Faculty Affairs Committee
Faculty Affairs Committee
Report for 2000-2001
The Faculty Affairs Committee addressed its four charges and an additional referred issue, reviewed its description in the Bylaws, and served as an appeals channel for faculty grievances under Faculty Handbook procedures.
- The Committee forwarded comments and recommendations about two draft proposals from the Task Force on Faculty Titles. The focus of the Committee's overall concern was the institutionalization of temporary faculty appointments subject to indefinite renewals on a term or yearly basis without eligibility for tenure. Such a policy would be in direct violation of AAUP's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Specific areas of concern for such teaching faculty were its detrimental effects on the non-tenure-track faculty member, the quality of the institution, and the regular faculty. A further focus for such research faculty was the context in which faculty titles are used without the rights and responsibilities that faculty status carries. Such a faculty member could be summarily dismissed without recourse.
These considerations also produced two recommendations, adopted by the Senate, which call for annual reports on the status of tenure/tenure-track lines and non-tenure-track teaching faculty.
It is recommended that next year's Committee examine the data from the annual report.
- The Committee monitored the implementation of the policies in the UTK Manual for Faculty Evaluation.
The Faculty Affairs Committee has examined statistical results of ratings from last year's Cumulative Reviews, and is pleased to note that a majority of ratings fell into the category of "exceeds expectations." Although some might question the preponderance of this category, such ratings are to be expected given the highly selective process by which faculty members attain the status of tenured professor. Although some may be tempted to use normal curve thinking to sort faculty into performance categories, tenured faculty members are not a randomly selected group of individuals. Rather, all faculty members attaining tenure have passed through not only the rigors of graduate education but also the continuing evaluation of peers at this and other universities. The rigor of such continuous evaluation should lead us to expect that a majority of tenured faculty would be assigned a rating of "exceeds expectations." While the Faculty Affairs Committee recognizes that there may be differing perspectives about the criteria for Cumulative Review ratings we must accept peer decisions about colleagues as valid and support the autonomy of faculty members to make such judgments. After all, each individual faculty member has a significant stake in ensuring that only high quality work will be rewarded, thereby enabling The University of Tennessee to attain the desired status of a top 25 university.
Plans for a survey of the faculty about implementation of the process were developed. The questionnaire is in the final stage of preparation, and arrangements have been made with the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment for its administration. In the fall it will be sent to all full-time regular faculty with the rank of Assistant Professor and above.
Three recommended changes in the current procedures appear in the materials for the May 7 Senate meeting.
It is recommended that next year's Committee continue to monitor the process and conduct the survey.
- During the fall semester, the Committee sought and received information from Dean Richard Bayer on UT's new policy on access to student records. Clarification was provided on the four questions regarding procedures for access to information, and it was recommended that the information be made available to the faculty. Questions 5 and 6 focused on specific procedures to be followed when a faculty member is either accused of violating or found in violation of the policy. The answer was that "no policies are in place" although "the Provost will discuss this matter with the President and the President of the Faculty Senate, Bob Glenn." This discussion is still pending. (Both letters appear as attachments to the posting of this report on the Senate web page.)
It is recommended that next year's Committee follow up on the pending answers to questions 5 and 6.
- A Committee member chaired the Task Force on Contingent Employment. Consideration of the effects of such employment on tenure, academic freedom, and governance was incorporated in the Committee's responses to the Task Force on Faculty Titles.
It is recommended that this charge remain on the Committee's agenda for next year.
- The Committee was asked to address the implications of the University's new electronic mail monitoring policy from the perspective of issues such as academic freedom. Adopting such a written policy was required by state legislation as was the required notice that is stated in the UT policy as follows: "employees' e-mail may be a public record under the Tennessee Public Records Act, subject to inspection by residents of Tennessee."
A subcommittee has studied the potential implications of this policy for faculty, and their draft response is attached to the posted version of this report on the Senate web page. A request for additional guidance in interpreting this policy was recently sent to the General Counsel. The primary concern of the Faculty Affairs Committee was that if e-mail messages are in the public record because they are stored on University computers, are not all research data files, copyrightable and patentable works, and correspondence with students now subject to public inspection if they are stored on University computers? The following information was provided: "Student records are protected from disclosure by an exception to the Tennessee Public Records Act and by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act. In addition, protection for patentable material, proprietary information, trade secrets and other information related to research is provided by a special statute codified at Tennessee Code Annotated 49-7-120. This statute was specifically amended last year to increase the protection for research records."
It is recommended that next year's Committee continue to investigate the implications of this policy and to inform the faculty of their findings.
- The Committee recommended one addition to the Bylaws description of its membership and one to its charge.
- As of April 30, the Committee had received three requests from faculty for review of grievances.
One recommended change in the Faculty Handbook appeals procedures is included in the May 7 Senate materials and is proposed for referral to the committee established to review the Handbook.
- A final recommendation to strengthen Senate communication with the faculty is being presented at the May 7 meeting for the good of the order.
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