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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 has focused on three areas related to this charge: (a) promotion and tenure; (b) post-tenure review; and (c) academic freedom.

Promotion and Tenure

One of CCAFR's primary roles is to investigate 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 (General Guidelines for the Preparation of Supporting Materials and the Management of Tenured And Tenure-Track Candidate Promotion Files" Addendum, §6, fall 2007;
( The CCAFR chair informally reviewed the concerns raised by one faculty member regarding the promotion and tenure process; no formal complaint was filed.

Post-Tenure Review (PTR)

The CCAFR monitors the PTR process, receives reports of faculty problems and/or concerns, and recommends changes in PTR policies, as appropriate. CCAFR has recommended substantive revisions to the University's PTR policy and these are now under review by Provost Steve Leslie. The following is a summary of key aspects of the proposed revisions:

Purposes of Post-Tenure Review. Language should be incorporated in the PTR policy to reinforce the intent of post-tenure reviews. According to the Board of Regents (Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Series 31102, Evaluation of Tenured Faculty [§3]), periodic evaluation is to provide guidance for continuing and meaningful faculty development; to assist faculty to enhance professional skills and goals; to refocus academic and professional efforts, when appropriate; and to assure that tenured faculty members are meeting their responsibilities to the University and the State of Texas. According to the Texas Education Code (§51.942c.3), the PTR process should be directed toward the professional development of the faculty member.

Unsatisfactory Performance. The basic standard for an unsatisfactory PTR appraisal should be that the performance of the faculty member under review is clearly and demonstrably below the level of performance appropriately associated with his or her position. The focus of the review should be on the specific professional responsibilities the faculty member has been assigned.

Written Evaluation Reports: Written reports of PTR evaluations should include, at a minimum, clear statements of: (a) the standards and criteria used to assess performance, (b) the findings and evidence relied on in arriving at these conclusions, and (c) the conclusions and determinations supporting the evaluation outcome(s).

Independent Review Committee. This committee would consider complaints involving unsatisfactory evaluations. The committee would be composed of five members, three appointed by the CCAFR chair and two by the respective dean in consultation with the faculty member under review. Requests for independent reviews may be initiated by the faculty member, department chair [or equivalent], or the dean. Requests for review may occur when the faculty member is notified that the post-tenure review resulted in an unsatisfactory evaluation or after the faculty member is informed about the professional development plan.

Professional Development Plans. When a faculty member's performance is judged as unsatisfactory, professional development plans are to be designed by the department chair [or equivalent], in consultation with the faculty member under review. These plans should demonstrably advance the Board of Regents’ purposes for PTR. The department chair [or equivalent] will report to the executive vice president and provost on the implementation of professional development plans resulting from unsatisfactory evaluations, including the date of the initiation of the plan and whether the recommendations have been met or are ongoing. The executive vice president and provost shall oversee and report to CCAFR the outcome of follow-up reviews of all PTR professional development.

Academic Freedom

At the request of the CCAFR, President Bill Powers agreed to review University policies to determine whether the following CCAFR issues can be resolved within the existing policies and procedures:

  1. UT Austin's academic freedom policies are not consistent with the American Association of University Professors' 1915 Declaration of Principles of Academic Freedom or with those of comparable institutions.
  2. Jurisdiction in internal investigations of violations of academic freedom must be clarified. CCAFR believes that the initial determination of whether a faculty member has an academic freedom complaint should be made through a peer-review process.
  3. The CCAFR should be given authority to review cases of denial of promotion/tenure in cases involving a faculty claim of infringement of academic freedom.
  4. While the HOP 3.18 Faculty Grievance Procedures allow grievances related to academic freedom (Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Series 31008; Section II.A.1), the policy does not specifically include academic freedom matters in Section II.A.4. The CCAFR has asked for clarification of these policies (text below):

II. Issues Subject to Grievance Procedures

A. These procedures are established to process grievances of faculty members to the extent that they do not conflict and are in accordance with Regents’ Rules and Regulations Series 31008. Such grievances include, but are not limited to:

1. any issue bearing upon the academic freedom of an individual faculty member;

4. administrative actions which the individual faculty member deems to be a violation of contractual rights or an infringement upon the exercise of rights guaranteed by the laws or constitution of this state or the United States. These include the:

  1. non-renewal of a non-tenured faculty member. Decisions not to grant tenure and/or reappointment of tenure-track faculty members are to be appealed in accordance with Regents' Rules and Regulations, Series 31008, Sec. 6; and
  2. withholding of any substantial right, attribute, or perquisite such as, but not limited to, salary, promotion, or teaching or research award.
CCAFR Vice Chair

The CCAFR members selected David Rabban (professor, School of Law) to serve as chair of the committee for the 2009-10 academic year.

Respectfully submitted by Alba A. Ortiz, Chair
On behalf of the CCAFR members:
Brian L Evans, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Cynthia Franklin, Social Work
Alan W. Friedman, English
Tessie Jo Moon, Mechanical Engineering
Edward T. (Ted) Odell, Mathematics
Thomas G. Palaima, Classics
Randall M. Parker, Special Education
David M. Rabban, Law
Janet Staiger, Radio-Television-Film

Alba Ortiz, chair