By Shannon Vicic
At its final meeting of the academic year, the Urbana-Champaign Senate approved a proposal to add disciplinary sanctions other than dismissal to the university statutes.
The proposal outlines specific sanctions, such as suspension without pay or reassignment of work duties, and reasons those sanctions can be imposed, such as a faculty member's refusal to perform reasonable work assignments, misappropriation of university resources or engagement in professional misconduct.
The proposal is an effort to ensure that academic tenure does not shield faculty members who have engaged in misconduct from disciplinary measures. At the same time, the addition of sanctions to the statutes will help protect faculty members who engage in misconduct from being dismissed when less harsh sanctions are more appropriate.
The proposal has undergone significant revisions since it was initially submitted to the senate Feb. 2. The most recent revisions included dropping all references to academic professionals, in accordance with a senate advisory vote, and clarifying the wording of the proposal to address concerns raised by several senators.
However, several senators weren't satisfied with the revised version. Before the April 24 meeting, senate staffers distributed an amendment sponsored by Peter Loeb, a professor of mathematics, that proposed four changes designed to help further clarify the proposal.
During the senate's discussion of the amendment, Richard Schacht, a professor of philosophy, motioned that the senate vote on each proposed change separately. Among the changes that were adopted:
· A phrase was added to clarify that sanctions would be imposed only for actions "clearly related to university activities."
· The word "willfully" was added to a phrase regarding causes for sanctions. A faculty member would be subject to sanctions if he or she "willfully" physically harms, threatens physical harm to, harasses or intimidates a visitor or member of the university community with the effect of interfering with that person's performance of university duties or academic activities.
The addition of the word "willfully" will help prevent sanctions from being imposed for accidental injuries, such as a faculty member accidentally hitting and injuring someone while driving a car or bicycle, Loeb said.
Joan Larsen Klein, a professor of English, objected to the inclusion of the word "willfully," saying that in cases of sexual harassment it might be difficult to prove willfulness on the part of the harasser.
Law professor Matthew Finkin proposed an amendment designed to help protect the due process rights of faculty members as well as clarify the relationship between the sanctioning process and other university policies on misconduct, such as the policies on sexual harassment or academic
The amendment would allow the findings of investigations made under those policies to be included in a sanctioning hearing, but the faculty member would have the right to rebut the findings of those investigations.
The amendment would help prevent the relitigation of cases from scratch and also would ensure that the hearing committee is not bound by the findings of investigations conducted under other policies.
The senate voted on the amendment and it passed.
After the passage of those amendments, several senators expressed concerns with the changes the proposal would bring if it passed.
"I'm very uncomfortable with this whole discussion, with losing my tenure rights," said Alfred Kagan, a professor of library administration.
When he was an undergraduate at Boston University, one of his professors almost lost tenure because he sat with students in a protest of the Vietnam war. A professor who participated in a similar protest on the Urbana-Champaign campus might suffer serious career repercussions if the proposal passed, Kagan said.
H. George Friedman, chair of the committee on University Statutes and Senate Procedures, pointed out that before any sanction would be imposed, the Faculty Advisory Committee, the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and the Senate Committee on Appeals would each hear the faculty member's case.
"Remember, there are three committees of faculty members to protect you," he said.
James Robinson, a professor of biochemistry, motioned that a new senate Appeals Committee that would be established under the proposal be taken out in order to shorten the overall sanctioning process. Finkin, who in previous senate meetings had questioned the need for the appellate body, supported the motion.
"One of the criticisms being leveled against tenure is against the cumbersome nature of academic governance," Finkin said. The initial hearing could take six to eight months, while the appeals process could take another six months, he said.
But Mark Roszkowski, a professor of business administration, said that the sanctioning process was designed to take a maximum of 60 days rather than six months or more.
Terry Weech, a professor of library and information science, opposed the motion. "Because we're exploring a new area, it's important to have this [appellate body]. In five or 10 years, we may find this level of appeals unnecessary," he said.
Schacht said that the Appeals Committee should be deleted from the proposal because the original hearing body might not give the hearing its full attention if its members knew the case would be heard again. "The tendency is to pass the buck," he said.
The senate voted on the amendment, and it did not pass, so the appeals committee remained part of the proposal.
After the vote, Weech questioned whether the senate should vote on the amended proposal with so few faculty members present at the meeting.
Friedman said that if the senate continued to delay action on the issue of disciplinary sanctions, the president or Board of Trustees might feel compelled to take up the matter.
Kagan said that the document was one of the most important things that the senate was going to do, and there should be more discussion of it. He proposed that the document be sent out to all faculty members.
But Schacht moved to close debate so that a vote could be taken on the amended proposal.
"It's time for us to let go," he said.
The senate voted on the proposal and it was approved. Before being implemented, the proposal will have to be approved by the UIC Senate and the University Senates Conference. If Springfield faculty members fail in their efforts to preserve their union contract, then they also will have to approve the proposal.
With time in the meeting running short, Geneva Belford, a professor of
computer science, moved that a proposal to amend senate bylaws regarding
attendance be deferred until the first meeting of the fall session. The
proposed amendment is designed to eliminate nonparticipating senators.