1994-95 Annual Report of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility

May 31, 1995

The Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR) had a heavy workload this year, especially during the spring semester when much of our time was occupied with a controversial case. The Senate Executive Committee (SEC) extended the term of the 1994-95 SCAFR through May 1995, which enabled us to conclude actions on items 4 and 6 on the agenda that is summarized below.

1. Interim Suspension. At the request of Faculty Senate Chair Barbara Lowery, SCAFR met with Provost Stanley Chodorow on October 27 to discuss his concerns about the draft policy on interim suspension of faculty members that had been approved by SCAFR and SEC in 1993-94 (Almanac January 18, 1994). SCAFR and the Provost agreed on changes that would allow for the possibility of an emergency, in which a dean believes that action to suspend is necessary before it is possible to consult in advance with the relevant committee on academic freedom and responsibility. We also considered the grounds for suspension. SCAFR agreed with Provost Chodorow that "the serious risk of harm" required for suspension could include non-physical forms of harm, as well as physical injury, but we were not willing to accept language that we feared might promote excessively broad use of suspension. On April 5, SEC approved SCAFR's revised proposal with one small change in wording.

2. Faculty Responsibility. Recommendation B.1 of the Commission on Strengthening the Community called on the Provost to convene a faculty committee to address standards of faculty responsibility, including constructive engagement in the University and wider communities, and to produce "a clear statement of expectations regarding faculty roles and responsibilities within one year." (Almanac, April 5, 1994) The Provost and the Faculty Senate leadership agreed that Faculty Senate rather than provostial committees should address these issues, and Senate Chair Lowery asked SCAFR to respond. On January 18, SCAFR met with two representatives of the Commission, its chair Dr. Gloria Chisum and Dr. Rebecca Bushnell. Subsequently, SCAFR established a subcommittee to prepare a draft statement. Unbeknownst to us, the Senate Committee on the Faculty had also been asked to respond to the Chisum Commission's recommendation. On March 30 the Committee on the Faculty issued a report"On Community Service Responsibility of Faculty," which concluded that the existing statement on faculty service in the Handbook requires no revision (Almanac April 11, 1995). In its preliminary discussions, SCAFR's subcommittee had been inclined to a different view, but because SCAFR was already overloaded with other issues, we decided not to issue our own report on faculty responsibility in 1994-95. We note, however, that contrary to Professor Lowery's charge to the Committee on the Faculty, the latter did not get SCAFR's approval for its statement before bringing it to SEC. Therefore, SCAFR may wish to take up this issue again in 1995-96.

3. Just Cause. At the request of Senate Chair Lowery, SCAFR met with Professor James Ross on January 25 to hear his objections to the Proposed Policy Governing Sanctions Taken Against Members of the Faculty (commonly known as the "Just Cause" policy), which was then before the Senate Executive Committee. On February 1, SCAFR recommended that SEC consider several changes in the draft proposal. The March 1 proposal that SEC submitted to a mail ballot of the Faculty Senate incorporated two of our suggestions: that the President not be able to raise the severity of a sanction recommended by a Hearing Board, and that the final appeal on procedural issues be to SCAFR rather than to the Trustees.

4. Administrators' Denial of a Graduate Group Chair Nomination. In response to a complaint from Professor David Cass and a petition from nine faculty members, SCAFR reviewed the events that led to the administration's decision to reject the proposed appointment of Professor Cass as acting chair of the economics graduate group. We concluded that administrators had acted within their authority and had not violated Professor Cass's academic freedom, but we objected to their attempt to interrogate him about his past relationships with graduate students in the absence of evidence sufficient to justify formal charges. Our report on this matter was published in Almanac on May 25, 1995.

5. Appeal from a School Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFR). A faculty member appealed to SCAFR the adverse judgment on his complaint rendered by a school committee on academic freedom and responsibility. SCAFR could not make an informed decision because of the lack of explanatory detail in the school CAFR's communications conveying its decisions to the complainant. In late April, we asked the chair of the school CAFR to provide SCAFR with a statement describing the CAFR's deliberations and explaining the reasoning behind its conclusions. Although the chair agreed to SCAFR's request, we have not yet received the statement, so this issue will be carried over to the agenda of next year's committee.

6. Senate Rules Concerning a Mail Ballot. Near the end of the spring semester, Professor James Ross complained to SCAFR against the Senate chairs and the Senate Executive Committee, alleging they had disregarded a valid petition and misinterpreted Senate rule 9A in deciding to send the revised Just Cause procedure to the Faculty Senate membership for a mail ballot with a simple majority required for approval. On May 18, SCAFR decided not to accept Professor Ross's complaint. We found nothing in the Senate Manual that designates SCAFR as the arbiter of disputes over Senate rules or procedures, nor did the complaint establish any connection between the mail ballot and issues of academic freedom or responsibility. We held that the normal course of appeal from the decision of the chair is to the body itself--in this case, to the Senate Executive Committee.

We also wish to express our appreciation to Carolyn Burdon for providing, on top of her many other responsibilities, invaluable assistance to the committee and its chair.

Charles Bosk (sociology)
David Brownlee (history of art)
Frank Goodman (law)
Constance E. Helfat (management)
Robert F. Lucid (English)
Vicki Mahaffey (English)
Jack Nagel (political science), Chair
Henry Teune (political science)
Iraj Zandi (systems)

ex officio: William L. Kissick (medicine), Senate Chair-elect
staff: Carolyn P. Burdon, executive assistant to the Chair