The institution ensures adequate procedures for safeguarding and protecting academic freedom.


Compliance Judgment:  In compliance

Narrative

East Carolina University (hereafter, ECU or the institution) values and protects the academic freedom of its faculty through its policies and the procedures established by them.  Evidence of this University commitment to academic freedom includes

ECU policies require students to respect and uphold academic freedom for each other as well as other members of the ECU community.

Definition of Academic Freedom at ECU

As a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, ECU is subject to the policies within the University of North Carolina Code (UNC Code), which defines academic freedom in Chapter VI, Section 601, requiring the University “to support and encourage full freedom, within the law, of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication for all members of the academic staffs of the constituent institutions.”  The policy also states:

The University and its constituent institutions shall not penalize or discipline members of its faculties because of the exercise of academic freedom in the lawful pursuit of their respective areas of scholarly and professional interest and responsibility.

The ECU Faculty Manual, Part V addresses academic freedom and accepts the 1940 American Association of University Professors (AAUP) statement of principles and the 1969 AAUP statement concerning “Professors and Political Activity.” 

The ECU Student Conduct Process guarantees students the “right of inquiry” and states that the institution “embraces and strives to uphold the freedoms of expression and speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution.” 

The ECU Creed promotes “intellectual freedom” and “learning at the highest level.”  The Creed includes a promise to respect “diversity of people, ideas, and opinions.”

Institutional Policies and Procedures for Safeguarding and Protecting Academic Freedom

Chapter VI, Section 600 of the University of North Carolina Code is an affirmation of the commitment to uphold and protect academic freedom “for faculty and students.”  This section also maintains that faculty and students must respect the rights of “each member of the academic community.”

Faculty Manual, Part V provides the official policy of East Carolina University regarding academic freedom.  Any violations of a policy in the ECU Faculty Manual or the policies in the UNC Code would be grounds for a grievance against the University.  The ECU Faculty Manual contains appeals procedure for tenure-track faculty denied reappointment or tenure as well as for all faculty who suspension, imposition of serious sanction, discharge, or termination of the faculty member's employment.  Each of these procedures could be used if a violation of academic freedom led to the corresponding action by the University.

Grievance procedures are governed by Faculty Manual, Part XII. The grievance procedure is a seven step process that includes attempts to resolve the grievance through mediation, a hearing before a faculty grievance committee, and an appeal process that ends with the ECU Board of Trustees.

A faculty member who believes that he/she was denied reappointment or permanent tenure due to his/her exercise of academic freedom is entitled to appeal to the Hearing Committee using the process described in Faculty Manual Appendix DThe faculty member could allege that there was a material procedural irregularity in the tenure or reappointment process based on

(a) the exercise by the faculty member of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or by Article I of the North Carolina Constitution, or (b) the faculty member’s race, color, sex, religion, creed, national origin, age, disability, veteran’s status, or other forms of discrimination prohibited under policies adopted by campus Boards of Trustees, or (c) personal malice.

The Hearing Committee reports its finding to the chancellor, who could recommend further substantive review or uphold the original decision.  The faculty member may appeal a negative decision to the UNC Board of Governors.

The appeal process for discharge or the imposition of serious sanctions, including suspension, is governed by Faculty Manual Appendix D.  A faculty member may appeal the matter to the Due Process Committee, which reports to the chancellor, who may concur with the Committee or not.  The chancellor’s decision may be appealed to the ECU Board of Trustees and then to the UNC Board of Governors by alleging that there was a violation of the UNC Code.

The process for termination of a faculty member’s employment and the appeal of this decision is governed by Faculty Manual Appendix D.  The employment of faculty member may be terminated due to “demonstrable, bona fide institutional financial exigency” or “major curtailment or elimination of a teaching, research or public service program.”  A faculty member may request a reconsideration hearing before the Reconsideration Committee under the grounds that “the decision was arbitrary or capricious.”  The Committee’s decision can be appealed to the Chancellor and the ECU Board of Trustees.

Every five years, tenured faculty members at ECU are reviewed on all aspects of their professional performance during the review interval in a procedure described in Faculty Manual, Part IX, Section II.  This evaluation is discussed in detail in the report on ComprehensiveStandard3.7.2.  The unit tenure committee produces standards for “exemplary,” “satisfactory,” and “deficient” performance that are consistent with the unit code, Faculty Manual, Part IX, and the goals and unit and the university. The review is conducted by a committee elected by the unit tenure committee and is informed by the faculty member’s annual reports during the review period.  A faculty member receiving a review of deficient performance must negotiate with the review committee a formal development plan consistent with the faculty member’s academic freedom.  If the faculty member’s cumulative performance level remains deficient after a period specified in the development plan, the unit administrator may recommend that serious sanctions be imposed as governed by Faculty Manual Appendix D and Chapter VI, Section 603 of the UNC Code.

