The categories of separation are listed below, and the definitions, policies, and procedures related to each are set forth in the individual subsections of Section VII.
Categories of Separation:
- resignation – all faculty
- retirement – all faculty
- termination – all tenure-track and library faculty
- dismissal for cause – all faculty
- temporary exclusion - all faculty
Faculty members may voluntarily terminate their appointments effective at the end of an academic year, provided that they give notice in writing at the earliest possible opportunity, but not later than May 15 or 30 days after postmark of notification of the terms of appointment for the coming year, whichever date occurs later. Faculty members may request a waiver of this requirement of notice in case of hardship.
Retirement from active service assignments to the university is the termination of duties and responsibilities for the employee because of age, infirmity, or other valid reasons after rendering extended and sufficient service to the university.
After retirement, appointments to the faculty are on a term basis and are mutually agreed upon by individual faculty members and the school or college deans, after consultation with the department chairs/division associate deans, and with the approval of the provost and the president.
Any tenure-track faculty member at Widener University who is eligible and retires, is deemed for the purposes of these rules to have been separated from the university’s service in good standing.
Termination is a severance action by which the university terminates the services of tenure-track faculty members without prejudice as to their performance. Reasons for termination are:
- The discontinuance of a program (e.g., a major or a sequence of courses constituting a special education project) or of an academic department;
- The contraction of enrollment which would require a reduction in faculty beyond normal attrition;
- Financial exigency;
- Prolonged mental or physical illness.
8.3.1. Contraction of Enrollment in a Program or Department
Termination of the appointment of a tenure-track faculty member may occur as a result of bona fide contraction of enrollment in a program or department of instruction. (A “program” is an organized sequence of courses such as the requirements for a major or special educational projects). Decisions on such terminations shall be made by the president after consultation with the provost, the school or college dean, the relevant program administrator, and a committee elected by the faculty of the school or college or of the affected unit of the College of Arts and Sciences or School of Human Service Professions. The majority, not to exceed two-thirds, of the membership of this committee must come from the program affected by the enrollment contraction. The election shall be organized by the school or college dean or by the associate dean/director of the affected unit of the College of Arts and Sciences or School of Human Service Professions. Academic quality and program integrity are factors which must be considered in such decisions. Decisions to terminate tenure-track faculty for reasons of contraction of enrollment in a program will not be based on temporary reductions in enrollment. Subsequent to a decision to contract a program or department, the faculty of the affected program or their elected representatives shall participate with the dean in the development of an implementation plan, taking into consideration the procedures of Sections 8.3.5 and 8.3.6.
A faculty member whose position is terminated as the result of contraction of enrollment in a program or department will be notified in accordance with the deadlines specified in Section 6.3.4.
Faculty terminated under this Section have the right of appeal as delineated in Section 8.3.7.
8.3.2. Discontinuance of a Program or Department not Mandated by Financial Exigency
Termination of the appointment of a tenure-track faculty member may occur as a result of formal discontinuance of a program or department of instruction. Decisions on program or department discontinuance shall be made by the president after consultation with the provost, the school or college dean, the relevant program administrator, and a committee elected in accordance with the following guidelines:
- The school or college dean, or the associate dean/director of the affected unit of the College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Human Service Professions, shall set the number of committee members, not to exceed twelve, subject to the condition that one-third of the membership be drawn from and elected by the tenure-track faculty in the affected program.
- The remaining members of the committee shall be elected at large by the faculty of the school or of the affected unit of the College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Human Service Professions. This election shall be organized by the school or college dean, or the associate dean/Director of the affected unit of the College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Human Service Professions.
Consideration shall be given to other actions, such as consolidation or merger of the affected program with other departments, before the decision is made to discontinue a program or department. Academic quality and program integrity are factors which must be considered in such decisions. Decisions to terminate tenure-track faculty for reasons of program discontinuance will not be based on temporary reductions or cyclical variations in enrollment. Subsequent to a decision to terminate a program or department, the faculty of the affected program shall participate with the dean in the development of an implementation plan, taking into consideration the procedures of Sections 8.3.5. and 8.3.6.
A faculty member whose position is terminated as the result of discontinuance of a program or department will be notified in accordance with the deadlines specified in Section 6.3.4. Faculty terminated under this Section have the right of appeal as delineated in Section 8.3.7.
8.3.3. Financial Exigency
Termination of a continuous appointment or of a probationary or special appointment before the end of the specified term, may occur under extraordinary circumstances because of a demonstrably bona fide financial exigency, i.e., an imminent financial crisis which threatens the survival of the institution as a whole and which cannot be alleviated by less drastic means.
