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Commissions and Committee Reports

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 22 - March 2, 1995

(Editor's note: The following sets of university governance minutes are received from group reporters, and may not reflect Spectrum editorial style.)

Commission on Faculty Affairs, Nov. 11

Reporter: Michael Lambur

Because of scheduling conflicts, the CFA meeting scheduled for November 18 was cancelled. An additional meeting was scheduled for December 16, 1994.

Guest Jerry Robinson, at the invitation of Tom Sherman, presented an industry perspective on dismissal policies and trends and contrasted them with university policies. This informative presentation provided a perspective for better understanding the "industry point of view" on dismissal shared by some members of the Board of Visitors (BOV). Selected highlights included: 1) The advance notice concept is resisted in industry because the best people will "jump ship." Instead, industry provides severance pay on very short notice.

Universities often require a more orderly reduction of services. Therefore, how do we equate severance pay time to advance notice time? 2) The industry perspective is short term (quarterly), with emphasis on growth, market share, and strategic decisions. In addition, vision seems more clear in industry than in academia and the major mechanism to cut costs in industry is to cut personnel costs (i.e., line workers). 3) Industry perspectives on academia include the concern that "kids can't read," what their children say about their university and their professors, "How can the university be different from business?," "They must shape up," and there is a citizen mandate that universities need to act like businesses. Questions and discussion revolved around the perspective that we need to work with the BOV to help them understand the differences between the industry and university with respect to this policy.

Bob Sumichrast, chair of the subcommittee on dismissal for cause, distributed a draft of CFA Resolution 1994-95A amending the dismissal for cause section of the Faculty Handbook.

CFA Resolution 1994-95A, approved by CFA, University Council, and the Board of Visitors:

WHEREAS, dismissal for cause is initiated only for very serious or extreme causes for which continued service to the University following a decision to dismiss would not be in the best interest of the University or our students; and,

WHEREAS, experience has shown that cases are settled prior to completion of the process and the proposed revision continues to allow such negotiation, including the possibility of severance pay or notice if appropriate; and,

WHEREAS, concerns expressed that our current policy allowing a year's severance pay (or notice) following a decision to dismiss for cause does not adequately reflect institutional or student interests;

WHEREAS, regulations published by the American Association of University Professors state that tenured faculty members may not be dismissed without one year's salary or notice and that untenured faculty members may not be dismissed without at least three months salary or notice except in the case of dismissal for conduct involving moral turpitude;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the final paragraph of section 2.11.1 of the Faculty Handbook (Due Process for Dismissal for Cause) be deleted and the following statement substituted:

In cases of moral turpitude (as defined by the AAUP), termination will usually be immediate. Moral turpitude shall be determined by the hearing committee if one was convened. If a hearing committee was not convened, the President shall make such a determination. In cases not involving moral turpitude, a tenured faculty member will receive up to one year's salary or notice from the date of the President's notification of dismissal. A faculty member whose probationary term appointment is foreshortened will receive three months salary or notice.

After some discussion, a motion was made by Bob Sumichrast and seconded by Tom Sherman to adopt the resolution. In the ensuing discussion, there was much dialogue on how confusing the policy was to implement. Richard Bambach distributed a flow chart on how the policy might be implemented and eventually agreed to draft a re-write of the procedures in the Faculty Handbook. There was also much discussion about whether CFA should consider a major revision of the entire involuntary separation policy, or just address the immediate concerns of the BOV. It was finally decided to address the immediate concerns of the BOV and then consider a major revision at a later date.

A motion was made by Richard Bambach and seconded by Bob Sumichrast to amend the last paragraph of the resolution to read:

In cases of moral turpitude (as defined by the AAUP), termination will usually be immediate. Moral turpitude shall be determined by the first faculty committee that considers the case. In cases not involving moral turpitude, a tenured faculty member will receive up to one year's salary or notice from the date of the President's notification of dismissal. A faculty member whose probationary term appointment is foreshortened will receive three months salary or notice.

The motion passed.

The initial motion to adopt the resolution as amended was then tabled until after discussion at the 11/15 Faculty Senate meeting.

Tom Sherman agreed to chair the subcommittee on reduction in force associated with discontinuance or reorganization of programs. Members are Richard Bambach, Don Mullins, and Pat Hyer.

