FOR FACULTY COMMENT


TO: The Faculty
FROM: Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility
SUBJECT: Procedural Principles for Handling Complaints Concerning Academic Freedom and Responsibility

Since the Fall of 1995 the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR) has been engaged in drafting a set of procedural principles to guide the activities of the school Committees on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFRs). In these principles SCAFR has sought to capture the long-established consensus concerning the fundamental elements of such procedures. The development and planned dissemination of these principles is in accord with SCAFR's responsibility to "advise and consult with each faculty's (CAFR), and with administrative officers, on the establishment of appropriate procedures to be followed in the event of a claim of violation of academic freedom or responsibility" ( Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators, Section A2, p. 20).

SCAFR is submitting the statement of procedural principles to the Senate Executive Committee (SEC) for its consideration and endorsement, and requesting that, in order to call attention to these principles and their annual dissemination, SEC approve the insertion of a footnote in section A2 of the Handbook, "Academic Freedom and Responsibility," (p. 20), following the second sentence in the second paragraph ("This Committee shall advise and consult . . . .). The text follows:

"At the beginning of each year, the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility shall distribute the 'Procedural Principles for Handling Complaints Concerning Academic Freedom and Responsibility' to the members of each faculty's Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility."

The statement of principles is at right, for faculty consideration and comment. The absence of such a statement presenting the long-standing principles that have governed SCAFR and CAFR proceedings contributed, in our view, to a challenge to SCAFR's jurisdiction and procedures that arose in the context of a case considered in 1995-96. In response to the claims by several faculty members and a senior administrator in one school that SCAFR was acting in a fashion inconsistent with prior practice and unsupported by statutory authority, Faculty Senate Chair Peter Kuriloff, at the request of SCAFR convened an ad hoc committee of all available former SCAFR chairs, and asked them to consider the challenges against SCAFR's operations and jurisdiction. The statement by the former SCAFR Chairs is on the next page.

Comments may be sent to Larry Gross, either by mail to the Faculty Senate, Box 12 College Hall/6303 or by e-mail at flg@asc.upenn.edu.

-- Larry Gross (communication), Chair, SCAFR, 1996-97


Academic Freedom and Responsibility: Procedural Principles for School Committees

A Special Report of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility

February 10, 1997

The purpose of a procedure for handling complaints of violations of academic freedom is to give all parties a fair, impartial hearing. There has long been a general consensus concerning the fundamental elements of such a procedure, a consensus that is reflected in the principles that follow. Each school faculty should establish and disseminate standing procedures for handling complaints concerning academic freedom and responsibility that are consistent with these principles. [1]

  1. The procedures should assure impartiality. The school Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFR) and any body that the CAFR constitutes must both be impartial and appear to be impartial. This requires recusal in cases where a member of the CAFR has been involved in the controversy, has a special relationship with one of the parties, or otherwise is not able, or does not appear to be, impartial. The school CAFR should establish standing procedures allowing complainants and respondents to challenge the members of the school CAFR, for cause, and for replacing members who are successfully challenged or who recuse themselves. We recommend that a pool of potential replacements be constituted of former members of the school CAFR who do not hold administrative positions and are otherwise in a position to be impartial in the matter;

  2. The procedures should allow the complainant an opportunity to state succinctly and in non-technical language the facts that form the basis of the complaint, the policies, regulations, and traditions of the University that have been allegedly violated, and the remedy sought;

  3. The procedures should allow the person(s) complained against an opportunity to respond to the complaint, setting out their views of the facts or the policies, regulations, and traditions of the University;

  4. The procedures should provide that the school CAFR will carry out a preliminary investigation of the complaint to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation may have occurred. The school CAFR, where consistent with academic responsibility, may explore the possibility of mediation in order to reach a resolution of the dispute to the satisfaction of the parties that is not offensive to principles of academic freedom and responsibility; [2]

  5. The school CAFR should establish standing procedures that will be followed at a hearing, if the matter cannot be resolved amicably. They should include an opportunity for both sides to testify, present witnesses and documentary evidence, and cross-examine the witnesses of the other side. The rules should make clear that no evidence will be considered without disclosure to both sides. If a witness does not wish such disclosure, he or she will not be permitted to testify and the proffered testimony will not be considered by the CAFR. Proceedings should be tape-recorded, and the recordings made available to the parties;

  6. The CAFR should prepare a written decision setting forth the facts upon which it is based, the policies, regulations or traditions of the University that are at issue, and its conclusions with the reasoning underlying the conclusions reached. Subsequently, both sides should have an opportunity to respond to the opinion, giving their reasons for believing that it is erroneous, if any exist. The CAFR should disseminate its decision, or a summary report thereon, if doing so would promote the goals of academic freedom and responsibility;

  7. The school CAFR should make clear to the various parties that full participation in the dispute resolution processes of the CAFR and SCAFR is an important obligation of faculty members and constitutes a central responsibility under the system for faculty self-governance that is in effect at the University;

  8. 8. The school CAFR shall maintain confidentiality to the fullest extent possible, consistent with carrying out its duties.

