General University Reference Utility
POLICY'S INITIAL DATE: September 1, 1973
THIS VERSION EFFECTIVE: May 31, 2011
This policy defines the procedures to be followed when issues involving faculty rights and responsibilities have not been successfully resolved through the normal channels of administrative responsibility and procedure.
Disputes are best addressed through direct discussions among the parties to the disputes. When such direct discussions fail to resolve the dispute, the parties should avail themselves of the Ombudsperson process. All Penn State faculty and administrators are strongly urged to make use of the unit or University ombudsperson as appropriate. Only when matters cannot be resolved through that process, should the formal procedures described in this policy be used.
A. In these procedures the term "faculty member" refers to members of the University faculty as defined in the University Faculty Senate Constitution (Article II, Section 1) plus any other University employees in academic positions which lead to permanent tenure. (This definition is subject to the clarifications of the Guidelines for Implementation section of this policy.)
B. The Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities established by the procedures may review petitions from faculty members and administrators involving:
C. The Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities will normally consider only petitions which involve, as a direct party, faculty members as defined above. Exceptions to this restriction apply to University academic employees (a University academic employee is a person whose duties include instructional, research or creative responsibilities) as follows:
NOTE: This definition of academic employee excludes graduate assistants.
D. Cases of substantive dispute involving the termination of tenured appointment for cause or for reasons of financial exigency or program elimination or revision, or the release of a faculty member during the provisional appointment period with less advance notice than that specified in University policy, shall be considered at a hearing by the Standing Joint Committee on Tenure under the "Committee Procedural Rules" described in the Policy HR70 Dismissal of Tenured or Tenure-Eligible Faculty Members.
E. Cases involving questions of ethics related to research and other scholarly activities shall be referred to the Vice President for Research (See RA10).
F. Cases involving a claim of discrimination or sexual harassment will be referred to the Office of Affirmative Action (See B1 above). Should a multipart petition be filed that claims discrimination or harassment and also one of the grievances for which the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities and/or the Standing Joint Committee on Tenure is responsible, each reviewing body will conduct an independent investigation on those claim(s) within its area of competence. (See "Consultation Between Review Bodies" below.)
Colleges and campuses should have a person or group to serve in the role of ombudsperson. The objective is to enhance communication and clarify possible misunderstandings in situations which involve potential disputes, to advise faculty members and administrators as to appropriate courses of action, and to help settle matters before they become hardened into serious disputes. The individual or group should be selected by procedures approved by a majority of the faculty in the unit.
Selection and Responsibilities of Ombudspersons
A. An Ombudsperson shall be appointed in each of the colleges, campuses and academic units.
For those not associated with an academic unit, or in cases where the appropriate ombudsperson may be in doubt, the following policy shall be applied:
B. The Dean, Chancellor, or other appropriate campus official and the faculty shall jointly develop selection procedures for the ombudsperson. Normally, the role of ombudsperson will be performed by a single person, with a designated alternate. In unusual circumstances, a group of not more than three persons may be selected. No one who is a member of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities shall serve as ombudsperson.
C. Functions for the ombudsperson are:
Establishment of the Committee
The Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities will have nine members elected by the Senate: six faculty members and three members of the Academic Leadership Council. Two of the faculty members shall be from academic voting units other than those at University Park. The Chair will be chosen by the committee from the elected faculty members and will serve a one-year term as chair.
Six faculty members and three deans will be elected as alternates for three-year terms. Two of the faculty members shall be from academic voting units other than those at University Park.
The term of office for members and alternates will be three years commencing on July 1. The terms will be staggered to provide for continuity.
The Senate Committee on Committees and Rules will present a list of nominees to fill vacancies and expiring terms on the Committee at the next to last meeting of the Senate each academic year. Additional nominations may be made from the floor at that time.
Election of Committee members and alternates will be by secret ballot. No member of this Committee may serve concurrently on the Standing Joint Committee on Tenure and/or the University Promotion and Tenure Review Committee.
Operation of the Committee
The Committee Chair will be elected by the Committee from among its elected faculty members. The term of office will be for one year -- from July 1 through June 30.
A quorum of the Committee will be a majority of those remaining after disqualifications on a matter at issue, subject to a minimum of three members. A majority of those voting on a matter at issue will be faculty.
Upon receiving a petition, the Committee will make a preliminary determination as to the extent of its review of the matter. The Committee will reserve the right not to take up a complaint that it judges unsubstantial or without merit or where it appears that other remedies should be sought before coming to the Committee. The Committee may decide to perform an Informal Review or to establish a Hearing Board. As a result of an Informal Review, the Committee may decide to reject a petition, to use its good offices in an attempt to bring about a satisfactory settlement, to bring recommendations to the Committee for a Full Committee Review and vote, and/or to establish a Hearing Board. In a Full Committee Review, the Committee shall reach its conclusions and recommendations by a majority vote of those present and voting (subject to the conditions set forth in the preceding paragraph).
A Hearing Board will be established only when the issue is clearly serious, a prima facie case has been established by the complaining party, and the Committee finds that reasonable efforts have already been made to solve the problem, and that no alternative way of attempting to settle the matter is appropriate in the circumstances.
The burden of proof in establishing a prima facie case will be on the complaining party. The Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities should attempt to settle matters brought to it as quickly as possible without sacrificing fairness to all parties. Only in extraordinary circumstances should there be a time span longer than 90 days between the receipt of a complaint by the Committee and a decision as to whether there will be a formal hearing.
