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2.2 Responsibilities

2.2.1 The Importance of Scholarship

Faculty members at The University of Tennessee pursue scholarship throughout the course of their academic careers. Junior faculty members on tenure-track appointments are expected to focus their scholarly activities on establishing a reputation as experts in their disciplines by constructing new knowledge and understanding that is presented in respected venues in a manner recognized by their discipline and the university. Senior faculty members, having established a recognized expertise, build an even greater contribution to the scholarship of their disciplines; contribute to the scholarship about improved learning and teaching; and contribute to the scholarship of improved outreach to K-12 education, applied research focused on the needs of the community, and applied service to benefit the community. Successful faculty members maintain disciplinary expertise even when pursuing scholarship in learning, teaching, and outreach. The university also encourages and supports interdisciplinary activities by faculty members.

While the responsibilities of a faculty member are divided among research, teaching, and service, these arenas are not isolated, particularly at an institution such as UT, which is both a land-grant and research university for the state. For example, faculty members might involve undergraduate students in research or involve the greater community through outreach in basic and applied research. Each faculty member makes a distinct contribution to the university that is in accordance with her or his terms of appointment, departmental bylaws, discipline and rank. Specific responsibilities in each of the three areas described below are evaluated and modified as appropriate annually.

2.2.2 Teaching

Faculty members are responsible for teaching effectively by employing useful methods and approaches that facilitate student learning. Faculty members design courses to achieve clearly defined learning objectives with appropriate evaluation tools and teaching methods. Advising and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students concerning educational and professional opportunities, degree plans, and career goals are also important. Faculty members may educate students through distance learning. Faculty members may pursue the scholarship of education, so as to improve teaching of faculty members and other educators, such as primary and secondary teachers, or extension agents. Other faculty members through outreach instruct non-traditional audiences in off-campus settings to improve professional expertise and public understanding.

2.2.3 Research / Scholarship / Creative Activity

Faculty members make intellectual and creative contributions through the scholarship of discovery and application, both within and across disciplines. Faculty disseminate their scholarly work through venues respected in their disciplines and beyond academia, secure funding where appropriate for their scholarly endeavors through organizations and disciplinary opportunities, and mentor undergraduate and graduate students in the research experience. Some faculty members pursue the scholarship of discovery by creating new knowledge and skills. Some faculty members pursue the scholarship of application, which typically involves outreach to the community to co-develop successful practices to address problems to benefit individuals and organizations.

2.2.4 Service

Faculty members should participate in department, college, and university governance. Faculty members serve their disciplines by providing leadership in appropriate public, private, professional and governmental organizations. Faculty members benefit the community beyond the institution by lending their professional expertise to aid or lead organizations that create beneficial linkages between the university and the community.

2.2.5 Professional Conduct

Within the university, faculty members treat colleagues, staff, and students with respect and fairness. They listen to the views of others, work constructively as members of the diverse academic community, and safeguard the recognition of achievements of others, including those in subordinate positions. Faculty honesty in financial and personal matters is expected. Beyond the university, individual faculty members are representatives to the wider community, which they treat with respect and fairness.

2.2.6 Relationships with Students Definitions. 

This policy applies to all faculty as defined in chapters 3 and 4 of the Faculty Handbook, whether employed full-time or part-time, whether paid or unpaid. For the purpose of this policy, “relationship” includes any amorous or sexual conduct, whether occurring one time, occasionally, or regularly. Colleges, departments, offices, or other units may impose more restrictive policies governing relationships with students, which shall take precedence over this policy except to the extent such policies violate any Board of Trustees policy or conflict with law. Purpose. 

