AAUP@FHSU


COVID-19 and AAUP principles

Like the rest of society, higher education continues to be shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us have already been required to move courses online, often abruptly and without adequate institutional support. Labs are being shuttered and research projects curtailed, and what we had initially hoped would be only a brief disruption is now likely to continue through the remainder of this academic year. Many members of our campus communities—including graduate student workers, support staff, students, and all categories of faculty—are faced with uncertainty around employment status, health benefits, and paid leave.

The AAUP has put together a coronavirus information web page for AAUP members and the higher education community. We have been collecting resources from the government, other higher education organizations, and our chapters to help all of us respond to this challenge. We will continue to add to the page as new resources become available.

As many of you know, some administrations have been leaving the faculty out of decisions pertaining to curriculum and program, online teaching and intellectual property, and the faculty role in navigating the financial impact of COVID-19 on our campuses. Faculty governance bodies and academic unions must insist on involvement in decision-making about the effects that this crisis is having on our campuses, and we will be sharing guidance from the national AAUP, as well as strategies some of our chapters have developed as they grapple with the crisis.

Finally, the AAUP is setting up a Facebook page for members to connect, share information and strategies, and support one another during this unprecedented situation. We will be posting information about this resource in the next few days.

These are trying times for our students, our profession, and our nation. But even as we respond to the immediate needs of our students and families, we must also be diligent in defending the AAUP’s core principles of academic freedom, due process, and the faculty voice in decision-making on our campuses. If we do not defend those principles, we run the real risk that college and university administrations will use this emergency to reshape higher education, serving an agenda that is too often influenced by corporate interests rather than by a commitment to the common good. Please check out our coronavirus information page for a statement on COVID-19 and the faculty role in decision-makingAFT and AAUP principles for higher education’s response to COVID-19, and other resources already available for responding to any administration overreach you may be experiencing.

We ask that you continue to share information with us about what is being done on your campus to support faculty and students during this crisis and, especially, what your chapter or faculty senate’s role has been during this process.

We have survived and grown stronger in times of crisis before, and, working together, we will do so now.

In solidarity,
Rudy Fichtenbaum
AAUP President


COVID-19 and AAUP Office Operating Status

On Friday, March 13, the federal government declared a national state of emergency in response to increasing concerns about COVID-19. Jurisdictions in the Washington, DC, area also made announcements about states of emergency and closed local schools. COVID19_graphic_310

Because of recommendations about social distancing and the need to “flatten the curve” of virus transmission, AAUP leadership made a decision to have all AAUP staff transition to telework as of the end of the business day on Monday, March 16, 2020, until at least Tuesday, March 31. The best way to reach staff members is to write to the appropriate email address for the staff member or department you need to contact. Please consult the AAUP staff page for a list of individual and departmental email addresses.

We appreciate your patience as we manage this abrupt transition. We will provide updates about the AAUP’s operating status here and will continue to update our web page with COVID-19 resources for higher education. Please note that we are monitoring the situation and will make a decision in the coming weeks about the status of the biennial meeting. In the meantime, we are extending the early-bird registration deadline for the June 18–21 AAUP Conference and Biennial Meeting until May 7.

Please see the AFT and AAUP Principles for Higher Education Response to COVID-19, which we developed with our organizing partner, the American Federation of Teachers. This is a challenging time for higher education, and we share the concerns of many faculty members about the short- and long-term impact of institutional responses to COVID-19 and of transitions to online education at colleges and universities around the country.

Although we will communicate with members by email about any important developments relating to the AAUP’s operating status, subscribing to our Academe Blog and following us on Facebook and Twitter are good ways to see content related to COVID-19 and higher education that we are sharing on a regular basis.

Julie Schmid
Executive Director


COVID-19 and the faculty role in decision-making

As we are learning, COVID-19 (the coronavirus) has the potential to present a serious challenge to the health and safety of our campus communities. At this time, campuses in Washington State, New York State, California, Nebraska, and elsewhere have closed or moved to all-online teaching, and a number of study-abroad programs have been cut short or suspended altogether.

