Faculty Professional Responsibilities, Policy on

Title: Faculty Professional Responsibilities, Policy on
Policy Owner: Office of the Provost
Applies to: Faculty
Campus Applicability: All Campuses, including UConn Health
Effective Date: March 29, 2011
For More Information, Contact Office of the Provost
Contact Information: (860) 486-4037
Official Website: http://provost.uconn.edu/


Introduction: The Mission Statement of the University of Connecticut provides that it is the public flagship of higher education and the sole doctoral degree granting public institution in the state of Connecticut.  The University serves as a center for research, dedicated to excellence in higher education, and fulfillment of its land grant status.  The University is committed to meeting the educational needs of its undergraduate, graduate, professional and continuing education students, and gives its faculty the means to employ and develop their intellectual capacity through teaching, research and interaction with society.  Through the integration of teaching, research, and service, the faculty provide an outstanding educational experience for each student.  The University serves the state and its citizens in a manner that enhances the social, cultural, and economic well being of its communities.  It gives leadership in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge to all its constituents, recognizing that the continual creation and transmission of knowledge and lifelong learning are essential to Connecticut’s future in a global context.

A research university: In furtherance of the University’s Mission Statement and its By-Laws, faculty members are expected to produce specific evidence of strong performance in both scholarship (in the form of research, other intellectual contributions and artistic activities) and teaching.  In addition, service and outreach activities are valued and expected of all faculty members.  The faculty consists of accomplished scholars who bring their skills and ways of thinking to their interactions with undergraduate and graduate students and the community at large.  The education of students in a research university goes beyond the formal acquisition of knowledge and the critical assessment of that knowledge to include skills and training in the methods of generating knowledge.  In a public research university, the State invests in making education in these advanced skills available to any of its citizens who have the requisite abilities and motivation to take advantage of it.  The purpose is to foster and build upon proven insightful methods for creating new knowledge so that future generations will have the ability and means to meet any challenges that confront them.  To accomplish this task, faculty have the multidimensional responsibility of conducting research, of teaching, advising, and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, and of undertaking service and outreach activities.

As scholars, the faculty is charged to conduct research, to enhance understanding and, in a public research university, help to improve the lives of citizens.  The ability of researchers to accomplish these tasks is what must be passed on to each new generation of students.  Teaching of students by accomplished faculty who are doing “cutting-edge” research underlies the excitement and potential of a research university.  The conduct of research is fundamental to teaching and provides the foundation as well as the milieu of discovery for education in a research university.  The conduct of teaching is a fundamental charge from the public to educate the citizens of the State, to pass on the skills and methods of generating knowledge.  It is also fundamental in affecting how a great deal of research is actually accomplished, through the active participation of graduate and undergraduate students in the conduct of that research as part of their education.

A research university has the added charge of educating advanced students, producing researchers and other graduates with Masters and doctoral degrees.  At the graduate level, large amounts of time are spent in one-on-one development and critiques of students’ thinking, writing, and research methods and the implementation of those methods.  The training of future researchers by faculty is inherently personal and time-consuming but is one of the basic responsibilities of faculty at a research university.  Each graduate student represents a significant commitment, both in time and effort.  Such time commitments are an investment in creating an educated professional who, in turn, will affect the lives of future students and the future of society.

The teaching mission of a research university has a unique emphasis upon communicating skills and training in the methods of generating knowledge.  Education of this kind is often apprenticeship in nature, by necessity.  Students learn through engagement in activities that call upon their creative and problem-solving skills.  These kinds of research activities are fundamental to graduate education.  At the undergraduate level, research opportunities are available for students with ability and motivation.  Usually, the best students seek them out.  A challenge to the contemporary research university is to bring this level of involvement to a broader range of students, and it is one of the University’s goals in its Strategic Plan.  Because of the flexibility required within an academic unit to meet the unique constraints of teaching undergraduate and graduate students in a research environment, the University of Connecticut Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chooses to delegate the complexity of workload policy to university practice.

The interaction of research and teaching: In a research university, research and teaching are intertwined.  Research, including externally grant-funded research, frequently involves teaching and includes the active participation of students.  This participation is entirely appropriate because part of the teaching responsibility of faculty is to educate graduate and undergraduate students in the conduct of research and, more broadly, the communication of methods of discovery for the creation of new knowledge.  The one-on-one or one-on-few apprenticeship education that takes place in the research environment focuses directly at this level.  Various disciplines extend this kind of education to some or most of their undergraduate majors.  More broadly, much classroom teaching includes consideration of how knowledge is generated (how the knowledge being studied was created, what theoretical influences affected the creation of that knowledge, etc.) in addition to the transmission of information and the critical assessment of that information.

The perspective of researchers who are accomplished critical thinkers and problem-solvers informs teaching in a research university.  The researcher as teacher possesses the perspective of having identified research questions, formulated strategies for possible solutions, and assessed the quality and efficacy of those solutions.  This perspective can be brought to bear even in a classroom of many students and should affect the nature of classroom presentations, discussions, or other interactive experiences.  Some significant part, at least, of the educational experience of those who attend a research university’s undergraduate programs should bear this special stamp.

