Policy Number: 120
Elimination of Academic Positions or Abandonment of Academic Programs
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
The President has the responsibility for determining when to eliminate occupied academic positions or abandon academic programs or both, subject to approval by the Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs. The decision of the President and the implementation of that decision shall be subject to the following minimum procedural requirements.
The procedure for the selection and notification of those academic positions that are to be terminated shall be governed by this policy, and neither the procedures specified in HOOP Policy 133 Faculty Termination, nor the notice requirements of HOOP Policies 115 Faculty Tenure or 44 Faculty Reappointment and Nonreappointment shall be applicable.
Academic Program: A formal, published course of study that, when successfully completed by a properly enrolled student, culminates in the award of a degree or certificate. This definition does not apply to residency training programs.
Bona fide: Made or done in good faith, without deception or fraud.
Financial Exigency: a demonstrably bona fide financial crisis that adversely affects the university as a whole and that, after considering other cost-reducing measures, including ways to decrease faculty costs, requires consideration of terminating appointments held by tenured faculty.
A. Elimination for Academic Reasons
Some examples of bona fide academic reasons for closure of an academic program or elimination of an academic position would include but are not limited to the following:
- a decrease in the number of degrees awarded but not as a result of temporary, cyclical trends or resource allocation;
- a decrease in the quality or amount of faculty scholarship within the program;
- a continuing decrease in qualified applicants to the program;
- a pattern or history of low and/or declining scores on standardized/national examining instruments;
- an inability to meet standards for obtaining credentials and/or accreditation; and
- prioritizing of the current academic objectives of the various schools, centers and institutes.
On determining the existence of bona fide academic reasons that support considering an academic program for closure or the elimination of occupied academic positions, the President will appoint an ad hoc committee composed of faculty and administrative personnel to review the situation in depth and make recommendations to the President. One or more members of the ad hoc committee should represent the affected program.
Tenured faculty in a program that is under consideration for abandonment or in an academic position that is under consideration for elimination will be notified and afforded an opportunity to contribute to the review process through providing information orally and/or in writing to the ad hoc committee and to have those contributions fairly considered.
The review by the ad hoc committee will include, but not be limited to, an examination of the course offerings, degree programs, supporting degree programs, teaching specialties and semester hour production. The ad hoc committee should have access to all pertinent information including, but not limited to:
- reasoning behind the proposed closure or reorganization;
- history of the program including what actions have been taken over the preceding five years that were supportive or non-supportive of the program;
- academic evaluations of the program by both internal and external evaluators;
- all financial data relevant to the program and related programs including estimated costs for upgrading and retaining the program at a quality consistent with standards of the university, and the impact such expenditures would have on other programs in the school; and
- data relevant to the need for a particular academic position given the current academic, research or clinical objectives of the various schools, centers and institutes.
The ad hoc committee should also allow and encourage other appropriate members of the university community to provide further information and opinions both orally or in writing. All faculty in a program or in an academic position under consideration for closure or elimination will be notified and given an opportunity to contribute to the review process and have their contributions considered.
Upon completion of the review process, the ad hoc committee will make recommendations to the President regarding whether any academic program(s) should be closed or occupied academic positions eliminated, and will include the supporting rationale for such recommendations.
If the President determines an academic program should be closed or an academic position eliminated for bona fide academic reasons, a request for approval with supporting documentation will be forwarded to The University of Texas System Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs. The affected faculty will be informed in writing of the final decision.
The date for closing or phasing out an academic program or position will take into consideration the time required for anticipated completion by students currently enrolled or for facilitation of their placement in acceptable alternative programs.
If an academic program is to be closed or academic position(s) are to be eliminated, tenured faculty in the program or academic position(s) will be notified and asked to inform the President or designee in writing of the faculty member's request for reassignment to other academic program(s) and to provide details of the faculty member's qualifications for appointment to such academic program(s).
The President or designee will offer the opportunity to meet individually with tenured faculty who respond to discuss possible employment alternatives to termination. If the decision is made not to retain, the President or designee will send a written response to the individual stating the reasons for non-retention. If retention of a tenured faculty member would result in displacement of a tenured faculty member in another area, the affected faculty member is entitled to have that determination submitted to a properly constituted ad hoc committee as described above for careful review.
A faculty member whose employment is terminated pursuant to this subsection will be informed of applicable benefits available on termination. Affected faculty members will also be offered assistance regarding available alternative employment opportunities.
B. Elimination Due to Financial Exigency
Upon determining the existence of a financial exigency and the need to reduce the number of academic positions or academic programs, or both, the President shall appoint a committee composed of faculty and administrative personnel to make recommendations to the President as to which academic positions and/or academic programs should be eliminated as a result of the financial exigency. At least one-half of the total committee membership shall be non-administrative faculty members and at least one-half of the faculty members on the committee shall be appointed from recommendations submitted to the President from the Interfaculty Council.
