2007 Reaffirmation Teams
3.7.4 - 2007 Reaffirmation Teams
The institution ensures adequate procedures for safeguarding and protecting academic freedom.
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) ensures the protection and promotion of academic freedom through written policies and faculty governance procedures. Recognizing that the principles of academic freedom validate full freedom for faculty in the pursuit, creation, and dissemination of knowledge while respecting the dignity and rights of others, and that responsible use of academic freedom enhances the contribution of the university to society, UT Dallas asserts the precepts in its local policies and affirms the academic freedom policies of The University of Texas System (UT System) Board of Regents and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Policies regarding academic freedom are disseminated by means of the UT System Board of Regents’ Rules and Regulations, the UT Dallas Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP), and the Faculty Handbook  . The Academic Senate, with its committee system, and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost develop, refine, and implement procedures to carry out these policies.
Series 31102 of Regents’ Rules emphasizes the importance of tenure and academic freedom, stating that “the Board of Regents recognizes the time-honored practice of tenure for university faculty as an important protection of free inquiry, open intellectual and scientific debate, and unfettered criticism of the accepted body of knowledge…. Without freedom to question, there can be no freedom to learn .” Research and teaching may challenge the established order. Tenure assures society that the pursuit of knowledge is guaranteed in the university. Tenure is protected at the UT Dallas from the point of initial hiring by Policy Memorandum 81-III.22-41, General Standards and Procedures: Initial Appointments to the Ranks of Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor , to the actual granting of tenure as outlined in Policy Memorandum 75-III.22-3, General Standards and Procedures: Faculty Promotion, Reappointment, and Tenure . This policy guarantees multiple levels of input and separation of powers in the process of granting tenure. The policy requires external peer consultation (in the form of the requirement for an external member of an ad hoc committee and the requirement that external evaluation letters be sought, letters that are generated by the ad hoc committee’s list as well as the list supplied by the faculty member under review). Promotion and tenure at UT Dallas also requires a vote of the above rank faculty within the candidate’s department/program or school as appropriate, but most importantly, the policy guarantees that an impartial university-wide committee, the Committee on Qualifications (CQ), reviews the candidate’s case closely to look for improprieties or irregularities . The CQ reports annually to the Academic Senate     , and if the president or provost overturns the decision of the CQ, the provost must appear before the committee to explain the reasons for the reversal. The dismissal of any faculty member who has tenure takes the extraordinary steps of an appeal process that involves a faculty-driven hearing tribunal  and must meet the conditions outlined Policy Memorandum 94-III.21-61, University Policy on Faculty Conduct ; however, long before that action can take place, the faculty member has full rights to grieve actions of administrators  and has the opportunity to address concerns with the Committee on Faculty Standing and Conduct .
Tenure in and of itself does not guarantee academic freedom, especially because tenure is not available for all faculty at a university. At the state-level, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has been charged with the responsibility for promoting “teaching excellence” based on Section 61.057 of the Texas Education Code (TEC) . Section 61.057 (1) (E) requires that the board develop and recommend “minimum standards for academic freedom, academic responsibility, and tenure.” Publication and distribution of the policies to UT Dallas faculty is in compliance with directives in Chapter 7, Subchapter A, Section 7.7 (11) of THECB’s Rules, concerning dissemination of a statement “assuring freedom in teaching, research, and publication and the policies and procedures concerning promotion, tenure, and non-renewal or termination of appointments .”
In the section “Rights and Responsibilities of Faculty Members as Citizens and as Teachers” , the UT Dallas Faculty Handbook  borrows wording from the Regents’ Rules to express the importance of academic freedom in relation to the primary duties of a faculty member. In teaching, a faculty member has freedom in the classroom to discuss his or her subject within the context of the course’s subject. Faculty enjoy full freedom in research and in publication of the results of their research. Outside the university, all UT Dallas employees have the right to speak or write as citizens in so far as they do not purport to be spokespersons for the university . The aforementioned policies from UT System and UT Dallas embrace the academic freedom principles of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) expressed in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure .
As discussed above, the Faculty Grievance Procedure protects faculty from capricious discipline by providing for the review and equitable resolution of contentions made by a UT Dallas faculty member that an administrative decision or action affecting the faculty member has not been made in substantial compliance with established university criteria or procedures, that there is no rational basis for the decision or action, or that the decision or action was based upon criteria that are unlawful under the state or federal constitution, laws, or court decisions . Similarly, the Policy on Procedures Governing Periodic Performance Evaluation of Tenured Faculty describes a robust process of peer and administrative review required for continuous assessment of the performance of tenured faculty and includes a full review by the Committee on Faculty Standing and Conduct of any adverse decisions that might result in termination . During the last five years, the Committee on Faculty Standing and Conduct has not been asked to consider any formal grievance from a faculty member.
Additional policies relevant to academic freedom include policies on research integrity  and reviewing nontenure-system faculty . These and other relevant policies can be located in the Index of Numbered Policies that constitutes Appendix I of the Faculty Handbook and can be accessed from the homepage of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. The complete list of policies that safeguard academic freedom is available on the policy memorandum webpage of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost .
The publication of policies (just like the granting of tenure) is insufficient in and of itself to guarantee the protection and safeguarding of academic freedom. Faculty must have an active voice in the creation of policies, in the hiring of university administrators , and in carrying out policies. Title III on Faculty Governance in the HOP clearly delineates the role of the Academic Senate as an official voice of the general faculty and assigns direct responsibility to the Academic Senate to advise the president regarding the “academic welfare of the University .” The Academic Senate exercises the powers vested in the general faculty with regards to educational policy, catalog changes, and approval of degree candidates and is charged with initiating legislation and acting upon the basis of that legislation. Specifically, the Academic Senate works with (and through) a series of committees to establish university policies and to safeguard academic freedom. In addition to the committees listed above, other Academic Senate committees include the Committee on Academic Integrity , the Committee on Core Curriculum , the Committee on Distance Learning , the Committee on Educational Policy , the Committee on Faculty Mentoring , and the Library Committee . The best documentation of the role of the Academic Senate can be found in its minutes which can be accessed from the Academic Senate’s website . Sample minutes are supplied in the supporting documents  . Additional information about the role of the Academic Senate in academic governance can be found in the response to Principle 3.7.5 .