Administrations are taking the potential health impact of the virus seriously, and we applaud their efforts to do so. The safety of the students, the staff, and the faculty should be everyone’s primary concern. We are hearing from AAUP members, however, that decisions to close campuses or to move to an all-online model for the short term are being made without adequate faculty involvement in decision-making. The AAUP’s 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities makes clear that “the faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction . . . and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process.”

In certain situations, it is necessary to close a campus or move to online instruction to safeguard the health of the campus community. Faculty and academic staff—through their shared governance bodies or, when applicable, their unions—should be consulted on how best to implement this decision. In order to ensure full participation, administrations should share information with faculty and seek input from the appropriate faculty bodies. In cases where the institution is moving to an all-online model to avoid virus transmission on campus, it is incumbent on administrations to provide all instructional faculty with the appropriate software and training. Administrations should also consider the needs and limitations of students, who may lack access to the internet or face other obstacles to completing their coursework remotely.

It is hard to know what the ultimate impact of COVID-19 will be on our campuses. The administration should provide the appropriate faculty body—the union or the governance body—with information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on enrollments, revenues, and hiring and renewals. In the spirit of the AAUP’s One Faculty campaign, we encourage our chapters to be especially sensitive to how these closures and any future curtailment of programs could affect our colleagues on full-time non-tenure-track or part-time contingent appointments.

The AAUP has developed a web page with resources on COVID-19. We will continue to update this page as new resources become available. We also ask that chapters share information with us about what is being done on their campus and what the chapter or faculty senate’s role has been in decision-making around campus closures and the implementation of all-online teaching.

In solidarity,

Rudy Fichtenbaum
AAUP President


Pacific Lutheran University Dismissed Long-Serving Faculty Member in Violation of AAUP Principles

An AAUP report found that Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) acted in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure when it summarily dismissed Jane Harty, a part-time faculty member with forty years of service in the Department of Music at PLU, in 2018. The dismissal hearing held by the university for Harty was described as a “sham exercise” in the AAUP report.

The AAUP concluded that the relatively minor nature of the misconduct in which Harty was alleged to have engaged and the summary nature of the administrative action taken suggest her dismissal may have stemmed from the administration’s long-standing displeasure with her advocacy for the rights of faculty members on contingent appointments.

Join us for a Facebook Live with AAUP senior program officer Hans-Joerg Tiede on Thursday, January 23, at 3 p.m. ET for a brief overview of the report. RSVP here.

Beginning in 2012, PLU was the site of an academic labor dispute when the Service Employees International Union attempted to organize the contingent faculty at the institution. The administration opposed this effort, based on PLU’s religious affiliation and on the claim that full-time contingent faculty members are managerial employees. Harty coauthored a report on a survey of the contingent faculty at the institution undertaken on behalf of the local AAUP chapter and led the organizing effort among the contingent faculty. Following the conclusion of an unsuccessful organizing campaign, Harty continued to engage in activism on behalf of the non-tenure-track faculty on campus, which brought her into conflict with the administration.

As the report details, in November 2018, Harty was summarily suspended from her teaching responsibilities without a dismissal hearing for allegedly violating a directive that prohibited faculty members from accepting payment from PLU students for private music lessons given independently of the university. Following lengthy correspondence between the AAUP’s staff and the administration, in which the administration’s representatives repeatedly shifted their characterization of the action against her, the PLU administration agreed to afford Harty a faculty dismissal hearing, as stipulated under AAUP-recommended standards.

At the hearing, which was attended by an AAUP observer representing the AAUP’s national office, the administration took the position that it was not actually dismissing the faculty member, and the faculty hearing body did not therefore determine whether the charges warranted dismissal. In effect, the procedure was a dismissal hearing in name only.

Read the full report here.

The AAUP


AAUP Opposes Proposed NLRB Rule That Would Bar Grad Unionizing

The AAUP has submitted comments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) opposing a proposed rule that would bar many graduate assistants from forming unions. The rule put forward by the NLRB holds that students who are also teaching or research assistants at private colleges or universities are not employees and are therefore not entitled to unionize or bargain collectively under the National Labor Relations Act.

The AAUP’s comments reject this claim and strongly refute the board’s assertion that “academic freedom” supports the proposed rule.

