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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 worked on the following items of business during 2002-2003.

ITEMS COMPLETED

Compliance
During 2000-2001, the committee worked with the administration to create a reasonable document for faculty regarding the compliance established by the Board of Regents. A two-page document was the result. This year we still had problems with misunderstandings that training modules were required of the faculty. Once again, we had to work with the administration to correct linkages on the Web so that faculty were directed only to the two-page document. We want to emphasize that faculty should read the two-page document and indicate having read it. Having done that, their obligation is complete.

ON-GOING ITEMS

Post-Tenure Review.

Every fall, the committee sends out a letter to faculty and administrators detailing the post-tenure review process and procedures. We also monitor the results. After four years, the committee has not observed any data regarding post-tenure review reports that cause us serious concern. 769 faculty have been reviewed; 2% (sixteen faculty) received an unsatisfactory review. In addition, some individuals due to be reviewed have resigned or retired, but those numbers (about 32) 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 not shown to a faculty member before it was forwarded to the dean; a dean requesting information in a particular way. No report so far concerns us deeply. We will remind everyone of the process again next fall in our annual letter.

Administrative Investigations and Due Process Legislation.

The committee is concerned about administrative investigations of faculty who are alleged to have violated a university policy. These investigations may not insure that faculty academic freedom and free speech rights are adequately protected and that due process is being observed. The sorts of investigations CCAFR is thinking about concern alleged sexual harassment or racial (or other) discrimination but also routine disciplining by administrative officers. We discussed this concern with the provost, and he supported constructing safeguards for due process.

In November 2002, CCAFR proposed a policy to the Faculty Council that was passed unanimously on an oral vote. Subsequently, administrative officers indicated concern with the new policy which would preclude disciplining prior to a hearing if the faculty member objected to the results of the investigation or the proposed disciplining. After negotiations with the administration, CCAFR revised the legislation. The revised version indicates that, although disciplining that can be rescinded may occur prior to a hearing, in the case of an irrevocable disciplining which the administration believes must be taken before a hearing, the administration will consult with CCAFR regarding the need to take such action before the hearing as well as how its actions might be remedied if the allegations are not proven or the actions taken were too severe. Additionally, a procedure for mediation has been added in hope of reducing the need for hearings. This revision was passed at the May 5, 2003, Faculty Council meeting.

Academic Integrity.
In fall 2002, in relation to a possible denial of tenure case and a review of the procedures involved in that case, CCAFR became concerned that the academic community was unclear about what constitutes academic integrity in matters of authorship including self-citation and plagiarism. We found that an excellent document under Research Ethics and Compliance on “Misconduct in Science and Other Scholarly Activities”<http://www.utexas.edu/policies/hoppm/1.1B.01.html> lays out a clear procedure for investigating such allegations. We note the existence of this document and urge that the procedures it lays out be followed if such matters arise again.

Consultation with CCAFR in Promotion and Tenure Procedures.
During 2002-2003, several faculty members proposed to the administration revisions in the promotion and tenure process. The administration has now approved a process in which any problems that arise with a promotion and tenure case may be reviewed by CCAFR between the time of notification of a possible negative decision and the actual notification of termination (in the case of tenure) or denial of promotion. CCAFR has reviewed and endorsed the proposed changes in the promotion and tenure procedures.

Reconsideration Rights.
CCAFR has heard about confusions concerning the rights and processes involved with reconsideration. CCAFR will be working on this during this summer, and, likely, into fall 2003.

Consultation with CCAFR Prior to a Hearing for Termination.
In one case, the administration informed CCAFR of a possible hearing regarding allegations that, if proven to be true, would result in the immediate termination of a tenure-track professor. CCAFR appreciated the conversation with the administration but hopes that future conversations will be more consultative.

Police Reporting.
CCAFR reviewed a proposed policy on “Campus Meetings and Political Information” and provided suggestions regarding the language. It was pleased that the administration and University Police were stating their policies about attendance at meetings on campus and their treatment of information about political activities on campus.

Mid-Probationary Review Policy.
On March 8, 2000, the committee proposed a mid-probationary review policy for tenure-track faculty 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 will work to bring all of them into "accord with current best practices."

While several of the colleges and schools are establishing policies, the committee notes that none of the policies established so far have all the minimal features in the proposed legislation. Additionally, the committee is asking why the administration wants individual school and college policies rather than a uniform, easily accessed through the Handbook of Operating Procedures, minimal best-practices policy. We are working on this with the administration. The provost asked the chair of the committee on March 19, 2002, to schedule a meeting on this matter with one of his vice provosts, but that individual has yet to agree to a meeting with the chair of CCAFR.

Janet Staiger, chair


This document was posted on the Faculty Council Web site, www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/ on August 20, 2003. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.