AC76 Faculty Rights and Responsibilities (Formerly HR76)
Subject Matter Expert:
Policy Steward:Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs>
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 ombudspersonas 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 all full-time faculty including instructors and all professorial ranks and equivalent ranks as define in Policy (AC21).
B. The Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities established by the procedures may review petitions from faculty members and administrators involving:
- Any situation in which a faculty member asserts that they have suffered a substantial injustice resulting from a violation of: a) academic freedom; b) procedural fairness; or c) professional ethics. The Committee does not review cases of alleged discrimination or of sexual harassment as defined in AD85 or AD91 (see section F below). However, claims that involve discrimination or harassment plus one of the three areas named above will be investigated simultaneously by the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities and by the Office of Affirmative Action. Each body will examine the part(s) of the claim within its respective area of competence, will share evidence where appropriate, and will inform the other of its findings. (See "Consultation Between Review Bodies" below).
- Any situation in which an administrator seeks a Committee judgment as to appropriate action toward a faculty member who, in their judgment, may be failing to meet their responsibilities.
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 faculty personnel as specified below ("Application of Policy to Other Faculty Personnel"), such as part-time faculty (with at least a six-month appointment).
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 AC70 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 Senior Vice President for Research (See RP02).
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.)
G. If the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities determines that the Executive Vice President and Provost is the subject of the complaint, the role of the Executive Vice President and Provost will be assumed by the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs. In such cases, all references in this policy to the Executive Vice President and Provost will be understood to refer instead to the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.
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.
A. An Ombudsperson and an Alternate Ombudsperson shall be elected by the faculty 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:
- Where appropriate, the ombudsperson and alternate ombudsperson will be from the same academic unit to which the employee is most closely associated. For example, research associates in the Applied Research Laboratory will have access to the ombudsperson for the College of Engineering.
- In cases where there is disagreement or doubt as to the appropriate ombudsperson, the Executive Vice President and Provost shall make the determination.
- In cases where the ombudsperson is in doubt as to their jurisdiction, they shall ask the Executive Vice President and Provost for a determination.
B. The Dean, Chancellor, or other appropriate campus official and the faculty organization shall jointly develop selection procedures for the ombudsperson and alternate 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:
- Clarification of misunderstandings;
- Advising faculty and administrators as to appropriate courses of action;
- Assisting in the informal resolution of differences;
- Assuring that appropriate department, college and/or campus procedures are exhausted before referring the case to higher levels;
- Informing the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and appropriate college or campus officials if a matter cannot be resolved at the lower level and the case is to be referred to the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities.
- The ombudsperson shall not:
- Hold hearings;
- Exceed the role of conciliator and advisor;
- Substitute his or her judgment for that of appropriate administrative and/or faculty bodies;
- Serve as counsel for either party to a complaint before the Hearing Board.
Membership and Alternates: Twelve members elected by the Senate - eight faculty members and four members of the Academic Leadership Council who have signatory authority (through the college level) for promotion and tenure. For both the group of faculty members and the group of alternate faculty members, each group shall consist of:
- a minimum of three employed on non-tenure-line contracts
- a minimum of three employed on tenure-line contracts
- a minimum of three from academic voting units at University Park
- a minimum of three from academic voting units other than University Park of which at least one will be employed on a non-tenure-line contract and at least two will be employed on tenure-line contracts.
All members and alternates will have either earned or been hired with at least one level of promotion. The committee chair will be chosen by the committee members from the elected faculty members and will serve a one-year term as chair. The membership criteria outlined above and the membership criteria given for the committee in AC76 will be kept in agreement.
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.
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 themselves from a case if they deem themselves 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.
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.
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.
As noted above under "Scope," the term "faculty member" refers to all full-time faculty including instructors and all professorial ranks and equivalent raks as defined in Policy (AC21). Exceptions to this definition are specified below in "Application of Policy to Other Faculty Personnel."
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.
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 would include the following categories: part-time faculty (with at least a six-month appointment).
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.
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.
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.
12/2/21 - Made revisions to "Establishment of the Committee" section.
6/8/20 - Revised definitions of faculty due to revisions to AC21. Revised to use gender-neutral language. Added language for alternate ombudsperson. Added language to specify procedures for situations involving the Executive Vice President and Provost.
9/19/19 - Changed Vice President for Research to Senior Vice President for Research
6/10/10 - Minor editorial adjustment to Operation of the Committee section.
10/20/09 - The Senate Committee on Committees and Rules voted to change the term of ombudsman to ombudsperson.
Date Approved:December 2, 2021>