Chapter 1 – Introduction

This 2015 edition of the Faculty Handbook reaffirms basic principles while making many improvements, some of which are summarized and explained here. The first group of amendments reflect the Academic Senate’s continuing attention to the interests and academic contributions of non-tenure-track faculty. These amendments, developed during fall 2014 and spring 2015, draw on the hard work of the Senate Committee on Non-tenure-track Faculty Affairs, recommendations of school Faculty Councils, and careful development by the Senate Handbook Committee.

USC continues our strong commitment to maintain the tenure system, and tries to make appointments to tenure or the tenure-track when feasible.  But we know there are situations where non-tenure track faculty have unique expertise and provide a distinctive student experience.  For example, some full-time non-tenure-track faculty are appointed when a practical orientation or a specialized set of skills needs to be taught.  In addition, our clinical faculty are an important part of our world class patient care, and our research faculty bring a highly regarded focus on full-time funded research.  USC values the work of our non-tenure-track faculty and will, where appropriate, offer full-time work to those part-timers who seek it.  However, there are times when part-time faculty are preferred, for example when a specific set of skills or knowledge is needed for one or two courses a year, and in such cases we recruit highly regarded experts to teach on a part-time basis.

Based on faculty council input, a new option has been approved for non-tenure-track annual contracts, full-time or part-time, which provides that the contract will roll over on the same terms unless there is a decision not to reappoint, with 90 days’ notice or pay in lieu of that, 4-D (2).  The process for that decision is clarified in 4-G (2)(¶2):  decisions on appointment, reappointment, and promotion of faculty on full-time appointments shall only be done after review and recommendation by an appropriate faculty body. Committees (or committees of the whole) for non-tenure-track cases include non-tenure-track as well as tenured and tenure- track faculty.  In addition, the adequacy of the process in each instance of non-reappointment will be reviewed by the Provost’s delegate, 4-H (2).

For non-tenure-track promotions, the University Committee on Non-Tenure-Track Promotions advises the President when deans have not agreed with the advice of faculty committees, 4-H (1).  The review will be automatic whenever there is such disagreement.

There is a new mandate to each school to develop guidelines for the periodic careful review of both full-time and part-time non-tenure-track faculty, to be conducted at three-to-five year intervals. These reviews will consider whether the promotion process should be initiated, for both full-time and part-time faculty, and will also consider whether reappointment is appropriate.  The guidelines for these reviews are subject to Provost approval, and the reviews are to be conducted by appropriate faculty committees, 4-B (4).  The Provost has also approved the principles of an earlier Senate proposal that teaching be evaluated through methods more meaningful than student surveys.  In many of our schools, successful promotion generally is accompanied by a longer-term contract.

If there is a school that has an up-or-out deadline for non-tenure-track promotions, the same principles will now apply to “stopping the clock” as apply to tenure-track faculty.  The Committee on Deadlines and Leaves, including non-tenure-track members, will consider any appeals on such issues, 4-D (1.5)(b).

The same committee considers appeals as to the grant or denial of a research leave or sabbatical to a non-tenure-track faculty member, 4-D (1.5)(c).

If there is a proposed dismissal for cause under Chapter 8, the Hearing Board must include a non-tenure-track faculty member, and 8-D (2)(a) gives details on the process.

There no longer is a one-year delay in eligibility of non-tenure-track faculty under the chapter on Academic and Family Life Balance, 9-AA (3).

Sick leave is provided to faculty, including part-timers, in accordance with a new state law, 3-E (3)(d).

One of USC’s defining advantages is that we are not bureaucratic or inflexible, and are able to be nimble in seeking academic excellence and our other core values.  Reflecting this perspective, the Handbook now declares, “the rules in the Faculty Handbook are intended to be applied reasonably in light of their purposes,” 2-B (5).  While all faculty benefit from this approach, part-time faculty will particularly appreciate its applicability to the policy under which the Provost’s delegate gives permission to teach at another institution.

A second set of Faculty Handbook amendments extensively revise chapter 6, Providing A Safe Educational and Work Environment, reflecting our commitment to maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment.  Here too, basic principles are reaffirmed, but there are many improvements.  A few of the many changes are summarized here.

When sexual assault is charged, implementing a new law we will now apply an affirmative consent standard, meaning affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity, whether expressed in words or action, 6‑B (5)(a)(1).  Child abuse, stalking, and domestic violence (including dating violence and intimate partner violence) are serious matters and, as required by law, are prohibited, 6-B (6), (7) & (7.5).  New provisions set out interim protective and remedial measures, 6-H (1) & (2).  Chapter 6 applies when a faculty member is accused; other university policies apply when the accused is a student, staff member, or someone who interacts with our community, 6-A (10).

