AAUP@FHSU


AAUP Concludes Indiana University Northwest Has Unwelcome Racial Climate… Violated Academic Freedom

The AAUP has published an investigative report on the summary suspension and dismissal of Dr. Mark McPhail, a tenured professor of communication at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana, who had previously served as the institution’s chief academic officer.  The investigating committee, for which I served as chair, found that, in acting against McPhail, the administration disregarded AAUP-supported standards of academic due process. The committee further concluded that conditions for academic governance at the institution are unsound and its racial climate is unwelcoming to faculty members of color.

Join us on February 16 at 2 p.m. ET for a webinar discussing the investigation and the AAUP’s process for investigations–what prompts an investigation, how they are conducted, and what the end goal is.

Register here.

In September 2021, the administration dispatched campus police officers to McPhail’s home to inform him that he had been dismissed and banned from campus, supposedly for making racially charged threats of physical violence, No accuser was identified, and no criminal charges were filed.

The AAUP investigating committee deemed “implausible” the charge that McPhail had made violent threats, and it found “highly credible” McPhail’s allegation that the administration’s actions were prompted by his criticism of the administration’s handling of racial equity issues and therefore violated his academic freedom. With respect to that climate, the committee noted that McPhail had regularly highlighted racial inequity on the IUN campus and that the criticisms and charges against him employed racial stereotypes of Black men as incompetent, angry, and violent.

Having been denied a hearing before a faculty body in which the burden of proof lay with the administration, as required under AAUP-recommended standards, McPhail was compelled to appeal the administration’s actions to a faculty grievance committee. In his appeal, he argued that institutional authorities had retaliated against him for his criticisms of the administration and for filing equal opportunity complaints against the administrators responsible for suspending and dismissing him. The grievance committee found both his suspension and his termination unwarranted. The administration rejected the committee’s findings.

Based on the report’s findings, the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will now consider whether to recommend to the AAUP’s governing Council that it place Indiana University Northwest on the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. Placement on that list informs the academic community and the public at large that conditions for academic freedom and tenure at the institution are unsound.

Register for the webinar to learn more about the investigation.

Afshan Jafar, chair of the investigative committee,
Professor of Sociology, Connecticut College


AAUP to support federal student loan relief efforts

We continue our efforts to fight the student debt crisis, this time in court. The AAUP joined the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in filing an amicus brief this week in the US Supreme Court in support of the Biden administration’s efforts to grant much-needed relief to individuals holding student loan debt. Our brief argues that a plan announced by the secretary of education in August 2022 to partially forgive student loans for certain eligible borrowers is a lawful exercise of authority granted by Congress.

In the brief, we stress in particular the financial challenges that the pandemic has created for college and university faculty who hold student loan debt. Drawing on several individual accounts and AAUP reports, the brief explains that the pandemic “has deepened the already substantial financial hardships and employment instability of adjuncts and other university faculty.”

A longer summary and a link to the full brief can be found here.

The court challenges arose last year after the Department of Education granted up to $10,000 in student-loan relief to eligible borrowers with annual incomes under $125,000, and $20,000 to qualifying Pell Grant recipients. Following the Biden Administration’s announcement of this new plan, six Republican-led states filed a lawsuit seeking to stop its implementation. A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit after finding that the states lacked standing to sue, but a federal appeals court revived the lawsuit and has temporarily enjoined the plan’s implementation pending a final decision on appeal. The Biden administration has sought further review in the Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear arguments in the case on February 28.

We will update you as the legal situation develops, and will continue to push for more actions and policies that alleviate student debt in ways that move us towards a more just and equitable society.

Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP General Counsel


2022 AAUP Highlights

To roll us into the new year on a high note, we’ve created a video with some highlights of the AAUP’s work in 2022—from the special report Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System to major research projects like the annual Faculty Compensation Survey—and of the AAUP’s affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers.  

Watch the recap on YouTube here or click photo watch.

Screenshot from the AAUP highlights video

Thank you for being a member of the AAUP! You can find links to all of our reports and other materials on our website at aaup.org.

In solidarity in 2023 and beyond.

The AAUP

P.S. A reminder that you can continue to follow our work in 2023 in many ways. We have new episodes of our podcast AAUP Presents out, so catch up on all episodes and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform now. We’re also on the major social media platforms: we’re @AAUP on Twitter, and here’s the link to our Facebook account. Our Instagram account is @AAUPNational.


New Episodes of AAUP Presents Out Now

Our podcast AAUP Presents is back with two new episodes, featuring interviews with authors of recent articles in the Journal of Academic Freedom and Academe.

In the first episode, I sit down with Lori Latrice Martin, a professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Louisiana State University, to discuss what Professor Martin describes as the “predictability of efforts to silence conversations and actions related to combating anti-Blackness in America and the continued use of Black deaths to further the social, economic, and political progress of non-Black groups in the academy and beyond” in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. Listen here.  

In the second new episode, I talk to Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, an associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, and Charlie Eaton, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced, about the past, present and future of the student debt crisis in the United States. It’s a fascinating history that has brought us to a pivotal moment where debt forgiveness and a path to a debt-free future seems possible, but remains fraught with political and social barriers.Here’s the episode (with links to listen on your preferred podcast platform).

Both are fascinating and thorny topics; give them a listen. You can find these episodes (and all previous ones) here on our website.

We’ll have more episodes for you in 2023.

Enjoy the holidays,
Mariah Quinn, Digital Organizer, AAUP


Student Debt: How AAUP Can Help

A lot has been happening around student debt! Last month the federal government announced it will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households. Forms will be available in October to apply for debt relief. Learn more here.

In addition to debt relief, there’s an important deadline coming up for those who are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which includes many faculty. The “limited PSLF waiver” that created time-limited changes to PSLF rules to allow borrowers to receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF ends on Oct. 31, 2022.

We can help as that deadline approaches. As an AFT affiliate, we are continuing to offer free access to Summer, a trusted online platform that can help you navigate your student loan situation and simplify the PSLF application process. Summer was founded by student loan borrowers, who understand the frustration of the repayment process. And Summer is already working with thousands of borrowers like you to help them save on their student loan payments.

The Summer tool and team guides borrowers through options to consider, gives savings recommendations, makes decision-making easier, and handles all of the paperwork. Whether you have no idea where to start, or just want to confirm that you’re in the right repayment plan, Summer’s resources and staff can guide you.

Here’s how to create your FREE account with Summer:

  1. Note that your AAUP member ID is 1709503
  2. Head to our landing page at app.meetsummer.org/onboard/aaup.
  3. Create an account by submitting your name, email, and AAUP member ID. When prompted, use the access code AAUP. We’ll use your submission to confirm your membership and validate your Summer account.
  4. Get started with Summer’s free tools to review your student loan repayment plan.

Once you’ve created your account, if you have questions about the platform, please email support@meetsummer.org or check out Summer’s help section, where you can send a message or schedule a consultation. If you have questions about your member ID or an AAUP related issue you can reach out to the AAUP at SLassistance@aaup.org. Information on Summer can also be found on our site, including a recording of a webinar with an overview of the platform and PSLF and a link to login instructions.

We continue to keep you updated as we do more work around student debt and fight for a new deal for higher education.

The AAUP