The Role of a Hearing Board
For a particular case, a Hearing Board, consisting of two faculty members and one Dean to be chosen from the Committee by methods of its own selection, will be established to hear the case. The Hearing Board will elect its chairman from among its members. A member will remove himself or herself from a case if he or she deems himself or herself disqualified by reason of bias or interest. Each party will have a maximum of two challenges without stated cause. If disqualifications and challenges make it impossible to set up a Board with 3 members from the Committee or elected alternates, the Senate Council will select substitutes for a particular case. Each party will have a maximum of two challenges of such substitutes without stated cause.
If a hearing is scheduled, notice will be served with a specific statement of the complaint at least 20 days prior to the hearing. The party complained against may waive a hearing or may respond to the complaint in writing at any time before the hearing.
Hearings before a Hearing Board will not be public. Publicity and public statements about the case by either the faculty member or administrative officers will be avoided until the proceedings have been completed. The Hearing Board may have present at the hearing such assistance as it deems necessary.
During the proceedings the parties will be entitled to have an advisor and counsel of their own choice. The Hearing Board will not be bound by strict rules of legal evidence, and may admit any evidence of probative value in determining the issues involved. Every possible effort will be made to obtain the most reliable evidence available and to avoid excessively legalistic procedures.
A verbatim record of the hearings will be taken and both parties will receive a copy of that record.
The Hearing Board will grant adjournments to enable either party to investigate evidence as to which a valid claim of surprise is made.
The parties will be afforded an opportunity to obtain necessary witnesses and documentary or other evidence. The University administration will make reasonable efforts to cooperate with the Hearing Board in securing witnesses and making available documentary and other evidence.
Parties will have the right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses.
The Hearing Board's findings of fact and conclusions will be based solely on the hearing record. The Hearing Board shall reach its conclusions by majority vote.
Decision of the Executive Vice President and Provost
Conclusions and recommendations from the Committee or a Hearing Board shall be submitted to the Executive Vice President and Provost of the University through the Chair of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities. The Executive Vice President and Provost shall notify the Chair of the decision that has been reached.
In the event that the Executive Vice President and Provost's decision is not in accord with the conclusions of the Committee or the Hearing Board, the reasons for that decision shall be specified to the Chair of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities who will inform the Committee and the parties directly involved. (See also Notification of the Executive Vice President and Provost's Decision in the "Guidelines for Implementation" section of this policy.)
At the first regular Senate meeting of each academic year, the Chair of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities will present a brief general report of the Committee's activities.
The Senate Report
A report "Procedures on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities" was adopted by the University Faculty Senate on May 8, 1973. These procedures became effective as University policy as of September 1, 1973. The Preamble of the Senate report is not included as part of this policy, but should be used for guidance on such matters as the meaning of academic freedom, professional ethics, and procedural fairness. University policy begins with Section II - Scope of the Senate report.
Definition of Faculty
The term faculty member shall include the Senate's definition of its electorate plus all research equivalent ranks as specified in the Policy Manual HR21. The definition is as follows: All persons who are not candidates for degrees at Penn State, who hold full-time academic appointments, and who fall into one of the following categories -- those holding professorial, research or librarian titles, those who are full-time instructors or assistant librarians, and those other full-time academic employees who are members of the Graduate Faculty, but who do not fall into either of the above categories.
Issues for Review: Limitations
Section B under Scope defines the kinds of issues which the Committee may review. The Committee shall not consider the substantive academic judgment aspects of such matters as promotion, tenure, compensation, and evaluation of performance. In such matters as these, only procedural fairness may be reviewed.
Section C. 4. under Scope describes other matters that may come under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities.
Application of Policy to Other Professionals
Some persons who are not included in the definition of faculty members should also have access to these procedures for those matters specified in Scope, Section C. This provision shall apply to professional employees involved in teaching, research or creative activities who are attached to a research unit or an academic college. This would also include the following categories: part-time (with at least a six-month appointment), visiting, clinical, and adjunct academic personnel.
Obligations of the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities
The preliminary determination referred to in the third paragraph of Operation of the Committee must include a Committee judgment that the appropriate department, college and/or other unit administrative procedures have been exhausted prior to the point the Committee decides whether or not to review the petition further. In making such a judgment, the Committee shall consult with the ombudsperson in the appropriate college or campus.
In the event the Committee decides to informally review the case or hold a hearing, the petitioner, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the appropriate college and/or campus official, and the college or campus ombudsperson shall be notified immediately.
Consultation Between Review Bodies
Should a multipart petition be filed that contains claims for which both the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, and/or the Office of Affirmative Action is responsible, each reviewing body will conduct an independent investigation on the claim(s) within its area of competence. Each reviewing body will consult with the other(s) during the process, will share evidence where appropriate, and will inform the other(s) of its findings.
Notification of the Executive Vice President and Provost's Decision
After receiving the conclusions and recommendations on a case from a Hearing Board, the Executive Vice President and Provost of the University shall notify the parties directly involved, appropriate University administrative officers, and the Chair of the Faculty Rights and Responsibilities Committee as to his or her decision. The Chair shall be responsible for informing the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities.
6/10/10 - Minor editorial adjustment to Operaton of the Committee section.
10/20/09 - The Senate Committee on Committees and Rules voted to change the term of ombudsman to ombudsperson.