Chapter 1 – Introduction

The Faculty Handbook contains the central policies of the University, developed through shared governance.  As in prior editions, the amendments are recommended to me by the Academic Senate, and I am grateful to the Senate and its Handbook Committees for their work.

The Trojan Culture

This Handbook edition incorporates for the first time linkage to the University Code of Ethics.  Moreover, the Handbook’s statement of faculty academic and professional responsibilities, Section 3-B (2), now points to that code.  This is an important statement of the centrality of ethics in our Trojan culture, but it is not enough.  USC strives to be the best in everything we do.  I have asked the Academic Senate to lead a reexamination of our ethical code to meet the challenges of our time.

The Handbook also now provides a linkage to the Strategic Plan.  I recommended the Strategic Plan to the Board of Trustees and I am proud of what it affirms,

To be the great 21st century research university, we must lead through values…. Our mission…must be judged not just on impact but on integrity, and not just on endpoints but on ethics…. For USC to be a leading voice in the 21st century, we must be known not just for what we do, but how we do it.

We proudly call ourselves a Trojan Family and we must be a culture of care.  I want to be sure that we address concerns about colleagues as well as dealing with complaints against them.  Handbook amendments to 7-B (1)(c), 7-B (3), and 8-D (2) reflect that we are establishing Ombuds services on both campuses, to provide confidential services to help members of our community resolve and cope more effectively with tough situations.

In this Handbook edition, the title of Chapter 6 is changed to declare that we are committed to a professional environment as well as a safe one and, for the first time, a section on Professionalism, 6-AA is included in the Handbook.  I add my strong personal endorsement to the Senate reaffirmation, 6-AA  (2), of the policy that we do not tolerate harassment, abuse, or intimidation of others, whether or not it involves a protected class.  Section 6-AA (2) has also been broadened to encompass violations of any of our established university policies.

To achieve our goals for our university culture it is essential that we all be responsible community members who share in making our values effective.  Key amendments in this Handbook edition enhance the responsibility of the faculty for deciding on corrective actions and sanctions when a colleague fails to live up to the obligations of a USC faculty member.  In the past we relied on a dean or the Provost’s office to take the lead in selecting the sanction to consider for violation of University policies.  Traditionally there were alternative pathways with different forms of ad hoc faculty consultation, depending on which policy was violated and what discipline was involved.  To supersede that system, the Handbook establishes a faculty-led unified and simplified process.

A new Committee on Professional Responsibility is established, 7-C (1), as a subcommittee of the Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals Committee.  Its members will be appointed by the Provost after consultation with the President of the Faculty and the Tenure and Privileges chair.  Sanctioning Panels, 6-AA (3), will be drawn from the new committee and will if possible be chaired by past Presidents of the Faculty.  Tenured faculty on Sanctioning Panels will sit in matters involving tenured faculty; research, teaching, practitioner or clinical faculty will be included when the case involves one of their number.  As members of the Committee on Professional Responsibility see cases university-wide, over time they will develop experience on a range of situations.

6-A (7) refers to the various University-level fact-finding offices, and explains that the new Office of Conduct, Accountability, and Professionalism deals with violations of University policies that have not been investigated by another office.  None of the University-level fact-finding offices are able to impose discipline.  Their findings will go to a Sanctioning Panel, and it is those faculty panels who will determine the appropriate action.  It is not just sanctions, but also corrective actions, that the panels may decide on.

There can be an appeal to the Provost’s delegate challenging the findings, conclusions, sanctions and corrective action, and 6-F (1) has been revised to explain the updated appeal process.  There is also provision for a subsequent grievance on a claim that the decision of the Provost’s delegate violated established rights, and 6-G (1) on filing such a grievance has been revised.  One kind of sanction has additional layers of protections for faculty: 6-AA (3) provides that, after the Sanctioning Panel’s deliberations, it is up to the Provost to decide whether to file formal charges against a tenured faculty member seeking dismissal, and dismissal charges will continue to be considered by a faculty Hearing Board that makes a recommendation to me.