Before any faculty are terminated because of financial exigency, the Board of Trustees must officially declare that a financial exigency exists. Prior to declaring a state of financial exigency, the Board of Trustees:
- Shall direct the president to consult with the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee to explore and discuss feasible alternatives to a declaration of a state of financial exigency;
- Shall itself explore reasonable alternatives to the declaration of a state of financial exigency.
After determination of financial exigency, the faculty shall be represented in administrative processes relating to program reorganization, or the curtailment or termination of instructional programs through the Faculty Council Academic Affairs and Faculty Affairs Committees. The president and the Board of Trustees shall have final authority in all matters related to a determination of financial exigency, program reorganization or the curtailment or termination of instructional programs.
In the case of financial exigency where short notice is necessary, the following procedures will be followed: The Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee, the school/college deans or library director and the provost may advise the president to hold all appointments until May 31 and serve notice to non-tenured faculty of non-renewal of appointments, pending a final decision on the seriousness of the financial exigency.
Tenured faculty who are to be terminated will receive one year’s notice from the date of their official receipt of notification of the action of the Board of Trustees with respect to a solution to the financial exigency. Non-tenure track faculty and untenured faculty who are to be terminated will complete the academic semester if such is in progress on the date of the decision by the Board of Trustees. The procedures of Sections 8.3.5. and 8.3.6. shall be followed.
Termination of an appointment with tenure or a probationary appointment for medical reasons shall require and be based upon clear and convincing medical evidence that a faculty member is or will be unable to meet the terms, conditions, and perform the normal duties of the appointment for a period of at least two years. Faculty members whose positions have been terminated due to prolonged mental or physical illness will be given preference should a position in their field become available after their recovery from such prolonged illness.
The decision to terminate for medical reasons will be made only after there has been appropriate consultation with the faculty members (or their representatives) and the faculty members’ physicians, and after the faculty members or their representatives have been informed in writing of the basis of the proposed action and the reasons for it. If the faculty members or their representatives so request within twenty working days of the notice of termination, the proposed termination will be reviewed by the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee before final action is taken by the president. The university will in each case work within the disability program to ease the burden of any such medical termination.
8.3.5. General Procedures Regarding Termination
When financial exigency, the discontinuance of a program or academic department, or the contraction of enrollment in a program or academic department necessitates the termination of tenure-track faculty members, an effort will be made by the university to assist such faculty members to find employment either at Widener or elsewhere.
Before termination procedures begin, a tenured faculty member shall be given the opportunity to retrain if placement in another position at the university will be facilitated by a reasonable period of retraining.
In general, when it is necessary to reduce the size of the faculty in a program, a tenure-track faculty member in the program shall not be terminated until all non-tenure-track faculty, including but not limited to adjunct faculty, have been terminated. This provision is subject to the condition that the tenure-track faculty possess the qualifications and expertise required to teach the courses that were or would have been taught by the terminated non-tenure-track faculty in the absence of the financial exigency.
No tenure-track faculty in a program teaching a full-time load or the equivalent, as defined for that program, will be terminated and replaced with one or more adjunct faculty, except when the termination is the result of an implementation plan. In such an exception, the implementation plan must be developed in accordance with the procedures outlined in Section 8.3.1. (Contraction of Enrollment) or Section 8.3.2. (Discontinuance of a Program). However, even when part of an implementation plan, the terminated tenure-track faculty member may not be replaced by one or more adjunct faculty during the next three semesters.
If the appointment of a tenure-track faculty member is terminated for reasons of financial exigency, the discontinuance of a program or academic department, or the contraction of enrollment in a program or academic department, a replacement for that position shall not be hired within a period of three years, unless the terminated faculty member has been offered another position under conditions comparable to those held at the time of termination, and has been given at least one month following receipt of written notice of the offer of a new position within which to respond to this offer.
It shall be the duty of terminated faculty members to keep the university informed of their current addresses for purposes of this section, and notices sent to the address by the university shall be presumed received if sent by certified mail.
8.3.6. Specific Procedures for Termination
Once the departments or academic programs to be affected have been determined, the decision of termination of a particular faculty member shall be according to the following guidelines, keeping in mind the program integrity guidelines above.
- Prior to involuntary dismissals, the following voluntary actions and programs shall be investigated:
- If a department is directed to operate with one fewer person, it will consider retaining all faculty but on a reduced salary and work load. For example, if a department with five persons is to be reduced to four, all five could volunteer to go on four-fifths salary and work load, thus keeping everyone employed during the crisis.
