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Senate 2007-2008
May 27, 2008, Volume 54, No. 34

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Report of the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR)

1. SCAFR met monthly from September 2007 to May 2008. SCAFR’s annual agenda arises from its mission, mandated by the Trustees in the Statutes of the University, both to investigate and report on matters of its own choosing and to deal with cases or queries brought to SCAFR’s attention by members of the University faculty, who elect it and whom it serves.

2. With the help of Susan White, of the Faculty Senate Office, and of Associate Provost for the Faculty Vincent Price, SCAFR confirmed that all Schools had constituted their Committees on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFRs).  SCAFR met with the chairs (or delegates of the chairs) of the School CAFRs, emphasizing the need for all faculty members to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, and of the existence and function of School CAFRs.  SCAFR also adopted a recommendation that each School CAFR should have written and readily accessible procedures, posted on each School website, and collected by SCAFR for purposes of continuity and completeness.

3. SCAFR took up the testimony given by an administrator in court testimony, in a past case (that never had come before SCAFR), claiming that the Faculty Handbook was non-contractual in nature, binding upon faculty members as employees but not upon the University as employer.  In a letter to SCAFR, Provost Ron Daniels stated that the implications of the testimony were in error, and that “the specific policies” pertaining to the system of tenure and protections from sanctions, including those in the Handbook, “are contractual in nature.” 

4. SCAFR took up the case of a faculty member in the School of Medicine (SOM) that had been unresolved for decades, despite several rulings by SCAFR during those many years.  Given the lapse of time, incomplete records, and differing memories, SCAFR did what it could to bring the University and the faculty member into negotiations, failing which each party would seek what legal recourse it deemed appropriate. Concerned that such a lapse had occurred, however, SCAFR adopted a set of explicit “Procedures for Record-Keeping by SCAFR,” designed to preserve SCAFR’s work and documents in appropriate, readily accessible, and useful form, and to ensure that each SCAFR would review all pending SCAFR cases from previous years. SCAFR voted that one of the charges of each new SCAFR should be to review all open files remaining from preceding years and to take all appropriate actions to resolve and close them.

5. SCAFR, concerned that the contractual and statutory rights of the Faculty, promulgated by the Trustees or others, be clearly distinguishable in the Faculty Handbook—currently under revision for purposes of clarification and more functional form—from what might be contingent presidential, provostial, and decanal policies, met with Associate Provost Vincent Price.  SCAFR and the Associate Provost agreed on the general principle of such a distinction (though aware of the potential problems that might arise from a seeming enumeration of contractual faculty rights), and the Associate Provost will both a) bring to the revision of the Handbook SCAFR’s concern that the Faculty be able to distinguish easily between statutory provisions and contingent policies and b) continue to consult with SCAFR and the Faculty Senate on this matter.  

6. SCAFR was invited by the Senate Committee on the Faculty and Administration (SCOF) to comment on a proposed policy of mandatory faculty self-disclosure of a criminal record at the time of hiring. SCAFR unanimously resolved and recommended that the policy of self-disclosure had clear dangers and unclear benefits, and urged SCOF and the Senate Executive Committee (SEC) not to endorse this policy.

7. SCAFR is concerned about what has occurred with prior agreements between the SOM and the Faculty Senate about a cap on the percentage of SOM faculty who are Clinician Educators.  SCAFR expressed its concern to the Provost, and it received assurances that the matter will be given full consideration in 2008-2009.

8. SCAFR received outstanding and collegial cooperation from Provost Ron Daniels and from Associate Provost Vincent Price throughout this academic year, and it was encouraged by the responsiveness of the Provost and Associate Provost to matters of academic freedom and responsibility.

9. SCAFR received truly invaluable service from Susan White, executive assistant to the Faculty Senate Office, whose intelligence, thoroughness, competence, and diligence were indispensable to SCAFR’s work. 

      —Alan Charles Kors, SCAFR Chair, 2007-2008

Almanac - May 27, 2008, Volume 54, No. 34