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A-1 Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility

The Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR) has been involved with the following items of business over the year 2001-2002.


Finishing up the work of last year's committee, chaired by Alan Cline, Professor Cline and the current committee completed work with the administration to have a reasonable document for faculty to read regarding the compliance established by the Board of Regents. A two-page document was the result, and we thank the provost and administration for supporting our concerns on this matter. The compliance officer continues to phrase our obligations as completing "training" or "modules." We want to emphasize that this means for faculty that faculty should read this two-page document and indicate having read it. About one-third of the faculty has done this; this is an easy task, and the committee encourages faculty to take care of this matter.

Resolution on Speech Rights and Responsibilities

Following the events of September 11, 2001, CCAFR placed the following resolution before the Faculty Council, which the Council adopted:
1) That all members of the University community—students, faculty, staff, and administrators—be reminded of the principles involving academic freedom and responsibility as stated by the American Association of University Professors in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, including:
a) "The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition."
b) "College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution."
2) That these principles of academic freedom and responsibility be widely disseminated to the University community via email and in the Daily Texan so that all students, faculty, staff, and administrators have these statements as guiding principles for discourse on campus and extramurally.

3)  That the members of the academic community treat one another with dignity in both their words and actions during the days ahead.

Post-Tenure Review
In the fall, the committee sends out a letter reminding faculty and administrators about the post-tenure review process and procedures. We also monitor the results. After three years, the committee has not observed any data regarding satisfactory or unsatisfactory post-tenure review reports that causes us concern. 595 faculty have been reviewed; 2% (twelve faculty) did not receive a favorable review. In addition, some individuals due to be reviewed have resigned or retired, but those numbers (about 25) also are not out of line with expectations.
We have been notified of more local omissions or additions to the post-tenure process—not showing a review to the faculty person before forwarding it to the dean; a dean requesting information in a particular way. No report so far concerns us deeply, but we will remind everyone of the process again next fall in our annual letter.

Voting Rights for Probationary Faculty
The administration is proposing to begin selectively hiring individuals at the rank of associate or full professor but with their tenure to be determined within several years of their appointment. Of concern is whether the individual will be able to publish in academic venues and their teaching is strong. The question of what the voting rights of the faculty should be has been discussed. I am happy to report that the recommendations of the Faculty Council Executive Committee and the CCAFR were followed. These faculty will have full voting rights, except in the cases of salaries and promotion and tenure, in which situations they will have the voting rights of assistant professors, who are also probationary faculty.

Mid-Probationary Review Policy
On March 8, 2000, the committee proposed a mid-probationary review policy that the Faculty Council passed. The legislation included nine features that it based on recommendations from the System's Committee on the Status of Women and Minorities. These included opportunities for the individual being reviewed to respond to the review prior to its final draft and to meet with the chair and a member of the review committee as part of the process. At this point, this legislation is still in progress. The provost has declared that "most colleges are in compliance with the proposed legislation" and that his office would work to bring all of them into "accord with current best practices."

While several of the colleges and schools are establishing individual policies, the committee notes that none of the policies established so far have all of the minimal features in the proposed legislation. Additionally, the committee is asking why the administration desires to have individual school and college policies rather than a uniform, easily accessed through the HOP, minimal best-practices policy. We are working on this with the administration.

Administrative Investigations and Due Process
The committee is concerned about some administrative investigations of faculty actions which may not insure that faculty's academic freedom and free speech rights are adequately protected and that due process is observed during an investigation. The sorts of investigations CCAFR is thinking about are those involved with sexual harassment or racial (or other) discrimination. We have discussed this with the provost, and he supports constructing such safeguards for due process. A subcommittee of the committee has been formed and hopes to have a draft written over the summer for Faculty Council approval in early fall 2002.

Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy
In January 2002, CCAFR was asked to consider a very small portion of the University's Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy that requires faculty to report promptly student reports of sexual harassment and misconduct to the Office of the Dean of Students. The concern was that this requirement would have a potential chilling effect on student-faculty conversations. The chair of CCAFR met with administrators, members of the Steering Committee of the Center for Women's Studies, and Zipporah
Wiseman (law school faculty member). The recommendation from these discussions is that faculty be excluded from the clause requiring prompt reporting of such reports to the Office of the Dean of Students. This recommendation will be put before the Faculty Council as well as potential other recommendations regarding insuring that all faculty are well aware of the sexual harassment and misconduct and the consensual relation policies.

  Janet Staiger, chair

This document was posted on the Faculty Council Web site, www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/ on July 29, 2002. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.

  Last updated:July 29, 2002
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