DRAFT SUMMARY OF COMMENTS/QUESTIONS RAISED

AT FAIRFAX FORUM SEPTEMBER 17, 2008

Mason Hall, room D3 – 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.

DISCUSSED AT FACULTY HANDBOOK REVISION COMMITTEE MEETING

SEPTEMBER 18, 2008 – Mason Hall, room D3 – 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

 

Present:  September 17th Forum and September 18th meeting:  Kevin Avruch, Associate Director and Professor of Conflict Resolution, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution; Lorraine Brown, Professor of English, College of Humanities and Social Sciences; Rick Coffinberger, Associate Professor of Business and Legal Studies, School of Management,Chair; Martin Ford, Senior Associate Dean, College of Education and Human Development;. Dave Harr, Senior Associate Dean, School of Management; Suzanne Slayden, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Science. 

 

Introductory Remarks:  Chair Rick Coffinberger welcomed faculty to the meeting.  The purpose of the forum is mostly to listen and consider inputs received in the forum as well as by email.  After the forums are concluded, the Faculty Handbook Revision Committee will meet to discuss all inputs received and decide whether suggestions made will be included in the draft to be presented to the Faculty Senate at a special meeting to be held Wednesday, October 15th at 3:00 p.m. in Robinson Hall, B113.  Should the Faculty Senate vote to approve the revised Handbook, it will be presented to the Board of Visitors at a subsequent meeting for approval. 

 

After introducing the committee members present above, the Committee also wishes to acknowledge the contributions of former committee members Marilyn Sanders Mobley (former Associate Provost for Educational Programs) and the late David Rossell, Associate Provost for Personnel and Budget.

 

The draft revision has also been reviewed by the President’s Office, the Provost’s Office, Office of the University Counsel, and by AAUP through the efforts of Lorraine Brown, past president of the AAUP Chapter at GMU.  Linda Harber, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Payroll, has also reviewed some issues. 

 

The committee’s work (over 60 meetings conducted) is also unusual in this respect – we acheived consensus; although we did not always reach unanimous agreement.  Discussions were very professional; even when disagreements arose, everyone got along very well.

 

Comment One:  Section 2.10.2 Professional Ethics (C2 p. 74)

If terms “workplace bullying....threatening behavior” included, need for clarification of some terms must be made ...one person's verbal abuse may be another's (crude) joke.  Also, unless they are placed elsewhere in the document, no procedures to deal with those ethical issues beyond stating where they can be first directed. 

Comment Two:  Section 2.10.2 Professional Ethics (C2 p. 74)

Fully support the spirit of the addition of bullying, harassment, etc. to the list of unprofessional activities, but really worries about the lack of definition of the terms used.  If I tell a student for the third time that his thesis is overdue and he needs to get it done, is that harassment?  We should all treat everyone with respect, but if we are going to make aspects of bad behavior unethical, we need to define what we mean by the terms.  Similar observation about use of “abusive conduct” in Section 2.9.3 Termination of Appointment of Tenured, Tenure-Track, and Term Faculty Members for Cause (C2 pp. 68-71), although the extensive procedural safeguards probably render these misgivings moot.   

 

Discussion:  At the time of this writing, there is no written policy for bullying. Once policy in place, expectation (will contain) appropriate procedural safeguards.  Committee members disagreed about need to add statement referencing as yet non-existent policy.  Provost suggestion to include in the Handbook a new committee to decide such cases was  earlier rejected by the Handbook committee.

 

The Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Payroll is adamant that need for policy exists; need to develop a better infrastructure to deal with (existing) problems involving faculty.  A Task Force is now working on this issue; reviewing policies at other univresities.  One faculty member has already been elected to serve on this committee; other faculty who also wish to serve are welcome.  National experts will also be consulted.   All administrative and classified employees of the university are governed by Human Resources policy language (taken) from State of Virginia.  The old Faculty Handbook does not contain similar language.  Should term “bullying” be avoided?  Important modifier “workplace” as well as “pattern” or repeated (incidents).  Need for procedure, consistency, and one place to go to file grievances; need to get out from under dept. chair/dean, pathway may be blocked; no place for faculty to grieve.  Example of Mason's  sexual harassment policy (situation) must be “severe” or “pervasive” a more generous interpretation than State of Virginia where must be “severe and pervasive”.  Situations involving faculty and students addressed by the Dean of Students; new policy would apply to situations when individual behaves toward another repeatedly in a very uncivil way. 

 

Revision:  2.10.2 Professional Ethics – new text in blue, green text para. 1 moved from end para. 3.