- Voluntary early or phased retirements.
- The appointment of a faculty member with tenure shall not be terminated in favor of retaining a faculty member without tenure except in extraordinary circumstances in which a serious distortion of the academic program would otherwise result. The determination that such extraordinary circumstances exist shall be made by the president following receipt of a recommendation from the provost, who shall consult with the school or college dean or library director, the director/associate dean of the affected unit and the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee.
- Tenured faculty who have been terminated shall be offered non-teaching positions at Widener if there are openings for which they are qualified.
- Before terminating a tenured appointment because of contraction of enrollment, discontinuance or financial exigency, the university, with faculty participation, shall make every reasonable effort to place the faculty member concerned in another teaching position within the university. The university shall assist displaced tenured faculty in finding employment in industry, government, or other educational institutions.
- Except in the case of financial exigency, faculty shall receive notice in accordance with Section 6.3.4.
The university’s assistance to displaced tenured faculty shall include outplacement assistance through a service selected by the university; letters of reference upon request; admission either for credit or for auditing purposes to undergraduate courses at the university; admission either for credit or for auditing purposes for up to fifteen credits of graduate courses at the university; and tuition-only reimbursement for up to nine credits of graduate courses at another institution. The university shall have no further retraining or outplacement obligations.
In order for a faculty member to be eligible to attend a graduate program at the university, for credit, the faculty member must meet usual admission criteria for that program. Admission to graduate courses at the university or tuition reimbursement at another institution is limited to courses started during the twelve (12) month period immediately following the conclusion of the faculty member’s terminal year unless prior written authorization is procured from the provost. (During the faculty member’s terminal year, the standard policies apply).
8.3.7. Appeals of Termination or Reassignment of Duties
If the university issues notice to a faculty member of the intention to terminate the appointment because of reasons discussed in 8.3.1. and/or 8.3.2., the faculty member shall have the right to a full hearing before the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee, for appeals confined to procedural issues specified in Sections 8.3.1. through 8.3.6.
If, upon appeal, the procedure is found to have been faulty, deliberation shall resume at the point where the fault occurred.
Appeals based on other than procedural issues may be made to the faculty member’s school/college/library Faculty Affairs Committee. The recommendation of this committee shall be sent to the provost and the president. The president shall render a final decision on the matter.
Appeals relating to retraining and/or reassignment of duties may be made to the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee. The recommendation of this committee shall be sent to the provost and the president. The president shall render a final decision on the matter.
8.4. Dismissal for Cause
Dismissal for cause is a severance action by which Widener University terminates the appointment of faculty members for adequate cause. Any teaching appointment is subject to action under this Section. Adequate cause for dismissal must be directly and substantially related to the fitness of faculty members to continue in their professional capacity and shall be determined in each instance by the president in accordance with procedures outlined below. In addition, adequate cause for dismissal may arise by virtue of faculty members’ violation of the university’s Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination (EOHN) Policy or the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures. Complaints brought under these policies shall be governed by the provisions and procedures set forth therein, notwithstanding anything contained in this Handbook to the contrary.
Threat of dismissal shall not be used to restrain a faculty member’s academic freedom or other rights as a citizen.
Except as set forth in Section 8.4., Dismissal for Cause, dismissal procedures shall include the following steps and meet the following conditions:
- An opportunity for the faculty members to meet with the provost and other appropriate administrators to present their defense to the dismissal charges before a formal recommendation is made.
- Discussions among the faculty members, the provost, and other appropriate administrators looking toward a mutually agreeable resolution.
- Informal inquiry by the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee as prescribed in Section 5.08(a)(4) of the Bylaws of the Widener University Faculty Council.
- Written notice to the faculty members from the provost that a recommendation for dismissal for cause shall be made to the president. This notice shall contain a written statement of the grounds upon which the recommendation is to be made and a brief summary of information supporting such grounds.
- The right of faculty members to be heard by the Faculty Council Promotion, Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee as prescribed in Section 5.11(a)(2) of the Bylaws of the Widener University Faculty Council.
- An opportunity for faculty members to meet with the president to present their defense to the dismissal recommendation before the president takes final action on the recommendation.
- The burden of proof that adequate cause exists rests with the institution and will be satisfied only by clear and convincing evidence in the record considered as a whole.
8.5. Temporary Exclusion of a Faculty Member
If a faculty member’s continued presence at the university presents a risk of substantial harm to persons, including the faculty member, or to equipment or other property, the faculty member shall be temporarily excluded from classrooms, laboratories, or other facilities.