Students at East Carolina University can appeal violations of academic freedom associated with grades under the Grade Appeal Policy, provided within the Faculty Manual part6; the Grade Appeal policy is also listed within the Academic Regulations sections of both the ECU undergraduate catalog and the ECU graduate catalog.  This policy allows students to appeal a grade that was assigned in violation of university policies guaranteeing student academic freedom.

In order to maintain the highest standards of academic and scholarly integrity, ECU has enforcement policies on research misconduct (Faculty Manual, Part VII, Section III) and the creation and use of copyrighted materials (Faculty Manual part7).

Publication of Academic Freedom Policies

As a part of the ECU Faculty Manual, the academic freedom policy is available on the ECU web site.  A link to the Faculty Manual is provided on the ECU Faculty and Staff web page.  New faculty members and administrators at ECU are introduced to the Faculty Manual during their orientation sessions at the beginning of their employment at the University.  The Faculty Senate announces changes to the Faculty Manual during its meetings and in its minutes, which are available to the entire university community on the Faculty Senate Web site (Faculty Senate minutes Web page; Faculty Senate minutes for January 2012, see section III.B).  The UNC Code is accessible online on the University of North Carolina Web site, and the ECU Faculty Manual Web page includes a link to these pages.

The ECU student policies regarding academic freedom are also available on the ECU Web site.  The Dean of Students Policies and Procedures Web page includes a link to the Student Code of Conduct.  The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities Web page includes links to the Student Conduct Process and the ECU Creed.

Procedures for resolving issues involving academic freedom are in place.  The Faculty Grievance, Hearing, and Due Process Committees maintain strict confidentiality, as their proceedings are personnel matters.  The Faculty Grievance Committee produces an annual report (2010 report, 2011 report) to the Faculty Senate in the fall semester of each academic year.  Grievance Committee reports include information about the number of grievances filed, the length of time spent in the grievance process, the number of reports in favor of and against of the grievant, and the number of cases in the appeal process.  Details about each grievance, such as the identities of the personnel involved in the case or the nature of the case, are not included in the report.  The Hearing and Due Process Committees do not give annual reports to the Faculty Senate.

The current chair of the Faculty Grievance Committee reports that there has been at least one case before the Committee in which a faculty member has claimed that his/her academic freedom was violated.  The previous chair of the Faculty Grievance Committee reports that there were no cases during his term on the Committee where faculty members claimed academic freedom violations.  The current chairs of the Hearing and Due Process Committees report that there have no cases before their committees in which faculty members claimed academic freedom violations.  Due to the confidential nature of these cases, no further details about these matters are available. 

In summary, East Carolina University ensures adequate procedures for safeguarding and protecting academic freedom.


Documentation

Reference Title

Location

Chapter VI, Section 600 of the University of North Carolina Code

3.7.4 UNC Code, Section 600

Chapter VI, Section 601 of the University of North Carolina Code

3.7.4 UNC Code, Section 601

Chapter VI, Section 603 of the University of North Carolina Code

3.7.4 UNC Code Section 603

Dean of Students Policies and Procedures Web page

3.7.4 Dean Of  Students Policies

ECU Creed

3.7.4 ECU Creed

ECU Graduate Catalog

3.7.4 Academic Regulations Grad Catalog

ECU Faculty Staff and Web Page

3.7.4 ECU Faculty Staff Web Page

ECU Student Conduct Process

3.7.4 Student Conduct Process

ECU Undergraduate Catalog

3.7.4 Academic Regulations UG Catalog

Faculty Grievance Committee Annual Report 2010

3.7.4 Grievance Annual Report 2010

Faculty Grievance Committee Annual Report 2011

3.7.4 Grievance Annual Report 2011

Faculty Manual, Part V

Faculty Manual part5

Faculty Manual, Part VI, Section I.IX.F

Faculty Manual part6

Faculty Manual, Part VII, Section II.VI

Faculty Manual part7

Faculty Manual, Part VII, Section III

Faculty Manual part7

Faculty Manual, Part IX

Faculty Manual Appendix D

Faculty Manual, Part IX, Section I.V

Faculty Manual Appendix D

Faculty Manual, Part IX, Section I.VI

Faculty Manual Appendix D

Faculty Manual, Part IX, Section II

Faculty Manual Appendix D

Faculty Manual, Part XII

Faculty Manual part12

Faculty Senate Minutes for January 2012

3.7.4 Faculty Senate Minutes Jan 2012

Faculty Senate Minutes Web Page

3.7.4 Faculty Senate Minutes Web page

Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities Web page

3.7.4 OSSR Web Page

SACS Comprehensive Standard 3.7.2

ComprehensiveStandard3.7.2

UNC Code

3.7.4 UNC Code Web Site