MINUTES OF THE FACULTY HANDBOOK REVISION COMMITTEE

Wednesday, April 18, 2007; Mason Hall, D5 – 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

 

Present:  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; Marilyn Mobley, Associate Provost for Educational Programs and Associate Professor of English; Suzanne Slayden, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Science.

 

Absent:  David Rossell, Associate Provost for Personnel and Budget, ex-officio.

 

Handbook Forum:  The first of three spring forums meets later today.  Rick distributed an outline; to have reasonably short presentation.  To continue to post minutes, add link to FHC Minutes on main page of Faculty Senate website; also to post templates for review.

Rick then distributed the following documents under consideration by the Faculty Senate/Faculty Matters Committee for review.

1. Absence for Religious Observances or Participation in University Activities:  motion to be presented at next Faculty Senate Meeting (May 2).  (Motion text and rationale in italics)

Modify the Absence for Religious Observances policy (which is on p. 35 of the 2006-2007 catalog) so that it will appear as shown below, adjusted to reflect faculty concerns about responsibilities and limitations, and so that it also covers absence for participation in university activities.

Absence for Religious Observances or Participation in University Activities

It is Mason's policy to encourage its faculty to make a reasonable effort to allow students to observe their religious holidays or to participate in university-sponsored activities (e.g., intercollegiate athletics, forensics team, dance company, etc.) without academic penalty. Absence from classes or exams for these reasons does not relieve students from responsibility for any part of the course work required during the absence. Students who miss classes, exams, or other assignments as a consequence of their religious observance or for participation in a university activity will be provided a reasonable alternative opportunity, consistent with class attendance policies stated in the syllabus, to make up the missed work. It is the obligation of students to provide faculty, within the first two weeks of the semester, with the dates of major religious holidays on which they will be absent, and the dates for which they are requesting an excused absence for participation in any university-sponsored activity scheduled prior to the start of the semester, and as soon as possible otherwise. Students requesting an excused absence for participation in a university-sponsored activity must provide their instructor with letter from a university official stating the dates and times that participation in the activity would result in the student missing class. Faculty are encouraged to take religious observances into consideration when constructing class schedules and syllabi.

Rationale:

The Colonial Academic Alliance concluded that all member institutions should have similar policies regarding absences due to participation in university activities, and the Academic Integrity Committee of this university's Athletic Council requested that our attendance policy be modified to cover absences due to participation in university-sponsored activities.

While it has been observed that for the most part GMU faculty are reasonable with regard to not penalizing students who miss a class or exam due to participation in a recognized university activity, it has also been observed that some new faculty and adjunct faculty seem reluctant to make reasonable accommodations. Perhaps in some cases the reluctance is due to a desire to do things "by the book" and avoid making exceptions, and in such instances it may be the case that having an official policy regarding absence due to participation in university activities may be helpful.

It strikes some students and faculty members as odd that GMU has a policy regarding absence due to religious observance but not one covering absence due to participation in university activities.

It can be noted that the proposed policy does not specify what is meant by making a reasonable effort to accommodate students who will miss a class or exam, allowing individual faculty members to for the most part decide for themselves what is appropriate for their classes.

 

·        To include in Faculty Information Guide, not in Faculty Handbook.

·        Suggested  Provost Office circulate policy as an all-fac email reminder; redundancy good in this situation.

 

2.  Tenure Clock Extension for New Parents (draft) motion in development by Faculty Matters Committee for presentation to the Faculty Senate  (Draft texts and rationale in italics)

 

A tenure track faculty member who becomes the parent of a child by birth or by adoption will be entitled to a one-year extension of the term in which she or he is currently employed.  This extension will be granted automatically upon the faculty member’s notifying in writing the chair of the department or the dean/director of the college, school or institute in which the faculty member serves.  The faculty member should make the request within one year of the child’s arrival in the family and prior to September 1 of the academic year in which the tenure decision would have been made.

 

A faculty member is limited to a maximum of two years of automatic extensions of term during the time she or he is serving in tenure track status.  A faculty member who declines to request an extension remains eligible for later extensions up to the two-year maximum.  Multiple births or multiple adoptions at the same time result in the same one-year extension right as single births or adoptions.  At the time of tenure consideration, a faculty member who has received an extension or extensions will be considered using the same tenure criteria as those applied to other faculty in the college, school, or institute.   Extensions due to parenthood are independent of study leaves.

 

Alternate Version

 

A tenure track faculty member who becomes the parent of a child by birth or by adoption will be entitled to a one-year extension of the term in which she or he is currently employed.  This extension will be granted automatically upon the faculty member’s notifying in writing the chair of the department or the dean/director of the college, school or institute in which the faculty member has primary affiliation..  The faculty member should submit the request within one year of the child’s arrival in the family and prior to September 1 of the academic year in which the tenure decision would have been made.

