2009 faculty handbook revision feedback


Boots Cassel, Chair of the Faculty Congress, will preside over the open forum on the faculty handbook revision in Driscoll Hall, Room 132 (the auditorium), from 2:00 to 4:00, Tuesday, November 3.
Dr. John R. Johannes, Vice President for Academic Affairs, will be there to answer questions and to hear any concerns. All are encouraged to attend and participate.

To read the Full-Time Faculty Handbook Draft: 

1.      Click http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova.html and log on.

2.      Click http://www.villanova.edu/vpaa/office/.

3.      Under “Quick Links” at the bottom of the webpage, click Full-Time Faculty Handbook Draft.

4.      A dialog box should appear with the option to open or save Faculty_Handbook_Draft.pdf. 

Some relevant AAUP documents to keep in mind:
1940 Statement of Principles On Academic Freedom And Tenure.pdf

1958 Statement On Procedural Standards In Faculty Dismissal Proceedings.pdf
Statement On Procedural Standards In The Renewal Or Nonrenewal Of Faculty Appointments.pdf
Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure-2006.pdf
Sexual Harassment-Suggested Policy and Procedures for Handling Complaints.pdf
Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.pdf

Comments and Questions

The following are comments and questions raised by various faculty members. At this time, the AAUP has not taken a position on any of these issues. They are presented here merely to encourage discussion. Feel free to join in by sending your comments to michael.levitan@villanova.edu.

 

·         p.ii            Emergency (The numbering p.ii appears twice. This refers to the “first” p.ii.)

It appears that the University can change any terms of the handbook at will if there is an emergency. Can “emergency” be defined or, at least, further clarified?

 

·         P.2           Mission Statement

“The University community welcomes and respects members of all faiths who seek to nurture a concern for the common good and who share an enthusiasm for the challenge of responsible and productive citizenship in order to build a just and peaceful world.” What does the phrase “all faiths” refer to? Does Villanova's idea of pluralism extend only to "believers" of some sort, and not to atheists, agnostics, apostates, etc, or even personally to people who consider themselves spiritual or even religious but would not define themselves as members of a faith?

 

·         pp.7,8       Mission and Ministry

Although this description reflects the ideological focus of Villanova, why should it appear in the Faculty Handbook? How does it relate to the faculty as it is written?

 

·         p.9            University Counseling Center

“All contacts and conversations are kept confidential except in situations where law or ethics require notification of a family member or other person.” Whose ethics are being used?

 

·         p.12 (3)    Enforce

“The Faculty Member agrees . . . to adhere to and enforce all University policies and regulations in place from time to time.” What does “enforce” mean in this context?

 

·         p.12 (5a) Termination of Faculty and Financial Exigency

The University can dismiss faculty, including tenured faculty or delete a program if the University decides there is “financial exigency.” If financial records are not available, how can “financial exigency” be verified? What constitutes financial exigency?

 

·         p.13(6b)   Family Medical Leave

“Family medical leave without pay is governed by separate policies and regulations.” What are the separate policies and regulations that govern family medical leave, and where can one find them?

 

·         p.14(7a)   Serious Misconduct, Moral Depravity

Can serious misconduct and moral depravity by clarified?

 

·         p.15(7c)   Termination of Untenured Faculty            

Untenured faculty can be fired for “other good and serious reason” as determined by the President. What does “other good and serious reason” mean? Does this undermine academic freedom? Does it prevent appeals by untenured faculty?

 

·         p.15(8)     Termination of Untenured Faculty            

Why is there a need to remove the date, June 1, of the written notice of termination?

 

·         p.20(4c)   Academic Citizenship and Collegiality       

What does “to conduct themselves in a fashion that is supportive of and consistent with the University’s character and mission” mean?  Because it is unspecific, can it be construed to be anything the University wants? How can faculty be held to undefined standards?

 

·         p.21          Third Year Sabbaticals (bottom paragraph)

The VPAA can deny third year sabbaticals on the basis of the university’s

“financial situation.” The sabbatical-after-successful-third-year-review is a

condition upon which people agree when they accept employment at Villanova.

Why should it be that the VPAA is solely responsible for making this decision? If

it is based upon financial constraints, shouldn’t the faculty member have a right to

appeal?

 

·         p.42(10)   Academic Freedom  

“Because academic freedom is predicated on a degree of scholarly support for one’s positions on issues, it does not extend to espousal of propositions that lack any scholarly support.  Scholarly discourse on religious matter on religious matters is protected.” What does this mean? Must scholarly support come from others or can it come from oneself? What if one breaks new ground?

 

·         p.50(4)     External Sources of Funding Flowing through the University

This paragraph appears to quote federal government regulations regarding money flowing through the University. Federal government regulations have been known to change from time to time. Why should this particular set of federal regulations be embedded in the Faculty Handbook? The handbook should not have to be modified each time federal regulations change.

