Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility
Report to Faculty Council
April 14, 2008
The Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility—or “CCAFR” for short—has been engaged in several reviews of interest to the general faculty:
•One involving academic freedom
•The others being procedural reviews of promotion & tenure considerations
In February 2007, a faculty member requested that CCAFR investigate Equal Opportunity Services’s (EOS’s) handling of a student’s informal complaint against the faculty member for assigning a book that the student regarded as a form of discrimination. Working with EOS, by June 2007 CCAFR reached several understandings regarding the case, as well as others like it that may arise in the future:
1) The faculty member’s assignment of this book did not constitute discrimination or harassment;
2) In the absence of a policy violation or a formal complaint, EOS will urge faculty to meet with it, but will not compel them to do so. Depending on the facts, EOS may choose to record the faculty member’s decision not to meet with it; and
3) When pursuing an informal complaint that EOS do not believe rises to the level of a policy violation, EOS will contact the faculty member before contacting the department chair or other administrators. In that communication EOS will inform the faculty member that its request to talk to him or her is advisory in nature and not for the purpose of enforcing UT policy on non-discrimination and/or harassment.
CCAFR disagreed with EOS on one substantive point: CCAFR does not acknowledge that EOS has the right to require faculty members to speak with it in connection with an informal complaint. If the issue arises again, University Counsel may need to provide guidance on the EOS’s authority to compel a faculty member to speak with it.
Procedural Reviews of Promotion and Tenure Considerations
As many of you know, CCAFR investigates faculty claims that the University failed to adhere to appropriate policies and procedures in evaluating them for tenure and promotion.
This year, at the request of two faculty members, CCAFR subcommittees conducted procedural reviews and reported their findings to President Powers. In each case, the President accepted the subcommittee’s recommendation.
While the Committee is pleased with progress that has been made to improve the Promotion & Tenure guidelines, we are disappointed to report that we continue to encounter instances in which the Guidelines have not been followed, either by ignorance or neglect.
We exhort all parties to carefully read and follow the Guidelines. If questions arise during the process, the Guidelines list possible resources for administrators, budget councils, executive committees as well as faculty members. Some of the issues that became apparent during recent CCAFR procedural reviews could have been avoided or at least ameliorated if the parties involved had consulted the Guidelines and/or asked for clarification earlier in the process.