Our policies are careful to provide a fair process. New provisions separate the roles of finding the facts, reaching conclusions, deciding on appeals, advising on discipline, and deciding on that discipline, 6-A (9)(a).  In addition, a grievance hearing before a faculty committee remains available.  Charges of harassment arising in an academic context are always considered in keeping with our commitment to academic freedom, 6-B (2), (3) & (4). We apply an objective standard in addition to the complainant’s own perception, 6-B (2) & (3).  The university shares information only with those with a need to know, 6-D (2)(a).

Our standard practice carries out the policies in ways designed to ensure fairness.  We apply the policy that accused faculty are provided sufficient information so they can meaningfully respond so that it include both details on the charges, and information developed during the investigation.  When allegations are brought alleging behavior that does not violate our policies, we do not subject the person accused to a full investigation.

Faculty who receive a complaint of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, even an informal one, are required to report it immediately to the Office of Equity and Diversity.  Similarly, faculty who become aware of sex-based harassment, whether or not there is a complaint, must report it.  Faculty and academic units must not try to investigate or resolve any claim of discrimination, harassment, or related retaliation; the Office of Equity and Diversity will decide whether an investigation or other steps are appropriate, 6-D (1)(b).

A third category of amendments deal with a variety of other subjects.  I’ve mentioned above the general principle that “the rules in the Faculty Handbook are intended to be applied reasonably in light of their purposes,” 2-B (5).  Citations to SCampus are updated, 3-C.  The discussion of changes in compensation, 3-D (2), is clarified to show that supplemental pay is possible during the summer just as during the academic year. As mentioned, sick leave is now provided to faculty in accordance with a new state law, 3-E (3)(d).  In the event of emergency circumstances severely disputing the University’s regular operation, the Provost may stop the tenure clock university-wide, 4-D (1.5)(a).  As I’ve mentioned, the Committee on Deadlines and Leaves considers appeals as to the grant or denial of a research leave or sabbatical, 4-D (1.5)(c). The longstanding principle that tenure dossiers are confidential is now stated in 4‑F (1).  The research policy, 5-B (2) and 5-B (3), is amended because of the laws on restricted or export-controlled data, and states that situations coming under 5-B (2) (a) or (d) are exceptions to 5-B (1).  I have changed the Senate’s numbering of what is now 6-B (7.5) for consistency. Amendments to 7-C (2)(a) and (c) explain how the Committee on Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals deals with issues of scheduling, delays and abandonment.  Amendments to 9‑C (2) and 9-G (3) clarify details on applying the policies on childcare responsibilities and paid parental leave.

Our Board of Trustees has specifically affirmed its endorsement and support of a collegial process of consultation and review in the development of amendments to the Faculty Handbook. In language that has also long been set out in Section 2 of the Handbook, the Trustees’ policy in this regard states:

The Board of Trustees endorses and supports a collegial process of consultation and review in the development of amendments to the Faculty Handbook. This process must include, at a minimum, the Academic Senate and Provost’s Council, and may also include representatives of other university constituencies which might be affected by such amendments. To be sure, any amendments that are endorsed by the Academic Senate and approved by the President will be incorporated into the Faculty Handbook. However, the University Bylaws make it clear that the Academic Senate is strictly advisory with respect to the President. Thus, in the context of a collegial process of consultation and review, the policy of the Board of Trustees has been and continues to be that the President bears the final authority and responsibility for amending the Faculty Handbook. 

This edition of the Faculty Handbook continues the tradition of stating central policies of the University.

As might occur in the governance of any complex organization, conflicts may arise from time to time in the interpretation of sections of this Handbook vis–à–vis the University Bylaws or the policies of the Board of Trustees. As in previous editions, the Handbook continues to make clear that the language of the Bylaws and the Trustees’ policies will prevail.

In order to be official policy, a document must bear the signature of the president or the senior vice president for academic affairs, administration or finance. Official policies may also be established by resolution of the Board of Trustees.  School-specific guidelines yield to university-wide policies if there is any conflict.

Four very useful websites are the Faculty Portal, which has many resources; Information for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty; the USC Policy website, official home of university policies; and the Academic Senate website.

I reaffirm with appreciation what has been stated previously in our Faculty Handbook:  Faculty are partners in the work of the University, in the collective responsibilities of managing the academic enterprise as well as in performing teaching, research, artistic creation and professional practice.  Faculty bear the responsibilities of leadership in our tripartite system of shared governance through school faculty councils, faculty committees, and the Academic Senate.

The primary purpose of our faculty governance bodies is well stated in the Academic Senate Constitution adopted by overwhelming vote of the faculty in 1993:  “to contribute to the intellectual vitality of the University, to faculty governance, and to the faculty environment. They are forums for faculty decision-making, and are the voice of the faculty in the making of university policy and the consideration of academic issues.”  Our evolving Faculty Handbook is a vital aspect of shared governance, and I thank all those who have helped.

C. L. Max Nikias