The University of Michigan has released recommendations to overhaul policies that govern the dismissal of tenured faculty, including eliminating severance pay when a faculty member is terminated for cause involving “moral turpitude or scholarly or professional misconduct.”

The recommended 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 — largely align with recommendations made by a nine-member faculty working group in February.

The university now is seeking feedback through May 4 on the revisions from members of the university community through an online survey.

“The academic freedom granted by tenure is at the core of everything we do at the University of Michigan. However, there are some situations, though rare, that rightfully fall outside of tenure’s protections,” said Susan M. Collins, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“We encourage members of our community to review the proposed new policy and share their feedback.”

The Board of Regents is scheduled to consider the recommended revisions at its next meeting, May 21 on the UM-Dearborn campus.

The revised 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 faculty working group charged with reviewing the policies hosted five town halls, solicited input via an online survey and through email, and reviewed similar policies at other Big Ten and peer institutions.

The group was unanimous in recommending that the university should not provide severance pay when a faculty member is dismissed for moral turpitude or for scholarly or professional misconduct. Examples include harassment, failing to disclose significant financial relationships with outside entities that violate contractual terms, intentional refusal to perform properly assigned academic duties, deliberately falsifying data and serious plagiarism.

“The process for how we consider the removal of tenure is one that cannot be taken lightly,” President Mark Schlissel said. “Tenure is essential for the integrity of the academic enterprise. I thank the regents and faculty members who have helped us develop these recommendations to make us a better university.”

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