MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
MAY 6, 2013


VIII. NEW BUSINESS.

F. Resolution Regarding UTS 180: “Conflicts of Interest, Conflicts of Commitment, and Outside Activities” Policy (D 10326-10327).

Professor Alan Friedman (English, past chair of the Faculty Council) presented the following resolution in response to the proposed UTS 180 policy. He said the draft resolution had resulted from discussions in the Faculty Council Executive Committee and at the last Faculty Council meeting, as well as from responses that had been received by email.

RESOLUTION REGARDING UTS 180: "CONFLICTS OF INTEREST,
CONFLICTS OF COMMITMENT, AND OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES" POLICY

Now that the UT System has wisely delayed implementation of its proposed UTS 180 until September, the Faculty Council of the University of Texas at Austin urges that the delay be until such time as the proposal can be thoroughly reconsidered in the light of objections that have been raised against it and redrafted in a way that meets those objections. We should not be bound by an arbitrary deadline. Our concerns include the following:
  1. The implementation of the proposed UTS 180 would make it far more difficult to retain and recruit top faculty.
  2. Student leaders have said that the policy would also make it harder to recruit top students.
  3. Such a proposal seriously violates AAUP and UT’s traditional academic freedom standards, and thereby opens the UT System up to potential professional censorship, further threatening the quality of its faculty, degrees, students, education, and reputation. (See http://aaup.org/issues/resources-conflicts-interest/outside-university-conflicts.)

  4. No reasons have been given for the promulgation of the proposed policy, no indication of how it will serve to foster the best interests of the institution rather than do it harm.
  5. No study has demonstrated the need for such an expansive and intrusive policy or the good it will supposedly accomplish. It seems to us to be a solution in search of a problem

  6. No other institutions of higher education have been cited as having such a policy in place.

  7. No other state agencies require their employees to complete such a form.
  8. The information that faculty and certain members of staff will be required to provide represents an extreme intrusion on our privacy, our rights as citizens, and on academic freedom. Further, it is unacceptable to require faculty to seek permission to pursue non-remunerated activities on their own time.

  9. No rationale is offered as to why faculty who have received approval for their outside activities should have to report the compensation they receive for performing them. This proposed policy represents an unjustified addition to the Faculty Annual Request for Outside Employment (http://www.utexas.edu/provost/policies/outside_employment/outside_employment.pdf).

  10. No rationale is offered for requiring that the activities of family members be reported.

  11. The proposed policy contains the threat to terminate faculty (whether tenured or not) if they fail to comply, thereby undermining academic freedom, due process, and shared governance. The mere news that such a policy may be in the works has already aroused concern among present faculty and potential recruits. 

  12. Implementing and monitoring the policy will require significant new staff, or significant overloads for existing staff, but no financial support is being offered. It’s another unfunded mandate.
  13. Faculty must have a significant voice in the working group being convened to reconsider and, presumably, redraft the policy; faculty should also play a significant role in its implementation. In the absence of such participation, we will have no confidence in the motives of those driving this policy, the policy itself, or the intended outcomes.
Professor Friedman said the proposed UTS 180 policy “represents a serious invasion of privacy and intrusion on constitutionally protected rights” and does not appear to find support among faculty, contrary to a quote of Vice Chancellor Dan Sharphorn recently published in The Daily Texan. Faculty at UT Austin, as well as other System campuses and numerous campus presidents, have spoken out against it. He noted that some faculty members have indicated that the policy is the reason they are leaving or contemplating leaving the University, and recruits have said they cannot accept positions until this policy issue is satisfactorily resolved. In addition, student leaders have expressed their concerns about losing outstanding faculty members and the adverse impact this would have on the value of degrees and efforts to attract excellent students to UT Austin.

He continued by saying that there was no study that demonstrates the value of the UTS 180 policy and no evidence of such a stringent policy such as this being implemented at other institutions. The policies implemented at national agencies, including the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation, have been much less rigid and burdensome than the one proposed by The University of Texas System. Professor Friedman said there are considerable concerns about the costs and who will bear them, both in terms of money and time, which will definitely be incurred in monitoring the implemented policy. The faculty is asking for “transparency regarding the new task force that has been established to review UTS 180.” He said that no information has been made available about its members and its charge. Furthermore, there have been no assurances that the task force’s recommendations will be “adhered to any more than were those of the committee that preceded it?” Finally, faculty members are asking that the instigators of this policy provide “a good example by making all of their private information public.” Professor Friedman’s comments were met with applause.

Professor Jacqueline Angel (public affairs) announced that her school’s budget council had met and “voted in unanimous support of this resolution.”

Professor Ehud Ronn presented the following alternate proposal:

RESOLUTION OF THE GENERAL FACULTY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN ON THE MATTER OF REGENTS UTS 180 POLICY
  1. In keeping with our responsibilities as faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin, we recognize the importance of faculty, staff and public officials’ responsibilities to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment in their outside activities.
  2. Although we acknowledge the Regents’ deferral of UTS 180 policy implementation until Sep., we would like to express our concerns:
    1. First and foremost, we regret the Regents of the University of Texas System did not see fit to consult with us regarding the implementation of such a policy. It is to the detriment of the University of Texas System, and the University of Texas at Austin in particular, when bodies with joint responsibilities fail to consult with one other.
    2. The proposal the Regents have promulgated violates the tradition of academic freedom at the University of Texas, provides an avenue for censorship of the faculty’s professional activities, and constitutes a fundamental violation of the right to privacy and freedom of association of the faculty as well as their immediate family. Specifically, the proposed policy’s threat to terminate faculty if they fail to comply undermines academic freedom, due process and shared governance.
    3. The action is unprecedented both within and without the State: No other academic institution, public or private, requires such compliance; nor will the Regents’ policy be extended to elective or appointive officials, or employees, of the State of Texas.
    4. In their inclusion of public-policy activities within the framework of their proposed policies, the Regents should recognize their policy is at such variance with practice at our sister institutions it at once invites comparison with discredited policies of a previous century. It has already caused and will cause additional harm to the University’s desire to retain and hire highest-quality faculty.
  3. In light of these serious concerns with the proposed line of action, the Faculty Council will consult with its colleagues at the School of Law regarding its rights and privileges under the United States and Texas Constitutions.
  4. We invite the Regents of the University of Texas System to convene a working group to formulate jointly a policy that will ensure the highest standard of ethics in the practice of all members of the System. We see this as an opportunity to open a continuing and on-going dialogue on all matters of joint interest between the Regents and the University of Texas faculty.
Chair Elect Hart called the question, which was approved unanimously by a voice vote of the Council. Chair Hilley than asked the Council members for a voice vote on whether to accept the alternate proposal. No one voted to accept the alternate proposal, but there was one abstention.

Professor Friedman then called the question on the original proposed resolution as he had presented it. Chair Hilley asked for the voice vote to call the question, and the Council approved the call with one abstention. Chair Hilley then called for a vote of support on the original proposed resolution as presented by Professor Friedman, and the Faculty Council approved the resolution with one abstention.

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