Comprehensive Standard 3.7.4

 

The institution ensures adequate procedures for the safeguard and protection of academic freedom. (Academic Freedom)

 

COMPLIANCE

 

Narrative:

 

The Board of Trustees of Vernon College believes that it is essential that the faculty have freedom in teaching, research, and publication. Faculty members are free from the fear that others might threaten their professional careers due to differences of opinion regarding such scholarly matters. To this end, the College has adopted the following mission statement on academic freedom and responsibility:

 

Vernon College, like all other institutions of higher education, serves the common good, which depends upon an uninhibited search for truth and its open expression. The points enumerated below constitute its position on academic freedom:

 

1)    Faculty members at Vernon College are appointed to impart to their students and to their communities the truth as they see it in their respective disciplines. The teacherís right to teach preserves the studentís right to learn.

2)    The mastery of a subject makes a faculty member a qualified authority in that discipline and competent to choose how to present its information and conclusions to students. The following are among the freedoms and responsibilities which should reside primarily with the faculty, with the advice and consent of the Dean of Instructional Services: Planning and revising curricula, selecting textbooks and readings, selecting classroom films and other teaching materials, choosing instructional methodologies, assigning grades, and maintaining classroom discipline.

3)    Faculty members of Vernon College are citizens, and therefore, possess the rights of citizens to speak freely outside the classroom on matters of public concern and to participate in lawful political activities.

4)    Prior restraint or sanctions should not be imposed upon faculty members of Vernon College in the exercise of their rights as citizens or duties as teachers. Nor should faculty members fear reprisals for exercising their civic rights and academic freedom.

5)    Faculty members of Vernon College have a right to expect the Board of Trustees and the Collegeís administrators to uphold vigorously the principles of academic freedom and to protect the faculty from harassment, censorship, or interference from outside groups and individuals. Vernon College Policy Manual, Section EJA Local (Academic Freedom).

 

This mission statement and subsequent points are published in both the Vernon College Employee Handbook, and the Vernon College Instructor Handbook.

 

That the academic freedoms and responsibilities contained in point 2 above reside primarily with the faculty is evidenced by the Instructor Duties and Responsibilities document (found in the Vernon College Instructor Handbook) which is used as a generic job description for instructors by the Human Resources Office as well as the following forms which are initiated by faculty:

Textbook Adoption Form

Faculty Budget Worksheet Form

Laboratory Evaluation Form

Library Recommendation Form

 

Additionally, curricula revisions may be and often are initiated by faculty and approved by the Academic Council via the Academic Council Course Approval Form. See also the Academic Council Minutes (January 28, 2008) for one example of math faculty initiated curricula revision.

 

Vernon College does not provide faculty rank or tenure. However, the college may award multi-year continuing contracts, up to a period of three years, to those faculty members who qualify, based on the following conditions:

 

1)    The faculty member has received and satisfactorily completed at least three consecutive one-year contracts with the College and is recommended by the Division Chair and the Dean of Instructional Services.

2)    The faculty member must meet all credentialing requirements set forth by the Commission on Colleges/Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the discipline or program to which they are assigned.

3)    The faculty member is not currently on performance, behavioral or employment probation.

4)    The faculty member is serving in a discipline or program that is not currently on probation or experiencing enrollment problems as determined by the Dean of Instructional Services.

(see Vernon College Policy Manual and Vernon College Employee Handbook)

 

These three-year continuing contracts provide faculty with some degree of security and consequently, assist in the protection of academic freedom. Of the 75 full-time faculty reported on the Faculty Roster and Instructional Assignments-Full-time Faculty for fall 2007, 50 were employed prior to 2005 and consequently, by that qualifying standard, were eligible for three-year continuing contracts. Of these 50, 84% (42) are employed on a three-year contract.

 

The institution has in place a grievance procedure which may be used by faculty to resolve any issue, including those regarding academic freedom. This grievance procedure is clearly outlined and published in the Vernon College Employee Handbook.

 


Documentation

 

1.        Vernon College Board Policy Manual, Section EJA Local (Academic Freedom)

2.        Instructor Duties and Responsibilities, Vernon College Instructor Handbook 

3.        Textbook Adoption Form  

4.        Faculty Budget Worksheet Form

5.        Laboratory Evaluation Form

6.      Library Recommendation Form

7.        Academic Council Minutes (January 28, 2008)

8.        Vernon College Policy Manual, Section DDA Local (Contracts)

9.        Vernon College Employee Handbook, Contracts

10.     Vernon College Employee Handbook, Faculty Status

11.     Faculty Roster and Instructional Assignments- Full-time Faculty

12.     Vernon College Employee Handbook, Employee Grievance Procedure