Open Letter to the Faculty

The Senate Cabinet held an emergency meeting on August 28, 2018 and endorsed the following open letter to the UCI faculty:

August 28, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Recent incidents have raised concerns about the application of policies related to faculty discipline especially in cases of sexual harassment. Given the uncertainty and the prevailing lack of awareness about the rights of the faculty and the disciplinary process, we are writing to provide information about the role of the Senate and to encourage you to contact us should you have any questions or concerns.

The Faculty Code of Conduct and the University Policy on Faculty Conduct and the Administration of Discipline are set forth in APM 015 and APM – 016. The APM assigns the administration of discipline to the Chancellor but also provides faculty members with the privilege of a hearing before the Senate Committee of Privilege and Tenure (CPT) prior to any disciplinary action. If a faculty member is found through the investigative process to have violated the Faculty Code of Conduct, the administration will propose specific sanctions. Faculty members do have the option to reach an agreement and forgo the hearing. They are not required to accept the proposed charges. If they refuse to accept them, the administration must file formal charges with CPT and request a hearing. In disciplinary cases, the administration bears the burden of proof at the hearing. We strongly urge faculty members to consult with the Senate and make sure they understand their rights prior to accepting any proposed sanctions.

The administration has recently constituted a Peer Review Committee (PRC) to advise the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel on what is the appropriate level of discipline for faculty respondents. At the request of the administration, the Senate has provided names of faculty who have the prerequisite qualifications to serve on the PRC. However, the PRC is not a Senate committee. It is not appointed by the Senate, it cannot challenge the findings of the investigation conducted by the administration, and it does not hold hearings. The PRC is not a substitute for CPT and should not be confused with CPT. The Committee on Privilege and Tenure is the only committee charged to hear faculty complaints and to make recommendations to the Chancellor on behalf of the Senate, which is the official representative of all faculty.

A number of policies and processes have been put in place in the last few years to address faculty conduct and discipline especially in cases related to Sexual Harassment. These policies are new and have yet to be tested. The Senate recognizes the serious impact that such cases have and has been working with the administration to reach a better understanding of how disciplinary policies should be implemented. We hope that through the process of shared governance we can put proper mechanisms in place for the benefit of all parties involved and the good of the institution.

The Academic Senate supports the right of all faculty to pursue research and teaching in an environment free of any type of harassment. We stand united in our belief that the rights of all faculty must be respected and that discipline must be based on the principles of fairness, transparency, and due process.

Respectfully submitted,

Maria Pantelia                                                                    Linda Cohen
Senate Chair, Academic Senate                                       Chair-Elect, Academic Senate