April 5, 2018
Dear UT Community,
The work of our faculty and staff members is at the core of everything we do at The University of Texas. They prepare our students to succeed. They are the scholars and researchers. They are mentors and role models for students. I deeply appreciate their contributions to the university every single day.
Unfortunately, there are rare occasions when an employee’s conduct becomes a criminal matter. In such cases, it is incumbent upon the university to respond. Early this year, I heard from many UT community members — including many students — who had significant concerns about current university policies and procedures regarding criminal conduct.
At the end of January, I charged a committee with evaluating these practices and their enforcement, with a particular focus on how the university responds to criminal violations, or allegations of criminal violations, by our employees. The committee included representatives from Human Resources, Legal Affairs, the Faculty Council and the Staff Council, along with the Executive Vice President and Provost, and the Senior Vice President and CFO.
During the past two months, these representatives reviewed materials related to our policies and procedures and those of peer institutions. They discussed concerns, developed recommendations for improvement and submitted a report to me on March 30 that evaluates our approach and outlines new approaches. I have reviewed the report, which can be accessed online, and accept its recommendations.
Several operational recommendations can be initiated immediately. Others may result in policy changes that require further consultation and approval according to our standard procedures. If it is decided that changes in policy are necessary, we will consult with the Faculty Council, the Staff Council, student leaders and others on both the wording and implementation of those changes.
The most significant recommendation I have accepted is that we will now consider UT’s Mission, Core Values and Code of Conduct when reviewing criminal violations by employees and when developing the university’s response. This will be added to the current procedures under which the university reviews criminal violations to determine their impact on campus safety and security or other campus operations.
In January, I announced that all units at the university must enforce the requirement that employees report any arrests to their supervisor. Strengthening this policy, employees will be required to self-disclose the final disposition of any criminal case they are involved in, in addition to the existing disclosure requirements.
Each criminal case is different, and the law requires that a case be evaluated based on the facts and circumstances of each. The proposed new processes give the university the ability to take disciplinary action when employee conduct poses a threat to campus safety and security or other campus operations or contradicts the core values upon which the university is built.
These proposed policies and updated procedures focus on disciplinary action related to conduct, not to speech or viewpoints. They provide the university with clearer guidelines so that we may live up to the values of The University of Texas.
Gregory L. Fenves