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Faculty comments sought on RIF draft

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 07 - October 5, 1995

Last spring the Commission on Faculty Affairs (CFA) completed its deliberations on reduction-in-force policies for the 1994-95 academic year. The proposed policy change to 2.11.3 Reduction in Force Associated with Discontinuance or Reorganization of Programs was published in the May 4 edition of Spectrum. Faculty members were invited to comment over the summer months on the draft of this policy.

The CFA is resuming work on 2.11.3 Reduction in Force Associated with Discontinuance or Reorganization of Programs during this term. The commission is currently soliciting comments from the faculty regarding the proposed policy. Comments will also be received from the Faculty Senate before final action is taken by the CFA and before final approval through the governance system is sought. The current draft of this policy is printed below.

The proposed policy contains language that ensures joint decision-making between university officials and affected programs' faculty members, details the precise procedures to be followed in restructuring or discontinuing programs, clarifies the meaning of "program," underscores the reciprocity of faculty and university interests, and changes the period of notice for tenured faculty members to three years. It calls for early involvement of the faculty in the process of making decisions on program reorganization or discontinuance. Since this proposed policy is a revision of current policy contained in the Faculty Handbook, it is suggested that interested faculty members compare the two versions.

A copy of the proposed policy may be obtained from either Tom Sherman (1-8334 or tsherman@vt.edu), Faculty Senate president for 1995-1996, Paul Metz (1-5663 or pmetz@vt.edu), chair of the CFA for 1995-1996, or Don Mullins (1-5978 or mullinsd@vt.edu), RIF policy contact person, CFA. The policy is available electronically on the Internet via the Virginia Tech Gopher (gopher://gopher.vt.edu) or WWW Server (http://www.vt.edu) in the "Faculty and Staff Information" section. It also is available at the Reserve Desk in Newman Library.

Following is the draft of 4-21-95 prepared by the Commission on Faculty Affairs:

SECTION 2.11.3 REDUCTION IN FORCE FOR PROGRAM REDUCTION OR DISCONTINUANCE

Ordinarily, change within the university can be planned so that the quality of programs and the appointments of faculty members are not compromised. However, when extraordinary circumstances require more rapid change, it may be necessary to restructure or discontinue programs or departments, resulting in involuntary termination or alteration of appointments of tenured faculty members. In such circumstances, early and meaningful faculty participation is essential and fundamental to the process outlined in this policy. The decision to restructure or discontinue academic programs is a university-wide responsibility and should clearly be made to support the educational mission of the university as a whole.

Restructuring or discontinuing an academic program may be initiated by the provost or president, by the college dean, by the collegiate faculty, or by an appropriately charged commission. If the provost determines that restructuring or discontinuing academic programs should be considered, a Steering Committee for Academic Restructuring, hereinafter referred to as the Steering Committee, shall be appointed as described below. The purpose of the Steering Committee is to evaluate and coordinate the proposed restructuring effort, and to ensure that the procedures in this section are followed. Changes to academic programs which can be accomplished without altering the appointments of faculty members are considered part of the on-going evolution of academic programs and are subject to the usual procedures established by the colleges, relevant commissions, and the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, and adherence to the policies in this section is not required.

The Steering Committee shall be composed of nine members determined jointly by the provost and the president of the Faculty Senate:

* Two faculty members selected from the membership of the Commission on Faculty Affairs;

* Two faculty members selected from the membership of the Commission on Undergraduate Studies and Policies;

* Two faculty members selected from the membership of the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies;

* One faculty member selected from the University Advisory Council on Strategic Budgeting and Planning;

* One member selected from nominations by the Faculty Senate;

* The provost, or an administrative designee.

The Steering Committee shall elect a chair; all members shall have voting rights. The Steering Committee composition is intended to ensure that the expertise and perspective of the relevant commissions shall be incorporated in the deliberations.

The provost will initiate examination of program restructuring or discontinuance with the Steering Committee. The subsequent discussion shall consider, in addition to the need for program discontinuance, the type and scope of restructuring and estimate the impact of the restructuring on the university as a whole as well as on the affected faculty and staff members, and students. If the provost and the Steering Committee decide to proceed with program restructuring or discontinuance, the provost will prepare a draft proposal based on these discussions that must also include the educational rationale for the change and explain how it is consistent with the long-term goals of the university. It shall identify which programs may be restructured or discontinued, or clearly indicate how these programs will be identified, and the timelines for developing specific plans by the affected programs and for the restructuring effort as a whole. If a budget reduction is involved, then reduction targets for any affected unit(s) must be included in the draft proposal.

