May 12, 2009,
Volume 55, No. 33
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Report of the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR)
1. SCAFR met approximately monthly from September 2008 to April 2009. 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 Faculty Affairs Vincent Price, SCAFR confirmed that all Schools had constituted their Committees on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFRs).
3. 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 underscores the importance of holding this meeting early in each academic year, to increase communication between SCAFR and the CAFRs.
4. This year, SCAFR became aware that in some cases the CAFRs have been asked to take on duties beyond their mandate to safeguard academic freedom and responsibility. Accordingly, SCAFR corresponded with the CAFR chairs, requesting them to determine whether they are being asked to take on such duties, and to seek to discontinue them. All the CAFR chairs responded, certifying that they currently are not undertaking such duties.
5. SCAFR and the University administration concur on the importance of protecting the academic freedom of associated faculty and academic support staff. Associate Provost Vincent Price wrote to SCAFR on December 10, 2008, agreeing “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.”
Later in the academic year, in response to a statement from the University Ombudsman, SCAFR forwarded a copy of the above to the Ombudsman, to insure consistent understanding across the University concerning this issue. SCAFR encourages every faculty member to notify any associated faculty and academic support staff who have teaching or research responsibilities that they possess rights to recourse to their school’s CAFR and to SCAFR, in cases concerning academic freedom and responsibility.
This academic year’s SCAFR suggests that next year’s SCAFR seek ways to advertise the existence and role of SCAFR and the CAFRs. In particular, it is important to insure that the associated faculty and staff with education and research duties are aware of their access to SCAFR and the CAFRs. This year’s SCAFR suggests that it may be beneficial to request that each dean send notification to his/her school’s complete teaching and research staff lists at the start of each academic year.
6. SCAFR advised a School CAFR concerning a possible case involving dismissal of an instructor.
7. SCAFR and the leaders of the Faculty Senate discussed the role of confidentiality in the functioning of SCAFR. After considering the issue, SCAFR voted to reiterate that its deliberations and proceedings are confidential. Because the 2008-2009 SCAFR members held a range of views on this topic, revisiting this issue in the next year may be beneficial.
8. Following an agreement from last academic year, the Associate Provost sought the opinion of SCAFR concerning a draft revision of the Faculty Handbook. SCAFR requested some revisions to correct and clarify certain policies.
9. This year’s SCAFR inherited an agenda item from last year, concerning the 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 would be given full consideration in 2008-2009. However, the departure of the provost necessitated tabling this issue until the 2009-2010 academic year.
10. SCAFR received outstanding and collegial cooperation from Provost Ron Daniels and from Associate Provost/Interim 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.
—Andrew M. Rappe, SCAFR Chair, 2008-2009