 

A faculty member is limited to one automatic one-year extension but may request a second one if she or he becomes the parent of a second child by birth or by adoption. A faculty member who declines to request an  extension remains eligible for the automatic extension upon the arrival of a second child.  At the time of tenure consideration, a faculty member who has received one or more extensions will be considered using the same criteria as those applied to other faculty in the college, school, or institute.  Extensions due to parenthood are independent of study leaves.


 

Rationale

 

AAUP recommends that tenure-track faculty who become new parents be allowed up to two one-year extensions of the tenure clock.  The full policy is described in the Statement of Principles on Family Responsibilities and Academic Work.  A summary relevant to the tenure clock issue was published in AAUP Today, 2(1), (fall, 2002).  It reads

 

The new statement recommends that, upon request, faculty members who are primary or coequal caregivers of newborn or newly adopted children be entitled to stop the tenure clock or extend the probationary period, with or without taking a full or partial leave of absence.  The statement recommends that institutions allow the probationary period to be extended for up to one year for each child, and further recommends that faculty be allowed to stop the clock only twice, resulting in no more than two one-year extensions of the probationary period.

 

A search of university websites and e-mail discussions with university faculty and administrators have shown that extensions of the tenure clock for birth or adoption are common at many universities, either through formal policy or tradition.  The following are examples:

 

http://www.provost.vt.edu/stopping_clock.php

 

http://www.odu.edu/ao/facultyhandbook/index.php?page=ch02s19.html

 

 

http://www.wm.edu/provost/HandbookSeptember2005.pdf

 

http://www.president.umd.edu/policies/docs/II-10OD.pdf

 

 

http://www.virginia.edu/provost/docs_policies/tenure.html

 

(END RATIONALE TEXT)

 


 

3.  Employment of Family Member/Partner :  motion passed by the Faculty Senate April 4, 2007 (motion text in italics)

 

Favoritism or the appearance of it can undermine the trust that members of the university community place in personnel decisions as well as the public interest which the university serves.  Thus, a personnel decision involving a family member or partner of another faculty member or administrator requires unique scrutiny and special safeguards.  In no case should a faculty member or administrator who might have a “personal interest” participate in the hiring, supervision, evaluation, or other personnel actions that involve a family member or partner.

 

If a faculty member or administrator might exercise or appear to exercise control over the employment or other personnel actions of a family member or partner, the supervisor of the faculty member or administrator must, at a minimum, designate a disinterested person to substitute for the individual who might have a personal interest.  Additional steps may also be required if colleagues or subordinates of the individual with a personal interest are involved in the employment activities.  “Appearance of exercising control” includes but is not limited to assigning responsibility for personnel actions or supervision to a colleague or subordinate.  If the personnel action involves a faculty member or administrator in a local academic unit, the faculty in that unit and all other interested parties must be fully apprised of both the family/partner relationship and the steps that have been taken to ensure that the individual with a personal interest is not involved in the personnel decision.

 

At least ten days prior to consideration of a personnel action involving a family member or partner of a faculty member or administrator by the Board of Visitors, the Board will be fully apprised of the relationship and the steps taken to ensure that the individual with a personal interest was not involved in the action.  Only after the Board is satisfied that the present policy was implemented and that safeguards were adequate should the personnel action be approved.

 

·        Question regarding legality raised at the Senate meeting: asking whether someone has a spouse or not might violate federal/state laws.  Not a violation of federal law.  Under Virginia law cannot discriminate on basis of marital status.  Text to be reviewed by Tom Hennessey and Camille Hazeur.

 

Provost Revisions:  2.4 Criteria for Evaluation of Faculty

Provost suggested removal of two sentences in paragraph two:  less benign; to alter balance of power vs. removal of redundancy. “Such judgments would presumably be reached only in rare circumstances.” Do we need last sentence?  Only in extraordinary circumstances and for clear and compelling reasons should administrators substitute their own judgment of the value of scholarly accomplishments for judgment made by professionals in the discipline.” Perhaps written for an extraordinary case?  To keep sentence as another guarantee of faculty governance in this important issue; perhaps to say in other words not so confrontational.  Marilyn to ask Provost whether he intended removal of sentence for verbal redundancy or whether he has strong reservations; then to revisit. 

 

Provost Revisions:  2.8.4.1 Eligibility for Reconsideration

·        Should reconsideration and appeal be combined into one field?  Provost recommended these be kept separately.  Reconsideration as one step, if evidence does not hold, then candidate has right to an appeal. 

·        Inclusion of “rare instances for new evidence.”  To retain list (a.b.c.d.e) of new evidence for a reconsideration?  A signal to faculty not to request reconsideration trivially?  Use of “rare instances” will not deter those being fired to request reconsideration.

 

2.9 Appeal Procedure for Negative Decisions in Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Cases

·        There are four bases given for appeal:  the first three are all OK, the fourth already major criteria for reconsideration: “ 4.  Inadequate or faulty consideration and/or additional evidence presented in light of the procedures outlined in this document.”

