Faculty Senate Seminar Series (Summer 2020) Written Responses from the Vice Provost for Faculty

A number of questions remaining from the Summer 2020 Senate Seminars are addressed below.


  1. Layoffs / Reduction of Work
  2. Sabbatical
  3. Imposed Risks / Coercion


1. Layoffs / Reduction of Work

A.  Under what conditions can standing faculty be furloughed or fired?  Who decides?

The Faculty Handbook (II.E.13) provides the University’s policies for “Transfers of faculty members or terminations of faculty appointments resulting from discontinuation of programs.” As the policy states, every effort would be made to relocate members of the Standing Faculty and Associated Faculty within the University, in the event a program or department is discontinued for valid academic or financial considerations.


B.  If budget constraints dictate reducing the size of the faculty, will termination offers be made for all faculty or only for senior faculty?

We do not anticipate terminating standing faculty because of budget constraints at this time.


C.  Will faculty / staff be offered to reduce from full time to part time work in order to reduce cost?

Decisions about faculty and staff workload are made by individual schools and centers.



2. Sabbatical

Is there any discussion of requiring faculty to use or lose sabbatical credits? 




3.  Imposed Risks / Coercion

A.  What sanctions can be applied to a faculty member who refuses to teach in a physical classroom during the pandemic?

We understand that faculty may have concerns about teaching in a physical classroom during the pandemic. Faculty should talk with their deans and department chairs about their concerns and work together to determine how teaching responsibilities will be fulfilled in light of these concerns.


B.  Is there an authoritative statement of faculty rights and obligations generally that can guide and inform faculty during this pandemic? If there is, how can we get it?  If there is not, would you publish one? Or perhaps this is something that could be developed in conjunction with the Faculty Senate?

The Faculty Handbook specifies the rights, obligations, and policies pertaining to Penn faculty.


C.  Some standing faculty, some associated faculty, and indeed some staff may be subject to extra risk as a consequence of doing their jobs at Penn during the pandemic. What provision is being made for identifying these cases, for obtaining informed consent, for providing extra compensation?

We recognize that some faculty and staff may be unable to return to campus for health and other reasons. As described in the “Return to Campus Guide,” faculty and staff should talk with their dean, department chair, or supervisor about their concerns. For staff, the Guide provides more information on using sick time and paid time off, requesting accommodation through the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, and requesting a leave of absence.


D.  Is any consideration being given to extending illness and disability rules and benefits to illness and disability that arises in consequence of the pandemic, whether or not the faculty member was exposed to extra risk on the job? (Put otherwise, what if a prudent faculty member, teaching online from home nevertheless is stricken by COVID-19 and exhausts benefits, say from being ill for an extended duration?)

Faculty who become ill should talk with their dean or department chair. Staff should talk with their supervisor and refer to the resources in the Return to Campus Guide.


E.  Can the general teaching load for faculty be raised above what faculty were generally teaching before the pandemic? For example, if a faculty member's teaching load was n course units per year, can Penn increase n to, say, 2n? Under what conditions? What constraints and rules are in place to ensure fair and universal treatment?

Decisions about teaching loads are made by schools and departments. 


F.  More generally, if "bads" need to be allocated to the faculty, what constraints and rules are in place to ensure fair and universal treatment?

Faculty with concerns about fair and universal treatment may consult with the University Ombuds or Vice Provost for Faculty. Section II.E.12 of the Faculty Handbook describes the University’s “Faculty Grievance Policy” and grievance procedure.