Except for formal dismissal hearings, the authority of the new Committee on Professional Responsibility overrides the old Handbook provisions on sanctions.  Those old provisions remain on the books for disciplinary matters which have not been investigated by a university-level office, as in 3-D (2)(b), 8-B, and 8-D (1) & (3).  However, the Provost has asked all deans to use our new process instead, so that transgressions of policy are considered through the faculty-led system established by the new amendments.  Of course this does not affect the usual processes for dealing with poor performance of duties.

Other amendments

The innovations I have just discussed are undoubtedly the most significant in this edition, but there are many other amendments.  Following my custom, I will now summarize some of them.

2-B (6) clarifies the meaning of some terms in the Handbook: “days” generally means calendar days; “renewal” of a contract means the same as reappointment; and a multi-year “appointment” is a multi-year contract.

3-D (2)(a) explains the types of non-core extra compensation which are part of institutional base salary.  3-E(1) clarifies that extensions of the probationary period do not have to go through committee if they are based on a medical leave or are entitlements under Chapter  9.  3-E (3)(b) & (c), 9-A and 9-H state our existing practice to comply fully with several legal requirements: the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law, the rights of disabled faculty to reasonable accommodations, the legal recognition of domestic partners and their children, and law providing that certain protected leaves do not run concurrently.

3-I (1), (2), (3), and (4) clarify the responsibility of faculty to report through the diSClose online system outside employment, external teaching, compensated external research, and personal relationships and other outside activities described in the University policies on conflict of interest and conflict of commitment.  Those policies are at

4-B (2)(c) recognizes the new rank, “Professor of <Discipline> (Teaching) with Distinction” (or some variant on that title) for our very best teaching colleagues.  Law school titles are also updated in 4-B (2)(d).  And 4-B (4)(e) reflects our growing use of appointments that are multi-year instead of one one-year, and declares that the periodic careful assessment of performance we have long required should be done before the renewal of each multi-year appointment.

4-B (3)(c) explains that ”academic staff” do not fall under faculty policies, but depending on their situation come under the policies for staff, students, post-doctorals, or some other category.

4-B (4), includes in the body of the Handbook some longstanding basic principles for faculty appointment: USC is committed to the tenure system.  Adjunct appointments are limited to those who have primary positions elsewhere.  USC is not the kind of institution that relies on instructors who simultaneously teach at multiple institutions.  Also declared here is our principle that all faculty, whether or not tenured, are eligible to participate in faculty governance, except for matters related to tenure.

Existing 4-H(1) provides for review by a university committee if deans do not agree with a decision on promotion for research, teaching, clinical, or practitioner faculty.  An amendment removes the requirement for appeal; the review process in such cases is automatic.

6-A (7) states the existing meaning when the Handbook mentions “sexual harassment” and designated “Vice Provost.”

6-B (8) declares that just as we do not allow retaliation for being a complainant or witness, we also do not tolerate intimidation trying to prevent anyone from bringing a complaint or being a witness.

The person who submits a complaint or report may be a third party, not the individual who was subjected to prohibited behavior, even though the language of our policies in many places do not make that distinction.  6-D(1)(d) recognizes that differentiation.

The Handbook previously had provisions that applied, not just to sexual harassment, but to any gender-based misconduct, because we believed that was what government regulations required.  The language has been amended in several places —  6-A(9)(b), 6-E(3), 6-F(1), 6-G(1), 6-G(2),  7-C (2)(a), 7-C (4)(e) — to say, “if required by government regulations,” so that we keep up to date according to our understanding of current government guidance.

6-H (1) on Interim Protective Measures has been substantially revised.

Existing policy strongly discourages faculty-student intimate relationships, and 6-I (a) clarifies that includes sexual advances.  The prohibition on sexual harassment in 6-B, and the rules on personal conflicts of interest in 3-G and 6-I (b), remain in full force.

