Chapter 8 – Faculty Dismissals
Chapter 8 contents
8-B Reduction in Salary for Cause
8-C Adequate Grounds for Dismissal
8-D Dismissal Procedures
- 8-D (1) Preliminary Inquiry
- 8-D (2) Formal Proceedings
- 8-D (3) Suspension of a Faculty Member
- 8-D (4) Abandonment of Duty
- 8-D (5) Demotion of a Faculty Member
- 8-D (6) Terminal Notice
This section applies to the dismissal for cause of a tenured faculty member, and to the dismissal for cause of any other faculty member before the expiration of his or her contract. Dismissal for cause should not be confused with non-reappointment or termination, as discussed in Sections 3-E (1), 4-F (3), or 4-G.
8-B REDUCTION IN SALARY FOR CAUSE
Reductions in University core salary (see Section 3-D (2)) of a tenured continuing full-time active faculty member or untenured faculty member during the term of an existing annual appointment or a contract may be made under this Section, not to exceed 10% in any one year, by the Provost after consultation with a faculty committee, for adequate cause (i.e., a ground listed in the first sentence of Section 8-C, whether or not circumstances in the second sentence of Section 8-C apply). A faculty member may be relieved of duties by the Provost for a period proportional to the pay reduction. The faculty committee will be constituted by the dean and shall include one or more members of the Faculty Council and also a member drawn from either the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities or the Committee on Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals. In each case the reduction under this Section will be subject to annual review, and any reduction under this Section in a subsequent year requires continued or new adequate cause and additional consultation with a faculty committee, as provided in this paragraph.
8-C ADEQUATE GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL
Adequate cause for a dismissal shall be one or more of the following: neglect of duty, incompetence, violations of academic freedom, misconduct, dishonesty, unmanaged or unreported conflict of interest, or moral turpitude. No offense will be considered adequate cause for dismissal unless it is serious and either (a) relates directly and substantially to the fitness of the faculty member in his or her professional capacity, including as a teacher, researcher, or practitioner performing clinical services, or (b) is of such a nature that it would bring severe injury or discredit to the University. Dismissal shall not be used to restrain faculty members in their exercise of academic freedom or other rights of American citizens.
8-D DISMISSAL PROCEDURES
Every action to dismiss a faculty member must follow these carefully detailed procedures, with the full cognizance of the affected person, the Provost, and the President of the Faculty (or the ranking tenured Academic Senate officer, if the President is untenured or unavailable.) The full set of faculty rights enumerated in this Handbook must be observed; however, see Chapter 6, Providing a Safe and Professional Educational and Work Environment for provisions that modify this chapter. Nevertheless, following the Provost’s bringing of formal charges under Chapter 6, any subsequent consideration of dismissal for cause requires the formal proceedings described in Steps 4 and 5 of Section 8-D(2).
Procedures pertaining to allegations of scientific misconduct include inquiry and investigation stages according to the University Policy on Scientific Misconduct, https://policy.usc.edu/scientific-misconduct/, as jointly formulated in consultation with an appropriate faculty committee and in accord with the applicable Federal regulatory requirements. For scientific misconduct allegations, this policy supplants Steps 1-3 of Section 8-D (1); any subsequent consideration of dismissal for scientific misconduct requires the formal proceedings described in Steps 4 and 5 of Section 8-D (2).
When an inquiry is conducted under the direction of a Threat Assessment Panel into allegations raised under the University Policy on Violence in the Workplace, as jointly formulated in consultation with an appropriate faculty committee and in accord with the applicable legal requirements, the dean may elect to accept the Panel’s report in lieu of the Step 1 process under Section 8-D (1). Any subsequent consideration of dismissal requires the proceedings described in Steps 2-5. The Provost may elect to request the President of the Faculty to appoint three faculty members to the Panel, and designate its chair, from the members of the Threat Assessment Team, and the relevant dean may elect to provide a preliminary statement of charges and a statement of evidence to the faculty member according to the provisions of Step 1; if both of these are done, the Panel is regarded as an ad hoc committee for the purpose of Step 3, paragraph 2.
Dismissal actions for all other causes require the preliminary inquiry described in Steps 1-3 of Section 8-D (1) and the formal proceedings described in Steps 4 and 5 of Section 8-D (2).
8-D (1) Preliminary Inquiry
Step 1: (a) When reason arises to consider whether cause exists to dismiss a faculty member who has tenure or whose term of appointment or contract has not expired, the relevant dean or academic director shall invite the faculty member to meet with him or her in a personal conference to discuss the problem, its possible resolution, and the possibility of dismissal proceedings if it is not resolved. The dean’s consideration of recommending dismissal for cause shall be based on a thorough inquiry into the circumstances.
(b) Before making a recommendation to the Provost, the dean shall consult with an ad hoc faculty committee, whose existence will be immediately disclosed to the faculty member concerned, to invite its views whether sufficient grounds exist for the dean to forward the matter to the Provost. The ad hoc committee, which the dean shall constitute, shall include one or more members of the Faculty Council and also a member drawn from either the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities or the Committee on Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals and the dean shall ask the Provost to notify the President of the Faculty as to the appointment and composition of the ad hoc committee.
