AAUP@FHSU


Assault on Research and Academic Freedom

Dear Ron,

The Trump administration’s disregard for assaults on science has been well documented by the AAUP, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and others. Now President Trump himself has attacked the credibility of a study by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. He falsely claimed that the study, which found some 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017, was “done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible.”

The AAUP takes no position on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the GWU study or, for that matter, of any other scientific research.  But such research can be properly evaluated only by qualified experts through open channels of review and debate. Studies of this sort must not become political footballs.  For the president of the United States to accuse scholars of political bias, without a shred of evidence, is an unacceptable assault on independent research and the academic freedom of scientists.

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The AAUP

P.S. A link to the statement can be found here.


Reclaim Online Education from Corporate Control

Faculty across the country are experiencing a major trend toward privatization of higher education. For-profit online education corporations like Academic Partnerships, Kaplan, Wiley, and Pearson contract with institutions to provide digital platforms for educational content, recruit students, manage enrollment, facilitate the development of course materials, and more. According to a Century Foundation report, the vast majority of US public colleges and universities that offer online education programs or courses now rely on external companies.

While the use of digital platforms and online teaching tools can enrich higher education, the for-profit nature of these contracts can compromise educational quality, student privacy, the reputation of the institution, and faculty governance.

AAUP chapters across the country are building a movement to challenge corporate control of online education. Will you help by answering a few brief questions about for-profit online education contracts on your campus?

AAUP faculty have been successfully building power against for-profit online education for years. In 2013, the Rutgers AAUP/AFT chapter successfully challenged the institution’s partnership with Pearson and organized colleagues to opt-out of Pearson-run courses that compromised educational quality and academic freedom.

Now faculty at Purdue University, Eastern Michigan University, and others are taking on for-profit online education deals that compromise educational quality, faculty governance, and the reputation of the institution. Just last week Purdue faculty and the Indiana AAUP scored a huge victory in the campaign to bring an end to required nondisclosure agreements at Purdue University Global, the new Kaplan-run online branch of Purdue University.

AAUP faculty are joining together to reclaim online higher education from corporate control, and we need your help. Answer a few brief questions about for-profit online education contracts on your campus here.

Together we can reclaim faculty power and online education from corporate control.

Monica Owens
Political Organizer, AAUP


Victory at Purdue: NDAs Dropped

Big news: Purdue Global announced yesterday that it will immediately stop requiring faculty members to sign nondisclosure agreements. It also rescinded any previously signed agreements.

This is a huge victory. It removes a threat to the academic freedom of those currently employed by Purdue Global, and may serve as a bulwark against the use of these agreements by other academic institutions.

Purdue Global’s announcement comes in response to a public outcry that followed upon the work by the Indiana Conference of the AAUP and the national AAUP to expose its use of NDAs; thousands of AAUP members and supporters signed our petition demanding the end of the practice. The victory demonstrates that when faculty join together they have a powerful voice to protect academic freedom, shared governance, and higher education for the common good.

Purdue Global has not yet announced an end to another shameful practice, the use of forced arbitration agreements for students. Tell Purdue the forced arbitration must stop. Add your name now and keep the pressure on.

Today is a step in the right direction, and we hope that Purdue Global will continue to make more positive changes in response to the concerns that we and others have raised as it transitions from a for-profit institution to one that benefits the public.

The AAUP

P.S. You can read coverage of the story in Inside Higher Ed here.


WELCOME – 2018 AAUP Fall Semester

Welcome to fall! Like many AAUP members who taught classes, pursued research projects, and organized around campus issues, national AAUP leaders and staff have been busy this summer. We aim to make these final months of 2018 as productive as possible as we work with all of our members and chapters to advance academic freedom and the faculty voice in decision making.

One thing we did over the summer was to launch investigations into cases at the Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona and St. Edwards University in Texas. Investigations are conducted a few times a year in cases where extreme violations of academic freedom or shared governance prove irresolvable through other means. When an administration responds by improving its policies and practices, the changes broadly benefit faculty and higher education.

At Maricopa Community Colleges, we’re investigating apparent departures from widely adopted standards of academic governance. The matter stems from a February 2018 resolution of the college’s governing board that terminated a “meet-and-confer” provision of the faculty policy manual and ordered the creation of a new manual that would severely limit the participation of the faculty in institutional governance. Of particular concern is the governing board’s directive that the new manual, to be prepared unilaterally by the administration, may not allow faculty to participate in matters related to “compensation, benefits, accountability, and organizational operations.” Not only would such a change modify the structure and procedure for faculty participation, the resulting changes would themselves be at odds with principles of academic governance, which call for meaningful faculty participation in decisions that affect all of these areas. We’ll notify you when the investigation is completed, likely in late fall or early winter.

