University of Memphis (14K)

2012 Faculty Handbook

Chapter 2 - Academic Freedom and Faculty Roles


Faculty Roles

Faculty Roles

Academic Freedom

The following policy of the Tennessee Board of Regents on academic freedom and responsibility is applicable to all universities/colleges within the System. The statement in Article II on academic freedom and responsibility may be adopted by each university/college, or a university/college may adopt an alternative statement provided that the statement is consistent with the policies set forth herein.

University/college policies on academic freedom and responsibility must cite and specifically acknowledge compliance with the Board Policy on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (5:02:03:00). Likewise, university/college policies must embody and communicate clearly as a minimum all provisions, definitions, and stipulations of the board policy.

  • The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his or her subject, being careful not to introduce into the teaching unrelated subject matter.
  • The faculty member is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of his/her other academic duties. Research for financial gain must be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the university, which is documented reduced to writing and signed by the faculty member and the appropriate academic officer(s).
  • The faculty member is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an officer of an educational university/college. Academic freedom includes the freedom to speak or write without institutional discipline or restraint on matters of public concern as well as on matters related to professional duties and on matters involving the academic and administrative functioning of the university/college. When the faculty member speaks or writes as a citizen, he/she should be free from university/college censorship or discipline, but his/her special position in the community imposes special obligations. As a man or woman of learning and an educational officer, he/she should remember that the public may judge the profession and the university/college by the faculty member�s utterances. Hence, a faculty member should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that he/she does not speak for the university/college.

Academic freedom is essential to fulfill the ultimate objectives of an educational university/college � the free search for and exposition of truth � and applies to participation in s hared governance as well as teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth, and academic freedom in teaching is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the faculty member in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. Freedom in shared governance is fundamental to the development and maintenance of effective academic policies, national and regional accreditation, and shared responsibility for the redelivery of educational products and services to students.

Implicit in the principle of academic freedom are the corollary responsibilities of the faculty who enjoy that freedom. Incompetence, indolence, intellectual dishonesty, failure to carry out assigned duties, serious moral dereliction, arbitrary and capricious disregard of standards of professional conduct � these and other grounds as set forth in TBR Policy, �Policy on Academic Tenure at Tennessee Board of Regents� Universities, �Section P., may constitute adequate cause for dismissal or other disciplinary sanctions against faculty members subject to the provisions of Article III.

The right to academic freedom imposes upon the faculty an equal obligation to take appropriate professional action against faculty members who are derelict in discharging their professional responsibilities. The faculty member has an obligation to participate in tenure and promotion review of colleagues as specified in university policy. Thus, academic freedom and academic responsibility are interdependent, and academic tenure is adopted as a means to protect the former while promoting the latter. While academic tenure is essential for the protection of academic freedom, all faculty members, tenured or non-tenured, have an equal right to academic freedom and bear the same academic responsibilities implicit in that freedom.


Professional Ethics and Misconduct in Research

Unethical conduct in teaching, research, scholarship, or service constitutes a serious breach of academic integrity that undermines the University's scholarly and educational purpose. If substantiated, such misconduct may be cause for disciplinary action, including termination for adequate cause subject to the provisions of the University's policy and procedure on aca­demic tenure. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to, the fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other serious unethical or illegal deviations from accepted practices within a discipline. Further information regarding this issue may be found in the University's policy and procedure on professional ethics/misconduct in research.


American Association of University Professors

Founded in 1915, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is dedicated to facili­tating a more effective cooperation among teachers and research scholars in universities, colleges, and professional schools; to promoting the interests of higher education and research; and in general to increasing the usefulness and advancing the standards, ideals, and welfare of the profession. AAUP works to defend academic freedom and tenure, advocates collegial governance, and develops policies ensuring due process. More about AAUP is available on the web at

Department Chairs

Outstanding faculty are appointed to administer the University's academic departments in various disciplines and fields. Faculty holding appointments as chairs are considered to be academic leaders, and as such, often will be consulted by the provost and their deans regarding development and implementation of academic policy. Although chairs report to the deans of their colleges, the provost may consult them in many matters concerning academic governance.

A faculty member appointed to a chair's position will also hold a tenure-track appointment in one of the academic departments at the university. Tenure-track appointments are subject to the same rules and conditions applicable to all tenure-track appointments. Following the award of tenure, faculty members holding an appointment as a chair remain subject to the same rules and conditions applicable to all tenured appointments.

Faculty holding appointments as chairs may receive administrative salary supplements and other forms of fiscal and staff support for their research and/or other scholarly activity. When possible, faculty holding chairs are expected to continue to teach, maintain active research programs and provide service to the University and to the community. chairs will be evaluated annually by the dean of their college or school and by all tenured, tenure-track and untenured faculty members within their departments. Every five to seven years, the dean will conduct a review of each chair holder. Failure to continue to perform at a high level of administrative excellence could lead to removal from the chair, and the loss of the associated benefits accruing to the faculty member in his or her status as a chair holder.