Minor changes were made to the communication with faculty about CFA deliberations document, which will be distributed by Don Creamer.

Commission on Faculty Affairs, Dec. 2

Reporter: Michael Lambur

Dave Beagle asked if CFA meetings were open to the general faculty. Don Creamer indicated that CFA, as well as all commission meetings, are open to the general faculty.

Don Creamer circulated four e-mail comments received after sending the communication regarding the CFA's proposed actions involving the involuntary separation policy. He indicated that the comments received, as well as informal discussions with 12-15 faculty, did not raise any new concerns.

Creamer invited CFA members to comment on the discussion of the draft of the CFA Resolution 1994-95A (changes to the dismissal for cause policy) that was shared at the recent Faculty Senate meeting. Overall, faculty were supportive of the dismissal for cause changes. It was also acknowledged that there seemed to be more interest in changes to the reduction in force associated with discontinuance or reorganization of programs policy.

Creamer made a motion to remove CFA Resolution 1994-95A (dismissal for cause) from being tabled from the last CFA meeting. This was seconded by Richard Bambach and passed. Bob Sumichrast then made a motion to amend the policy, which was seconded by Bambach. In the ensuing discussion, it was clarified that the policy applied to tenured and continued appointment faculty only. Pat Hyer asked if the CFA was comfortable with the definition of moral turpitude. After some discussion, it was agreed that policy would be worded so that it would refer to the most recent AAUP definition of moral turpitude. The new wording of the last paragraph is:

"In cases where moral turpitude as defined by the AAUP is decided, termination will usually be immediate. Moral turpitude shall be determined by the first faculty committee that considers the case. In cases not involving moral turpitude, (a) a faculty member with tenure or continued appointment will receive up to one year of salary or notice, and (b) a probationary faculty member will receive up to three months salary or notice. These terms of dismissal shall begin at the date of the President's notification of dismissal."

The motion passed.

A motion was then made to accept the resolution and seconded. Clarifications to the "whereas" clauses were discussed and agreed upon, so that the resolution reads:

"CFA Resolution 1994-95A

WHEREAS, dismissal for cause is initiated for very serious or extreme causes for which continued service to the University following a decision to dismiss would not be in the best interest of the University or our students; and,

WHEREAS, concerns expressed that our current policy, which seems to allow a year of severance pay (or notice) following a decision to dismiss for cause, did not adequately reflect institutional or student interests; and

WHEREAS, the responsibility for determining gross misconduct was not clearly defined, nor was the starting date for final notice; and,

WHEREAS, university faculty policies acknowledge the guidance of American Association for University

Professors (AAUP), and regulations published by AAUP state that, except in cases involving moral turpitude, tenured faculty should receive one year of notice or salary and untenured faculty should receive three months.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the final paragraph of section 2.11.1 of the Faculty Handbook (Due Process for Dismissal for Cause) be deleted and the following statement substituted:

In cases where moral turpitude as defined by the AAUP is decided, termination will usually be immediate. Moral turpitude shall be determined by the first faculty committee that considers the case. In cases not involving moral turpitude, (a) a faculty member with tenure or continued appointment will receive up to one year of salary or notice, and (b) a probationary faculty member will receive up to three months salary or notice. These terms of dismissal shall begin at the date of the President's notification of dismissal."

The motion passed, with the understanding that CFA would revisit the text only momentarily at the next meeting.

Richard Bambach passed out two handouts reflecting the work of the subcommittee on reduction in force associated with discontinuance or reorganization of programs thus far. In summary, the subcommittee initially suggested six substantive changes: 1) Substituting a "progressive" notice policy for the current five year retention policy, 2) Adding an institutional responsibility to provide reasonable and appropriate career and

relocation services, 3) Make stronger an institutional responsibility to continue health and life insurance provisions, 4) Add a mandate for the University to offer a "first refusal" to terminated faculty for any positions for which they may be qualified, 5) Add an obligation for the University to provide appropriate training for terminated faculty to become qualified for employment either at Virginia Tech or at another organization, and 6) Add that all career/employment services end when terminated faculty become employed.

Much of the discussion centered on substituting a progressive notice policy for the current five year retention policy. Pat Hyer agreed to work with Institutional Research on running an analysis of the suggested progressive notice policy so that it could be compared with the current five year retention policy.

