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Tenure and Academic Freedom
The contemporary concept of tenure in U.S. colleges and universities can be traced to the “Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure,” which was adopted in 1940 by both the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges (AAC). The basic principles of tenure as a system to protect the academic freedom of faculty members were articulated in this 1940 AAUP/AAC “Statement” and in the chapter on “Appointments and Tenure Policies” in the University of Pittsburgh’s Faculty Handbook.
The Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee (TAFC) offers counsel to faculty members relating to denial of promotion or tenure; nonrenewal of contract; notice of termination; and allegations of retaliation, or academic misconduct. In addition, the Committee works through the university governance system with faculty, administrators, staff, and students on policy issues involving the academic freedom of individuals or of the institution.
In its counseling role, the TAFC is available to meet informally with any faculty member and to serve as an informal mediator between the faculty member and other person(s) directly involved in the conflict. If a faculty member submits to the TAFC a formal, written request for assistance, the TAFC notifies the Provost, supplying only the name of the grievant. After receiving a formal, written request from a faculty member, the TAFC examines various sources of evidence to assess whether or not the faculty member has been accorded due process. Due process issues include: failure to give adequate notice of termination, inadequate consideration of the full range of evidence which should bear upon an evaluation of a faculty member's merit, substituting new criteria for previously-published evaluation criteria during the decision-making process, and failure to document allegations of a faculty member's lack of merit.
If the TAFC believes that due process has not been followed, the TAFC so advises the faculty member. The TAFC then communicates in writing to the faculty member, suggesting other sources of counsel or other courses of action. At this point the TAFC reports its findings to the aggrieved faculty member only. Such findings, as well as the information on which the findings are based, are considered confidential by the Committee. The faculty member to whom the report is made, however, may use the reported findings as he or she chooses. If and when a faculty member elects to proceed with a formal grievance, the TAFC will also give the Provost a copy of the TAFC findings.
In general, the TAFC works on policy issues pertaining to academic freedom of the individual and the institution. These include issues related to movement to and from the tenure stream; retaliation; research integrity; the rights of non-tenure stream faculty members; implementation of the Planning and Budgeting System; appeals and grievance procedures; the impact of outside accrediting agencies or standards; and the interpretation and implementation of regulations imposed by outside agencies.
More specifically, the TAFC has been charged by the Senate Council to monitor the number of faculty members who were transferred out of the tenure stream as per the "movement out of tenure stream" policy. The relevant data are provided to TAFC by the Office of the Provost. The goal of this monitoring is to discourage appointments of people in the tenure stream who in fact are not going to be considered for tenure. The TAFC also has been charged by the Faculty Assembly to provide a periodic update to the April 1998 “Report of the Faculty Assembly Committee on the Status of Faculty Appointments.”
Revised October 2003
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