 

Although no set of rules or professional code can guarantee or take the place of a scholar's personal integrity, the University believes that the "Statement of Professional Ethics" and the "Statement on Plagiarism" promulgated by the American Association of University Professors at    http://www.aaup.org/aaup serve as a reminder of the obligations assumed by all members of the professoriate. Faculty members must also adhere to the ethical standards of their respective professional associations and to university policies related to professional ethics (e.g., Research and Scholarship Misconduct, Responsible Use of Computing) while employed by the University. Please see University Policies at http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/policy/newpolicy/ .  In addition, unethical or unprofessional conduct may include, but is not limited to, repeated instances of workplace bullying, intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse, sabotage, and threatening behavior. 

 

Generally accepted standards of professional ethics require faculty members who plan to resign or retire to give notice in writing to their local unit administrator no later than May 15. Only in personal emergencies or for other compelling reasons should faculty members leave the institution during the academic year, except when this coincides with the expiration of their contractual obligations.

 

Allegations of unethical or unprofessional conduct may be brought to the attention of the Provost, President, employee relations specialists in the Human Resources and Payroll office, or the  appropriate University or local academic unit grievance committee (see Sections 2.11.2.1 and 2.9.3).  In all cases, all parties have a right to procedural due process. 

 

Comment:  Section 3.2 Salary Increases (C3 p. 2)

A statement should be added specifying that any funds coming from Richmond that address regional cost-of-living adjustments must be used exclusively for this purpose.  These cannot be divided into cost-of-living adjustments  and merit pay, since they have nothing to do with individual merit. 

 

Response:  Section 3.2. revised to add the following sentence: 
“In the case that funding from the state is designated as a cost-of-living adjustment, it is the responsibility of the University to ensure such funds are dispersed accordingly.

 

Question/Comment:  Preface (C1 p.3)

Amendment procedures described imply that amendment may take place routinely or frequently.  Should there be a statement about amendment(s) as rare event?

Response:    Concern about rush to add extraneous things not in the interest of faculty acknowledged.  Should such amendments be proposed, and  the Faculty Senate and University administration not agree, will be considered by the Provost and Executive Committee before submitted to BOV.  As issues arise, modifications to be addressed, not a “rare”event; Handbook functions as a  “living document.” No further revision to text.

 

Question:  Section 2.1.2 Tenure-Track Appointment (C2 p. 4)

Section includes tenure-track rank of professor.  Can someone actually be hired as a professor and not be tenured?

Response:  Yes, situation has occurred, although rarely.  No further revision to text.

 

Comment:  Use of “Full” Professor in Sections 2.2.6 Distinguished Service Professor (C2 p. 17), 2.2.7 Emeritus Status (C2 p. 18) and 2.3.3 Criteria and Promotion for Appointment, Reappointment, and Promotion of Term Faculty.  “Full” is not really included in the rank's title.

Response:  After reviewing the examples cited above, committee decided “full” should not be deleted.  No further revision to text.

 

Comment:  Section 2.7.3 Procedures for Promotion and Tenure A.4 (C2 p. 52) :  add “peer” between “two” and level so that revised text reads:  4.    The School of Law is exempt from the provisions specified in paragraphs (1) and (2), but it is not exempt from the requirement for two-level peer review.

Response:  Revision accepted.

 

Comment:  Section 2.7.3.2 Tenure Clock Extension for Serious Illness (C2 p. 56): add “be” between “will” and “handled” on line 9 so that revised text reads: 

Response:  Revision accepted.

 

Question:  Section 2.8.1 Appeal Board (C2 pp.  61-62) and Section 2.7.3 Procedures for Promotion and Tenure (C2 pp. 51-54):  Does not the BOV make the final decision when a negative tenure outcome is appealed (2.8.1)?  Thought the BOV made all final personnel decisions, (2.7.3) indicates that this body made the final original negative tenure ruling. 

Response:  The Board makes decisions on hiring; if you never get to tenure, no decision made; more of a notification for termination.  President does not take termination cases to BOV, rather as notification of separation.  Not (appropriate) to have BOV make personnel decisions except in extreme cases when (members of) appeal board do not agree; appeal would go to BOV with one positive vote .  No further revision to text needed, depends on path taken. 

 

Question One:  Section 2.9.3 Termination of Appointment of Tenured, Tenure-Track, and Term Faculty Members for Cause (C2 pp.68-71): Section describes a series of 14-day intervals and involves a Hearing Committee and Grievance Committee.  Faculty on 9-month contracts have no obligation to be present during summers, and it is not unlikely that summer might be the time period involved.  Are there any contingency plans in this case?

Response:  9-month instructional faculty generally available during summer for a good reason; use of email for those away from vicinity.   No further revision to text.

