AAUP@FHSU


AAUP will investigate violations of shared governance at Vermont Law

This week, the AAUP authorized an investigation into apparent departures from widely adopted standards of shared governance at Vermont Law School after the school’s administration and governing board “restructured” the faculty by lowering salaries, reducing the number of full-time positions, and stripping many of tenure, all without involving the faculty in the decision-making process.

A June 5, 2018, memorandum presented fourteen tenured professors with a stark choice: either surrender their full-time, tenured positions and faculty voting rights, sign an agreement containing general and age-discrimination releases along with nondisparagement and nondisclosure provisions, and accept nontenured appointments at lower pay, or have their appointments summarily terminated as of July 1, 2018, with immediate cessation of salary and benefits.

After one faculty member contacted the AAUP seeking assistance, we wrote to the administration three times highlighting our concerns in the case and reiterating appropriate procedural standards for terminating appointments because of financial exigency.

Our concerns, in this case, are myriad. A decision of far-reaching importance and consequence to the entire law school community, and particularly to the faculty members and students, appears to have been taken by the Vermont Law School administration and board without meaningful consultation with the faculty. The Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, jointly formulated by the AAUP with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, “rests on the premise of an ‘inescapable interdependence’ in the relationship among governing board, administration, and faculty, which calls for ‘adequate communication among these components, and full opportunity for appropriate joint effort.”

In addition, with only five faculty members having retained tenure at an institution with more than six hundred students, the restructuring appears to have effectively eviscerated the existing tenure system and, with it, protections for academic freedom.

AAUP investigating committees in the area of college and university governance are charged with inquiring into cases that appear to feature severe departures from AAUP-supported governance standards. Committees are composed of AAUP members from other institutions who have had no previous involvement in the matter. If the investigating committee’s published report finds that serious violations have occurred, the AAUP may place the institution on its sanction list by vote of the Association’s annual meeting, which informs the academic community and the public that conditions for academic governance at the institution are unsound.

We will keep you apprised of developments in the case. If you’d like to support our investigative work around shared governance and academic freedom, please donate to the AAUP Foundation, which supports our investigations.

Thank you,

Anita Levy
Senior Program Officer, Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance


Why are congressional staffers threatening faculty?

It’s very simple: members of Congress and their staffs should not be in the business of threatening faculty members. Why does this need to be said? It happened last week. Join 1,000 faculty members who’ve already taken action and sign an open letter standing strongly against this kind of behavior by powerful legislators.

Here’s what happened. Ari Kohen, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, came across this photo on a progressive blog’s Facebook page.

He hit “like” because it amused him, and moved on with his day. Later that week, the staff of Nebraska congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s office combed through the names of people who’d liked and shared the photo. Then the chief of staff to Fortenberry, Reyn Archer, made a 53-minute call to Kohen to lambaste and threaten him for exercising his well-established right to free speech. He not-so-subtly implied that he could use his position and power to bring down a rain of harassment on Kohen. “We have a First Amendment opportunity to basically put you out there in front of everybody…we could do that publicly, would you like that?,” said Archer in the call. Archer also contacted Kohen’s employer.

Sign the open letter to Congressman Fortenberry.

It should go without saying that a legislator and his staff should not harass and threaten a faculty member based on his or her social media activity, and that it is absurd to equate “liking” a Facebook joke with support for vandalism. However, it’s clear that, in the current political climate, this DOES need to be said.  We’re calling on Fortenberry to publicly repudiate his chief of staff’s actions to threaten and harass Professor Ari Kohen, and to stand unequivocally for academic freedom and free speech for all faculty.

Thanks,
Mariah Quinn
Digital Organizer, AAUP


The scary stats on contingency in higher education

Earlier this month, we sent you a data snapshot breaking out the numbers on faculty and graduate employee appointments at US colleges and universities. The composition of the academic workforce varies between institution types–at community colleges, a whopping 66 percent of positions are classified as part-time, while at research institutions much of that work is done by graduate employees. At all US institutions combined, the percentage of instructional positions that is off the tenure track amounted to 73 percent in 2016, the latest year for which data are available.

Two recent AAUP investigative reports illustrate what these numbers mean on the ground. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last year, the administration dismissed Courtney Lawton, a doctoral student who also held a part-time lecturer appointment, following her protest of an on-campus recruitment table for Turning Point USA. Lawton’s protest was recorded and widely disseminated online, which led to threats against her and the university. Political pressure on the university was at the very heart of the case, and the investigating committee concluded that the basis for Lawton’s dismissal was related to the political content of her speech and that the due process afforded to her was inadequate.