General Policy:

Overall responsibilities: The faculty constitute a community of scholars.  The vitality of that community arises not just from individual continuing scholarly achievement, but depends as well upon the quality and quantity of collegial interactions and contributions to the mission of that community.  Individually, faculty members are expected to engage in research and other scholarly activities, to teach, and to perform service.  The typical mix of activities of faculty members varies from one academic unit to another.

As a member of a scholarly community, every faculty member is expected to contribute to the shared responsibilities that support the varied educational mission at the department, college/school, and university level.  These responsibilities are clearly set forth in Article XV.L.1. of the University Bylaws, which states, “While members of the professional staff of this University are employed for a variety of duties, as a general rule the University will expect to assign to each full-time member of the professional staff duties which are reasonable and consistent with good and effective teaching practices at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  In conjunction with this, staff members will be expected to carry a reasonable amount of ordinary departmental duties and routine committee responsibilities and to undertake those activities of self-improvement and professional development which are part of every faculty member’s investment in his or her own future.  Such assigned responsibilities as unusually heavy loads of student counseling, the chairmanship of committees that are unusually time-consuming, research projects which have been designated as a part of the staff member’s assigned load, unusually heavy enrollments in courses, and assigned administrative duties will be considered in determining the number of contact hours assigned to any individual.”   In furtherance of these Bylaws’ professional staff loads provisions, individual faculty member’s responsibilities are determined in consultation with the department head, or dean in a non-departmental structure, and are based on the academic unit’s workload guidelines.  These guidelines recognize discipline-specific standards that ensure that individuals fulfill all facets of the responsibilities of a faculty member in a research university.

On occasion, some specific faculty responsibilities may be defined in an individual letter of appointment (e.g., appointment of a faculty member to be a director of a center), or the individual faculty member may be given a joint appointment. These special circumstances will govern the activity of that faculty member within the context of relevant general guidelines.

Research and other creative activities: Each faculty member is expected to be actively engaged in, and to contribute to, the intellectual life of that member’s department, discipline, and profession.  All faculty members must demonstrate professional competence in their field of specialization, be current in that discipline’s method and subject matter, and make a substantial contribution to the advancement of knowledge in that field, as well as the global community of scholars.  (See the By-Laws, Article XV.J.)  All faculty members are expected to achieve a working balance between the maintenance of creative inquiry in their disciplines (or, where appropriate, the creative production of artistic works), spending effective time with students, and participating in various service activities.  Researchers, for example, are expected to keep abreast of the relevant literature in their field and to contribute to it, to communicate basic and/or applied scholarship to their peers on a continuing basis, and to engage in activities that stimulate their own productive and insightful thinking (e.g., conference presentations and commentary; active participation in academic/professional societies).  The dissemination of the fruits of new research and/or new ways of thinking about problems to both students and colleagues is another way in which research, teaching, and learning are inherently intertwined.

Teaching:  Faculty are expected to show satisfactory attainment and continuous growth in “…Teaching ability and performance, beginning with the capacity to excite interest and evoke response in students, to broaden their outlook, to impart knowledge, to see and convey relationships, to encourage the faculty of criticism, and to stimulate a sense of inquiry.”  (See By-Laws, Article XV.J.)  Faculty must also continually reappraise the content of what they teach: as the nature of teaching changes, especially in an era where instructional technology offers an incredible range of new approaches, faculty development and faculty involvement in curriculum reform is crucial and time-consuming.  The amount of teaching varies for individual faculty across departments as a function of the kind of research and outreach/service involved in particular disciplines.  All academic disciplines are characterized by research/scholarly-based teaching that involves teaching both in the classroom and in the research environment (e.g., laboratory, field sites, library).  The difference for a research university, where faculty must give significant effort to conducting the research/scholarship that is the foundation of their teaching, is that faculty typically teach fewer formal courses per semester than in institutions of higher education that have different missions.  Additionally, particularly at the graduate student level at a research university, more emphasis is put upon interactions with individual students as a means of instruction.  The criteria for setting classroom-based teaching courseloads are, of necessity, discipline-specific across institutions.  Such variation in classroom-based teaching and in the criteria for setting such teaching loads is crucial if a research university is to remain competitive in the national and international arena in attracting and retaining accomplished professors.