Where there is a threat of immediate injury to persons or to property, preventive action shall be taken by an appropriate academic administrator. In other cases, which are not of such emergency nature, the appropriate academic administrator shall seek the advice of the elected Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee before taking action to exclude a faculty member. Exclusion may not exceed seven working days, unless extended by the provost, acting with the advice of the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee. The president and provost, by memorandum, may promulgate further procedures for temporary exclusion of faculty members.
Compensation of a faculty member shall not be discontinued as a result of temporary exclusion.
Actions taken under Section 8.5 may be appealed through the procedures set forth in Section 7.3.
8.6. Progressive Discipline of Faculty Members
Dismissal for cause should in normal circumstances be preceded by a written admonition by the appropriate administrative officer describing the alleged problem and warning that the faculty member’s appointment status is in jeopardy. The warning must also stipulate a period of time within which correction of the alleged problem is expected. If the faculty member fails to correct the negligence, dismissal procedures or a lesser sanction may be applied.
If faculty members wish to contest the allegations made or any action short of dismissal against them, the procedures set forth in Section VII will apply.
Progressive discipline may or may not be appropriate or utilized in cases involving alleged violations by a faculty member of the university’s Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination (EOHN) Policy and the Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure. In addition, Section VIII shall not apply to cases governed by such Code.
8.7. Substance Abuse
Widener University recognizes that substance abuse is an illness and a major health problem. Moreover, the behavior which stems from abuse of drugs and alcohol is not compatible with a faculty member’s ability to function appropriately in the workplace. Therefore, faculty members are encouraged to seek appropriate help for any substance abuse problem. Confidential on-campus assistance is available from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Information regarding the EAP phone number is available from the Human Resources Office. The university will attempt to maintain confidentiality at all times. The university Drug and Alcohol Policy for Employees is distributed annually and is also available from the Human Resources Office.
Faculty who need outpatient therapy or hospitalization due to substance abuse may take advantage of the health insurance option they have elected through the Widener University Health Care Plan. Faculty members should call their health insurance providers for details on the coverage contained in their plans.
8.7.1. Progressive Discipline
As related to substance abuse, faculty members are required to be in appropriate physical and mental condition to meet their contractual responsibilities. Moreover, behavior on the part of a faculty member which stems from or is related to that faculty member’s substance abuse and/or which promotes the illegal use of substances by others, may lead to dismissal of the faculty member.
Separation from university (termination or dismissal) should in normal circumstances be preceded by a written statement from the Provost’s Office describing the record of the situation and stating that the faculty member’s appointment status is in jeopardy. The warning must also stipulate a period of time within which correction of the alleged substance related problem is expected in compliance with the requirements of the Family Medical Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Acts. In the university’s sole discretion, such employees may be referred to a substance counseling, rehabilitation, or employee assistance program. If the faculty member fails to correct the alleged substance related problem, termination or dismissal procedures or a lesser sanction may be applied.
For faculty members who wish to contest the allegations made or any action short of termination or dismissal against them, the procedures set forth in Section VII will apply.
Termination of appointments with tenure or probationary appointments for reasons of substance abuse shall require and be based upon clear and convincing evidence that faculty members are or have been unable to meet the terms and conditions and perform the normal duties of the appointment. This evidence will include but will not be limited to the written record of the faculty members’ inability to perform their duties. As defined by the American with Disabilities Act, recovered faculty members whose positions have been terminated for reasons of prolonged substance abuse will be given preference should a position in their field become available after their recovery from such prolonged illness in accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act.
The decision to terminate for reasons of substance abuse will be made only after there has been appropriate consultation, with the faculty members (or their representatives) and after the faculty members or their representatives have been informed in writing of the basis of the proposed action and the reasons for it. If the faculty members or their representatives so request in writing of the Chair of the Faculty Council Faculty Affairs Committee within twenty working days of receipt of notice of the proposed termination, the proposed termination will be reviewed by that committee before final action is taken by the president. The university will in each case work within the disability program to ease the burden of any such termination.
Faculty who unlawfully use, distribute, manufacture, or are under the influence of illicit drugs on university premises, or as part of any of the university’s activities are subject to discipline up to and including immediate discharge.
Faculty must report any conviction under a criminal drug statute for violations occurring on or off university premises while conducting university business. A report of a conviction must be made to the faculty member’s immediate academic supervisor and to the chief human resources officer within five days after the conviction.
Faculty members convicted of manufacture or distribution of illicit drugs shall be dismissed for cause.