 

·         p.50(5)     Funding Flowing through the University

Why should there be a cap on one’s twelve month salary?

 

·         p.50(6)     External Grant Salary Limitation

Faculty members are prohibited from earning, via external grants or contracts, more than 100% of their annual Villanova salary (nine months based plus 3/9)

even the during summer months when not paid by Villanova and when not under Villanova contract. Why should the University care how much money is earned by the faculty member who receives the grant when that person is not under Villanova contract for that time period? Shouldn’t the desire for additional funds be a motivating factor in obtaining grants? Wouldn’t this policy of siphoning off “excess funds” actually stifle grant applications? If this policy is a function of the grantor, the grant giving organization, then clearly those rules must be followed. However, if such grantors change their rules, why should this rule be embedded in the Faculty Handbook? Let each organization establish whatever rules it requires. This limitation on faculty earnings should be removed. 

 

·         p.50(6b)   External Grant Salary Limitation

If grantors permit “excess” summer salary to be “banked” for future use, why is that limited only to the following summer?

 

·         p.52(B)    Communication with parents of students (opening paragraph)

“This means that faculty members should always be polite and appropriate with parents, but should proceed with care.” This is in reference to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Although there is a good presentation of responses one might give to a person who enquires about a student, why are these people, whoever they are, singled out as someone to whom a faculty member should be polite? Shouldn’t we be polite and civil toward everyone?

 

·         p.55(4)     Conflict of Interest   

Correction of “if a faculty member's spouse is his or her department chair,” to include the list of family members as presented in the beginning of the paragraph (perhaps “spouse et al”).

 

·         p.57(21)   Consulting, Outside Teaching and Professional Work

“The University reserves the right . . .” (second paragraph above item 22) Instead of an annual report, why not a report when there is a change in status?

 

·         p.72(33)   Discrimination and Harassment Policy

Shouldn’t this title reflect the subsection titles, of Non-Discrimination Policy and Non-Harassment Policy?

 

·         p.72(33A)Non-Discrimination Policy

From Section 33A, “There shall be no discrimination against  any employee, student, or applicant for employment or admission on any basis prohibited by law, including race, color, national origin,  religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.”

From Section 33B, “Therefore, harassment based on personal characteristics such as race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, veteran status or disability violates this policy.

Was sexual orientation left out of 33A for some reason?

 

·         p.72(34)   Dismissal and Suspension Procedure for Faculty

Why not include something similar to the following?

“Adequate cause for a dismissal will be related, directly and substantially, to the fitness of faculty members in their professional capacities as teachers or researchers. Dismissal will not be used to restrain faculty members in their exercise of academic freedom or other rights of American citizens. Dismissal of a faculty member with continuous tenure or with a special or probationary appointment before the end of the specified term, will be preceded by: (1) discussions between the faculty member and appropriate administrative officers looking toward a mutual settlement; (2) informal inquiry by a duly elected faculty committee which may, if it fails to effect an adjustment, determine whether in its opinion dismissal proceedings should be undertaken, without its opinion being binding upon the president; (3) a statement of charges, framed with reasonable particularity by the president or the president’s delegate.”

 

·         p.75(L)     Decision of the President

“Notice of the decision shall be given to the faculty member and the Committee within thirty (30) days after receipt by the President of the report or reports of the Committee and any objections thereto by the faculty member or the President's representative.”  Consider the change: Notice of the decision, in writing, shall be given . . . etc.

 

·         p.78(38)   Faculty Data

Why is Digital Measures (http://www.digitalmeasures.com/), a privately owned company, not affiliated with Villanova, named in the Faculty Handbook?

1.      How much does it cost to use Digital Measures’ services?

2.      How does it compare with other such companies?

3.      Who has access to the data?

4.      Do we know when our personal data has been accessed?

5.      When did the Faculty Handbook become an advertising vehicle for a privately held company?

6.      What is the nature of the data they collect about the faculty, “economical, political, personal or what”?

7.      Does this action violate our right to privacy?

8.      Who guarantees the accuracy of the data and the credibility of the sources used to access them?

9.      Who gives Villanova the right to do this?

10.  Has the faculty member the right to see the data?

11.  Is Villanova liable, in case misinformation used against the faculty member results in damages?

 

As I just received the following material, I am presenting it as is. The manner of identification of the page numbers is different from the style used above. For example, in what follows, PDF p.5 is the fifth page of the PDF file and refers to p.1 of the draft.

COMMENT on the Faculty Handbook Draft Text...