The Steering Committee shall review and deliberate and make recommendations to the provost to proceed with the draft proposal as written or with modifications, or to return it as insufficiently justified or considered. The Steering Committee shall share its recommendations with the university community.

The provost shall consider the Steering Committee's recommendations and make every effort to develop a plan acceptable to the Steering Committee. If a decision is made to proceed, then the provost shall direct the relevant dean(s) to prepare specific plans for the affected programs, based on guidelines in the following section. These plans shall identify the specific programs to be reduced or eliminated; how the faculty, staff, and students will be affected; and how the rights, interests, and privileges of the faculty and staff will be protected. If a budget reduction is involved, the specific plan must describe how the reduction targets will be met.

The deans shall submit specific plans to the provost who shall reconvene the Steering Committee to review and comment on the specific plans prior to implementation. The Steering Committee will make available to the university community all specific plans and provide a period of not less than three weeks for comment. The relevant commissions (including the Commissions on Classified Staff and Administrative and Professional Faculty Affairs if such employees are affected) shall also be asked to review and comment upon these plans. The Steering Committee shall make recommendations to the provost and will share those with the university community at large. The president and Board of Visitors shall have final authority to approve and to implement all plans. Notification to affected faculty members shall not proceed until final approval has been given.

GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPMENT OF COLLEGE PLANS

The relevant deans should develop specific plans by involving the faculty at all levels of decision making. Staff members should be involved as appropriate.

Planning for specific programmatic reductions shall follow the guidance and intent of the plan reviewed by the Steering Committee and approved by the president. For the purpose of developing the specific plans, an academic program should meet one or more of the following criteria: a) has "program" as part of its title, b) grants a degree or a credential, c) has a sequence of courses with a common prefix, or d) has been identified as an academic program in official university documents. A program is generally smaller than a department and shall be larger than the activities of a single faculty member.

If restructuring requires the termination of faculty members, then the following guidelines must be used.

When programs are identified for discontinuance, all faculty members assigned to the program, both tenured and untenured, will be potentially subject to reassignment or termination.

Within programs identified for reduction, tenured faculty members must not be terminated before untenured faculty members, except that affirmative action should be considered. Among tenured and untenured faculty members, rank and affirmative action must be considered.

Faculty members on restricted or temporary appointments should be terminated before faculty members on regular (permanent) appointments.

The number of involuntary terminations of tenured faculty members should be minimized by providing incentives for resignation, retirement, or reassignment.

MINIMUM RESPONSIBILITIES TO INDIVIDUAL FACULTY MEMBERS

The university recognizes it has responsibilities to the faculty if this policy is implemented. All plans to restructure academic programs shall guarantee the following to individual faculty members.

Notice of Termination:

Faculty members with tenure or continued appointment whose positions are eliminated as part of restructuring will be given notice of not less than three years. Administrative and professional faculty members shall be given at least 90 days notice. All other faculty members shall complete their current contracts or be given one year's notice, whichever is less.

Written Notification:

After final approval has been given for specific plans, written notification will be provided to all faculty members whose appointments are to be terminated or altered. The notification shall include a statement of the basis for its action, a description of the manner in which the decision was reached, a disclosure of the information and data on which the decision was based, and information regarding procedures available for appealing the decision.

Transition Assistance:

Every effort will be made to place affected faculty members with tenure or continued appointment in vacant positions in the university or to reassign them to continuing programs. Transition assistance may include training to qualify for placement in a related field if desired and appropriate.

Where placement in another position is not possible, the university will provide appropriate and reasonable career-transition assistance such as clerical support, communications, office, and outplacement services.

Reappointment:

In all cases of termination of appointment because of program reduction or discontinuance, the position of a faculty member with tenure or continued appointment will not be filled by a replacement within a period of three years unless the released faculty member has been offered reinstatement and a reasonable time in which to accept or decline.

APPEALS

A faculty member whose appointment is terminated or altered due to program reduction or discontinuance may file a grievance as outlined in the Faculty Handbook, section 2.12 (or 3.11 for administrative and professional faculty). Grounds for appeal may be substantial failure to follow the procedures and standards set forth in this section. Because faculty members, through the Steering Committee, have been involved in the review and development of recommendations guiding the restructuring or discontinuance, the determination of which programs or departments will be affected shall not be a basis for appeal.