At issue in the St. Edwards case is the summary dismissal of two tenured faculty members who were apparently fired for questioning the administration’s efforts to assert control over their department. Before launching an investigation, the AAUP communicated extensively with the administration, expressing our concern about the apparent lack of key elements of academic due process. We also stressed that academic freedom, as widely understood in American higher education, includes the right to express dissenting and critical views regarding one’s institution, its policies, and its administration. When the administration failed to address these concerns or provide the faculty members with due process, an investigation was authorized, and the investigating team visited St. Edwards in August. We’ll share the results when the investigation is completed.

Earlier this week, we wrote to you about another recent case in which our intervention protected academic freedom. At the request of our Rutgers University AAUP/AFT chapter, we provided an analysis of a troubling report by that university’s Office of Employment Equity, which concluded that a faculty member’s Facebook posts on gentrification were not protected by the First Amendment and violated the university’s policy on discrimination and harassment. A day after chapter leaders gave the letter to Rutgers president Robert Barchi, he ordered another review.

We’re also working with members like you to protect academic freedom against another line of attack–the growing trend to privatize higher education. In August, together with AAUP activists in Indiana, we broke the news that Purdue Global, an online branch campus of the Purdue University system, is requiring instructional faculty to sign a nondisclosure agreement. (You can sign onto a petition protesting the practice here if you haven’t already. Spread the word!The resulting publicity is putting Purdue on the defensive.

Purdue’s actions are part of a larger trend wherein for-profit companies like Academic Partnerships, Kaplan, Wiley, and Pearson are increasingly contracting with public and private not-for-profit universities to perform core academic functions. Simultaneously, wealthy donors like the Koch Foundation and others are establishing secretive, strings-attached gift agreements with public institutions that end up shaping the university without input from faculty, students, or taxpayers. Both of these trends undermine shared governance, academic freedom, student learning conditions, and democracy within a state’s public higher education system. This fall, we’ll be offering a toolkit and trainings on how you can tackle this issue at your institution and more broadly in higher education.

Our work on academic freedom is about to get even more local with the creation of our Academic Freedom and Shared Governance Fellowship program. We’ll work with a cohort of fellows to deepen their knowledge about academic freedom and shared governance. At the end of the program, fellows will work on improving the culture on their campuses through trainings, presentations, and conversations with faculty and students. Stay tuned for the application materials later this fall!

The AAUP has a long history of fighting for faculty and academic freedom, and as readers of history we’re pleased to announce our new fall book club. We’ll be reading Democracy in Chains, an examination by Duke University professor Nancy MacLean of a relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, and privatize public education. We’ll host a discussion and a Facebook Live with MacLean. We’ll send more information later this fall when the book club officially launches.

In addition to the recent and upcoming activities described here, we continue to file amicus briefs, conduct research, and develop tools for chapters–all different methods that we use to further the same aims: advancing academic freedom and shared governance, promoting the economic security of faculty and other academic professionals, and ensuring higher education’s contribution to the common good.

We couldn’t do it without you! Our work as educators, union members, and advocates has never been more important than it is now. Together, we say loudly and clearly that strong universities and well-educated citizens are essential to our survival as a democracy. One easy way you can stay engaged and up-to-date is to follow and share our social media posts. Here’s the link to our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Best wishes,

Gwendolyn Bradley,
Director, External Relations, AAUP


Victory at Rutgers

Last week the national AAUP delivered a letter to the leaders of the Rutgers University AAUP-AFT chapter expressing concern about a report by that university’s Office of Employment Equity, which concluded that Facebook posts on gentrification made by history professor James Livingston “were not protected by the First Amendment and furthermore violated the university’s policy on discrimination and harassment.” We wrote that any discipline stemming from that finding would violate long-standing principles of academic freedom that are embraced in the university’s own policies and collective bargaining agreement. A day after chapter leaders gave the letter to Rutgers president Robert Barchi, he ordered another review of the professor’s social media posts, calling for a more rigorous assessment.

Barchi — who said he was not aware of the report before its release — wrote that “few values are as important to the University as the protection of our First Amendment rights.” In light of the “complexities of this matter and the importance of our considering these matters with exceptional diligence,” Barchi announced the formation of a special advisory group, consisting of First Amendment and academic freedom scholars and attorneys, to provide guidance on this and similar alleged violations of Rutgers policies. For more on the case, here’s an article from today’s Inside Higher Ed.

The model provided by Kent Syverud, chancellor of Syracuse University, is worth noting. When one of his faculty members was harassed for a controversial tweet, he said, “We are and will remain a university. Free speech is and will remain one of our key values. I can’t imagine academic freedom or the genuine search for truth thriving here without free speech. Our faculty must be able to say and write things — including things that provoke some or make others uncomfortable — up to the very limits of the law.”

