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Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility

The function of the Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR) is to study and advise on problems or issues related to academic freedom and responsibility. This academic year CCAFR engaged in a number of activities related to this charge with the salient activities, results and recommendations coming from three principal oversight areas: promotions; academic freedom; and post-tenure review.

Promotions
In one of its primary roles, CCAFR investigates faculty claims that the University failed to adhere to appropriate policies and procedures in evaluating them for tenure and promotion. CCAFR subcommittees conduct the investigations and report their findings to the president and the candidate (Reference: “General Guidelines for the Preparation of Supporting Materials and the Management of Tenured And Tenure-Track Candidate Promotion Files” Addendum, §6, Fall 2007; (http://www.utexas.edu/provost/policies/evaluation/tenure/promote_tenure.html). In keeping with this role, CCAFR also makes recommendations, as appropriate, to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost for revisions of the above said “General Guidelines” and the “President’s Memorandum to Department Chairs and Deans” for increased procedural clarity and fairness for all participants in the process.

1.) Procedural Reviews of Tenured And Tenure-TrackPromotion-Related Decisions
This year, two faculty members requested a CCAFR procedural review of their consideration for promotion and tenure; two separate subcommittees were appointed and reported their findings and recommendations to the president. In both cases, the president accepted the subcommittee’s recommendations, including certain revisions to the “General Guidelines” and the “President’s Memorandum” responsive to the inquiry findings. The most recent, updated version of these documents, effective for fall 2008 promotion and tenure considerations, reflects several of the subcommittees’ recommendations from this year.

2.) Revisions of the “General Guidelines”
Based on several recent CCAFR subcommittee inquiries and the corresponding written presidential responses, CCAFR recommended to the president two further additions to the “President’s Memorandum to Department Chairs and Deans”designed to enhance and ensure the independence of the multi-level review process.

a. Insert in p. 5, between “Conflict of interest” and “Dean’s assessment”:
Re-voting
. If the Budget Council/Executive Committee or School/College Advisory Committee re-votes at any point in the review process, the original vote and any re-vote(s) shall be recorded in the promotion dossier along with an explanation of the circumstances leading to the re-vote(s). Further, independent reviews at all levels require that each voting body have the exclusive, unfettered authority to declare its final vote.
b. Insert in p. 5, between “Dean’s assessment” and “Joint and courtesy appointments”:
Participation of administrators. The promotion process is best served if the Dean and Associate Dean(s) of a departmentalized School/College and ORU director(s), if any, participate at only one level of a candidate's promotion process. A Dean, Associate Dean, or ORU director who is a member of a Budget Council/Executive Committee considering a candidate for promotion may participate either in the deliberations and voting of the Budget Council/Executive Committee or in deliberations and voting at the School/College level, but not both.


Faculty Concern
In February 2007, a faculty member requested that CCAFR investigate Equal Opportunity Services’ (EOS) 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 may urge faculty to meet with it but may 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 does 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 authority to require faculty members to speak with it in connection with an informal complaint. If the issue arises again, the University Counsel may need to provide guidance on the EOS’ authority to compel a faculty member to speak with it.

Post–Tenure Review
The CCAFR monitors the Post–Tenure Review (PTR) process and receives reports of faculty problems and/or concerns, recommending changes in PTR as needed. As is usual, the CCAFR received formally and informally solicited feedback regarding PTR.

In June 2007, CCAFR received, reviewed, and reported to the executive vice provost its findings on one faculty member’s formal complaint that the PTR process is being employed inappropriately to encourage him to resign. The executive vice provost stated that CCAFR is not charged with investigating any particular case in which PTR policies were allegedly violated; he urged that the faculty member meet with the University ombudsperson and/or the grievance committee for resolution of his case.

CCAFR also participated in a post-tenure review presentation as part of the executive vice president and provost’s Workshop for Department Chairs and Organized Research Unit (ORU) Directors on Friday, August 17, 2007, at the Commons Center at J.J. Pickle Research Campus. New department chairs and ORU directors were the principal target audience.

The CCAFR published its annual Summary of Post–Tenure Reports (which can be found at http://www.utexas.edu/provost/policies/post_tenure/index.html). During the 2006–07 academic year, 191 faculty members were scheduled for review: 91.1% rated satisfactory; 3.1% rated unsatisfactory; 3.1% retired; 1.6% resigned and 1.0% died.  During the nine–year period, 1998–2007, 1630 faculty underwent PTR: 92.9% rated satisfactory; 2.2% rated unsatisfactory; 2.9% retired; 1.3% resigned and 0.6% died.


2007-2008 Committee Members:
Ann Cvetkovich
Alan W. Friedman
Michael H. Granof
Susan S. Heinzelman
Tess Moon, chair
Randall M. Parker
Janet Staiger
Jeffrey Vaaler
Patrick Wooley