1996-97 Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility
Charles Bosk (sociology)
David Brownlee (history of art)
Larry Gross (communication), Chair
Rubin C. Gur (psychiatry)
John C. Keene (city & regional plng.)
Vicki Mahaffey (English)
Ruth J. Muschel (pathol & lab med)
Samuel H. Preston (sociology)
Susan Sturm (law)
Vivian Seltzer (social work) ex officio

_____________________

[1] Members of school Committees on Academic Freedom and Responsibility should be elected for staggered terms so as to provide continuity from one year to the next.

[2] Other resources are available, such as the Faculty Grievance Commission, the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, the Ombudsman, and other dispute-resolving bodies at the University and in the school.


To the University Community

A case considered by the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR) in 1995-96 gave rise to a challenge to the committee's authority and jurisdiction that we believe requires a clear and firm response. In the case in question SCAFR determined that a school Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (CAFR) had not afforded the complainant due process, in that it had (1) failed to conduct a hearing at which the parties would have an opportunity to hear (or read), cross-question, and respond to one another's oral or written testimony; and (2) failed to provide the complainant with an adequately explicated rationale for its finding that his academic freedom had not been infringed.

SCAFR requested the school CAFR to reopen the case and afford the parties the hearing previously denied them. When the school CAFR declined to do this, SCAFR proceeded to hold the hearing de novo. The three faculty members named in the complaint refused to participate in SCAFR's proceedings. Writing individually they also challenged SCAFR's authority, jurisdiction and procedures, and they were joined in this challenge by a senior administrator of the school. The refusal of these faculty members to participate in the hearing process (though they requested, and were permitted to send an "observer" and to hear the tape recording of the proceedings), materially hampered SCAFR's fact-finding process.

As former chairs of SCAFR we wish to state unequivocally that the 1995-96 SCAFR actions in this case were consistent with SCAFR's long -standing practices and procedures and well within its authority under the Statutes of the University. Article 10 of the Statutes authorizes SCAFR to "make investigations, reports and recommendations on any matter relating to academic freedom and responsibility within the University" ( Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators, page 20). The power to make investigations necessarily includes the power to conduct evidentiary hearings in individual cases; otherwise both SCAFR and the school CAFRs (whose statutory authority is framed in the same terms) would be precluded from using the method fairest to all the parties and best calculated to ascertain the truth. Further, what is anomalous about this case is the refusal of University faculty to participate in the hearing of the case. In past cases University faculty and administrators, including the President and Provost, have participated in SCAFR proceedings when requested, and have not challenged the Committee's authority.

The breadth of the authority given to SCAFR by the trustees and the Faculty Senate stands in considerable contrast to the much more detailed procedures for other governance bodies (e.g., the Faculty Grievance Commission). We assume that the University community deliberately distinguished between issues of academic freedom and responsibility and those that come before other bodies.While SCAFR has generally not conducted de novo hearings, whenever circumstances suggested that this was appropriate, SCAFR has done so.

Over the past year SCAFR has drafted a statement of procedural principles to guide the proceedings of school CAFRs, reflecting the long-standing, albeit tacit practices that have governed SCAFR's proceedings. These principles will be disseminated at the beginning of each academic year to the newly elected CAFR in each school. We hope that these principles will be widely respected and will preclude the repetition of the problems that engendered this letter.

The viability of our system of University governance depends on the cooperation by all members of our community with such vital bodies as the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility.

Chairs, Senate Committee on

Academic Freedom and Responsibility

Regina Austin (law), 1986-87
Helen C. Davies (microbiology/med), 1970-71
Frank Goodman (law), 1992-94
Larry P. Gross (communication) 1996-97
Peter J. Kuriloff (education), 1990-91
Phoebe S. Leboy (biochemistry/med), 1975-77
Seymour J. Mandelbaum (city & regional planning), 1984-86
Jack Nagel (political science), 1994-95 James R. Ross (philosophy), 1991-92


Almanac

Volume 43 Number 23
February 25, 1997


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