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Severe Sanctions for Post-Tenure Review

By Jim McKenna, Faculty Senate vice president and chair, Commission on Faculty Affairs

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 22 - February 28, 1997

For the past four months, the Commission on Faculty Affairs (CFA) has been working on the drafting of this resolution. The draft is presented here to solicit input and comments from the faculty. Please review the draft resolution and respond to me at jamckenn@vt.edu by March 12. The CFA will be meeting later that week, and will be composing an amended resolution with consideration of the input received from the faculty.

First, a little history about this resolution. The completion of the post-tenure-review policy (PTR) last year left one unfinished component in the PTR process. While the policy provided an option for a "severe sanction, "neither the nature of the sanction or the process for imposing it was defined. The CFA made a commitment to address this issue in the fall.

The first significant decision made by both the Faculty Senate Performance Focus Group and the CFA was to create a severe-sanctions policy for PTR that was specifically used for PTR, and to deal with a generic severe-sanctions policy at another time that would address sanctions originating from non-PTR issues. A second decision was to create a process similar to the procedure to dismissal for cause, but to include the Promotion and Tenure Committee of the college early in the process. This would provide a faculty member receiving a severe sanction an additional peer review within the college.

A third component added by the CFA was that recommendations for sanctions mad eat earlier stages of the process (by the departmental committee, college Promotion and Tenure Committee, or university hearing panel) would be forwarded to the Board of Visitors along with the president's recommendation, if the president's recommendation exceeded that of the faculty committees.

The model for this procedure is already in place with the promotion-and-tenure system. Each committee, from department to college to dean to university committee to president, is a recommendation. At any point along the way, the recommendation can be accepted, denied, or rejected. If changed, the reasons for the change must be given to the faculty member. Finally, the promotion-and-tenure document is reviewed by the BOV and they make the final decision.

What follows is the text of the PTR policy with recommended language concerning severe sanctions in bold type.

Please review the draft carefully, and I encourage faculty members to submit language for suggested changes to my e-mail address. Thank you so much for your thoughtful review of this draft.

(Editor's note: The following text is reprinted without editing by Spectrum.)

Commission on Faculty Affairs

Resolution 1996-97 B

Post-Tenure Review Policy

Proposed Additions on Severe Sanctions and

Limitation of Period of Remediation in Bold

(Remainder of policy previously approved.)

2.9.4 Post-Tenure Review

Nothing in this section should be interpreted as abridging the University's right to proceed directly to dismissal for cause as defined in 2.11.1, or the right of individual faculty members to pursue existing mechanisms of reconciliation and redress.

A post-tenure review is mandatory whenever a faculty member with tenure or continued appointment receives two consecutive annual evaluations of Unsatisfactory performance. Annual reviews for years spent on leave without pay shall be disregarded for the purpose of this calculation. The review will be conducted by the departmental promotion and tenure committee, unless the same committee was involved in the original Unsatisfactory annual evaluations. In this case, the department shall elect a committee to carry out the review function.

Upon recommendation of the head or chair and with the approval of the dean, a post-tenure review may be waived or postponed if there are extenuating circumstances (such as health problems).

The purpose of a post-tenure review is to focus the perspective of faculty peers on the full scope of a faculty member's professional competence, performance, and contributions to the department, college, and University mission and priorities.

The faculty member has the both the right and the obligation to provide a dossier with all documents, materials, and statements he or she believes to be relevant and necessary for the review. Ordinarily, such a dossier would include at least the following: an up-to-date vita, the past two or more Faculty Activity Reports, teaching assessments, and a description of activities and accomplishments since the last Faculty Activity Report. The faculty member will be given a period of no less than four weeks to assemble the dossier for the committee. The head or chair will supply the review committee with the last two annual evaluations, all materials which were considered in those evaluations, any further materials deemed relevant, and other materials the committee requests. Copies of all materials supplied to the committee will be given to the faculty member. The faculty member has the right to provide a written rebuttal of evidence provided by the head or chair.

The committee will weigh the faculty member's contributions to the discipline, the department, and the University through teaching, research, and service. The burden of proving Unsatisfactory performance is on the university. The committee will prepare summary of its findings and make a recommendation to the head or chair, with copies to the dean and Provost. Final action and notification of the faculty member is the responsibility of the head or chair and dean, with the concurrence of the Provost.

