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Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility


Faculty members are engaged in fostering critical thinking and developing and disseminating new knowledge. Having academic freedom in teaching, research, and expression enables a faculty member to critique accepted truths and search for new knowledge, even when it disrupts the status quo. Academic freedom safeguards of tenure, due process, and faculty governance allow faculty members to serve the common good without being controlled by public opinion.

The Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CCAFR) advises the president and provost on procedures for due process for faculty members, including procedures for tenure, promotion, and post-tenure review, as well as on safeguards for academic freedom, including those for teaching, research, and expression. CCAFR also investigates claims by faculty members (of any rank) who allege violations of due process, especially in their tenure, promotion, or post-tenure review cases. Please refer to Appendix E-a. CCAFR also investigates allegations of violations of academic freedom by faculty members. Claims of academic freedom violations are not limited to tenure, promotion, or post-tenure review cases. Please refer to Appendix E-b.

In 2010-11, the work of the CCAFR can be divided into three separate subjects: (1) revision of University guidelines for tenure and promotion; (2) four subcommittee reports and recommendations involving claims of procedural irregularities in tenure and promotion cases; and (3) one subcommittee report concerning a claim of an academic freedom violation in a post-tenure review case.

1. Revision of University Guidelines Involving Claimed Violations of Academic Freedom
The University of Texas at Austin had 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 2009-10, review of academic freedom claims were explicitly incorporated into the University’s fall 2010 “General Guidelines for the Preparation of Supporting Materials and the Management of Tenured and Tenure-Track Candidate Promotion Files.” The wording was further strengthened in the fall 2011 guidelines: http://www.utexas.edu/provost/policies/evaluation/tenure/2011/ttt/TTT_Guidelines_Fall2011.pdf. Some of these changes, and their impact on filing requests with CCAFR concerning allegations of procedural and/or academic freedom violations, are discussed in Appendix E-a.

2. Subcommittee Reports on Claims of Procedural Violations in Tenure/Promotion Cases
Four faculty members claimed procedural violations concerning tenure and promotion cases. In addition, one of the four faculty members also alleged violations of academic freedom.

Faculty members A and B had been informed of denial of tenure and promotion in December 2010. In January 2011, both alleged procedural violations. Professor A also alleged violations of academic freedom. In each case, the CCAFR subcommittee believed that the tenure and promotion decision was not affected negatively by procedural irregularities. In addition, the CCAFR subcommittee for Professor A did not find any violations of academic freedom, but did recommend that the department chair institute regular peer reviews of teaching for all tenure-track faculty members. President Powers concurred with all subcommittee recommendations.

Faculty members Y and Z had been informed of denial of tenure and promotion in December 2009. Professor Y had filed a complaint with CCAFR in January 2010, alleging procedural violations in his/her tenure and promotion case. After investigating the allegations, the CCAFR subcommittee concurred with the allegations, believed that the severity of the procedural violations had tainted the tenure and promotion case, and recommended that the faculty member be allowed to apply in August 2010 for reconsideration for tenure and promotion from scratch (de novo). President Powers concurred with the recommendations.

Professor Y applied for tenure and promotion in August 2010, was denied tenure and promotion again, and filed another complaint with CCAFR in January 2011, alleging that he/she was not afforded a de novo process. The CCAFR subcommittee did not agree with the allegations. At the same time, the CCAFR subcommittee recommended that the University clarify the guidelines for a de novo promotion process. In particular, the department appropriately sought complete new references for the reconsideration case. As a result, the new references did not have the same depth of knowledge in the field, which in turn, caused the department to view the reconsideration case negatively. Professor Z filed a complaint with CCAFR in January 2011, after he/she was denied reconsideration for tenure and promotion in August 2010 by his/her department. The CCAFR subcommittee believed that the tenure and promotion decision for Professor Z was not affected negatively by procedural irregularities. The CCAFR subcommittee, however, made recommendations for the department, college, and University to adopt to avoid the identified procedural irregularities from happening in future cases involving reconsideration of tenure and promotion.

3. Subcommittee Report on Claim of Academic Freedom Violations in Post-Tenure Review
Professor X received an unsatisfactory departmental post-tenure review in February 2011. In May, he/she filed a complaint with CCAFR, alleging that academic freedom violations had negatively affected the post-tenure review. In July 2011, the CCAFR subcommittee agreed with the allegations and recommended that Professor X be granted the opportunity to appeal the decision, at the college level, to an impartial group of faculty, as provided by the University’s post-tenure review guidelines under “College-level peer review of an unsatisfactory departmental evaluation.”

Brian Evans, chair