Message to USC Faculty
From: Michael W. Quick, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; Elizabeth Graddy, Executive Vice Provost
June 28, 2019
We are writing to report on the work of the Committee on Professional Responsibility (CoPR) since its inception a year and a few months ago. While in the past USC relied on deans or the Office of the Provost to take the lead in selecting sanctions when a professor violated university rules, decision-making authority has now been shifted to this committee of faculty peers. In a message to you last year announcing the 2018 Faculty Handbook, the Academic Senate President and the Office of the Provost let you know about the addition of this committee to our policies. It is described in Section 6-AA (3) of the handbook, www.usc.edu/facultyhandbook.
In order to promote our values, CoPR’s mission is to:
- protect our community by holding wrongdoers accountable and imposing appropriate sanctions and corrective actions;
- provide a process fair to both complainants and respondents, relying on a committee of faculty peers;
- ensure that no one found to have committed a significant violation has impunity, regardless of that person’s status within the university;
- consider all the circumstances in deciding what response is appropriate in each case.
Since it started work in Spring 2018, CoPR’s sanctioning panels decided thirty-four cases of faculty misconduct—from among our total faculty of 7,400. Some of the behavior was recent while other acts took place earlier, but were reported only lately. As you would expect, the outcomes varied with the seriousness of the behavior and consideration of the circumstances. Eight cases led to termination or resignation (five of those respondents were tenured, well-established scholars); in eight cases, the outcome was a pay cut or denial of raise; in the remaining eighteen cases, the outcome was a requirement for counseling or coaching, or warnings. In connection with other sanctions, two professors were demoted.
The cases dealt with a range of behavior: violating university policies concerning unwanted advances or comments, or interactions with an intimate partner (nine cases); disparaging or unprofessional language or conduct (five); belittling and intimidating behavior towards staff, colleagues, or both (five); failure by a healthcare professional to fully report payments from industry (four); research conflicts of interest (three); failure to properly credit a student or a source in academic writing (two); unauthorized dual employment or dual faculty/student status (two); failure to follow guidance from Disability Services and Programs concerning accommodations (one); non-compliance on billing (one); not performing clinical responsibilities (one); and speech based on national origin or religion that violated the university’s anti-harassment policy (one).
We worked with the Academic Senate leadership to establish CoPR. In short, this is how it works: (1) The process relies on members of our community who come forward to report a problem. (2) Complaints are looked into by investigators of a university-designated office, such as Equity and Diversity or Healthcare Compliance. (3) If the investigation concludes that a University policy was violated, the report comes to CoPR to determine the sanction or corrective action. (4) The respondent is further protected by the availability of an appeal to the Provost’s delegate, and a grievance hearing before a panel of the Tenure and Privileges Appeals Committee (T&P). (5) Dismissal of a tenured professor requires that the Provost decide to file formal charges, a T&P panel holds a hearing, and the President makes the final decision on the panel’s report.
CoPR members are drawn from the T&P Committee. Both CoPR and its sanctioning panels for individual cases are chaired by past presidents of the Academic Senate. When the respondent is tenured, panel members are all tenured; in RTPC cases, panels include RTPC committee members.
Our community owes its thanks to the faculty members who serve on CoPR for the considerable time and care they put into this difficult role.
We also owe thanks to all of you who have reported problems so they can be dealt with. Confidential reports on practices or conduct that do not meet the ethical and professional standard of the university may be reported online to the Office of Professionalism and Ethics at report.usc.edu, or by phone at 213-740-2500.
Cc: President Wanda Austin
President-Elect Carol Folt