The review may result in one of the following outcomes:

1. Certification of satisfactory performance:

The committee may conclude that the faculty member's competence and professional contributions are satisfactory to meet the department's minimal expectations, thus failing to sustain the head or chair's assessment. The review is then complete. An Unsatisfactory rating in any subsequent year would be counted as the first in any future sequence.

2. Certification of deficiencies:

The committee may concur that the faculty member's competence and/or professional contributions are Unsatisfactory to meet the department's minimal expectations. The committee may recommend dismissal for cause, a sanction other than dismissal for cause, or a single period of remediation not to exceed two years.

a. Remediation--If a period of remediation is recommended, the committee specifies in detail the deficiencies it has noted, defines specific goals and measurable outcomes the faculty member should achieve, and establishes a timeline for meeting the goals. The head or chair will meet with the faculty member at least twice annually to review the individual's progress. The head or chair will prepare a summary report for the committee following each meeting and at the end of the specified remediation period, at which time the committee will either certify satisfactory performance or recommend dismissal for cause or a sanction other than dismissal for cause following the procedures described above.

b. Sanction other than dismissal for cause:

A severe sanction generally involves a significant loss or penalty to a faculty member, such as but not limited to demotion in rank and/or a reduction in salary, or suspension without pay for a period not to exceed one year. Routine personnel actions such as a recommendation for a below-average or no merit increase, conversion from a calendar-year to an academic-year appointment, reassignment, removal of an administrative stipend, or verbal or written reprimand do not constitute a severe sanction within the meaning of this policy.

A departmental recommendation to impose a severe sanction shall be referred to the college-level promotion and tenure (P&T) committee, which shall review the case as presented to the departmental committee and determine that the recommendation is consistent with the evidence. The college-level committee may reject, uphold, or modify the specific sanction recommended by the departmental committee. If the college-level committee also recommends imposition of a severe sanction, then the same procedures used for dismissal for cause (specified in section 2.11.1 of the Faculty Handbook)will guide the process. In brief the steps of this process are:

1. Provost: Discussion among faculty member, head, dean, and Provost are held looking toward mutual settlement. The Provost may uphold, reject, ormodify the sanction recommended by the college-level P&T committee. If the faculty member and Provost reach agreement, the process is complete. The Board of Visitors approves any severe sanction to be imposed. If agreement is not reached, the process proceeds to step 3 below.

2. Ad hoc or standing committee: The reviews conducted by the departmental and college-level committees satisfy the requirement in step 2 of section 2.11.1 for an informal inquiry by an ad hoc or standing personnel committee. Thus, in the case of a post-tenure review, this step is not repeated.]

3. President: The President provides a written statement of charges and notifies the faculty member of the University's intent to sanction. If the faculty member accepts imposition of the sanction at this point, the President will submit the recommended action to the Board of Visitors for approval.

4. Hearing Committee: The faculty member may request a formal hearing. Five panel members are chosen from among nine nominations made by the Faculty Senate President. Hearing rules are specified in section 2.11.1. The hearing committee makes its recommendation in writing to the President and the faculty member.

5. President: The President may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation made by the hearing committee. If the President rejects the recommendation, the hearing committee and the faculty member will be so informed and given an opportunity to respond.

6. Board of Visitors: If the President decides to impose a sanction, the faculty member may request that the full record of the case, including recommendations by the departmental and college committees, be submitted to the Board. Written or oral arguments by principals will be presented. If the recommendation of the hearing committee is not sustained, it is sent back to the committee with specific objections and a request to reconsider. The Board makes the final decision following reconsideration by the hearing committee.

(This summary of the steps described in section 2.11.1 is provided for clarification and, except for the waiving of step 2 in the case of a post-tenure review, is not intended to either alter or supersede provisions of that section.)

If a severe sanction is imposed or ultimately rejected, then the post-tenure review cycle is considered complete. An Unsatisfactory rating in any subsequent year would be counted as the first in any future sequence.

c. Dismissal for cause--If dismissal for cause is recommended, the case shall be referred to the college-level promotion and tenure committee, which shall review the case as presented to the departmental committee and determine whether the recommendation is consistent with the evidence. If the college-level committee upholds the recommendation for dismissal, then the procedures specified in section 2.11.1 of the Faculty Handbook will begin immediately. The committee review satisfies the requirement in section 2.11.1 for an informal inquiry by a standing personnel committee. If the President decides to proceed with dismissal, the faculty member shall be provided a statement of charges and notification of a right to a formal hearing in accordance with section 2.11.1.