Tenure & Promotion Appeals Committee
The responsibility of the tenure and promotion appeals committee is to entertain appeals of negative recommendations concerning tenure and promotion by the provost and to be advisory to the president in such matters. If, after the provost's tenure and promotion recommendations are announced, a faculty member wishes to appeal a negative recommendation, the request must be submitted to the chair of the university committee within thirty (30) days of the beginning of the spring academic term. The committee may review information related to the appeal to whatever extent it wishes and then make its recommendations to the president.
Each year, a pool of eighteen faculty members is formed to hear tenure and promotion appeals. Ten of the members will be appointed by the Faculty Senate and eight will be appointed by the president. The pool should reflect diversity in terms of race, gender, and college/school. Membership is for three years with staggered terms to ensure conformity and continuity in the committee function.
Nine members of the pool will be assigned to hear each case, with the work being divided as evenly as possible. To the extent practicable, the committees should maintain diversity in actual participation, especially if issues of diversity play a role in a particular case.
Faculty Appeals Advocate
At any stage of the appeals process, an appellant has the opportunity to enlist the aid and advice of a Faculty Appeals Advocate. There are three such Appeals Advocates who are appointed by the Faculty Senate for three-year terms. The Appeals Advocates are tenured faculty at the Professor rank who are well versed in the appeals process, not currently serving on either of the Appeals Committees, and able to serve as conflict-free advisors to an appellant during the appeals process. An Appeals Advocate can provide information about appeals procedures and the grounds for appeals, assist appellants in developing their appeals, and advise appellants during an appeals hearing.
Grounds for Appeal
If there is an appeal of the recommendation for tenure or promotion, additions relevant to the appeal may be made to the appellant's file. The Appeals Committee will consider only the issues relating to the following grounds for appeal:
- Unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, religion, national origin, veteran's status, disability, or other grounds protected by state or federal law;
- Violations of principles on academic freedom as outlined in the Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors.
- Substantive procedural errors (based upon the procedures outlined in the Faculty Handbook, college tenure and promotion guidelines, or departmental guidelines) in the manner in which the application was reviewed; or
- Mistake in the review of a dossier such that a reviewing body is unaware of a credential that satisfies a requirement for tenure or promotion.
- An arbitrary, capricious, or unsubstantiated recommendation.
If any of these grounds is found to have existed, the Appeals Committee will then consider whether the ground adversely affected the ultimate recommendation. In addition, the Appeals Committee may hear an appeal in any instance where there is a negative decision by the provost despite positive recommendations at all four levels of review (department committee, department chair, college committee, college dean). The Appeals Committees will not substitute their judgment for that exercised at the levels of review and will restrict their assessment to the areas stipulated in the section entitled "Grounds for Appeal."
In the notice of appeal to the committee chair, the person seeking the appeal (complainant) must identify the grounds for the appeal sought. The complainant should pursue only those grounds for which there is credible evidence supporting the appeal. It is the complainant's responsibility to present the evidence to support each ground that serves as the basis for the appeal. Such evidence could be documentary or could include testimony, but there must be proof, rather than just accusations, that the ground is satisfied.
If the Appeals Committee determines that a hearing on the appeal should be conducted, the following procedures shall apply:
The complainant (accompanied by an Appeals Advocate and/or other counsel if desired) and participants may be present throughout the duration of the hearing. Witnesses must wait outside the hearing room until called and must leave upon completion of their testimony. Although the hearings are informal, it has been found necessary to adopt a quasi-legal process to ensure that all participants have an opportunity to be heard.
- The provost will first address the committee to explain the process for reaching his decision and to present whatever documentation is deemed appropriate. It is recommended that the provost limit her/his remarks to ten minutes; however, the time limit will not be absolute since he/she does not participate in all of the proceedings of the hearing.
- The complainant will make her/his opening statement, usually a declaration of how he/she feels he/she was wronged, citing the particular ground(s) upon which the appeal is based and how he/she intends to prove the case. The opening statement should only be an overview of the appeal and shall be limited to ten (10) minutes.
- Each participant who desires to do so can make an opening statement, which again shall be only an overview of the participant's position. These opening statements shall also be limited to ten (10) minutes per participant.
- The complainant calls her-/himself as a witness and states details of her/his case, specifying each ground upon which he/she has a complaint and substantiating each one in turn with proof. If improper procedure related to the department criteria is to be used as a basis for appeal, the appellant is requested to provide a copy of her/his department's criteria to the committee. Note: The committee often finds it difficult to properly assess the quality of research work of the complainant. Therefore, if the complainant intends to use the improper evaluation of her/his research efforts as a basis for appeal, the committee requests that he/she bring members of her/his field of expertise as witnesses to vouch for the quality of the complainant's research efforts.
- Participants may question the complainant; then committee members may question the complainant.
- The complainant calls her/his witnesses in the order he/she deems best. The witnesses will be informed that the procedures are informal and that the witnesses may respond to questions as they see fit; e.g., they may refuse to answer, ask for clarification, answer portions of compound questions and omit portions, etc. Witness testimony should not be repetitive and should focus on providing information regarding the particular ground for appeal sought by the complainant.
- Complainant may question each witness, then participants may question each witness, then committee members may question each witness.
- Participants may call themselves as witnesses and present such data and opinion as they see fit.
- Complainant may question the participants, then committee members may question the participant.
- Participants may call and question such witnesses as they deem necessary in the order they wish.
- The complainant may question each witness after the participant is completed, then the committee members may question the witness.
- The Provost will return to answer any questions that the complainant, the participants, or the committee members may have.
- Summary statement by the complainant shall be limited to a summary of the proof presented, or highlighting of the specific support for each ground upon which a hearing was granted. Summary statements shall last no longer than ten (10) minutes.
- Summary statements by the participants shall last no longer than ten (10) minutes.
- Participants and complainant are dismissed. If the case is completed, the committee may move to immediate discussion or postpone discussion to another time.
- The committee will discuss and vote on the ground(s) for appeal that is presented by the complainant If, and only if, there is a positive vote on that identified ground, the committee will discuss and vote on whether the identified ground may have interfered with an appropriate vote on the candidate's record.
- After discussion and a vote, the committee chairperson will phone the complainant as soon as practical and inform her/him of the decision. A memorandum will be sent to the president, provost, complainant, and participants informing them of the decision and findings of the committee.
By simple majority vote, the Appeals Committee will advise (with supporting rationale) the President in one of three ways: (1) that one or more of the grounds were found to be valid by the weight of the evidence, and the committee believes that this adversely affected the ultimate recommendation; 2) that one or more of the grounds were found to have occurred by the weight of the evidence, but the committee believes that this did not adversely affect the ultimate recommendation; or 3) that no grounds were found to exist. If the decision of the Appeals Committee is not unanimous, the committee may also submit to the president a minority report with the rationale for dissenting opinions.
Peer committees have qualified privilege of academic confidentiality against disclosure of individual tenure votes unless there is evidence that casts doubt upon the integrity of the committees.
The information presented on this page should be considered a guide and does not supersede or replace policies and procedures outlined in the University of Memphis Faculty Handbook