Committee of Counsel on
Academic Freedom and
The Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR) is charged with studying problems in this area of concern; and to advise on such problems or issues referred to it by any member of the faculty, the president, the chancellor, or the Board of Regents. The following is a report of the major activities of the committee during 2003-2004.
Administrative Investigations and Due Process Legislation
CCAFR continues to be concerned about administrative investigations of faculty who are alleged to have violated a University policy. The committee has worked to ensure that faculty academic freedom and free speech rights are adequately protected and that due process is being observed.
In November of 2002, the Faculty Council unanimously passed legislation proposed by CCAFR on procedures for administrative investigations of policy violations alleged against faculty (D 2360-2362). In response to the administration's concerns about the new policy, and after negotiations with the administration, CCAFR revised the legislation. The revised version was passed on May 5, 2003, by the Faculty Council (D 2539-2541). However, in March 2004, President Larry Faulkner informed CCAFR that he would not approve the legislation. In response, the committee drafted legislation, in cooperation with the Faculty Grievance Committee, to amend the Handbook of Operating Procedures, Section 3.18 of the Faculty Grievance Procedure, to the effect that
1. a faculty member may be suspended with pay before a hearing is conducted, if after consultation with CCAFR regarding the propriety, the length, and other conditions of the suspension, the chief administrative officer determines that the nature of the charges, and the evidence are such that the suspension is in the best interest of the University; 2. in other cases, if the faculty member indicates that she or he will contest the actions through the faculty grievance process, the University may proceed with disciplining, before a hearing is conducted, provided that the actions taken by the administration can be revoked later and would not result in any permanent loss of property rights were the hearing to result in a judgment favorable to the faculty member; 3. if the administration's actions cannot be rescinded, the amendment would require that the provost, on behalf of the University, consult with CCAFR explaining why the proposed actions need to occur prior to a hearing, and how the faculty person will be compensated for disciplining that is irrevocable or for loss of property rights, if the hearing proves that the allegations are not true or results in a judgment that the actions taken were too severe.
On March 22, 2004, CCAFR Chair Alba Ortiz, introduced the following amendment to the Faculty Council on behalf of CCAFR and the Faculty Grievance Committee. The legislation was subsequently approved unanimously at the April 12, 2004, meeting of the Council. The intent of this legislation is simply to ensure that faculty rights are protected and that they are afforded due process in cases involving disciplining and potential termination of employment (D 3208-3209).
Sec. 3.18. Faculty Grievance Procedure
A. A faculty member has the right to seek redress of any grievance related to the terms and conditions of employment. A faculty member is any individual holding an academic title as defined in Part I, Chapter III, Section 1.8 of the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Regents except for assistant instructors and teaching assistants. B. Each faculty member may express a grievance through the following procedures with the assurance of timely and thorough consideration. Grievants are assured freedom from reprisals for the filing of their grievances. C. The administration through appropriate officials reserves the right to discipline and to terminate the employment of a faculty member for stated good cause shown. (Chapter III, Section 6.3 of the Board of Regents' Rules and Regulations shall govern all actions as appropriate.) In the case of a potential termination of employment, the accused faculty member may be suspended with pay pending the completion of the hearing and final decision of the Board, if, after consultation with the Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility concerning the propriety, the length, and other conditions of the suspension, the chief administrative officer determines that the nature of the charges and the evidence are such that it is in the best interest of the institution. In other cases of disciplining which the faculty members indicates an intention to contest through the faculty grievance process, if the University representative believes that prior to a faculty grievance hearing, the University must proceed with an action that would impose discipline, the discipline may be imposed, provided that it can be revoked later and would not result in any permanent loss of any property rights. If the action proposed would be irrevocable or result in any permanent loss of property rights, the Provost on behalf of the University will consult with the Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility explaining (1) why in the University’s view the proposed actions need to occur immediately, and (2) how the faculty person would be compensated for the irrevocable disciplining or loss of property rights should the hearing prove that the allegations were not true or result in a judgment that the actions taken were too severe. D. The Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility is charged with the general supervision and review of principles and procedures relating to academic freedom, tenure, and responsibility. The Faculty Grievance Committee is authorized to hear or otherwise dispose of individual grievances.
One of the responsibilities of CCAFR is to monitor the results of post-tenure reviews. The following table presents summary data for 2002-2003 and 2003-2004.
*Number subject to review less those who retired, resigned, or died
These data do not suggest any cause for concern relative to the implementation of post-tenure reviews. CCAFR will continue to monitor the post-tenure review process.
Consultation with CCAFR in Promotion and Tenure Procedures
In 2002-2003, the administration approved a process by which any problems that arise with a promotion and tenure case may be reviewed by CCAFR between the time the faculty member is notified of a possible negative decision relative to promotion and tenure and the actual notification of denial of promotion, or of termination in cases involving promotion and tenure. The policy was implemented in fall 2003 and faculty were made aware, through the promotion and tenure guidelines, that they or the president may request that CCAFR review a case to determine whether the procedures followed in the promotion and tenure review process were consistent with both the University’s policies and commonly accepted professional standards for promotion and tenure reviews.
In December, CCAFR conducted its first review under this policy at the request of a faculty member who had been denied promotion and tenure. The members of the subcommittee who reviewed the case found that there had been no clear policy violations in this review. However, the subcommittee identified several areas that need attention. One of these is that the Faculty Annual Review policy is not being implemented as intended.
The Handbook of Operating Procedures (Sec. 3.14, and Sections 3.17) states that the annual evaluation of each faculty member shall include an assessment of teaching activities, research, scholarship, publications, or public service and that the final results of the annual evaluation shall be communicated to each faculty member by the department chair. The policy further states that this communication shall be written and that it shall advise the faculty member of any areas that need improvement.
CCAFR believes that all faculty should receive written feedback. Committee members are especially concerned that junior faculty be provided such feedback, most importantly, after the third year mid-probationary review so that they have clear signals as to whether they are adequately responding to areas identified in annual reviews as needing improvement and/or to any issues that may affect their promotion and tenure. At the March 22, 2004, Faculty Council meeting, only four or five faculty members indicated they have received a written annual review during their tenure at UT Austin. CCAFR will take this issue under consideration during the 2004-2005 academic year with the intent of developing recommendations, as appropriate, to ensure that both faculty and chairs are aware of the policy regarding written annual evaluations and to help ensure that department chairs comply with this policy.
The chair wishes to thank the members of CCAFR for their hard work and contributions to the committee.
Alba Ortiz, chair