In accordance with Board of Trustees Rule 301, the definition of tenure at The University of Alabama recognizes that tenure is an “affirmative commitment by the Board of Trustees to a faculty member, generally offered after a probationary period of employment, of a right to continuing employment except upon dismissal for cause, retirement, resignation, bona fide financial exigency of the institution or division in which tenure is held, or major curtailment or formal discontinuance of a program or department of instruction.”
Otherwise, tenure may be revoked only for adequate cause. “Adequate cause” for revoking tenure must be directly and substantially related to performance of academic duties and responsibilities or to fitness to perform academic duties and responsibilities.
A. Adequate Cause to Revoke Tenure or to Terminate Before the End of an Employment Term
Adequate cause to revoke tenure and to dismiss a tenured faculty member or to terminate a probationary or renewable contract faculty member before the end of the employment term specified by the Faculty Handbook or by the appointment letter between the University and the faculty member is established when the faculty member engages in behaviors such as the following (this list is not exhaustive):
- Consistent failure to maintain standards of sound scholarship and/or competent teaching;
- Willful failure to discharge fundamental obligations as a teacher, colleague, and member of the wider community of scholars;
- Gross neglect of established University obligations appropriate to the appointment;
- A pattern of continual failure to comply with the policies of the Board, the University, the college or the department, or to carry out specific assignments, when such policies or assignments are reasonable;
- A serious violation of or pattern of continual failure to comply with one or more of the faculty behavioral obligations set forth in The Code of Conduct/Standards of Behavior section of the Faculty Handbook, including willful disregard of accepted standards of professional conduct (AAUP Statement of Professional Ethics);
- A serious violation of or pattern of continual failure to comply with one or more policies, including but not limited to UA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, Harassment Policy, Consensual Romantic Relationships Policy, Child Protection Policy, Code of Ethical Conduct, Scientific Misconduct in Scholarly Activities, Policy on Conflict of Interest/Financial Disclosure in Research and other Sponsored Programs;
- Falsification of academic credentials or information on one’s employment application or other information concerning qualifications for a promotion or a position;
- Dishonesty (fraudulent research, plagiarism, theft or misuse of University property);
- Physical or mental incapacitation (when the faculty member no longer can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation);
- Improper use of narcotics or intoxicants that substantially impairs the faculty member’s fulfillment of departmental and/or university duties and responsibilities;
- Conviction of a serious criminal offense or of any serious crime involving immoral or unethical conduct;
- Misrepresentation of criminal history background information; and
- Conviction of a crime substantially related to the duties and responsibilities associated with teaching, research, or service, or that impedes professional capacities as a teacher, advisor, or researcher/scholar.
When a faculty member does not dispute either the facts or the adequacy of the cause, the faculty member may resign immediately or receive immediate termination. When dispute exists on the facts or on their adequacy, the procedures outlined in the Mediation and Grievance System will be followed (see Appendix B).
B. Financial Exigency and Termination of Tenured Faculty
The University accepts the obligation of showing that the needs based on financial reasons or major curtailment of a program or department are genuine. Pursuant to Board of Trustees Rule 301, The University of Alabama must submit decisions of financial exigency or program discontinuance to the Chancellor and the Board for approval.
Policies governing the merger and discontinuation of academic units are described in Appendix I. It is understood that merging and discontinuation of units could result in the termination of all regular faculty (appointment with tenure, probationary, or renewable contract before the end of a specified term).
In addition to adequate cause and merger/discontinuation of a unit, tenured faculty also can be terminated as the result of a bona fide financial exigency. This is defined as a significant decline in financial resources that is brought about by decline in institutional enrollment or by other actions or events that compel a reduction in the University’s current operating budget. Financial exigency also can include financial strain in an academic unit that makes it unable to fulfill, for the foreseeable future, its teaching and research missions unless it reduces its financial obligations to tenured faculty.
If the President believes that a bona fide financial exigency exists or is predictable, and if the resolution of the financial emergency could involve the termination of tenured faculty members, then the President shall inform the President of the Faculty Senate of the nature and extent of the financial emergency and shall request that the Provost develop a plan to accommodate academic and research portions of the financial emergency. The Provost must consider input from the deans, administrators, and tenured faculty in the affected units. The plan will be submitted to the Merger or Discontinuance of Academic Units Committee for review and recommendations. Based on this input, the President will submit a final recommendation to The Board of Trustees in accord with Board of Trustees Rule 301.
The appointment of a tenured faculty member shall not be terminated in favor of retaining a faculty member without tenure in the same academic unit unless this would result in an extreme distortion of that academic unit. Before terminating tenured faculty, efforts will be made to place affected tenured faculty members in suitable available positions within the University. If a reasonable period of retraining of an affected faculty member would qualify that member for another available position at the University, then reasonable and appropriate institutional resources shall be considered. No tenured faculty member shall be terminated within less than 12 months from the date of The Board of Trustees’ approval of the University’s decision of financial exigency. The University shall give reasonable assistance in the identification and facilitation of other employment opportunities.
C. Notice of Termination
1. Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty
A faculty member in a tenured position normally shall receive written notice of the termination date at least one calendar year in advance, unless the adequate cause includes acts of moral turpitude (as defined in Appendix B) or actions that could be reasonably construed as job abandonment or constructive tendering of a resignation such as failing to perform assigned duties for 30 calendar days without being on approved leave (See Section XII).
Employment of a probationary faculty member (tenure-track) may end pursuant to a decision by the Provost to non-retain. Notification dates of a decision to non-retain are set forth in Chapter 2, Section VIII of the Faculty Handbook.
2. Renewable Contract and Temporary Faculty
Employment of a full-time renewable contract faculty member generally ends at the specified time in the appointment letter. Notification of the decision to reappoint or not to reappoint a renewable contract faculty member should be made in writing to the candidate in a timely fashion, and no later than April 15 of the terminal year specified in the appointment letter; however, failure to meet this deadline will not result in automatic re-appointment. At no time will contract renewal be deemed de facto tenure.
If the President or Provost finds it necessary to seek immediate termination, or termination on short notice, of the employment of a full-time renewable contract faculty member, that faculty member would be entitled to request a review by the Tribunal (See Appendix B). A recommendation for termination by the Tribunal allows the President to terminate the faculty member’s employment at once.
Those faculty holding any temporary appointment or those holding part-time renewable contract appointments are not entitled to advance notice of termination and/or non-renewal.
D. Leave with Pay Pending Tribunal Review
If the faculty member’s continued performance of duties poses a significant risk of harm to persons or property as determined in the sole discretion of the Provost, the faculty member may be relieved of duties and suspended with pay during the pendency of any mediation and grievance process as described in Appendix B. If a faculty member is relieved of duty in accordance with these procedures and is subsequently reinstated, all mentions of the leave of absence with pay will be removed from personnel files. This section does not apply to a decision by a department chair or dean to not assign a faculty member a particular course or courses in a particular semester. Those routine decisions are not offenses that can be grieved and are left to the sole discretion of the department chair or dean.