School to alter faculty complaint line

Looking to ensure personal rights, the Faculty Senate will propose an alternative to GW’s current anonymous faculty complaint line this week.

After months of discussion about its negative impact on faculty security, officials said the senate will focus on the line at its meeting Friday.

The line, which allows students and faculty to leave anonymous tips about faculty members, has been active since February. GW initially used a service managed by Pinkerton Security Services, enabling callers to leave a message with the line’s operator.

After pressure from the Faculty Senate and national education rights advocates, the University took over the service during the summer and callers are now prompted to leave a message after a recording.

Among complaints about last year’s line from faculty and staff was a concern that there was no faculty input, and that students could leave anonymous messages without proving the incidents they were talking about.

The senate’s proposed “Regulatory Compliance Help and Referral Line” looks to create a central telephone answering service that refers a caller to direct his complaint to the appropriate office, said David Robinson, a member of the committee who proposed the referral line.

Robinson said the line will end faculty concerns about anonymous comments.

He said the number, 1-888-508-5275, will operate with an answering service until the Faculty Senate reviews the proposal.

The message on the answering service encourages callers to identify themselves, then tells them to leave their names and phone numbers, promising someone from “an appropriate office” will call back.

After briefly looking over the proposal, John Banzhaf, law professor and long-time critic of the anonymous line, said he was dissatisfied with the referral line proposal.

“The line is still there . I’m very suspicious,” he said. “(The line) will have a chilling impact on academic freedoms.”

Banzhaf suggests the University add a link to GWeb with names and phone numbers of different departments where students and faculty can go with specific complaints.

The line has also been criticized by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-profit educational foundation that advocates free speech and other liberties on college campuses.

The referral line proposal is no better than the current complaint line, said FIRE Executive Director Thor Halvorssen.

“If there is an accusation about an individual, the person should be allowed to defend himself,” he said. “The administration is creating a Soviet eastern bloc.”

Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz signed GW up for the complaint line in February, though Senate members said they were not consulted about the change, according to previous Hatchet articles.

“The faculty was not involved in the development of this . the first notice of the policy was a letter in the mail including a wallet sized card with a number of a Pinkerton office in North Carolina,” Robinson said.

University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said a new line will either be manned by University personnel or an outside service like Pinkerton, but that “operation aspects are still being refined.”

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