Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility: Annual Report 1995-96

July 15, 1996

The Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR) had a light work-load in the fall, and a heavier one in the Spring. We have requested that the Senate Executive Committee (SEC) extend the term of the 1995-96 SCAFR through September 6, 1996, to enable us to include actions on Item 2 on the agenda that is summarized below.

  1. A professor complained to us that proceedings against him regarding academic misconduct had not been properly carried out, and was concerned that planned Just Cause proceedings against him in his school Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFR) would not be unbiased. SCAFR determined that the regulations in the Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators are clear that Just Cause must go to his school CAFR, and that any subsequent appeals would be more appropriately handled by the Faculty Grievance Commission.

  2. An appeal from a ruling by a school CAFR (Item 5 in the Annual Report of the 1994-95 SCAFR): In March, 1995, a professor (now former professor) filed with SCAFR what amounted to an appeal from an adverse decision from his school CAFR. In it, he complained that the CAFR had not sufficiently informed him of the grounds for its decision and had not allowed him to review testimony or written submissions of the respondents. Last year's SCAFR requested documents from the school CAFR, the last of which only reached us in December 1995. After deliberating, SCAFR concluded that in two important respects, the proceedings before the CAFR fell short of due process:

    1. although the CAFR had conducted a thorough investigation, it did not provide an opportunity to hear (or read), cross-question and respond to one another's oral or written testimony and

    2. the CAFR's brief letter to the complainant contained no findings of fact and no adequate explanation as to the basis for its decision that the professor's academic freedom had not been infringed. SCAFR concluded that the case should be reopened and the parties afforded the hearing thus far denied them. Since the appropriate forum for such a hearing would be the school CAFR, in early February SCAFR asked the school CAFR if it wished to do so. In early March the school CAFR informed us that they unanimously agreed that their committee should not hear the case since they felt that the previous CAFR had proceeded correctly and that a reconsideration of the case by their committee would delay a process that should be completed expeditiously. SCAFR itself, therefore, will conduct the further proceedings in this case, and we hope to have finished by the end of May or early June.

Consideration of this case brought to our attention the absence of procedural rules for the school CAFRs and for SCAFR itself. We think this is a problem: as in this case, school CAFRs may reach decisions that it thinks are procedurally correct, only to find that SCAFR (or, potentially, the next year's CAFR) disagrees. We are in the process of drafting such regulations, although we do not expect to finish before the term of this committee ends.

Charles Bosk (sociology)
David Brownlee (history of art)
Frank I. Goodman (law)
Larry Gross (communication)
John C. Keene (city & regional planning)
Robert F. Lucid (English)
Vicki Mahaffey (English)
Susan Watkins (sociology), Chair
Iraj Zandi (systems)

ex officio: Senate Chair-elect, Peter J. Kuriloff (education)


Volume 43 Number 2
September 3, 1996

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