The committee will review and assess the academic programs of the university and identify those academic positions and academic programs that may be eliminated with minimum effect upon the degree programs that should be continued and upon other critical components of the university’s mission. The review will include, but not be limited to, as relevant: (a) an examination of the course offerings, degree programs, supporting degree programs, teaching specialties and semester credit hour production; (b) an evaluation of the quality, centrality, and funding of research activities; and/or (c) an assessment of the productivity, community service, and quality of clinical services (in relation to teaching, health care delivery, and scholarly activity). Unless an extension is granted by the President, the committee shall provide its recommendations in writing to the President within 60 days of appointment of the committee.
If the committee determines one or more academic positions in a degree program or teaching specialty should be eliminated, the committee will recommend in writing to the President the particular position or positions to be terminated. This recommendation should be based on an assessment of the academic, research and clinical qualifications and talents of holders of all academic positions in those degree programs or clinical or academic teaching specialties, the needs of the program and school they serve, past performance and the potential for future contributions to the development of the university. Tenure status of a faculty member shall not be a consideration in the determination of whether a particular position should be eliminated except as stated below.
If, in the opinion of the committee, two or more faculty members are equally qualified and capable of performing the same teaching, research and/or clinical responsibilities, the faculty member or members having tenure shall be given preference over non-tenured faculty. If such faculty have the same tenure status and equal qualifications, consideration will be given to other documented needs of the university. The committee should not apply an unduly narrow interpretation of the concept that two candidates should be “equally qualified” before preference is given to one with tenure over one without. Preference should be given to tenured faculty over non-tenured faculty if they have approximately the same qualifications and prospects. In cases where neither faculty member is tenured, length of service as a member of the faculty at the university may be used as the determining factor.
When the committee has completed its review, it will recommend in writing to the President those persons who may be terminated, ranked in order of priority with the reasons for their selection. The President, after consultation with institutional administrative officers as he or she may deem appropriate, will determine which academic positions are to be terminated because of the financial exigency and will give the holders of those positions written notice of the decision.
Any faculty member terminated due to financial exigency will be notified when a vacancy occurs in the university in his or her field of teaching, research or clinical care within the next two academic years following the termination. If such person makes timely application and is qualified for the position to be filled, he or she shall be offered employment in that position. If the vacancy is in a field of teaching, research or clinical care in which two or more persons were terminated because of financial exigency, all will be notified of the vacancy and of those so notified and making timely application, employment will be offered to the person who is the better qualified for the position to be filled.
C. Appeal Procedures
The President shall appoint a hearing committee comprised of faculty members to consider any appeals for reconsideration of termination decisions. Within 30 days from the date of notice of termination, a faculty member shall have the right to appeal to the hearing committee for reconsideration of the termination decision. The appeal for reconsideration shall be in writing and addressed to the President. A faculty member to be terminated who appeals to the hearing committee shall be given a reasonably adequate written statement of the basis for the initial decision to reduce academic positions or to terminate and, upon request of the faculty member, shall be given any written data or information relied upon in arriving at such decision. The hearing committee shall conduct the hearing in accordance with the following conditions and procedures:
- The hearing committee shall set the date, time and place for hearing the appeal for reconsideration. Such hearing shall be held within 30 days of the date of the written request unless the faculty member to be terminated waives such time requirement; however, such hearing shall be held no more than 90 days from the date of the request.
- The hearing will be closed to the public unless requested to be open by the appealing faculty member.
- The appealing faculty member may be represented by legal counsel at his or her own expense.
- The appealing faculty member and the university may offer any written evidence and/or oral testimony that is material to the issues.
- In the case of elimination due to bona fide academic reasons, the burden shall be upon the appealing faculty member to show by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the decision to terminate the appealing faculty member as compared to another individual in the same discipline or teaching specialty was arbitrary and unreasonable based upon the evidence presented.
- In the case of elimination due to financial exigency, the burden will be on the appealing faculty person to show by preponderance of the credible evidence that: (1) financial exigency was not the reason for the initial decision to reduce academic positions or (2) the decision to terminate the appealing faculty member as compared to another individual in the same discipline or teaching specialty was arbitrary and unreasonable based upon the evidence presented.
- No other issues shall be heard or considered by the hearing committee.
The hearing committee will make written findings of fact and recommendations to the President as soon as practical following the hearing. The President will have the final decision to either accept or reject the recommendation of the hearing committee.
D. Administrative Matters
Administrators responsible for the closure of an organizational entity due to bona fide academic reasons or financial exigency should refer to the Guidelines for the Closure of an Organizational Entity for specific guidelines to be followed in the closure process and for a checklist of steps to be taken.
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