Commission on Faculty Affairs, Dec. 9

Reporter: Michael Lambur

Don Creamer introduced Steve Baehr from the Department of Foreign Languages. Steve was invited by Don to share his perspectives on the Reduction in Force Policy deliberations.

Mike Lambur distributed an article on dismissal for cause from the 12/7/94 Chronicle of Higher Education.

Pat Hyer announced that the university had received feedback indicating that we have to re-apply for the hiring freeze exemptions using newly acquired forms.

Pat Hyer discovered a potential conflict in CFA Resolution 1994-95A (dismissal for cause) and other dismissal for cause procedures concerning notification. After some discussion, Hyer moved that the word "President's" in the last sentence be changed to "final" so that the last sentence reads "These terms of dismissal shall begin at the date of final notification of dismissal." The motion was seconded by Tom Sherman and passed.

The resolution now reads:

"CFA Resolution 1994-95A

WHEREAS, dismissal for cause is initiated for very serious or extreme causes for which continued service to the University following a decision to dismiss would not be in the best interest of the University or our students; and,

WHEREAS, concerns expressed that our current policy, which seems to allow a year of severance pay (or notice) following a decision to dismiss for cause, did not adequately reflect institutional or student interests; and

WHEREAS, the responsibility for determining gross misconduct was not clearly defined, nor was the starting date for final notice; and,

WHEREAS, university faculty policies acknowledge the guidance of American Association for University Professors (AAUP), and regulations published by AAUP state that, except in cases involving moral turpitude, tenured faculty should receive one year of notice or salary and untenured faculty should receive three months.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the final paragraph of section 2.11.1 of the I (Due Process for Dismissal for Cause) be deleted and the following statement substituted:

In cases where moral turpitude (as defined by the AAUP) is decided, termination will usually be immediate. Moral turpitude shall be determined by the first faculty committee that considers the case. In cases not involving moral turpitude, (a) a faculty member with tenure or continued appointment will receive up to one year of salary or notice, and (b) a probationary faculty member will receive up to three months salary or notice. These terms of dismissal shall begin at the date of final notification of dismissal."

Tom Sherman asked if the resolution should formally include recognition of faculty support based on discussions at the last Faculty Senate meeting (perhaps in an additional "whereas" clause). It was agreed that the resolution would be shared with the Faculty Senate and their input acknowledged.

In response to the report of the subcommittee on reduction in force associated with discontinuance or reorganization of programs, Steve Baehr was invited to share his perspectives on potential changes to this policy. He urged CFA to keep the current policy and articulated three arguments against changing it: 1) A reduction in the security cushion to less than five years may well have the unwanted effect of encouraging first-rate faculty to leave Virginia Tech, 2) The current policy is anything but generous--finding a new position in the current climate might be extremely difficult in five years, and 3) Our current policy may not be extraordinary compared to other institutions and, therefore, we should conduct a more thorough analysis before we come to any definitive conclusions. In addition, he also indicated that universities are not and cannot be businesses, if they are to excel.

Tom Sherman provided an update on the work of the subcommittee. He shared a working draft of a policy statement, which included a recommendation of one year of notice for every five years of service with a maximum of four years notice. Pat Hyer shared an alternative policy, based on discussions with Fred Carlisle and Jim Wolfe, which included a recommendation of one year of notice for every 10 years of service with a maximum of three years notice. After much discussion on the specifics of the policy changes, Bob Sumichrast suggested that rather than considering revisions to the reduction in force associated with discontinuance or reorganization of programs policy, we might want to consider re-writing the reduction in force for financial exigency policy to accommodate the financial hardship situation we are currently faced with. This course of action would resolve the dilemma of trying to address our declining financial situation with a policy (i.e., reduction in force associated with discontinuance or reorganization of programs) that was not designed to address this situation. After much discussion, CFA agreed to pursue re-writing the reduction in force for financial exigency policy. The intent is to re-cast the policy to address responding to "financial hardships," with financial exigency as one component of the policy. A subcommittee consisting of Tom Sherman (chair), Pat Hyer, Bob Sumichrast, Don Mullins, and Andy Swiger was appointed to begin re-writing this policy.

It was also agreed that Don Creamer would meet with Paul Torgersen to outline CFA's intentions before the next CFA meeting.