Faculty Forum on University Governance
By Vic Strasburger, Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee Chair
AF&T – academic freedom and tenure – is a constitutionally designated faculty committee, composed of senior tenured faculty, which reviews and renders recommendations and decisions on a variety of different cases per section B of the Faculty Handbook. These cases typically involve issues of promotion, tenure, sabbaticals or abridgement of academic freedoms. They may also involve issues of improper consideration or procedural violations.
Many conflicts can be resolved before they reach the level of a full-blown case if they are aired and discussed early. Jean Civikly-Powell is the University Ombudsperson and directs the Faculty Dispute Resolution program. We encourage using her considerable skills.
The committee chair is a resource for informal consultations to assist faculty in determining which avenue best suites the needs of their particular circumstance. Current committee members are listed at facgov.unm.edu.
AF&T is also responsible for developing and vetting many policies that affect faculty. See handbook.unm.edu.
Not all problems are within AF&T's purview. For example:
Case 1: A faculty member dislikes his chair and feels that he is being assigned to unimportant committees that are just busy-work. This faculty member should discuss his concerns with his chair first. If not satisfied, the University Ombudsperson or FDR program might help. The faculty member could continue up the chain of command to the dean and provost. This may be an AF&T case if the assignments are so overwhelming and time consuming that they adversely impact the faculty member's research and teaching. However, this type of problem should first go through the administrative chain of command or FDR before coming to AF&T.
Case 2: A faculty member feels that her chair is harassing or discriminating against her. Allegations of discrimination, harassment and hostile workplace first go to the Office of Equal Opportunity.
Case 3: A faculty member thinks that a co-principal investigator on a grant is embezzling funds. This goes to the Office of Vice President for Research and the University Auditor.
Case 4: A faculty member feels that a fellow teacher is harassing a student. This goes to the Dean of Students.
Case 5: A faculty member is denied tenure or promotion on grounds she believes relate either to violations of academic freedom, improper consideration or procedural violations. This is an AF&T case.
Case 6: A faculty member criticized his chair at a faculty meeting and is now relieved of his graduate seminars and assigned two introductory courses instead. This is potentially an AF&T case.
Case 7: A faculty member is denied a sabbatical with no explanation and no review by the department's relevant committee. This is potentially an AF&T case.