The department chair occupies one of the most complex and demanding positions in the University, with widespread responsibilities to faculty members, students, and administrative officers. The position is filled by local administrative appointment following a search and selection process that involves the faculty in the recommendation of qualified candidates. University administrators who have responsibility for appointing department chairs should ensure that such appointments are judged acceptable by the majority of the faculty in a department, except under unusual circumstances. The chair's performance is evaluated regularly by faculty members in the department and by the dean at least annually; service in the position is at the discretion of the dean. Some of the chair's specific administrative responsibilities include:

  • Organizing the department in such a way that the total program will be served effectively
  • Developing a set of department policies, supplementary to and consistent with those of the college and University
  • Providing leadership in departmental planning
  • Assisting in developing a continuing education program
  • Developing and administering the department's budget
  • Supervising the department's secretarial and support staff
  • Preparing class schedules and teaching assignments
  • Supervising and managing the physical facilities under the department's jurisdiction
  • Promoting positive interpersonal relations
  • Serving as a link between the department and the university administration

The chair's faculty responsibilities include:

  • Recruiting capable faculty members (in concerted effort with the faculty and with the concurrence of administrative officers)
  • Encouraging and rewarding excellence in teaching, research and creative endeavors, and service
  • Assisting and encouraging faculty in securing outside funding for research
  • Evaluating faculty performance annually
  • Recommending faculty members for tenure, promotion, salary adjustments, continuing education assignments, and graduate faculty memberships
  • Serving as a link between faculty and University administration

The chair's student responsibilities include:

  • Establishing an effective advising system
  • Ensuring that students meet degree requirements
  • Administering a graduate assistantship program
  • Conferring with students about policies and practices of the department, the college, and the university
  • Assisting students in solving problems relating to academic matters
  • Assisting in student recruitment

Chairs of Excellence

Role of the Chair of Excellence

Outstanding faculty are appointed to fill the University's endowed Chairs of Excellence in various disciplines and fields. Faculty holding appointments as Chairs of Excellence are considered to be academic leaders, and as such, often will be consulted by the Provost and their Deans regarding development and implementation of academic policy. Although Chairs of Excellence report to the Chair of their home department regarding departmental matters, they often interact directly with the Deans and the Provost in many matters concerning academic governance.

A faculty member appointed to a Chair of Excellence will also hold a tenure-track appointment in the faculty member's home department or academic unit. The tenure-track appointment is subject to the same rules and conditions applicable to all tenure-track appointments. Following the award of tenure, faculty members holding an appointment as a Chair of Excellence remain subject to the same rules and conditions applicable to all tenured appointments.

Faculty holding appointments as Chairs of Excellence may receive salary supplements and various forms of fiscal and staff support for their research and/or other scholarly activity. Faculty holding Chairs of Excellence are expected to continue to perform at the same level of research and/or scholarly excellence that led to their appointment in a Chair of Excellence. Faculty members holding Chairs of Excellence will be evaluated annually by their department chair or the head of their academic unit. In addition to the annual review, the Provost will form a committee to conduct a more comprehensive review of the Chair's work every seven (7) years. The committee will include the Provost, Dean and Department Chair (or in cases where there is no departmental unit, the person who conducts the chair's annual evaluation).  Documents submitted for review should include the Chair's original contract, copies of annual performance evaluations, an updated curriculum vitae, and a brief status report.  This report should summarize the Chair's professional work over the previous seven years in light of expectations stipulated in the contract, any revisions which had been made in those plans over the intervening years, and the directions the Chair plans to take over the upcoming years in his/her professional work. 

Each member of the committee should review the documents submitted by the Chair individually and then meet as a group with the Chair to conduct the planning and review process.    Once the review is completed, the Provost will have responsibility for making the final assessment of the prior performance and future plans of the Chair based upon his/her consultation with the other committee members.    Failure to continue to perform at a high level of research and scholarly excellence could lead to removal from a Chair of Excellence, and the loss of the associated benefits accruing to the faculty member in his or her status as a Chair holder.


Faculty Administrators

Because of their experience in academics, faculty administrators have critical management positions at the University of Memphis.   Their administrative responsibilities, however, do not preclude them from participating in the teaching, scholarship/research, and outreach/service activities of their departments.   Rather, they are strongly encouraged to participate in departmental responsibilities as long as these responsibilities are compatible with their administrative duties. 