Barchi’s move, while perhaps not finally laying this case to rest, marks a major win nonetheless. One can only imagine how Professor Livingston might have fared had the Rutgers AAUP-AFT and the national AAUP not been there to defend his academic freedom right to extramural expression.

So I offer you a challenge: if you want to help the cause of academic freedom in other cases like this, please consider making a generous donation to the AAUP Foundation.

Henry Reichman,
Chair, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure


No to NDAs for Faculty

In just one semester, Purdue University Global has trampled on transparency, shared governance, and academic freedom—foundational tenets of American higher education.

As a faculty member at Purdue University, I am deeply troubled by the recent revelation that Purdue Global, an “online branch campus” of our university system, is requiring instructional faculty to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).

The NDA states that any work product, including course materials “or other intellectual property that arises in any part in the course of … employment at Purdue Global, is commissioned and owned by Purdue Global as a work-for-hire and may not be used, duplicated or distributed outside of Purdue Global.”

The agreement also contains a sweeping gag clause that prohibits faculty members from disclosing “to anyone who is not specifically authorized to receive it,” even other Purdue Global employees, virtually any information received during the course of their employment.

Stand with me and my colleagues at Purdue. Let Purdue’s administration know that faculty will not be intimidated or silenced by NDAs.

Asserting ownership over the faculty’s teaching-related materials undermines standard academic practice, takes away our right to our own intellectual property, and violates our academic freedom. The gag order also violates academic freedom by seeking to bar faculty from speaking out about academic policies, curriculum, and budgetary matters.

The Century Foundation revealed today that, in addition to requiring faculty to sign nondisclosure agreements, Purdue Global also requires students to sign forced arbitration agreements as a condition of enrollment, a tactic used in the for-profit college industry to restrict students’ rights to join a class action when seeking restitution for injury by the institution.

Such agreements are unprecedented for a public university system like Purdue and speak to a larger trend of limiting faculty and student voices. Purdue Global was formed last spring when Purdue purchased the for-profit, online Kaplan University despite the strenuous objections of faculty and others who opposed merging a public land-grant university with the troubled Kaplan.

Join us in supporting the faculty and students of Purdue Global by saying no to NDAs and forced arbitration. Sign on now.

David Nalbone, PhD
Purdue University Northwest
Vice President, Indiana Conference of the AAUP

P.S. Want  further background on the story? Check out the Inside Higher Ed article Who Owns Faculty Work at Purdue Global? and The Century Foundation’s Protected: Purdue University Global Is a For-Profit College Masquerading as a Public University


AAUP Opposes University Litmus Tests

AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure released the following statement calling on public universities to not require speakers and others to pledge that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse a specific political movement.

“According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, at least seventeen states have passed legislation imposing punitive measures against supporters of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) with regard to Israel. As a result, some public universities in those states have begun to require that external speakers invited to campus and others who contract with these universities, such as external reviewers of tenure and promotion materials, sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse BDS.

The American Association of University Professors does not endorse BDS. We take no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor on calls for divestment or economic sanctions. But we oppose all academic boycotts, including an academic boycott of Israel, on the grounds that such boycotts violate the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas for which our organization has stood for over one hundred years. We believe that academic freedom ought not to be subordinated to political exigency; there will always be compelling political causes that will challenge the ideal of free and open scholarly exchange.

It is precisely for this reason that our opposition to BDS is matched as resolutely by our opposition to these pledges, which are nothing short of an attempt to limit freedom of speech and belief. Indeed, they conjure the specter of loyalty and disclaimer oaths, mainstays of McCarthyism. The right of individuals to engage in political boycotts, and to come together collectively to support a boycott, has a long and storied history in American civil protests. At colleges and universities especially, where reasoned disagreement and debate should be the order of the day, demands that faculty and students forswear support for a peaceful protest are repugnant.

At a time when there is widespread interest in making sure that speakers on all points of the political spectrum are able to make themselves heard on American campuses, the contradiction in seeking to ban advocates of this particular position is obvious and unacceptable. We, therefore, call on all institutions of higher education in the United States to challenge the required renunciation of BDS and uphold freedom of speech and belief for all members of the academic community.”

The AAUP also sent a letter to the Israeli government this week in regard to the interrogation, subsequent expulsion, and apparent banning from Israel of Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke in April of this year. Franke, a supporter of BDS, was expelled from Israel when attempting to visiting Israel in her capacity as a scholar and civil rights leader, not as a supporter of BDS. We believe such actions have grave implications for international academic exchange and are urging the Israeli government to reconsider the expulsion and to revoke any further ban on Professor Franke’s entry for purposes of collaborative academic and scholarly work in Israel.

The link to the statement and letter can be found here.

Thank you,
Henry Reichman, Chair, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure