6.4 ACADEMIC FREEDOM
The institution publishes and implements appropriate policies and procedures for preserving and protecting academic freedom.
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In the Faculty Handbook, Appendix B-2—Regulations on Academic Freedom, Tenure and Due Process, N.C. A&T State University describes academic freedom as follows:
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is dedicated to the transmission and advancement of knowledge and understanding. Academic freedom is essential to the achievement of these purposes. This institution therefore supports and encourages freedom of inquiry for faculty members and students, to the end that they may responsibly pursue these goals through teaching, learning, research, discussion, and publication, free from internal or external restraints that would unreasonably restrict their academic endeavors (p.1).
The institution has policies that protect and safeguard faculty freedoms, the primary one being Appendix B-2—Regulations on Academic Freedom, Tenure and Due Process, beginning on p. 10. Each tenure-track faculty hired is given a copy of the institution’s Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure (RPT) Policy and the standards for their academic department and college (examples provided). The RPT policy is approved by faculty through the faculty senate. It is also approved by the Chancellor’s Cabinet and by the university’s Board of Trustees. The process of updating the policy begins with the Faculty Handbook Committee of the Faculty Senate.
Once approved by the Board of Trustees, the policies are posted online (Faculty Handbook) and hard copies are provided to the academic units in the form of a spiral-bounded volume. The website is maintained by the Division of Legal Affairs, but there is a link from the Division of Academic Affairs website. The policy is brought to the attention of the faculty at regular intervals through the Faculty Senate, academic and departments’ and colleges’ meetings. In addition, the Office of the Provost provides orientation for new and continuing faculty so they are well informed about the path to tenure and promotion.
When issues of academic freedom arise, the matter is referred to the Division of Human Resources for investigation and a recommendation for resolution. And, the faculty has the right to appeal to the Faculty Hearing Committee (see p. 13 of Appendix B-2—Regulations on Academic Freedom, Tenure and Due Process. In a recent case, the faculty did not accept the resolution offered by HR and decided to file an EEO complaint instead of requesting an internal hearing with a committee of his peers, and eventually chose to resign from the university. The university’s process is that the Division of Human Resources conducts the investigation and makes the recommendation for resolution and the Provost reviews the report and works with the Division of Legal Affairs to affirm (or not) the decision and communicate and the expectations to the faculty. While faculty violations of academic freedom are investigated by the Division of Human Resources, Appendix B-2 also addresses the appeal process that is available to faculty members once they receive HR’s decision. They are entitled to have an appeal heard by a committee of their peers—the Faculty Hearings and Reconsideration Committee, which is one of the Faculty Senate’s Standing Committees. Some faculty choose to use this hearing process and others don’t.
Denials of tenure are also appealed to the Faculty Hearings and Reconsiderations Committee. An example of a denial, which led to a hearing is linked. The faculty filed another appeal to the UNC System, then resigned, left the university and failed to pursue the second and final appeal with the UNC System.
The university has demonstrated that it publishes and implements policies and procedures for preserving and protecting the academic freedom of its faculty.
1. Appendix B-2, Regulations on Academic Freedom, Tenure and Due Process (focus on due process)
2. Appendix B-2, Regulations on Academic Freedom, Tenure and Due Process (focus on appeal process)
3. Tenure and Promotion Decision that Led to a Hearing (Redacted)