Faculty Ombudsperson

The University of Memphis Faculty Ombudsperson is an independent, confidential and impartial resource available to the faculty to facilitate cooperation and consensus through education and mediation.  The Ombudsperson is a designated neutral or impartial dispute resolution practitioner whose major function is to provide confidential and informal assistance to all faculty of the institution.  Serving as a designated neutral, the Ombudsperson is neither an advocate for any individual nor the organization, but rather, serves as an advocate for fairness who acts as a source of information and referral, aids in answering questions, and assists in the resolution of concerns and critical situations.  More specifically, the Ombudsperson engenders awareness and skill development in the areas of conflict resolution, communication, team building and civility.  In a neutral and impartial role, the Ombudsperson assists all tenured, tenure-track, clinical, research, one-year and part-time instructors and teaching assistants to resolve complaints with the goal of promoting alternatives to adversarial processes.   The Ombudsperson receives and seeks to resolve complaints, explains relevant policies and procedures, conducts or directs research and fact-finding, makes referrals to appropriate campus and community resources, makes recommendations for change, attempts to open avenues of communication among parties, and mediates between conflicting parties. As needed, the Ombudsperson makes recommendations to the Provost concerning policy and/or procedural changes that arise as a result of conflicts that have occurred. 

The Ombudsperson maintains collaborative relationships with other University offices (e.g., Academic Affairs, Human Resources, Affirmative Action, Student Affairs). However, when legal and/or disciplinary issues arise, the Ombudsperson refers the case to the appropriate unit of the University.  Moreover, the ombudsperson’s activities are restricted to the faculty and to teaching assistants; staff and student conflicts should be directed to the Department of Human Resources and the Office of Student Affairs respectively. 

The Ombudsperson reports to the Provost. 

Selection and Term:  The Provost sends an All Faculty email inviting faculty nominations for the position of Faculty Ombudsperson.  The Faculty Srnate will appoint a committee that will review the applications and identify acceptable candidates to the Provost.  The Provost shall not select a candidate deemed unacceptable to the Senate committee.  However, the Provost reserves the right to re-open the search if the Provost does not find an acceptable candidate from those forwarded by the committee.  This process assures that no candidate would be named who is not at least acceptable to both the Senate committee and the Provost.

The Faculty Ombudsperson serves a one year, renewable term.

The Faculty Ombudsperson will annually submit a summary report to the Provost, which will be shared with the Faculty Sneate.

Contact information for the Faculty Ombudsperson can be found at


Faculty Grievance Committee The Faculty Grievance Committee, consisting of nine (9) faculty members appointed by the Faculty Senate, provides an avenue of appeal for faculty who feel mistreated in their relationship(s) with other faculty members or with administrators of the University of Memphis.  In addition, the Grievance Committee provides a source of appeal for tenured faculty who feel they have been unfairly treated during annual evaluations.  The Faculty Grievance Committee provides advice to faculty members bringing a grievance, decides to accept or reject submitted grievances, investigates grievances, mediates when called upon, and makes recommendations to the president of the university.  In addition, the Grievance Committee provides a source of appeal for faculty regarding their evaluations only based on claims of violation of academic freedom or failure to follow the proper procedures in conducting the annual evaluation.  Matters regarding the substance of the evaluation are not subject to appeal.

Graduate Faculty Status

The University bestows the designation graduate faculty on individual faculty members following review of their credentials and recommendation by their colleagues. Applicants for graduate faculty status must show evidence of scholarly productivity. Once conferred, graduate faculty must submit evidence of continued scholarly productivity every five years in order to retain the status.

The graduate faculty support graduate programs by chairing and serving on graduate student committees, planning and designating graduate instructional programs, supervising graduate student research, participating in the design and review of policies governing graduate affairs, and discharging other duties critical to maintaining an effective graduate school.

The University of Memphis maintains four levels of graduate faculty: full, associate, adjunct, and affiliate. Only full graduate faculty members may chair doctoral committees. Only one adjunct or affiliate graduate faculty member may serve as a voting member on a master's or doctoral committee.

Graduate faculty membership is required to teach graduate only (7000, 8000 level) courses and seminars. A request from the appropriate department chair must be approved by the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs for an exception to this rule.

Information on the requirements for graduate faculty status and the application form are available through the Graduate School's website at

Faculty Senate

The Faculty Senate is composed of elected faculty members. Administrators participate as observers by invitation. The Senate's Constitution defines its purpose as follows:

  • serve as the primary vehicle of faculty participation in the establishment of University policies;
  • evaluate and make recommendations on policy in academic and closely related areas that touch on academic matters;
  • approve graduation and general education curriculum requirements;
  • evaluate and make recommendations on University-wide minimum criteria for faculty appointment, promotion, and tenure;
  • evaluate and make recommendations on policies associated with conditions of employment;
  • evaluate and make recommendations on policies for the academic use and operation of various academic support functions including the University Library and Computer Services, the University calendar and other functions that directly affect academic matters; 
  • make recommendations on issues related to academic matters that are not specifically academic in nature;
  • have responsibility for the maintenance of academic freedom and responsibility at the University;
  • be the forum for the formulation of faculty opinion;
  • review and approve the Faculty Handbook of The University of Memphis.

Faculty Senate Constitution, Special Rules of Order and Standing Rules

The Constitution of the Faculty Senate can be found at

The Special Rules of Order for the Faculty Senate can be found at

The Standing Rules for the Faculty Senate can be found at 

Last Updated: 9/27/12