Sandra Kelly, Ph.D., explains how the position was created. “In 2014, the Faculty Senate approved the Workplace Bullying policy (ACAF 1.80) and requested that the Office of the Provost implement the policy and provide funding for the Faculty Civility Advocate’s salary. The Faculty Senate formed a Committee on Professional Conduct to work in conjunction with the faculty civility advocate.  The entire process involved a great deal of debate and discussion in Faculty Senate and its committees and a lot of collaboration across faculty and the administration. The policy and the position are great examples of shared governance at USC.”

Tenured faculty interested in serving as the faculty civility advocate should submit a brief statement of interest to provcomm@mailbox.sc.edu by Sept. 24. More details about the position are available on our website.