Several amendments deal with the important grievance process.  7-A has long said grievances deal with violations of established rights.  New language makes clear the proper channels for those with ideas about improving practices or policies: while that is not what grievances are for, the complaints or suggestions can and should be submitted directly to the Academic Senate or the Provost’s office.  Since Title IX matters should be completed promptly, 7-C (2)(a) asks the Senate president to forward grievances on such matters without waiting for completion for possible mediation. 7-C (2)(a) clarifies that the grievant takes the lead on scheduling grievance hearings. The president’s review of the grievance occurs after receipt of the hearing record, 7-E.

8-C clarifies the possibility of dismissal proceedings for serious misdeeds directly relating to any faculty responsibilities, such as an administrative role.  Since the President of the Faculty may be untenured, 8-D clarifies that in actions to dismiss a tenured faculty member the ranking tenured Academic Senate officer will act.  8-D also makes clear that the provisions in Chapter 6 modify what is set out in Chapter 8.  Important communications now are often sent by email or courier, and 8-D (2) recognizes those prompt options for the formal notice of charges, and provides for 30 days notice.

The definition of “primary caregiver” in 9-AA (2) has been revised to recognize that each parent may be the sole caregiver for half-time during the work week.

Retired faculty have pointed out the importance of considering those approaching retirement for the honor of emeritus status.  10-A asks the Provost’s Office to annually remind schools to do The Appendix has our core documents: the Role and Mission Statement, Code of Ethics, and Strategic Plan, which are official policies adopted by the Board of Trustees.  Links are provided here rather than reproducing the full text, because of our general practice that documents appear only on a single web page.

A number of routine changes are made throughout. The former name of the Committee on Probationary Deadlines is replaced in several sections with its current name, Committee on Deadlines and Leaves.  At several places it is noted that the Provost makes various decisions on my behalf.  The ADA/504 Coordinator is designated as the proper person to coordinate leaves.  The names of some officials, or descriptions of some positions, have been updated.  The terms “reporting party” and  “responding party” are used in Chapter 6.

General comments

I now turn from a summary of various amendments to some general matters.  As I state in each edition, the Faculty Handbook contains many, though not all, of the current official policies of the University directly affecting the faculty, as established by the Board of Trustees or by the President under authority delegated by the Board of Trustees.  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. 

 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.

This edition of the Faculty Handbook continues the tradition of stating some basic principles.  A number of more detailed policies are available at the Policy website,  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, or may be established by resolution of the Board of Trustees.  Other documents are not official policy.  School-specific guidelines yield to university-wide policies if there is any conflict.  Some very useful web sites are those of the Academic Senate,, the Faculty Portal, , the Manual of the University Committee on Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure,,  and Information for Research, Teaching, Practitioner, and Clinical Faculty,

Shared governance

I reaffirm with appreciation what previous Faculty Handbooks have declared:  Faculty are partners in the work of the University, in the shared responsibilities of managing the academic enterprise, in joint efforts to build academic units of scholarly and educational excellence, and in their roles in teaching, research, artistic creation and professional practice.  Faculty bear the responsibilities of leadership in our university, and I am grateful that our finest scholars, educators and artists take their turn in carrying a wide range of roles.

The Academic Senate constitution, approved by a 2-1 vote in an all-university faculty referendum in 1993, describes our tripartite system of shared governance:  Each school has an elected faculty council.  The Academic Senate is made up of the presidents or other leaders of those councils and the Senate draws on the entire University faculty in electing its own officers.  University-level faculty committees deal with a wide range of specific subjects.  Many of those committees report to the Senate while the independence of decision-making committees is protected by a provision in the Senate’s constitution.  Underlying this University shared governance system is the traditional structure of faculty meetings and committees within the academic units, a structure that is vital for our academic excellence.

It is one of the great strengths of USC’s faculty and of the University as a whole that the Senate is an “Academic” Senate: the faculty chose that name to symbolize our shared mission.  The Senate’s first purpose, as declared in the constitution, is “to contribute to the intellectual vitality of the University.”  The Senate Constitution declares that our faculty governance bodies 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 our shared governance, and I again thank all those who have helped shape this edition.

C.L. Max Nikias