ERIC Identifier: ED284517
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: Olswang, Steven G. - Lee, Barbara A.
Association for the Study of Higher Education.| ERIC
Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.
Faculty Freedoms and Institutional Accountability: Interactions
and Conflicts. ERIC Digest 85-4.
For nearly three-quarters of a century, academic freedom has protected
college faculty in the United States from external control over or inquiry into
their teaching methods, the content of their classroom lectures, and the
research topics they choose to investigate. Tenure, a legally enforceable set of
procedural protections created to secure faculty academic freedom, insulates
faculty against most of the traditional sources of external interference, such
as a benefactor's discomfort with faculty views, governmental scrutiny of
faculty political behavior, or attempts to suppress the teaching of certain
doctrines or philosophies.
The increasingly complex environment in which colleges and universities now
operate, however, has spawned a set of requirements for accountability with
which institutions, and through them faculty, must comply. Faculty are being
required to account for the allocation of their time among teaching, service,
and research projects to satisfy funding agencies' requirements that the
recipients of grants devote the appropriate amount of time to the project.
Limitations are being enacted on the amount of time faculty may spend (and,
in some cases, the amount of money that can be earned) in outside consulting.
Faculty relationships with students are becoming a legal and a moral issue on
campus. The rapidity with which these requirements have arrived on campus, and
their pervasiveness, suggest a clash with the traditional academic freedom and
autonomy enjoyed by college faculty.
HOW FREE ARE FACULTY?
Academic freedom and tenure provide important protections to faculty members;
they are of special importance to the maintenance of the intellectual vitality
and creativity of American colleges and universities. Tenure ensures the
economic security of the professor and guarantees that due process will be
afforded the faculty member should the position be threatened.
While academic freedom and tenure provide important protections, those
protections are not unlimited. Faculty with tenure can be removed for cause or
in times of financial distress. For example, academic freedom protects faculty
from retaliation for the expression of unpopular political or religious beliefs,
but it does not immunize faculty against charges of insubordination, neglect of
duty, or interference with the efficient operation of the institution.
Teaching and classroom discussion are protected by academic freedom, but
research fraud or other forms of dishonesty in designing, conducting, and
reporting research do not fall under the protections of academic freedom. And
while academic freedom permits a faculty member to exercise all the rights that
other citizens enjoy, it does not forgive the violation of civil or criminal
laws, the abuse of students, gross insubordination, and private misconduct,
often labeled "moral turpitude."
HOW DOES INSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY AFFECT THE REGULATION OF FACULTY
Institutions today face a myriad of new pressures and responsibilities.
Foremost among them is the need to account for monies received from private
donors, state legislatures, and foundations. To meet these heightened
responsibilities, institutions are developing new measures of faculty work and
implementing new regulations over faculty time and effort.
Several areas in particular have been the focus of institutional rule making.
Because faculty outside institutional rule making. Because faculty outside work
performed during the academic year is viewed by the external business community
as subsidized competition and by state legislators as a form of double dipping,
institutions have enacted limitations on permissible levels of outside
consulting. The most common practice is to limit remunerated consulting to no
more than one day per calender week. Consulting in excess of this limitation has
been held to be a valid basis for termination of appointment.
The regulation of faculty members' internal workloads is also increasing, and
failure by faculty to accept assignments or faculty members' disruption of the
internal management of an institution has resulted in dismissals for
insubordination. The prohibitions on use of inappropriate criteria for academic
decisions, such as those that fall into the category of sexual harassment,
further circumscribe the internal conduct of faculty.
Driven by the need for more revenue and a fair financial return for providing
a conducive and creative environment, colleges are increasingly exercising their
rights of legal ownership over the work product of faculty. Inventions that may
be patented and software that may be copyrighted no longer solely belong to the
creator or author but are the property rights of the university.
WHY REVIEW FACULTY PERFORMANCE?
The presures to regulate time, effort, and behavior also force institutions
to examine the substantive performance of faculty. Simply fulfilling the
objective time requirements of the job does not ensure quality of performance in
assigned duties. The most common criticism of tenure is that it provides a
sinecure for the incompetent faculty member.
Periodic review of faculty members' performance in teaching, research, and
service is one answer to the increasing demand that faculty competence be
examined. It is one way for institutions to document that the expenditure of
salary funds is proper and to guarantee to students that the education they
receive is of appropriate quality.
HOW DOES ACCOUNTABILITY AFFECT THE INSTITUTIONAL ENVIRONMENT?
Colleges and universities, in response primarily to external constituencies,
are being compelled to promulgate and enforce limitations in areas of
traditional faculty autonomy. Regulations governing outside consulting, conflict
of interest, ownership of patents and copyrights, sexual harrassment, and
periodic reviews of faculty competence all may be perceived to confine the
traditional freedoms of faculty.
Moreover, violations of these rules become valid cause for the discipline or
dismissal of faculty. The overall effect of increasing regulation makes higher
education a less desirable environment in which to work.
Instrinsic factors such as autonomy and freedom contribute most to faculty
satisfaction. Yet while these new limitations may be legal, necessary, and not
technically inconsistent with academic freedom as it has evolved, they do
seriously affect job satisfaction. The need to adopt such rules is unavoidable,
however, and the answer to lessening their negative impact must therefore lie in
the manner in which the rules are formulated and adopted.
Faculty should be actively involved in the creation or modification of
institutional policies or structures designed to address requirements for
accountability. Joint faculty/administrative groups should discuss and resolve
the following issues:
--Institutional priorities for academic programming
--The parameters of full-time faculty work and the institution's expectations
for faculty productivity
--The institution's method of overseeing faculty research contracts to
prevent conflicts of interest
--The regulation of faculty/student interaction and the prevention of
instances of sexual harassment
--The institution's procedures for responding to an allegation of fraud in
--The institution's stance regarding research products that have the
potential for returning a profit to the patent or copyright holder
--The design and implementation of a complete system of faculty performance
--The development of a mechanism that will stimulate continued attention to
and discussion of issues of professional ethics, academic accountability, and
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Austin, A. E., and Z. F. Gamson. ACADEMIC WORKPLACE: NEW DEMANDS, HEIGHTENED
TENSIONS. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Research Report No. 10. Washington, D.C.:
Association for the Study of Higher Education, 1983. ED 243 397.
Bennett, J. B., and S. S. Chater. "Evaluating the Performance of Tenured
Faculty Members." EDUCATIONAL RECORD 65 (1984):38-41.
Commission on Academic Tenure. FACULTY TENURE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
Lee, B. A., and S. G. Olswang. "The Parameters of the Faculty Employment
Relationship." In HIGHER EDUCATION: HANDBOOK OF THEORY AND RESEARCH, edited by
J. Smart. New York: Agathon Press, in press.
Olswang, S. G., and B. A. Lee. FACULTY FREEDOMS AND INSTITUTIONAL
ACCOUNTABILITY: INTERACTIONS AND CONFLICTS. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Research
Report No. 5. Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Higher Education,
1984. ED 252 170.
Shils, E. THE ACADEMIC ETHIC. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.