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Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility

The work of the Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR) during 2009-10 can be divided into four separate subjects: (1) revision of University guidelines to allow review by CCAFR of claims that a pending promotion decision was based upon a violation of the candidate’s academic freedom; (2) two subcommittee reports and recommendations involving claims of procedural irregularities in promotion and tenure cases; (3) development of guidelines for subcommittees of CCAFR; and (4) continuing discussions with the administration regarding post-tenure review.

1. Revision of University Guidelines Involving Claimed Violations of Academic Freedom
The University of Texas at Austin has been a longstanding outlier among major research universities in not providing internal review of claims that violations of academic freedom tainted promotion and tenure decisions. CCAFR has for many years attempted to change the University’s internal regulations to provide for such review. Following substantial progress made in discussions with the administration in 2008-09 and this academic year, we are pleased to report that review of academic freedom claims has been incorporated into revisions of the University’s “General Guidelines for the Preparation of Supporting Materials and the Management of Tenured and Tenure-Track Candidate Promotion Files.” Part 11 of the General Guidelines, “Request for Review by Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR),” now specifically provides that review can include “whether the pending decision was based upon a violation of the faculty member’s academic freedom (see Addendum 6).” Addendum 6, which has also been revised, discusses “Review by CCAFR.” Other revisions to the “General Guidelines” provide clarity regarding “Announcement of Decisions” (Part 9), “Final Arguments in ‘Terminal Appointment Pending’ Cases” (Part 10), and “Reconsideration of a Promotion and Tenure Decision in the Terminal Year” (Part 12). These revisions represent a major advance for the protection of academic freedom at The University of Texas.

2. Subcommittee Reports and Recommendations
Two faculty members claimed procedural irregularities in their promotion and tenure cases. The chair of CCAFR appointed a subcommittee to review each claim. One subcommittee found procedural violations. President Powers accepted its recommendation for reconsideration without prejudice next academic year. Based on the subcommittee’s report, it seems wise to recommend a system of reminding department chairs to show the faculty member (a) the list of potential recommenders before recommendations are solicited (e.g. in April/May) and (b) the list of recommenders solicited and the status of receipt of reviews before the department evaluates the tenure and promotion case (e.g. in August). This information would allow the faculty member to submit timely documentation in the tenure and promotion file concerning any anticipated bias in one or more of the reviews.
The other subcommittee did not find any procedural errors, and President Powers accepted this conclusion. It did, however, make two recommendations based on its review.
1. “A system of reminding [department] chairs each year that annual reviews for faculty should be in writing would be helpful to both faculty who seek promotion and tenure and those who make the judgment.
2. It has been difficult to determine when the chart clarifying [the candidate’s] authorship was added to the Promotion file. Perhaps a master file indicates dates when documents are added, but we did not see anything like this. Knowing who knows what, and when, would be useful to address issues such as those raised by [the candidate]. Whether this means creating a master list or date-stamping documents should be considered.”

3. Subcommittee Procedures
CCAFR approved an internal document, “Subcommittees for CCAFR Reviews,” which specifies the relationship between CCAFR and its subcommittees in conducting reviews. The document addresses issues of confidentiality, recusal, and reporting between the subcommittee and the full committee.

4. Post-Tenure Review
As prior annual reports of CCAFR have indicated, CCAFR has recommended various substantive revisions in the Post-Tenure Review procedures. While the administration has agreed to many of these changes, additional issues have arisen, including division of responsibilities between CCAFR and other faculty bodies. Efforts will be made in the near future to address these issues and to include provisions in Post-Tenure Review analogous to the newly implemented CCAFR review of academic freedom claims regarding promotion and tenure.

The members of CCAFR elected Brian Evans Chair of CCAFR for 2010-2011.

David Rabban, chair