If the faculty member holds a research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, and clinical-track appointment, at least one member of the ad hoc committee shall be chosen from among the research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, and clinical-track faculty, at rank of Associate Professor or higher.
Alternatively, the dean may elect to ask that the Provost request the President of the Faculty to appoint a three-person ad hoc committee from a list of six members of the Committee on Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals nominated by the chair of that committee. If the faculty member holds a research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, and clinical-track appointment, at least one member of the ad hoc committee shall be chosen from among the research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, or clinical-track members of the Committee on Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals, and the chair of that committee shall nominate at least two such research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, and clinical-track faculty. The ad hoc committee’s recommendations are not binding on the dean.
(c) The chair of the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities is available for consultation, and the Faculty Mediation Officer is available for mediation, but mediation is not mandatory.
(d) During Step 1, the dean may elect to formulate in writing a preliminary statement of charges with reasonable particularity of the grounds pertinent to the dismissal action under consideration. If the dean does so, a copy of the preliminary statement shall be given to the faculty member for the faculty member’s written comments. The dean may also elect to provide evidence in writing to the faculty member and invite comment on that as well, and if the dean does so the faculty member shall be allowed 18 calendar days from the date on which the charges were sent to him or her to provide in writing his or her comments on the evidence to the dean. If the dean receives such comments on the preliminary statement, the evidence or both, and has not yet consulted with a faculty committee as provided above, the dean will share the comments with the committee as part of the consultation.
(e) If the dean believes there is probable cause for dismissal, the dean shall forward his or her recommendation to the Provost, together with any preliminary statement or evidence which has been shared with the faculty member, and comments submitted by the faculty member, and shall inform the Provost whether the views of the ad hoc committee were that sufficient grounds do or do not exist to forward the matter to the Provost. The Provost will inform the President of the Faculty of the dean’s recommendation.
Step 2: If the Provost then believes there may be cause for a dismissal, he or she shall formulate a preliminary statement of charges with reasonable particularity of the grounds pertinent to the dismissal action under consideration. A copy of the charges and grounds shall be given to the faculty member for the faculty member’s comment to the Provost, unless the Provost adopts the preliminary statement formulated by the dean as part of Step 1 on which the faculty member has already had the opportunity to comment, in which case the Provost will refer to any comments the faculty member submitted at Step 1.
Step 3: If the Provost is satisfied there is good cause to proceed further, he or she shall request a review of the evidence by a three-person select committee appointed by the President of the Faculty from a list of six members of the Committee on Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals nominated by the chair of that committee. The select committee shall review the evidence to determine whether, in its view, sufficient grounds exist to initiate formal dismissal proceedings. The faculty member shall be allowed 18 calendar days from the date on which the evidence is sent to him or her in which to review all the evidence upon which the committee will rely in making its recommendation and to present a response to the committee, unless the preliminary statement of charges and the evidence presented to the committee are in all respects identical to those the dean elected to provide to the faculty member in Step 1 and the faculty member was afforded an opportunity to review and comment on them during that step, in which case the committee will refer to any comments the faculty member submitted at Step 1. The committee shall convey its recommendations to the Provost within 45 days of its appointment. If, for any reason, it proves necessary for this time to be extended, the committee shall request an extension from the Provost, who shall notify the faculty member and others involved of any approved extension. The committee’s recommendations are not binding on the Provost.
However, if an ad hoc committee has already been appointed by the President of the Faculty in Step 1; if the preliminary statement of the charges and the evidence which would be presented to the committee are in all respects identical to those the dean elected to provide to the faculty member during Step 1; if the faculty member was afforded an opportunity to review and comment on the charges and evidence during that step; and if the dean shared with the ad hoc committee any comments he or she received from the faculty member on the preliminary statement, the evidence, or both; then the Provost may refer to the recommendations by the ad hoc committee and any comments by the faculty member, made in Step 1, instead of requesting an additional review as provided in the prior paragraph.
8-D (2) Formal Proceedings
Step 4: If the Provost determines that formal proceedings for dismissal should commence, such proceedings shall begin by conveyance of written notice from the Provost to the faculty member by personal delivery, by courier, or by email with a duplicate sent by U.S. mail. This notice shall contain the formal statement of charges framed with reasonable particularity, and state the University’s intent to initiate a dismissal hearing. The faculty member, in this letter, shall be given the option of resigning in lieu of a dismissal hearing. A copy of this letter will be sent to the chair of the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities.