The AAUP has long supported the union rights of faculty and graduate assistants. In addition to the other benefits it provides, collective bargaining is an effective tool to promote and protect academic freedom. AAUP chapters have established explicit guarantees of academic freedom in their collective bargaining contracts, sometimes incorporating language from the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. These contracts make promises of academic freedom legally enforceable.

Graduate assistants perform specific work in return for compensation. The work they do is often indistinguishable from that performed by faculty members, and universities generally treat graduate assistant stipends as payment for teaching or research work, not as general financial support. As such, and as the AAUP’s comments make clear, graduate assistants are employees who should have the same rights as other private-sector employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

The comments also refute the NLRB’s assertion that potential harm to an institution’s academic freedom is a basis for excluding graduate assistants from collective bargaining, arguing that “collective bargaining by faculty and graduate assistants is one of several ways to promote academic freedom on campus, as it allows faculty, students, and administrators to discuss collectively how best to do their shared work of teaching and research.”

The comments were drafted by Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP general counsel and professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Relations, and Rana M. Jaleel, assistant professor of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at the University of California, Davis.

You can read the comments and a summary of them here.

The AAUP

P.S. Looking for a primer on academic freedom? Check out our one page overview here.


Attacks expertise and higher ed threaten democracy

Today the AAUP issued In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education, a statement that advances an impassioned argument for the importance of expert knowledge and the institutions of higher education that produce and transmit it. Addressing an ongoing movement in the United States to attack the disciplines and higher education institutions, the statement defends the critical role these institutions perform in producing the knowledge that sustains American democracy, especially in this moment of intense global instability. In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education was prepared by the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and has been endorsed so far by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Council of University of California Faculty Associations, the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, PEN America, and the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

In the statement, the AAUP calls attention to the threats posed by attacks on expert knowledge. How can a government develop effective policy when it rejects informed, dispassionate studies of climate change, suppresses its own data collection on white supremacist domestic terrorism, or imposes gag orders on doctors under regulations prohibiting discussion of abortion or contraception, merely because they contradict ideological belief? “We cannot eat ideological belief; wishful thinking will not keep us safe,” the statement asserts.

In Defense of Knowledge and Higher Education connects the current attack on the disciplines and higher education with the undermining of universities that has occurred since the 1970s. Cuts in federal and state funding for public universities and for basic research have weakened universities by increasing their reliance on private support, encouraging the substitution of contingent positions for faculty appointments with indefinite tenure, widening the gap between richer and poorer institutions, and facilitating the rise of corporate management styles by administrators and trustees with the consequent diminution of faculty participation in university governance.

The statement reemphasizes the pledge of the AAUP’s founders “to safeguard freedom of inquiry and of teaching against both covert and overt attacks and to guarantee the long-established practices and principles that define the production of knowledge.” It concludes by calling on “those who value knowledge to take a stand in the face of those who would assault it, to convey to a broad public the dangers that await us—as individuals and as a society—should that pledge be abandoned.”

Read the full statement.

Henry Reichman
Chair,  Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure


AAUP Signs on to Brief in Support of Dreamers

Last week, the AAUP, together with forty-three educational associations, signed onto an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, whose participants are often referred to as “Dreamers.” The brief calls the DACA program “an unmitigated good for this country, its higher education system, and the young persons whom it has benefited.”

The brief was prepared by the American Council on Education and submitted to the high court in the consolidated DACA cases Dep’t of Homeland Sec. v. Regents of Univ. of Cal.et.al.

The amicus brief emphasizes that “DACA has been a symbol of tolerance and openness of our university campuses” and warns that rescinding DACA would broadcast to foreign-born students and potential students from around the globe a message of exclusion that would “irreparably damage the reputation of America’s higher education system in the eyes of the world.”

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in this case in November and a decision is expected before June 2020. The Trump administration moved to end DACA in 2017, but federal courts blocked that attempt. At that time, the AAUP issued a strong statement in support of DACA noting that “a large number of those granted DACA status are our students.” Most recently, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld one of the district court’s orders requiring the Trump administration to keep the DACA program in place.

You can find a link to the full brief here.

Risa Lieberwitz
General Counsel, AAUP