Faculty Council recommends changes to dismissed-for-cause policy

Governance group gives input to Board of Regents via suggested change

The University of Colorado Faculty Council passed a motion recommending language changes in a policy concerning faculty dismissed for cause. The vote came after a lengthy discussion during the council's Thursday, 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, said Faculty Council Chair Mark Malone.

"The issue in question is getting a year's severance when somebody is dismissed for cause. The regents are likely to eliminate this clause and our opportunity here is to give input on the process," Malone said. There may be extenuating circumstances where the regents might consider severance rather than eliminating it altogether, he said.

The Faculty Council Educational Policies and University Standards Committee recommended replacing the current language with this change: "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 ... "

The Board of Regents is expected to take up the issue at an upcoming meeting.

Some council members were concerned that eliminating the present policy language was tantamount to giving up a right, and some thought a clarification of "moral turpitude" would be prudent.

Bruce Neumann, secretary of the Faculty Council, said a list of behaviors that constitute "moral turpitude" could more clearly define the policy.

"This is a fundamental faculty right and I think we're giving up something in the law that they've created for us and I think we should not give in quite so easily," he said, adding the policy helps prevent leaders from making capricious decisions and creates an incentive for negotiations to occur if someone has been found in violation of the policy. He also was concerned that council had not received enough feedback from campuses concerning the proposed language.

R L Widmann, chair of EPUS, said some faculty believe it "outrageous to pay a yearly salary to someone who has committed sins against academe ... so there is a certain amount of sympathy for getting rid of this language."

She added that over the past 132 years, there have only been five cases of faculty dismissed for cause. "We're not talking about a huge number of people, but we are taking about very volatile cases."

She said EPUS had painstakingly discussed new language and asked for feedback over the course of more than a year. One problem, she said, is the difficulty in defining moral turpitude in a legal context.

Council members asked Malone to share with the regents the council's many concerns over the current severance policy.

In other business:

  • E. Jill Pollock, senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer, asked council members for input on a possible change in scheduled days for open enrollment.

    Each year, the university waits for the legislative Long Bill, which sets the state budget, to be finalized before it releases health care rates for employees. Because the open enrollment period often begins before those rates are announced, employees find it hard to make an informed decision on insurance choices.

    Current open enrollment runs from the third week in April to the third week in May. The university is considering later open enrollment options, but some of those dates would coincide with finals and commencement.

    The options suggested by Pollock include May 9 through May 27, where rates would be announced the day the period begins. The downside is that the enrollment period would span fewer days. Another option would place the enrollment period from May 2 to May 27, which would begin about a week before rates are finalized.

  • Malone reported he will send out an official call for membership – along with duties and description – for the Faculty Communications Committee. "We don't have the Silver & Gold and we don't have the confidence in the current communications systems that we have, and we need to try to improve that, so that's the main goal of the committee."
  • John Wyckoff, representing CU Denver, related campus concern over the proposal to rename Metropolitan State College, including several suggestions that include use of the word "university." "It speaks – at least to many of us – of mission creep ... moving in towards increased offerings of graduate programs and other aspects that one would usually associate with a university."