At Colorado’s Community College of Aurora,  part-time faculty member Nathanial Bork, an advocate for adjunct rights, was fired because he allegedly had failed to adequately implement a curriculum redesign mandated by the administration. Bork, who had taught philosophy and related courses at the college for six years with positive reviews, had written to the institution’s regional accrediting agency, criticizing CCA’s efforts to raise course completion rates by lowering standards.  Investigators noted that at CCA the academic freedom of part-time faculty members “is not universally guaranteed as a matter of institutional policy but selectively bestowed as a function of administrative benevolence. That is to say, it does not exist.”

Exposing such conditions is one tool that the national AAUP has to improve protections for academic freedom.  When institutions are censured by the AAUP, as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Community College of Aurora both have been, they often respond by making restitution to affected faculty members and working to improve their practices and bring their policies into accordance with the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations. These regulations spell out, in language suitable for use in faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements, policies that protect academic freedom.

The AAUP this year released a revised version of the Recommended Institutional Regulations that clarifies the AAUP’s long-standing position on due process protections for part-time faculty members.  As a newly added note in the regulations explains, “There should be no invidious distinctions between those who teach and/or conduct research in higher education, regardless of whether they hold full-time or part-time appointments or whether their appointments are tenured, tenure-track, or contingent. All faculty members should have access to the same due-process protections and procedures.”

AAUP chapters and members are vital in the fight for academic freedom. Member support enables the national AAUP to produce research on the state of the profession, conduct investigations of particularly egregious academic freedom cases, and provide tools such as the recommended institutional regulations. And working at the campus level to improve institutional policies is a key function of AAUP members and chapters. Joining together in solidarity across ranks and roles is the only way we can protect academic freedom and shared governance for all.

Here’s a simple step you can take right now: share the graphic below to help raise public awareness of contingency in higher education.

Sincerely,
Gwendolyn Bradley
AAUP Senior Program Officer

Graphic to share on Facebook of stats


A Victory for Unions at University of Northern Iowa

We had a big win in Iowa this week, with 97% of voting faculty at the University of Northern Iowa voting in favor of recertifying their union, the United Faculty/AAUP. Recertification became necessary after a 2017 bill drastically altered Iowa’s collective bargaining law for state employees.

In addition to limiting the mandatory and permissive subjects of bargaining (for example, health insurance and evaluation procedures are now prohibited subjects of bargaining), the bill also eliminated payroll deduction and requires recertification of the bargaining unit one year prior to the expiration of each collective bargaining agreement.

In order to maintain its certification, United Faculty needed to get majority support from all eligible faculty members, not just a majority of those voting. In effect, there was no way to remain neutral – not voting would be counted as a vote against the union. Of the 643 faculty members who were eligible to vote in the election, 547 faculty members voted in favor of United Faculty and only 17 faculty members voted against the union.

Iowa has long had laws unfriendly to workers, so our UNI colleagues have been operating under a Janus environment for quite some time. These election results, however, show that UNI faculty clearly see the value of their union and support the union’s work. The chapter plans to build on this victory by increasing membership numbers over the rest of the academic year and is set to begin bargaining for a new contract before the year ends.

Congratulations to all the faculty at UNI!

In solidarity,
Kira Schuman
Midwest Lead Organizer
Department of Organizing and Services


AAUP Investigation Finds Abysmal Conditions for Academic Freedom

Calling general conditions for academic freedom and governance at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, “abysmal,” a report we released today found credible the claims of three faculty members that their criticism of administrative decisions led to actions against them. Two of the faculty members, both tenured, were suddenly fired in their twelfth year of service. The third was not reappointed after her fifth year on the tenure track, ostensibly for financial reasons.

An AAUP investigative committee found that administrators had violated the academic due process rights of all three faculty members. The committee also noted that  “fear and demoralization” are widespread among the faculty at the university.

Read the full report here.

The tenured faculty members, Shannan Butler and Corinne Weisgerber, who happen to be husband and wife, were dismissed in a meeting by the institution’s acting vice president for academic affairs, on the stated grounds of “continued disrespect and disregard for the mission and goals of the university.” The vice president alleged a pattern of unprofessional conduct on their part toward their departmental colleagues, and especially toward two interim chairs. Following the meeting, they were escorted from campus by a university security officer.

Despite the urging of the AAUP’s staff, the university’s president declined to afford the two faculty members—who sharply contested all the charges against them—an adjudicative hearing before a faculty body in which the administration would have to demonstrate that adequate cause for their dismissal indeed existed.