 

Question Two:  Section 2.9.3 Termination of Appointment of Tenured, Tenure-Track, and Term Faculty Members for Cause  (f)8.   (C2 p. 70):   Witnesses may include, but are not limited to faculty members or administrators from any institution of higher education accredited by a regional accrediting association.   Why is this sentence necessary?  Statement appears to give no information.  Are certain people prohibited from being witnesses?

Response:  Statement slightly edited from 1994 Handbook.  Famous plagiarism case in which outside experts needed to prove case; in some cases Provost may wish to go outside to get input.  Expertise may exist outside the university; wide reference – not meant randomly, such as jury selection.  A rarely used but extra protection for both parties.  No further revision to text.

 

Question Three:  Section 2.9.3 Termination of Appointment of Tenured, Tenure-Track, and Term Faculty Members for Cause  (C2 pp. 68-69)  Requested clarification of two-level review procedures – in present Handbook, a committee of peers met to determine if prima facie case against faculty member existed.  The new Handbook moves this role to the University Grievance Committee.  While objectivity of peers may be an issue; they are also likely to be the best informed.  Is the University Grievance Committee aware of what (new) burden this imposes? 

 

Response:  Historically the University Grievance Committee has had little to do; initially established as a place for research faculty with no place to go may grieve; or grievances between two (local academic) units.  This broadens definition of peers to include faculty from various departments or schools.  The questioner withdrew his objection. 

 

Question:  Section 3.6.2 Leave Programs for Tenured Faculty (C3 p.8):  A faculty member who accepts a study leave must agree to serve as a reviewer of future applications. 

Is the commitment to serve as a reviewer of future applications open-ended, or does it expire after a few years?

Response:  In practice, usually a one-year commitment; some faculty may wish to serve more than once; others may wish to defer service to future.  To add:  “at least once” so that revised text reads: A faculty member who accepts a study leave must agree to serve as a reviewer of future applications at least once. 

Question:  Section 1.3.2 The Faculty Senate (C1 p. 18):  Noticed that Robert's Rules of Order are not specified as a modus operandi for the Faculty Senate, and wondered if there would be openness at some point, to a discussion of a different set of rules which have more affinity to consensus-building. Knows  importance of Senate's traditions and culture are important and assume that it would be very difficult to alter the rules for engagement.

Response:  Robert's Rules of Order – Newly Revised is the parliamentary authority of the Faculty Senate, not a Faculty Handbook issue. 

 

Question:  2.6.2 Post-tenure Review (C2 pp.41-43)

Very troubled by new language requiring an overall unsatisfactory rating before any post-tenure review process can commence.  As the new language suggests, as long as a faculty member receives a satisfactory rating in scholarship and service, even if he or she were a terrible classroom teacher, it wouldn't matter, because the overall rating would be satisfactory.  Indeed, what we would be saying is that it's perfectly acceptable to be an unsatisfactory classroom teacher at GMU every year for your entire career, and the Faculty Handbook will protect you and your job if you are satisfactory in scholarship ans service.  I realize that we are unlikely to have many – if any- cases like this on the faculty.  But if we did, how would we justify such a case to the taxpayers of Virginia (of which I am one)?  And the Handbook language as proposed certainly leaves open that possibility..(.if you retain “overall” language), need to add that an exception to this would be an unsatisfactory rating in teaching for more than three years in a row...

 

Discussion:  Committee recalled that language changed from “three unsatisfactory evaluations in five years” to two unsatisfactory evaluations n four years”at request of Provost.  In sense that GMU has changed to a more research-oriented place, value of centrality of teaching compromised, although strongly supported by Provost.  Unsatisfactory teaching should be dealt with at the local level, individual situations may require flexibility when working on long-term projects, etc.  Unlikely balance that unsatisfactory teachers would be superlative in other areas.  Chair to send response to faculty member.  No further revision to text.

 

Question:  Section 1.3.6 Definition of Local Academic Units (LAU) (C1 p. 23) and 2.1.6 Definition of Primary Affiliation (C2 p. 9)

University has become more interdisciplinary since 1994 Handbook, more faculty opt for multiple affiliations.  Is it the committee's intention to permit faculty to be in 3,4, or  5 local academic units,  and if so, should FTE be associated with it?  Each department has its own by-laws regarding membership and voting rights.  If FTE association with department, (e.g. .25 FTE, or .125 FTE), difficult to say department cannot let you vote.  If faculty member moves from one LAU to another, process should be constrained to some extent; benefits should be (removed) when you change to other units.  Some faculty may be hired as professors of  X,Y, and Z (multiple LAUs). 

 

Response:  Not a Handbook issue – local units determine voting right in diverse ways.  Careful to frame Faculty Handbook in such a way not to take benefits away from faculty. 