Service:  Faculty are expected to demonstrate “…Willingness and ability to assist in the various types of service which a state university renders, in the answering of inquiries, the giving of advice, the conduct of surveys, and the like.”  (By-Laws, Article XV.J.) The service provided by faculty may vary by department and take many different forms.  “Standard service” may be given internally within the institution and/or externally to both the profession and to the local, state, and national communities.  Internal service may include: chairing or serving on standing departmental, college/school, or University committees; advising students or serving as a faculty advisor to student organizations; writing letters of recommendation for undergraduate and graduate students; and supervising various department activities.  External service to the profession may include: reviewing research article submissions to professional journals; serving as editors of, or editorial consultants to, professional journals; reviewing research grant proposals for federal and other granting agencies; serving on committees of national or international academic/professional societies; and reviewing promotion and tenure cases for faculty at other institutions.  Other external service and outreach to the local, state, national and international communities may include: the provision of training, and/or technical or professional assistance for various constituencies, such as government officials and agencies, business firms, non-profit organizations, and the general public; community building efforts involving interactions with external constituency members; teaching of non-credit courses; providing self-improvement services for members of the public; and disseminating scientific knowledge to the media.  In some instances, a faculty member may be hired or his/her position may be defined to be primarily concerned with outreach.

Assessment of Activity:

Most faculty have embraced a professional model of work effort that far exceeds what is commonly regarded as a work week.  Assessment of faculty activity in this kind of environment must meet the challenge of encouraging and sustaining the fundamental self-motivated striving that supports a continuing high level of professional performance.  Ideally, the academic community exercises strong peer support and encouragement to all of its members to engage in that high level of effort and performance.  In any case, assessment must measure scholarly achievements according to discipline-related standards, while also measuring the effectiveness of the many aspects of teaching that occur at a research university, as well as service activities.  Additionally, assessment of activity must also identify colleagues whose level of performance has lessened relative to unit norms to the extent that a change in the distribution of their responsibilities may be appropriate.  The department head, or dean in a non-departmental structure, has the responsibility to make such changes to maintain full involvement of all department faculty in accomplishing the mission of the academic unit.

Criteria and procedures exist that govern the events of reappointment, promotion, and tenure.  As an integral part of these latter events, external review of the activity of candidates for tenure and/or promotion is undertaken by excellent faculty at other institutions.  In addition, all academic departments and non-departmentalized schools should have explicit criteria formulated by the departmental faculty for the assessment of meritorious performance.  Assessment procedures should also exist with respect to what is expected of the faculty in their discipline across institutions and be reviewed on an annual basis.  The policy of having systematic university academic external review of academic departments serves to calibrate these criteria by reference to cross-institutional practices.

The following is a description of the assessment of activity process:

(1) Department heads, and deans in non-departmental schools, with appropriate input from the faculty and the advice of regional campus associate vice chancellors, are charged with setting an appropriate distribution of responsibilities for individual faculty that reflects that member’s particular strengths, the nature of his/her obligation to the University, and the needs of the academic unit.

According to the Bylaws of the University, responsibility for the “assignment of duties will be made by the appropriate deans, directors and department heads.” (Article XV. L.)  Further, “It is the duty of each department head to conduct a continuing appraisal of the work and potentialities of the people in the department…” (Article XV.J.4)

As changes occur in an individual faculty member’s research productivity, teaching and the level of self-motivated, independent interactions with graduate and/or undergraduate students, or the level of service, adjustments in the other areas of responsibility will occur.  Such adjustments in the responsibilities for a faculty member may be appropriate to maintain fairness with respect to the distribution of responsibilities across the members of a department.  The ability of faculty to make such adjustments, to engage in all aspects of the tri-partite mission of the University, is guaranteed by the tenure process that requires excellence in both research and teaching, as well as appropriate contributions to service, as criteria for the granting of tenure.

An explicit part of the university academic external review should address the appropriateness of the unit’s research productivity, its teaching load, and its service contributions.  This external review should also address the comparability of these measures with respect to those of similar units in other research universities, and the extent to which faculty responsibilities are being adjusted appropriately within the unit at the University of Connecticut.

(2) Annual meetings will be held between the department head (or dean in a non-departmentalized school) and individual faculty, in the spirit of the University Laws and By-Laws quoted above. (Article XV.J.4.b. & L.1.)These meetings should serve to enhance the overall activities of the department as well as interdisciplinary research/scholarship, where appropriate. The department head will review and discuss the faculty member’s productivity and present and future professional activities.  The department head and faculty member should also discuss any problems encountered by the faculty member in the performance of his/her duties.  For regional campus faculty, similar meetings should occur with the appropriate regional Associate Vice Chancellor, as well as with the department head.  Any adjustments in a regional campus faculty member’s activities must be made in concert with the faculty member’s department head.

These meetings may also be used, where appropriate, to accomplish, in consultation with the faculty member, proportional adjustments to the faculty member’s responsibilities.  These annual assessments of a faculty member’s activity can include consideration of various measures commensurate with the unique constraints of creative endeavors or original research/scholarship.  Such adjustments may be appropriate during a faculty member’s career and are an essential component in maintaining a department’s and the University’s overall effectiveness.

(3) The successful implementation of the process of systematic review and adjustment of faculty responsibilities within departments is primarily the responsibility of the department head or dean of a non-departmentalized school.

However, deans of departmentalized colleges/schools should meet annually with his/her department heads/program directors to discuss the implementation of departmental policies on professional responsibilities and to insure equitable practice across departments.