The tenure-track faculty member, Katie Peterson, learned of her nonreappointment in a meeting with the same vice president for academic affairs. She was not given adequate notice of nonrenewal, nor was she afforded an opportunity to appeal the decision to an elected faculty committee. She was thus denied the opportunity to ask a faculty body to review her allegation that the real reason for her nonreappointment was that the dean perceived her as a troublemaker. In 2015 she had filed a complaint of sexual harassment against an associate dean, which did not, according to her account, result in a complete cessation of the objectionable conduct. As a result, she filed additional complaints. The new dean, she charged, seemed irritated by the complaints, spoke of them disparagingly, failed to support her tenure bid, and brought the associate dean (who had retired) back into proximity with Peterson.

In addition to finding that none of the three faculty members was afforded academic due process, the investigating committee also concluded that the dismissals of Professors Butler and Weisgerber were plausibly the consequence of their “persistent outspokenness about administrative decisions and actions.” And it found credible Peterson’s allegation that the nonrenewal was the consequence of her having lodged complaints of sexual harassment against an administrator, noting that the allegation stood unrefuted absent an appropriate faculty review procedure

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few select cases annually in which severe departures from widely accepted principles and standards on academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite efforts to resolve them. Investigating committees are composed of AAUP members from other institutions with no previous involvement in the matter.

At its June meeting, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will consider whether to recommend to the AAUP’s annual meeting that censure be imposed on the St. Edward’s University administration for substantial noncompliance with AAUP-supported standards of academic freedom and tenure.

Join us this Friday, October 26, at 12 p.m. ET, for a Facebook Live discussion of the case and examination of the work of Committee A with Henry Reichman, the chair of Committee A, and Hans-Joerg Tiede, a senior program officer in the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance. RSVP here.

Gregory Scholtz
Director, Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance

P.S. Help support the continued work of the AAUP to protect faculty and academic freedom and due process. Donate to the Academic Freedom fund of the AAUP Foundation today.


Privatization in Online Ed

Privatization of online higher education is on the rise. For-profit online education corporations like Academic Partnerships, Kaplan, Wiley, Pearson, and Blackboard contract with public and private nonprofit institutions to provide digital platforms for educational content, recruit students, manage enrollment, facilitate the development of course materials, and more. While the use of digital platforms and online teaching tools can enrich education, elements of the contracts that institutions make with for-profit online education corporations can present problems in areas of interest to faculty, particularly academic freedom and shared governance.

Your AAUP chapter can meaningfully shape the quality of online education at your institution. Check out our Education Not Privatization toolkit here.

To find out more about how online education is operating at different institutions, the AAUP launched an informal privatization survey this fall.

So far more than four hundred respondents have spoken up about online education contracts at their institutions, and this is what they have to say:

  • Shared governance takes a backseat. 57 percent disagreed with the statement “faculty exercised oversight of the education components of the contract.”
  • Quality is not a focus.  66 percent disagreed with the statement “educational quality has improved as a result of the contract.”
  • Reputation may be at risk. 74 percent disagreed with the statement “the reputation of our institution will be improved because of the contract.”

The emerging themes are clear. Shared governance is not playing a robust role in the development of online education contracts, and as a result quality and reputation may not meet the highest standards. There is a solution: faculty can develop their own proposals for these contracts and demand a seat at the table.

Your AAUP chapter has the power to shape online offerings at your institution and change the course of privatization in higher education. Check out the toolkit here.

Monica Owens
Political Organizer, AAUP

P.S. Join us on Wednesday, October 24, at 1pm ET for a live discussion with David Hughes of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT chapter to hear about the chapter’s anti-privatization efforts and get tips for your own chapter campaign (RSVP here).


The Latest Data on the Faculty Workforce

The AAUP has taken a look at the latest data on the faculty workforce. We looked at overall trends and broke out data on tenure-track faculty, full-time non-tenure-track faculty, part-time faculty, and graduate student instructors at different types of institutions.

To read the full report, click here.

At its best, the tenure system is a big tent, designed to unite a diverse faculty within a system of common professional values, standards, rights, and responsibilities. Tenure protects academic freedom by insulating faculty from the whims and biases of administrators, legislators, and donors, and provides the security that enables faculty to speak truth to power and contribute to the common good through teaching, research, and service activities.

But increasingly, US colleges and universities are hiring faculty outside the tenure system, into less secure positions that generally lack adequate institutional support and are often very poorly compensated. As you can see in the chart below, at all US institutions combined, the percentage of instructional positions that is off the tenure track amounted to 73 percent in 2016, the latest year for which data are available.

Graph of faculty breakdown

While faculty members in contingent positions are often highly qualified and dedicated teachers, they are not given adequate institutional support. And by definition, contingent faculty lack protections for academic freedom.

The trend toward increased contingency among faculty is troubling and it is why AAUP remains an advocate for tenure and the protections it provides, while also working on many levels to improve conditions for faculty working in contingent positions. To dive deeper into the data, read our full report here.

The AAUP