The 2004-05 Committee of Counsel for Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR)
functioned actively on a variety of topics. The major activities, results of
those activities, and resultant committee suggestions focused on: Course Instructor
Survey (CIS) Processes, Faculty Tenure Process Procedural Reviews, and Changes
in the CCAFR Description and Composition.
Course Instructor Survey (CIS) Processes
During the fall, the provost and Faculty Council chair
requested that the CCAFR review “all issues concerning the
new legal status of the Course Instructor Surveys” in light
of the ruling that all course instructor information is owned by
the University. This ruling raised issues around the process of reporting
CIS results to the faculty, especially concerning handwritten student
comments (given Freedom of Information and FERPA issues). After discussing
the issues and later meeting with Dr. Chuck Gaede, Interim Director
of the Measurement and Evaluation Center, the CCAFR decided that
the scope of issues was substantial and recommended that an ad
committee of the Faculty Council be appointed. This recommendation
was passed by the Faculty Council in spring, and such committee was
appointed by the Faculty Council chair.
In spite of the recommendation that an ad hoc
committee further review
the issues, the CCAFR did undertake its own review and makes the following observations
and recommendations for this report.
|| The committee is concerned about written student CIS comments
being used for faculty evaluation (especially negatively) without
the faculty’s knowledge and opportunity to refute potentially
false and liable statements. Previously, when the faculty held
the original student written comments, they would know when and
how those comments were being used, as they would be the providers.
Without knowledge that the written comments are being used for
evaluation, faculty cannot respond to a particular student comment.
|| There is also concern about the variation in practices across
campus for returning CIS documents to faculty for review. Some
colleges are keeping the originals and providing scanned copies
to the faculty. There is concern about the readability of the
electronic copies of the student’s written comments. Some
faculty are unable to read those comments at all, resulting in
their not being able to know what students have said in their
Other comments and issues raised by the CCAFR during its consideration of the
CIS ruling implications can be found in the motion for the establishment of an ad
committee made on behalf of the committee at the February 2005, Faculty
Council meeting (D
Faculty Promotion Process Procedural Reviews
The Committee of Counsel for Academic Freedom and Responsibility is
charged with responding to faculty requests for procedural review of their promotion
decision process. The CCAFR received several inquiries this year and two such
requests which were conducted by two separate committees and later combined.
These reviews were conducted during December 2004, and January 2005, with a report
submitted. As a result of this process and the committee’s experiences
with it, we have several comments and recommendations which are neither independent
nor mutually exclusive.
Changes in the CCAFR Description and Composition
|| Appropriate CCAFR Focus Is on Academic Freedom Issues and
Major University Policy Violations—The CCAFR cannot be
a full-investigation body for promotion procedure reviews, especially
during a holiday semester break, but not at any time of year.
The CCAFR review should focus on academic freedom issues, not
potentially wider grievance issues. This fall, the Grievance
Committee was not taking new cases to the full committee (beyond
chair involvement), but this is generally not the case. The CCAFR’s
role should be to identify major violations of University policy
within its area of responsibility. Policy is needed to clearly
define what resources exist for faculty-requested promotion review
purposes and differences in scope for those resources made explicit
(e.g., the ombudsman, grievance committee, or the CCAFR in extraordinary
situations when a process is allegedly an academic freedom violation).
|| Visible University Ombudsman—The University ombudsman
presence should continue to be made very visible. Possibly, the
University ombudsman should be the first person contacted by
a faculty member seeking review of their promotion process. The
CCAFR should be a resource used if the ombudsman (or grievance
committee) needs to refer a larger policy question of academic
freedom for exploration, while addressing the legitimacy of the
particular complaint at other levels.
|| Allow Pre-Presidential Decision Review by the CCAFR—The
committee believes that the University should revise the current
timing guidelines so that procedural issues can be addressed
prior to the president rendering a “final promotion decision.” Currently,
at least for faculty initiated review, the CCAFR is to submit
its report only after the president has rendered a decision.
To avoid further academic freedom/procedural process deviations,
if any, it would be useful to allow the CCAFR to report as early
as after a departmental vote and before the dean renders a decision.
Thus, we believe the University should revise the current stated
guidelines from this perspective and allow for the CCAFR review
at any stage in the promotion process when broader academic freedom
issues are involved.
|| Increase University-wide Awareness of Existing Promotion
and Tenure Review Guidelines Very Early Each Year—While there
are University guidelines for promotion and tenure review in
place, they may not be well-known by all faculty and administrators.
In addition to the faculty being considered for review, the department
chairs and deans should be reminded each year very explicitly
what the University promotion and tenure review process guidelines
are. We recommend improved communications at all levels of administration
within the colleges and University wide, so as to make certain
the University promotion and tenure review processes are followed.
This communication should occur very early in the pre-process,
probably in the spring, when some departments begin to send out
for external references to ensure that the University guidelines
are well-known by faculty and administrators prior to the inception
of the decision process.
|| Develop Summary Version of University Promotion and Tenure
Review Guidelines—We recommend that there be a “short,
summary version” of the University Guidelines for Promotion
and Tenure Review to serve as a “quick reference” and
readily visible tool. We suggest that the provost appoint a committee
that includes the ombudsman and the chair of the grievance committee
to develop a shorter document of the promotion and tenure guidelines
for faculty and administrators to use. Summarizing the rules
in this way may be helpful in stimulating awareness and adherence
to them, in spite of the fact that they are currently listed
on the provost’s Web site. In short, we are suggesting
push” (v. “information pull”) strategy to increase
ease of awareness of the guidelines and ease of adherence across
campus. This is not to replace the college responsibility for
providing the information to departments, but meant to enhance
other processes already in existence.
The Committee on Committees asked that we review our current description and
composition. Following that review, we made several recommended changes, which
were approved by the Committee on Committees and the Faculty Council. These are
Include the provost
in the list of people who can request a promotion process review
from the CCAFR. This exclusion might have resulted historically
from the fact that the University did not always have a provost.
A law professor should
always be on the committee, and the guidelines should reflect
that one be appointed, if no law professor has been elected.
This recommendation is due to the legal nature of some of the
issues that might come before the CCAFR each year.
Assistant deans should
be explicitly excluded from membership on the CCAFR. This was
to avoid a high potential for conflict of interest.
We discussed excluding assistant department chairs from membership on the CCAFR,
but did not so recommend, as the University does not currently code that position,
and responsibilities vary widely across campus. Thus, not wanting to limit academic
freedom, we did not explicitly exclude this administrative title from the CCAFR’s
membership intentionally and after due consideration. This does not mean that
someone in that position could not decline to serve, if there were concern for
a conflict of interest due to their job description or for other reasons.
Linda L. Golder, chair