A new report by the Faculty of Arts and Science Senate has raised concerns about the University’s faculty-conduct standards and the review procedures for complaints of violations, with faculty arguing that they had insufficient input in the drafting of these rules.
The senate voted unanimously in a Nov. 19 meeting to adopt the report — which comes in response to the ongoing efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Standards of Conduct — and emailed the document to all FAS faculty Sunday evening. University President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak charged the Ad Hoc Committee, which is composed of faculty members, in spring 2014 with formulating a code of conduct for Yale’s faculty. The committee’s work consists of developing the conduct standards — which were drafted and given to faculty for input in January before being finalized for the beginning of this academic year — and drafting review procedures in cases of faculty conduct violations. The review procedures are still in draft form, and a preliminary version was presented at an FAS Senate meeting in October to considerable faculty opposition. The draft procedure reviews have been circulated among faculty and the deans of each University school have been invited to solicit reactions from their faculty. FAS Dean Tamar Gendler, for example, has opened a website for comments and will also hold an open meeting on Dec. 16 for FAS faculty members.
Though the conduct standards are now official University policy, the FAS Senate report, which was written by a study group within the senate, still aims to modify the standards’ content. The report also outlines concerns with the content of the draft review procedures, as well as broader concerns about the lack of faculty input on an issue that the report’s authors say most affects the faculty body. While the conduct standards were open for online faculty feedback earlier this year, the comments were not made public. The senate report called for faculty to have public and open feedback for the standards and the review procedures, and it also called for a faculty vote upon the final proposal.
“It is the view of the study group that subjects of direct concern to the faculty — in this case, the standards and procedures by which faculty conduct will be adjudicated — are rightly subject to faculty deliberation as well as a faculty vote,” the report reads. “The introduction of the new standards and procedures as an administrative policy (rather than as a process of collective deliberation and governance) tends to undermine rather than strengthen the standards’ legitimacy.”
The report listed three main recommendations to “enhance transparency and faculty governance” within the standards process. The first calls for the administration to distribute the current standards and draft procedures to all University faculty, and to allow a 30-day period for faculty comment and input. The second recommendation asks for the Ad Hoc Committee to revise the drafts with this expanded faculty input in mind. Finally, the report recommends that Gendler call an FAS meeting to discuss and vote upon the final proposals for both the standards and procedures. Gendler, who has already scheduled such a meeting, was not available for comment.
But Gage admitted that the administration has the power to make the draft procedures official without considering the senate’s recommendations, although she said this would be unlikely.
“The administration could adopt the procedures without faculty recommendation,” Gage said. “It would be surprising to me, but that would be possible.”
Alternatively, Gage said, the administration could instead affirm the bylaws of the University, which indicate that the faculty “shall be the governing board of the school, entrusted with matters relating to the educational policy and government of the school.”
History, African American Studies and American Studies professor Glenda Gilmore, who wrote an Oct. 27 opinion piece in the News criticizing the draft procedures, also pointed to the University bylaws, stating that the administration should abide by the bylaws and provide for the faculty to govern itself in matters of faculty misconduct, rather than reserving ultimate power for the deans and provosts. She added that she was concerned with both the draft content and the way in which the code of conduct has been drafted.
“I am as concerned about the draconian nature of the draft Procedures for Violation of the Standards of Faculty Conduct as I am about the unrepresentative process by which the provost appointed the committee that wrote them,” Gilmore said.
The American Association of University Professors also offered its opinion on the draft procedures, at Gilmore’s request. In a Nov. 17 letter, Director of the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance Gregory Scholtz pointed out several parts of the draft procedures that violate the AAUP-supported standards governing disciplinary actions against a faculty member. He said the review procedures appear “seriously inadequate” relative to the AAUP’s recommended best practices when a faculty member is accused of misconduct. Scholtz’s letter was made public at the senate meeting and has also been forwarded to administrators.
The FAS Senate was established in December 2013.