Faculty Council has second thoughts about severance pay language

After campus objections, systemwide group will take new motion to Regents

A month after the systemwide Faculty Council provided suggested changes to language in a Board of Regents policy regarding severance pay for dismissed faculty, objections from campus faculty assemblies prompted the Faculty Council to pass a motion asking the regents to delay a decision "until further review."

The Board of Regents is expected to address the issue at its April 7-8 meeting on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Council members had expected the board to take action at the Feb. 22 meeting, which is why the council had voted on the language at its Feb. 17 meeting.

Current Board of Regents policy states "teachers on continuous appointment who are dismissed for reasons not involving moral turpitude should receive their salaries for at least a year from the date of notification of dismissal whether or not they are continued in their duties at the institution ..."

The regents have considered eliminating that portion of the policy.

The Faculty Council Educational Policies and University Standards (EPUS) Committee recommended changing the current language to: "The faculty panel on Privilege and Tenure may recommend, in consideration of mitigating circumstances, that the CU Regents vote affirmatively to give one year of severance pay to the faculty member dismissed for cause ... "

But campus faculty assemblies decided such language ceded too much ground, prompting an executive committee motion introduced at the Thursday, March 17, meeting of the Faculty Council at 1800 Grant St.:

"Following input from the faculty assemblies, the Faculty Council presently requests that the Board of Regents delay any action on the Regental Policy on Severance Pay/Dismissal for Cause until further review has been performed by the Board of Regents and Faculty Council."

John Wyckoff, chair of the Downtown Denver Faculty Assembly, said his group perceived the council's language as "giving up faculty rights to a degree the assembly didn't think was a good idea. ... (So) we decided to stir the pot a little bit."

The Boulder Faculty Assembly "was concerned that the language changes from (including) something the regents must do to an option," said Chair Joe Rosse. Budget Committee Chair Bruce Neumann said the previously suggested language represented "a crack in the tenure wall," and that taking away a requirement for severance pay in cases of dismissal with grounds represents "embarking on a slippery slope."

Some council members said they felt rushed – in retrospect, unnecessarily – in giving the OK to the language at the February meeting, thus not taking enough time to gather input from campus faculty assemblies. Chair Mark Malone and EPUS Committee Chair R L Widmann noted that the council has been at work on the language for two years, and that a decision by the regents is coming soon regardless.

"The reality in this state is that people are upset about paying a year's salary to someone who has done something to violate academic standards," Widmann said. "We need to think about this and whether we want to look like what I think people would see as backtracking."

Widmann's was one of three no votes for the motion to delay action, with 12 voting yes and three abstaining.

In other business at the Faculty Council's meeting:

  • The council unanimously passed a motion recommending that CU administration expand the tuition waiver benefit to include eligible dependents of faculty and staff. E. Jill Pollock, senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer, said administrators have been studying the cost and logistics of implementing such an expansion.
  • President Bruce D. Benson spoke to the council about current issues across the university, including state funding and proposed legislation affecting CU. He said polls don't indicate public support is high enough to pass a potential ballot issue in the fall that would raise taxes in order to boost revenue that could benefit higher education. "We're trying to do everything, but our hands are tied," he said. "People are astounded at what a great job the university does with so little resources."
  • Pollock said she is seeking the names of any faculty members whose research has included assessing the effectiveness of health-promotion initiatives.