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Section 2.11.3 Reduction in Force for Program Restructuring or Discontinuance

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 19 - February 1, 1996

(Editor's note: Following is the final language of the RIF policy, which has been approved by the University Council. The policy, if approved by the Board of Visitors, will appear in the form below in the Faculty Handbook.)

Ordinarily, change to academic programs within the University can be planned so that the appointments of faculty members are not compromised. Such changes 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 of Higher Education for Virginia, and adherence to the policy in this section is not required.

However, when extraordinary circumstances require more rapid change, it may be necessary to restructure or discontinue programs or departments in a way that leads to involuntary terminations or other alterations of appointments of faculty members with tenure or continued appointment. In such circumstances, the policy in this section applies.

It should be understood that any decision to restructure or discontinue academic programs in a way that would alter faculty appointments is a university-wide responsibility and should be made to support the educational mission of the University as a whole. In all such circumstances, early and meaningful faculty participation is essential and fundamental to the process outlined in this policy.

The restructuring or discontinuing of one or more academic programs with the potential to invoke this policy may be initiated by the Provost or President, by the college deans, by the collegiate faculties, or by an appropriately-charged commission. If the Provost determines that such restructuring or discontinuing of 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.

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 will elect a chair by vote of all members of the committee. The Steering Committee composition is intended to ensure that the expertise and perspectives of the relevant commissions are incorporated in the deliberations.

The Provost will initiate discussion of a proposed program restructuring or discontinuance with the Steering Committee, describing the need for the change, the proposed type and scope of restructuring effort, the educational rationale for the change, and an explanation of how it is consistent with the long-term goals of the University. If after these preliminary discussions and upon considering the advice of the Steering Committee, the Provost decides to proceed, the Provost will prepare a more detailed proposal including identification of programs to be restructured or discontinued (or how they will be identified); timelines for development of specific plans by the affected programs and for the restructuring effort as a whole; and the estimated impact on the affected faculty, staff, and students, and on the University 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 will review the draft proposal and make recommendations to the Provost either to proceed with the proposal as written or with modifications, or to return it as insufficiently justified. The Steering Committee will 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 the Provost decides to proceed, he or she will direct the relevant dean(s) to prepare specific plans for the affected programs, based on guidelines in the following section. These plans shall identify which specific programs are 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 members will be protected. If a budget reduction is involved, the specific plan must describe how the reduction targets will be met.

The deans submit specific plans to the Provost, who will reconvene the Steering Committee to oversee the review and comment process. All specific plans will be made available to the University community for comment for a period of not less than three weeks. The relevant commissions (including the Commissions on Classified Staff and Administrative and Professional Faculty Affairs if such employees are affected) will also be asked to review and comment on the plans. The Steering Committee will receive all comments and make recommendations to the Provost; these recommendations will also be shared with the University community at large. The President and Board of Visitors have final authority to approve and implement all plans. Notification to affected faculty 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.

College-level planning for programmatic reductions shall follow the guidance and intent of the plan reviewed by the Steering Committee and approved by the Provost. 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 must 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 restructuring or discontinuance, all faculty assigned to the program, both tenured and untenured, will be potentially subject to reassignment or termination.

Within programs identified for restructuring or discontinuance, tenured faculty must not ordinarily be terminated before untenured faculty. Termination decisions within the tenured faculty as a group or within the untenured faculty as a group should ordinarily be based on rank and merit. In all of the above cases, however, departments or programs whose diversity would otherwise be threatened should consider affirmative action as additional grounds for decision-making

Faculty members on restricted or temporary appointments should be terminated before faculty members on regular 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 faculty members 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 ninety days notice. All other faculty members shall complete their current contracts or be given one year's notice, whichever is less.

In particular, notice of termination longer than the minimum specified above may be given to particular faculty members whose expertise is essential to closing out an academic program in which students are enrolled.

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 available openings 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 space, 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 following separation 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.