·        Replace “and/or additional evidence” with “of”

·        change 1,2,3, 4 to “a,b,c,d” for consistency.

 

Revision: 2.9 Appeal Procedure for Negative Decisions in Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Cases

(yellow = removed, red and bold revised text)

The University recognizes the need for an appeal procedure for faculty who fail to gain reappointment, promotion, and/or tenure. The appeal must be based on one or more of the following allegations:

  1. violation of federal and state legislation or university policy in regards to discrimination;
  2. denial of academic freedom;
  3. denial of procedural due process in consideration for tenure, reappointment, or promotion;
  4. inadequate or faulty consideration and/or additional of  evidence presented in light of the procedures outlined in this document.

The intent of the appeal procedure is to provide fair and competent review of the petition, followed by a final appeal in the case of a non-unanimous decision, or in cases where the appeal board reverses unanimously the decision of the administration. Any material included in a reconsideration process (see Sections 2.8.4.1 and 2.8.4.2) will be made available for the appeal process.

 

2.9.1 Formation of an Appeal Board

·        Is there a way to convene board more promptly? Cases in which candidate accepted another position elsewhere – a “lose-lose” situation for the university. 

·        Problem trying to put together an appeal board; past deadline – could not get a chair; holiday break, etc. 

·        After some discussion, decided to retain November 1st as latest date to request reconsideration.  Since BOV decision letter not to come until May, cannot require reconsideration until beginning of fall semester.  Needs two months to go through levels.  Candidate presents written petition to LAU administrator not later than the first day of class.  In 7 days LAU administrator submits to lowest level at which negative recommendation was made.  Each subsequent level:  14 days; potentially could go all the way back to local level. BOV decision given following May; issue to realign reconsideration vs. appeal. 

·        Reconsideration only for new evidence; appeal for other things.  Should two different dates be specified?  Provost letter goes out mid-April; to presidential level almost in May.  

·        Everyone involved in first process recused from appeal process, nor can they be the same people in reconsideration process.

·        Revise first sentence: “The petition for appeal should be filed as early as possible…

·        To revise next (December 1st) deadline to November 15th – consistent with two week precedents; to avoid holiday break. 

·        Why does the President select an appeal board member if filed with the Provost?  Change to Provost. 

·        Faculty Senate chair has no leverage in process; largely hand-holder. 

 

2.9.2 Final Appeal when the Petitioner has at Least One Vote

·        Weird, to combine this section with 2.9.1. 

·        Inconsistency with 1994 Text:  Why would President reconsider what he has just decided? 

·        Include gender-neutral language. 

 

Revision:  2.9.1 Formation of an Appeal Board

(yellow = removed,  bold revised text)

 

The petition for appeal must should be filed as early as possible with the chair of the Faculty Senate and the Provost by November 1 of the year of the decision. The chair of the Senate, no later than December 1 November 15, forms an appeal board for the case based on procedures outlined below.

 

The appeal board will include three tenured members of the faculty, none of whom participated in the original decision. The petitioner selects one appeal board member, who must be a tenured academic administrator (i.e., a dean, associate dean, assistant dean, vice provost, associate provost, institute director, or department chair). The President Provost selects a full-time faculty member who is not an academic administrator. These two appeal board members then select a third member, from either the faculty or the administration, who becomes the chair. The names of the three board members are not released until all have been chosen.

 

In any appeal alleging discrimination in violation of federal or state law or University regulations, the appeal board must consult and be advised by the University Equity Office.

 

The appeal board has the authority to require the submission of sufficient evidence to determine if the allegation appears to have merit. The board must decide upon this issue by majority vote before proceeding with a consideration of the case. The burden of proof rests with the petitioner.

 

If the vote of the appeal board unanimously supports the administration, then its report is forwarded simultaneously to the President and the principals in the appeal. The President makes the final decision in the case.

2.9.2 Final Appeal when the Petitioner has at Least One Vote

When the petitioner has at least one vote, the case is submitted to the President for his reconsideration. If the President's decision does not change in favor of the petitioner, then the petitioner may present the case to the Chair of the Faculty and Academic Standards Committee of the Board of Visitors. The chair of this Committee, after reviewing the written record of the case, will within twenty- one days do one of the following:

a.      deny the appeal for lack of merit; the chair must report a summary of the decision as a matter of information to the Committee at its next regularly scheduled meeting; the Committee may decide to take up the case if it wishes.

b.      find that there appears to be merit in the appeal, and remand it to the appropriate level(s) within the University for reconsideration, giving specific instructions as to how the problems cited in the appeal should be addressed

c.       bring the case to the Faculty and Academic Standards Committee of the Board of Visitors, which can take option (1) or (2) above, or can submit the case to the full Board of Visitors.

The decision of the Chair of the Board's Faculty and Academic Standards Committee, of the full Committee, or of the full Board, will be transmitted in writing to the President and the petitioner, and is final.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Clerk, Faculty Senate