May 22, 2007, Volume 53, No. 34
Report of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR)
Annual Report 2006-07 to the University Faculty
May 16, 2007
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1. SCAFR met monthly November 2006 to May 2007. With the help of Sue White, Senate Office, and the Provost’s office, we saw to the constitution of the school committees (CAFRs), the election of their chairs, and distributed a general procedural guide for such School committees. We also published in Almanac an annual reminder to faculty of the existence, function and availability of the School and Senate Committees on Academic Freedom and Responsibility.
2. In response to the lack of experience in such School committees, we suggest that:
a. In succeeding years SCAFR should hold a yearly discussion/briefing meeting with the school committees (the CAFRs) on matters they should be vigilant for and how to respond to them, including matters they may wish to inquire into on their own, and
b. That SCAFR undertake to assure that there are genuine elections to the school CAFRs, and not merely pro-forma ones.
3. And because SCAFR, regrettably, had not been convened in the previous two years, SCAFR has concluded that it is the positive duty of each member with continuing appointment, individually, to convene the Committee in the early fall to elect a Chair and continue its business, if that has not been otherwise accomplished by the officers of the Senate.
4. Under its general responsibility to conduct inquiries of its own, SCAFR needs in succeeding years proactively to examine changing circumstances in academia, such as: (i) the campus security measures that may be adopted, (ii) the effect of commercial contracting upon free publication of research whether by prior approvals, proprietary interests, contingency clauses, or otherwise, and (iii) the effect of government and commercial funding changes upon the direction and subjects of research and (iv) matters of the ownership of intellectual property and (v) changes in the supervisory roles of academic administrators.
SCAFR thinks, and the Senate Chairs concur, the faculty database being developed by the administration should include similar information on the associated faculty and the academic support staff who do teaching, grading and other assessments of students and researchers, in order for SCAFR to understand the full range of academic responsibility issues.
5. It is the opinion of SCAFR that the associated faculty (Handbook II.B.3) and those of academic support staff (II.B.4) who have teaching or research responsibilities, are within the scope of the assurance of academic freedom, [Statutes of the Trustees, Article 11, (Handbook II.A)], and have recourse to their school’s committee on academic freedom and responsibility (CAFR), and, where appointed outside a school, to the Senate Committee (SCAFR) when questions of academic freedom or academic responsibility arise.
6. SCAFR also needs to look into the academic protection of individuals who, as part of their appointments to Penn, are assigned to other institutions where conditions of employment may not provide the same academic protection that the University does. One solution may be that such institutions, to receive such appointments, would have to accord such persons the same protections they have at Penn.
7. Temporary Exclusion Policy. SCAFR looked into some aspects of the Ward matter, in the Wharton School, that became mooted by subsequent legal proceedings. We had a meeting with the Wharton Deputy Dean, and communicated our initial inquiry to the President and met with the Provost and Deputy Provost to discuss that, and related matters.
The Provost at that meeting indicated his interest in a workable temporary exclusion policy that would explicitly cover cases of faculty members charged with crimes. The matter of drafting such a policy had been taken up by the Senate Committee on the Administration and its proposal was sent along in to SCAFR for its opinion. SCAFR, after two meetings of consideration, concluded that when a faculty member is formally charged with a crime which if proved, would indicate inability or unfitness to perform the academic duties for which the person holds appointment, that the President or the Provost, with prior approval of SCAFR, or at least four telecommunicating members of SCAFR out of term, may temporarily exclude the person from all or part of the University, for up to 15 days and that a continuation should need a two thirds vote approval of SCAFR. That opinion was communicated to the drafting committee (SCOA) and to the Senate Chairs. SCAFR found that purposes for exclusion, other than the person’s ability or fitness for his or her duties, are inappropriate. The matter came back, after discussions with SCOA, and the Senate Chairs, and by them with the Provost, to SCAFR’s final, May 1, meeting at which it was agreed that initiation of a suspension or exclusion would be by the Provost or President with advice of SCAFR, the rest remaining as above with the two thirds SCAFR vote for any continuation. The matter is to be submitted to SEC vote on May 16.
8. The Handbook. SCAFR 2006-07 is passing along to the 2007-08 Committee its considerable concern as to whether the administration, as indicated by its testimony in legal depositions, understands the status of the policies and obligations contained in the Handbook for Faculty and Acaademic Administrators compatibly with the faculty’s understanding of them, and its concern as to how that document should be described.
9. Certain other matters came to the Chair’s attention, one of which was referred for disposition under the Misconduct in Research Procedures, and another of which was referred to the Ombudsman.
10. SCAFR recommends that its prior annual reports be distributed to new members each year to improve continuity and that a permanent file of its minutes is kept by the Senate Office for later consultation.
James Ross, Chair