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I assume that on PDF p. 2, the following change, "Such actions, unless mandated by legal or contractual requirements, merely technical in nature, or driven by emergencies, will not be undertaken without prior consultation with the Committee on Faculty." is an answer to the logical complaint we might have to the preceding line ("Villanova University reserves the right to revise or delete any of the provisions of this Handbook and to revise, reduce, or eliminate any policy or benefit described in this Handbook, with or without notice, as the University deems appropriate.")

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On PDF p. 10, "The Academic Policy Committee of the University Senate has authority to recommend policy for the Senate in academic matters affecting more than one college of the University, and also has a direct line to the Vice President for Academic Affairs for the discussion and resolution of academic issues not requiring University Senate action.", is the highlighted text meant to expand or to limit faculty comment on policy established through Academic Affairs.

Same question in the paragraph immediately following, on PDF p. 11.

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Also on PDF p. 11, under Mission & Ministry, does the phrase "living out its mission in every facet of University life" go too far? Is the implication that this office is empowered to dictate course materials to faculty?

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On PDF p. 16, regarding the termination of tenured faculty members: do the following lay the groundwork for a policy that shifts university resources away from consistent committed financial support for faculty and for the variety and depth of educational resources, in the interests of other institutional costs and investments? ...

          •        A program of the University to bring about a significant reduction in staff because of financial exigency at the University or college level;

          •        A strategic decision to discontinue or significantly reduce the size and scope of a college, a department, or free-standing academic program (center, institute, major, minor, or course of studies) in which the Faculty Member was hired and tenured."

Does this section effectively mean the University has the discretion to simply vacate the "tenure" status of professors for reasons not related to cause?

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On PDF p. 24, the phrase "what it means to be a member of a mission-based academic community devoted to excellence in the discovery, transmission, and application of knowledge." suggests there is a uniform conception of specific obligations in social interactions or even in content of interactions, but the phrase immediately following —"Understanding that collegiality does not imply conformity but assumes and welcomes intellectual diversity"— seems to moderate the effects of this ambivalence.

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PDF p. 25: are "numerical scores" for faculty evaluation advisable, if there is any possibility of a more subjective, case-by-case, descriptive evaluation?

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PDF p. 47: "In the classroom, academic freedom is task-specific, deriving from and governing one’s role as an instructor in a given discipline or disciplines. Faculty members are free to present and discuss their subject matter and related issues in accord with relevant academic standards and students’ legitimate academic rights and responsibilities. Except when the University explicitly asks them to discuss specific issues of University concern, faculty “should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.”4 "

What is the legal effect of stating that "academic freedom is task-specific"? Can this be taken as purely pragmatic language, clearly and reasonably defined as granting freedom to explore fresh ideas but not to distort history or malign viable points of view? Or does it enable the University to intervene in course content to ensure that faculty adhere to the defined content of a central mission?

It should be made clear that there is no role for the University to interfere with course content based on ideology or uniform standards for academic interpretation. The opening line of this section (on PDF p. 46) —As a necessary condition for fulfilling their duties and functions as teacher-scholars, all faculty members (tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure-track full-time, or part-time adjunct) are entitled to full academic freedom in teaching, in research, and in disseminating the products of their scholarship.—  could serve as a guarantee of broad academic freedom.

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On PDF p. 54, "Faculty members who, by virtue of external grants or contracts and permission of the grantors, would realize more than 100 per cent of annual salary (nine month base plus 3/9) for a given academic year must take appropriate action to reduce total compensation to 100 per cent. Such members are strongly encouraged, if permitted by grantors, to employ those excess salary funds to advance the missions of their colleges and departments by supporting research centers, faculty colleagues at Villanova working on projects related to their own, and/or Villanova graduate and undergraduate research assistants."

Is it appropriate to mandate that research for which faculty members receive external grants cannot afford that faculty member more than 100% of their total salary? While in some sense, this is understandable, there is also a variation in compensation among faculty, and this would seem to dictate that no faculty member is entitled to receive more than the university agrees, even if research activity which benefits both society broadly and the University itself is valued more highly by an external entity than the University foresaw in setting compensation terms for that individual, prior to the award of the grant(s).

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PDF p. 59, the section on "CONSULTING, OUTSIDE TEACHING, AND PROFESSIONAL WORK":

Does the language of this section bar faculty from conducting any outside work or acquiring any outside compensation without specific consent from a department chair or other University official?

Is it reasonable to dictate that faculty cannot engage in any outside activity unless "(a) the activities are related to and can enhance the faculty members’ teaching and research at the University"? Is this standard too narrow? Who decides how to measure it? To what extent does this provision actually impose a strict limit on de facto academic freedom

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PDF p. 75, why is the language "the transmission, the pursuit, and the discovery of knowledge," taken out of the section on Discipline of Students? Is it considered too vague or broad to inform the language on discipline? is it meant to refer students and faculty directly to the provision of the Academic Integrity code, or does it limit the ability of faculty-members to judge the academic integrity of their students?