The purpose of this policy is to preserve the trust and respect that are essential to the faculty-student relationship and the instructional mission of the University of Tennessee. Trust and respect are diminished when a person in a position of authority abuses – or appears to abuse – his or her power. Faculty members are in positions of authority and exercise power over students in many ways, whether in giving praise or criticism, evaluating academic or clinical work, evaluating research, making recommendations for further studies or future employment, or in many other subtle expressions of authority over students. An amorous or sexual relationship with a student greatly increases the potential for a faculty member’s abuse of power because of the inherently unequal status of the persons involved in the relationship. Even in cases where such a relationship begins with the mutual consent of the participating persons, it can result in exploitation of the student or the creation of a hostile learning or work environment for the student. Other students and employees may also be adversely affected by the amorous or sexual relationship because the faculty member is positioned to favor or advance one student’s interest at the expense of others. In all such cases, the trust and respect essential to the university’s instructional mission are diminished. Prohibited Relationships. 

Amorous or sexual relationships between a faculty member and a student are prohibited when the faculty member has professional authority over, or responsibility for, the student. This professional authority or responsibility encompasses both instructional and non-instructional contexts as defined below:

  1. Relationships in the Instructional Context. A faculty member shall not have an amorous or sexual relationship (consensual or otherwise) with a student who is simultaneously enrolled in a course being taught by the faculty member or whose academic or work performance is subject to supervision or evaluation by the faculty member. The instructional context includes not only classroom teaching and direct instruction, but also academic advising, mentoring, or tutoring.
  2. Relationships outside the Instructional Context. Outside the instructional context, a faculty member shall not take any action or make any decision that may reward or penalize a student with whom he or she has, or has had, an amorous or sexual relationship. Faculty members must be especially cautious to avoid taking any action that rewards or penalizes the student, or influences others responsible for taking such action.

A faculty member violates this policy by engaging in an amorous or sexual relationship with a student over whom he or she has authority or professional responsibility, even when both parties have consented (or appear to have consented) to the relationship or conduct.

Relationships that do not fall under the prohibition in, above, even if they appear to be consensual, are strongly discouraged. Voluntary consent by a student to an amorous or sexual relationship with a faculty member is inherently suspect, given the fundamentally asymmetrical nature of the relationship. Furthermore, conduct that begins as consensual can become non-consensual at any time. Even when both parties initially consent to particular conduct, past consent does not preclude a finding of sexual harassment if the conduct was unwelcome (the standard for sexual harassment) or if later conduct was unwelcome. Moreover, conduct that is consensual for purposes of criminal statutes may be nonetheless unwelcome and therefore may constitute a violation of the University policy prohibiting Sexual Harassment (HR0280) or the UTK/UTIA Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy. Disciplinary Sanctions.

When a faculty member is found to have violated this policy, an appropriate sanction, up to and including termination, will be imposed pursuant to the disciplinary procedures applicable to faculty (Board policies, this Faculty Handbook, and HR policies). Disciplinary sanctions may be appealed through any applicable appeal procedures. Administrative Actions. 

Before – or in addition to – any disciplinary sanctions, University officials may take administrative actions (in consultation with the Chief Academic Officer) for any of the following or similar reasons:  to ensure the safety of any person; to protect the integrity of an academic course or other program; to end or prevent a hostile learning or work environment; to end or prevent retaliatory conduct; or for any other reason required to comply with state or federal law. Administrative actions may include (but are not limited to): temporary administrative leave pending investigation of an alleged violation of this policy; temporary reassignment of courses; temporary reassignment of research projects; or temporary removal from campus. Any such administrative action may be appealed through the applicable appeal process, but the administrative action will not be held in abeyance during the appeal. Reporting Violations of the Policy. 

Faculty members who have knowledge of a possible violation of this policy are encouraged to report that concern to the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) for review or investigation. Certain conduct described in this policy may also trigger a mandatory reporting obligation: (a) if the involved student is a minor; (b) if the conduct appears to violate the UTK/UTIA Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy; or (c) if reporting is otherwise required by law or University policy. In the case of uncertainty about the reporting obligation, OED officials may be consulted without providing personally identifiable information in order to clarify the reporting obligation, or to get more information about how OED might handle a possible violation of this policy. Retaliation Prohibited. 

Retaliation is prohibited against any person who reports possible violation of this policy or related policies. Retaliation is also prohibited against any person who participates in an OED investigation. Faculty members who have reason to suspect that the prohibition against retaliation has been violated or are the objects of retaliation themselves are directed to contact the OED.