University policies that govern the dismissal of tenured faculty now include a shorter, more streamlined process.

The updated policy also allows for eliminating severance pay when a faculty member is terminated for cause involving “moral turpitude or scholarly or professional misconduct.”

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The Board of Regents voted May 21 to approve revisions to two Regents’ Bylaws — 5.09, which describes procedures in cases of dismissal, demotion or terminal appointment, and 5.10, which covers severance pay.

The changes largely align with recommendations made by a nine-member faculty working group, appointed by the provosts at the three U-M campuses in February.

“The award of tenure is one of the most important decisions our university’s Board of Regents makes for our faculty,” said Susan Collins, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “It acknowledges and honors tremendous professional accomplishment.

“I want to thank the working group, the Board of Regents and all members of our community for their attention, commitment and time over the past several months. The revised bylaws strengthen the institution of tenure at Michigan, and strike a careful balance between the privileges and responsibilities it brings.”

Amendments to the policies include:

  • New language explicitly describing the university’s dedication to protecting academic freedom.
  • A single, streamlined process to replace the current two processes for cases that are either referred to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs or to the executive authority of the affected school or college. Under ordinary circumstances, the proposed revisions would yield a definitive recommendation to the Board of Regents within 86 calendar days, or within 119 days in cases with appeals.
  • A process to suspend a faculty member’s pay during the proceeding for extreme cases in which the faculty member has either been relieved of duties and charged with or convicted of a felony involving violence, or has abandoned their job.
  • A Hearing Committee consisting of five tenured faculty members at or above the rank of the affected faculty member.
  • The creation of a SACUA Standing Judicial Committee, whose members stand ready to be appointed to the Hearing Committee by SACUA along with faculty nominated by the affected faculty member’s unit.
  • A “discovery period” before the hearing begins during which the university and the affected faculty member share all evidence to be used at the hearing.
  • A single, optional review completed by SACUA within 21 days of appeal.

The regents’ vote comes two months after the board dismissed David Daniels, a former professor in the university’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance. It was the first time a tenured faculty member was dismissed under the current Regents Bylaw 5.09, which was adopted in 1959.

The working group charged with reviewing the policies included faculty from U-M’s three campuses and was chaired by Sharon Glotzer, the Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering; the John Werner Cahn Distinguished University Professor of Engineering; the Stuart W. Churchill Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering; and professor of chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, and macromolecular science and engineering in the College of Engineering; and professor of physics in LSA.

The faculty group hosted five town halls across the three campuses, solicited input via an online survey and through email, and reviewed similar policies at other Big Ten and peer institutions.

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