Step 5: If the faculty member has not resigned and the chair of the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities and the Ombudsperson have not, through mediation, effected a mutual settlement, it shall be assumed that the faculty member contests the statement of charges. The Provost shall ask the chair of the Committee on Faculty Tenure and Privileges Appeals to convene a Hearing Board to recommend whether the proposed dismissal should occur. The hearing shall be convened no earlier than 30 calendar days after the date on which written notice was sent to the faculty member by means specified in Step 4. Normal procedures as set out in Chapter 7 shall then be followed; for scheduling and conduct of the hearing, including participation by the faculty member; for formulation of findings, reasons, and recommendations of the Hearing Board; and for final disposition of the case by the President. These normal procedures specified for use in faculty grievances are incorporated herein as required procedures in dismissal cases, except that there is no option for binding arbitration in cases involving dismissal for cause. In cases of dismissal or demotion from a tenured position or of dismissal prior to the end of a contract, the burden of persuading the Hearing Board that adequate cause for dismissal exists rests upon the University, and is as defined in Section 7-C (5).
8-D (2)(a) Constituting the Hearing Board
The Hearing Board consists of a chair and two members, selected from among the members of the committee who will be available to serve. The chair shall inform the parties of the composition of the Hearing Board as soon as its selection is completed.
In cases under this Chapter of dismissal of a tenured faculty member or a tenure-track faculty member prior to the end of a contract, the normal procedures as set out in Chapter 7 for constituting a grievance panel shall be used to select the chair and two members of the Hearing Board.
In cases under this Chapter of dismissal of a research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, and clinical-track faculty member prior to the end of a contract, the normal procedure as set out in Chapter 7 shall be used to select the chair of the Hearing Board, but the Hearing Board shall have one tenured and one research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, or clinical-track faculty member and the following procedures shall be used to select them. When the date for the meeting is scheduled, the chair shall, within five business days, generate a list of three names of tenured faculty and a list of three names of research-track, teaching-track, practitioner-track, and clinical-track faculty. The University and the faculty member may each strike one name from each list. If after the exercise of these peremptory challenges more names remain than needed for the Hearing Board, the members shall be chosen randomly. Those not chosen shall be designated as alternates, in a sequence designed randomly, to serve in the event that the initially chosen persons become unavailable.
8-D (3) Suspension of a Faculty Member
A faculty member may be suspended from his or her duties, without loss of pay and usual faculty privileges, only as part of the initiation of a dismissal action and only if, in the judgment of the Provost, immediate harm to the faculty member or others is threatened by his or her continuance.
8-D (3)(a) Limitation on Suspensions
In no event shall suspension be used as penalty, an alternative to dismissal, or outside normal dismissal procedures, except as provided for sexual harassment sanctions under Chapter 6.
8-D (3)(b) Temporary Separation
The Provost may temporarily separate a faculty member from his or her duties even before an ad hoc committee is appointed as specified in Step 1 or a sexual harassment investigation is initiated under Chapter 6, without loss of pay and usual faculty privileges, if it is the Provost’s judgment that immediate harm to the faculty member or others is threatened by his or her continuance and that extraordinary circumstances warrant the action. The Provost may also use the term “administrative leave” in announcing a temporary separation.
In the case of temporary separation from duties, within fourteen days either an ad hoc committee will be appointed, or a sexual harassment investigation will be initiated, or a voluntary agreement will be reached between the individual and the University. The faculty member retains the right to file a grievance seeking an end to the temporary separation. During the separation period, the faculty member may consult with members of the University community, except those persons or categories of persons with whom the Provost expressly prohibits or restricts contact. The University shall make reasonable efforts to protect the continuity of the academic work of students, faculty and staff who are adversely affected. The Provost shall consult with the President of the Faculty and the dean of the relevant school during the temporary separation and indicate the reasons underlying any prohibited or restricted contact between the faculty member and other members of the University community.
8-D (3)(c) Protections in Connection with Dismissal Proceedings
A faculty member may not be dismissed nor, except as specified in
Section 8-D (4), may his or her compensation be cut off or withheld before the dismissal procedure has been completed and a final decision has been made by the President.
8-D (4) Abandonment of Duty
If the Dean, on the advice of the faculty committee consulted in Step 1 of the dismissal procedures, determines that the faculty member has abandoned his or her duties, e.g., by failing to return from vacation or leave, or by a pattern of failure to teach scheduled classes, or by a pattern of failure to meet established clinical, research, or other responsibilities, then compensation may be withheld for the period the duties are not being performed. If the faculty member returns to his or her duties at any time in the process, compensation shall resume immediately.
The faculty member may appeal such a determination of abandonment of duty to the Provost. If this determination is reversed at any step in the procedures, compensation that has been withheld shall be paid in full, at once, with interest at the statutory rate.
If the conclusion of the dismissal procedures results in severing the ties between the faculty member and the University, and if the finding of abandonment of duty is not reversed, then the faculty member is not entitled to receive compensation that had been withheld.
8‑D (5) Demotion of a Faculty Member
Demotion is a reduction in rank, e.g., from professor to associate professor, with a corresponding reduction in salary. It does not involve loss of tenure.
8-D (6) Terminal Notice
If the appointment is to be terminated, the faculty member shall receive reasonable notice or salary in lieu of notice. The President in determining the length of terminal notice or salary in lieu of notice shall take into account the length and quality of service and the character of the grounds upon which the action was based.