[The following memorandum was considered by the UTK Faculty Senate on May 25, 1981.]


To: Faculty Senate
From: Faculty Affairs Committee
Date: May 15, 1981
Subject: Discussion of Controversial Items in Proposed Handbook Revisions.

As you will recall, the Executive Committee asked that the Faculty Affairs Committee withdraw three items from our proposed Handbook revisions, pending the preparation of written comments. The reasons for this procedure are largely based upon the fact that these are a) those items which the University Administration finds objectionable, and b) items for which there are reasonable arguments on both sides. It is probably also true that individual positions with respect to these items are relatively firm, since, a pro- or con- position must necessarily be based on value. There are competing values to be served in accepting or rejecting these particular items, and judgements concerning their reasonableness or unreasonableness must necessarily be made in the context of these values. For this reason, the Committee does not feel that there is only one "correct" position (i.e., acceptance) for the Senate to take, but that these items do need to be considered seriously.

An additional comment needs to be made concerning the first two proposals discussed in this memorandum. One change to the drafting subcommittee was to explore the relationship between the Handbook and the AAUP guidelines, and to suggest changes which might bring the two documents closer to concordance. These two items are responsive to that change.

This memorandum should be read together with that from Associate Vice Chancellor Norman.

Chapter 3, page 19, Column 1, two lines from bottom:
Change period to comma and add: "nor in the case of individuals with 3 or more years of comparable full time faculty service in another institution shall it exceed 4 years at UTK. The appropriate length for the probationary period should be determined in consultation with the faculty of the unit involved." (Brings Handbook into substantial agreement with AAUP guidelines).
It is true that there are circumstances in which this revision would work to the disadvantage of a faculty member--as when an individual moving from one institution to another might require additional time to establish a research program--and that a certain amount of flexibility might be advantageous.

The primary reason in favor of acceptance is the protection of faculty against excessive prolongation of probationary periods. If an individual has performed creditably at another institution (so that UTK wishes to hire them), it is rare that a reasonable basis for tenure decisions cannot be determined within four years. In the absence of special circumstances, if a faculty member cannot demonstrate that they are deserving of tenure within this period, it may be kinder to make that decision rather than prolonging probation. In an era of retrenchment, where it might be useful for a University to limit the number of tenured faculty, the policy of prolonging tenure decisions might be open to abuse.

Chapter 3, page 19, Column 2, end:
Add as new paragraph: "A faculty member receiving notice of non-reappointment may request the reason for the decision not to reappoint, orally or in writing. A request for a written statement must be made to the appropriate Vice Chancellor with 3 weeks of the notice of nonreappointment, and the statement shall then be provided within two weeks of the request."
There are really two issues involved in this revision--a legal one and a moral or equitable one.

One of the reasons which has been advanced against this proposal (which was part of the previous Handbook's provision) is that it puts the University in a slightly more vulnerable position with respect to possible litigation arising out of unfavorable tenure decisions--presumably because it provides something "tangible" to challenge. It is in the University's interest to avoid litigation, and this is not an unreasonable position for a University Administration to take. It is also true (as mentioned in Vice Chancellor Norman's memorandum) that it is sometimes difficult to articulate the reasons for a decision.

Balanced against these factors are the rights and interests of the faculty member facing termination. A faculty member being terminated deserves being told why, and having the reasons articulated. This is not merely to provide the faculty member with "evidence" to support a possible grievance or even litigation (although their is no fundamental reason that this should be denied faculty members if legitimate), but also to simply provide the faculty member with needed feedback. If a faculty member is terminated within established guidelines (both University and Departmental), there should be no reason not to put this in writing.

A final reason for adopting this proposal is that the failure of the administration to provide reasons may leave individual faculty open to subpoena and litigation--as in the recent Georgia case.

Chapter 3, page 21, Column 2, line 36:
Add, following sentence after ... cause shown.: "Suspension is justified only if continuance of employment may bring immediate harm to the faculty member of others."
The intent of the committee in drafting this item was simply to articulate a reasonable policy, using the policy expressed by the Chancellor in a previous suspension of a faculty member. Since this item is not mentioned in the Associate Vice Chancellor's memorandum, this item may no longer be controverted.

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