Faculty members are entitled to fair, impartial, and honest resolutions of problems that may arise in relation to employment. Accordingly, the following sections outline principles and procedures designed to promote fair resolutions within a reasonable time period. This chapter addresses formal appeals in the sections on general appeals and special appeals. In addition, informal grievances may be addressed through the ombudspersons. A faculty member must initiate a formal appeal under the general and special procedures outlined in this chapter within the time specified in this handbook, board or university policy, or, at a maximum, one year of the date of the employment decision in question.
The rights of appeal described in this chapter apply to all tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty. Faculty members are encouraged to bring complaints or grievances to the lowest administrative level at which an adverse recommendation, decision, or action was taken. Every effort should be made to expeditiously resolve such matters informally, through conversation with the department head, director, or dean, before submitting a formal appeal. In all cases, faculty members are entitled to notice regarding grounds on which administrative action has been taken.
5.1.1 General Appeals
Faculty members with grievances have three options for pursuing appeals, depending on the subject matter(s) of their appeal. Prior to initiating an appeal, they may contact the ombudsperson for consultation or informal mediation (Section 5.2). If those efforts fail, they may initiate an appeal through the administrative channel (section 5.3), request an appeal through the Faculty Senate Faculty Appeals Committee (section 5.4), or bring an appeal through the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (TUAPA) for certain matters (section 5.5). Each of these options is described in the following sections.
The appeals procedures through administrative channels and the Faculty Senate Appeals Committee are formal but not judicial processes. Faculty members have a right to consult an attorney, but attorneys are not to participate when following these appeal channels. Faculty members may have attorney representation and participation for hearings under the TUAPA; for conflicts arising between faculty and students, Hilltopics should be consulted.
5.1.2 Special Appeals
Special procedures are provided for cases involving (1) allegations of discrimination or harassment due to race, sex, religion, national origin, age, handicap, or veteran status, (2) termination or suspension of a tenure-track faculty member for adequate cause prior to the expiration of his or her term of appointment or without the minimum advance notice specified for non-reappointment of the tenure track faculty (see Chapter 3), or (3) allegations that the non-renewal of appointment of a tenure track faculty member constitutes a violation of academic freedom.
Faculty members’ complaints of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination (i.e. allegations of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion, age, handicap, or veteran status) are brought forward and investigated in accord with procedures described in the UTK Affirmative Action Plan. Copies of the plan are available in the department or college office and may be obtained from the director of the campus Office of Equity and Diversity (OED). Personnel Policies regarding Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action are posted through the University of Tennessee Office of Human Resources at: https://universitytennessee.policytech.com/dotNet/documents/?public=true&docid=114
A tenure-track faculty member may be suspended or dismissed before the end of the stipulated term of appointment or without the minimum advanced notice specified for termination of tenure-track faculty members only with the approval of the chancellor and only for adequate cause (see section 3.11.8). The tenure-track faculty member may appeal this decision through the Faculty Senate Appeals Committee or may elect a TUAPA hearing. The university has the burden of proof. The faculty member must notify the chancellor of his or her intent to appeal within 10 days of receipt of notice of the university’s decision to dismiss or suspend.
Allegations that non-renewal of a tenure-track faculty member constituted a violation of academic freedom may be appealed through these administrative channels:
- The chancellor must ask the Faculty Senate Appeals Committee to review the matter solely to determine whether the notice of non-renewal establishes a violation of academic freedom
- The faculty member has the burden of proof that non-renewal was a violation of academic freedom
- The faculty member may appear before the Faculty Senate Appeals Committee to present evidence and argument on his or her behalf
- The committee should ask the department head, dean, and other appropriate witnesses to present evidence
- The chancellor will decide who will present argument for the university
- The committee, after the hearing and considering the evidence presented, will make a recommendation to the chancellor, with a copy to the faculty member, within 21 days after the conclusion of its deliberations
- The chancellor will consider the committee’s recommendation and inform the faculty member of his or her decision within 30 days.
For procedures for terminating tenured faculty for adequate cause or tenure-track faculty before the end of the stipulated time of appointment, see Chapter 3 and the board’s policy.