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Policy to Address Requests for Transfer of Faculty Across Academic Units

Typically, a faculty member's academic career starts in the academic unit of the discipline that one is trained in. The recommendations of experts in one's discipline are also important in tenure and promotion decisions. Nonetheless, it should be recognized that disciplinary boundaries shift over a faculty member's working career and that one's training, research and teaching interests may also change. It is more common today for funding agencies, particularly the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, to support projects that address issues from multidisciplinary perspectives. The interdisciplinary nature of academic life is both recognized and valued at the University at Albany. Moreover, the conception that academic pursuits and disciplinary interests are static and unchanging is increasingly being challenged. These changes are reflected in requests from faculty to move from one academic unit to another, sometimes temporarily and other times permanently.

The objective of this policy is to facilitate innovative research and teaching that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries and involves multiple academic units. University policy in this matter seeks to assist the deployment of faculty to strengthen the academic program and respond to changes in disciplinary boundaries and interests of faculty. Any move of faculty resources across departments must be based on academically sound arguments. At present, decisions to move faculty from one academic unit to another are dealt with on an ad hoc basis, and there is a need to codify and delineate policies and procedures that serve to standardize past practice.

It would normally be expected that faculty must already have a joint appointment or other affiliation with the receiving department prior to initiating a request for change. Joint appointments serve as evidence that a faculty member is engaged in research and/or teaching that is potentially interdisciplinary and involves multiple academic units. Additional evidence can be found in faculty publications that are of interest to scholars from various disciplines as well as co-authorship involving faculty from different disciplines. It is not uncommon for faculty at the University at Albany to hold these multiple departmental affiliations.

These multiple affiliations often require an allocation of specific teaching obligations to individual units. In some cases, an affiliation may involve adjunct or courtesy status with one or more departments. This is often the case of part-time lecturers. In other cases, a more formal arrangement may exist wherein faculty time is specifically allocated to various units. For example, one such arrangement is for a faculty member to teach 75 percent of the time in one academic unit and 25 percent of the time in another unit. Nonetheless, every faculty member, no matter how many academic units he/she participates in, designates one particular academic unit as "primary" or "home." The home academic unit is the one that takes the lead and has the responsibility in all personnel actions, such as leave and sabbatical requests, tenure and promotion reviews, and salary (merit) recommendations. The home department is also responsible for providing office space and other general resources to the faculty member. Moreover, only one department can be designated "home" and, when so designated, it serves as the departmental appointment of record, even during periods of financial exigency. It should be pointed out that these policies only affect those faculty members that have an explicit joint appointment (often found in the faculty member's appointment letter, official University title, or designated percentage distribution of time serving multiple academic units) and do not affect faculty with adjunct or courtesy status.

The decision to move a faculty member from one academic unit to another must be approved by the University President, based on recommendations from the Provost and Academic Vice President and the dean(s) of the affected unit(s). All affected departments must be consulted and the results of that consultation must be made clear in a recommendation from the respective department chairs. Each case will be judged independently and uniquely, with uppermost consideration given to the academic mission of the institution and the resource implications of any change.

A faculty member interested in moving his/her primary appointment must first petition the chairs of the affected departments and the dean(s) of the school(s) or college(s). The petition must describe the intended change with written justification for the move. The chair of the proposed incoming department shall consult with the faculty and recommend to the Dean whether the request should be accepted or rejected. The chair of the outgoing department must consult the faculty and submit a recommendation to the dean(s). In the event that the faculty member making the request also holds the administrative position of chair, the dean(s) of the college(s) or school(s) must designate a member of the appropriate department to assume the role of departmental representative. The dean(s) of the college(s) or school(s) involved must review the recommendations and provide input in the matter in correspondence to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs must then make a recommendation to the University President for a final determination in the matter.