 

Comment:  The Faculty Handbook lacks specific references to retirement policies; particularly proposed phased retirement policy and should not be presented for approval until retirement policy approved and included.  What is the rush?

 

Response:  Lack of transparency on retirement issues acknowledged, some faculty unaware of eligibility to take paid leave prior to retirement.  One of the committee members is the person in unit faculty consult about retirement.   Idiosyncrasies exist:  people have many different personal needs – not a generic set – need flexibility to address personal goals of prospective retirees.  Sometimes may be affected by budget considerations when several faculty members retire at the same time.  New revision mechanism allows inclusion of new policies (once approved) such as Phased Retirement Policy, in real time.  Once approved, link also will be posted on the Faculty Senate website.  To include new

 

Section 3.7 Retirement (C3 p. 10), (old Section 3.7 Conversion Factors renumbered as 3.8.)

From time to time the University, and  particular academic units, may develop programs to assist faculty with the transition to retirement.  Faculty contemplating this transition should discuss their options with their dean or director  and with  the Human Resources and Payroll department.

 

Question:  When the Faculty Handbook was reviewed by AAUP, what did they do?  Did they very carefully go though text with approval?

 

Response:  AAUP took document for review in late June, to meet an August 1st deadline.  Vacationing AAUP members went through the document word by word – their comments and suggestions were compiled, along with those of the Provost and the University Counsel’s office.  Then the Handbook committee reviewed all three sets of comments sequenced.  The AAUP also used a section of the Handbook as an example to use a workshop they were teaching, they were that good!

 

Comment:  Who represents the faculty on various committees?  Need for language in which the administration consults with the Faculty Senate to make nominations to committees, not inform us that a faculty member has agreed to serve.  Faculty member should be elected by Faculty Senate to serve on committee.

 

Comments:  If the Grievance Committee finds a faculty member in violation of the Faculty Handbook,  the BOV should be notified.  The charge of the Grievance Committee should be so amended. 

 

Comment/Discussion:  Need to include separate section on Freedom of Speech and Expression, as very important areas of university life.   Despite Faculty Senate efforts a few years ago, no university policy exists.  Examples cited included shabby treatment of students by police  and filming of public demonstrations on campus by University Police.   What kind of lesson do we provide for students about First Amendment rights at a university, an important part of our teaching responsibilities, especially at George Mason University? What is the criterion for what gets into Faculty Handbook and what doesn't? 

 

Response:  Committee concerned about ballooning; police and students not covered by Faculty Handbook.  To contact professor suggested with area of particular expertise in this area to help develop a new policy.  Should policy be developed and approved, then to include in Faculty Handbook.  No further revisions made.  The following segments address in general faculty rights and privileges:

 

Preface (C1 p. 3)

The provisions of the Faculty Handbook are incorporated by reference in all full time instructional, research, and clinical faculty employment contracts.  These provisions are binding on the University and on individual faculty members. The  Faculty Handbook  governs the employment relationship of individual faculty members, and sets forth the rights,  privileges, and responsibilities of faculty members and of the University.  Faculty and academic administrators are expected to read the Faculty Handbook and to be familiar with its contents.

 

 Section 2.11.1 Academic Freedom and Civil Liberties

One of the vital activities of a university is the critical examination of ideologies and institutions. It is essential that faculty members have the right to express their views responsibly, and the University is committed to upholding the principles of academic freedom to protect the expression of faculty members without fear of censorship or retaliation. The University defines academic freedom as:

1.  the right to unrestricted exposition of subjects (including controversial questions) within one's field, both on and off the campus, in a professionally responsible manner; and

2.  the right to unrestricted scholarly research and publication in a professionally responsible manner within the limits imposed by the acknowledgment of teaching as a faculty member's obligation and the limits imposed by the resources of the institution.

The University is fully aware that faculty members must enjoy, in addition to academic freedom, the same civil liberties as other citizens. In the exercise of their civil liberties or academic freedom, faculty have an obligation to make clear that they are not representing the institution, its Board, or the Commonwealth of Virginia. All employees have an obligation to avoid any action which appears or purports to commit the institution to a position on any issue without appropriate approval.

 

Faculty personnel actions, including initial appointment, reappointment, and promotion and tenure will not be affected by non-academic considerations such as the exercise of academic freedom and civil liberties. 

 

QUESTION:  Can we be assured in the revised Handbook that there will be a second-level review when someone is granted tenure?

 

Response:  Absolutely; the committee spent a lot of time on this issue.  See Sections 2.3.2 Procedures for Recruitment and Appontment of Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty (C2 pp. 23-24) , and 2.3.2.1 Awarding of Tenure at the Time of Appointment in Competitive Searches (C2 p. 25).

 

Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Clerk, Faculty Senate