AAUP@FHSU


How to Fight for Higher Ed as a Public Good

As states divest from public higher education, our colleges and universities face unprecedented threats from undue donor influence and corporations seeking to privatize our public institutions. Here is some information about resources that you may find helpful as we work nationwide to ensure that higher education continues to serve the public good, and not the interests of a wealthy few.

Fight Undue Donor Influence

As a faculty member and president of the AAUP chapter at George Mason University, I’ve been involved in the fight against undue donor influence. Together, faculty, students, public-education allies, and concerned citizens have been working to expose what the Koch brothers and other members of their dark-money network have gotten from over $100 million in restricted gifts to GMU. Turns out—it’s a lot! We’ve exposed donor influence over faculty hiring and retention, research and scholarship, and affiliated centers and institutes.

Now, UnKoch My Campus, with the help of grant funding from the AAUP Foundation, has developed a report with model donor policies that you can download here. The report provides a roadmap for protecting your institution from undue donor influence and includes  templates for faculty senate motions, gift acceptance procedures, and approval processes for donor-sponsored centers.

Fight Privatization and the Primacy of Profit

As we work to end undue donor influence at GMU, we are also confronting the privatization of our public university through expanding online initiatives—and the potential for a fully online university under the Mason brand modeled after Purdue Global. Like many other institutions, GMU is contracting with a for-profit company to do much of the technical work and some of the core academic work to expand online education offerings. It is also considering the creation of a public-private online university that would further privatize higher education in Virginia. Such public-private contracts often benefit shareholders of the private companies rather than students and faculty.

To shape the quality of online education at your institution, check out the AAUP’s Education Not Privatization toolkit here.

No doubt, there is much work to do. Let’s dig in. Check out the tools on offer from AAUP and UnKoch My Campus. Together we can protect academic freedom and higher education as a public good!

In Solidarity,
Bethany Letiecq
Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Science, GMU


Report Finds Partisan Ideology and Political Ambition Motivated Changes at Maricopa

An AAUP investigation released today finds that the governing board of the Maricopa Community Colleges was motivated by a desire to bust the faculty union when it decided in February 2018 to repeal the entire faculty manual, restrict the faculty’s participation in institutional decision making, and terminate a “meet-and-confer” process. That process had been used for more than forty years to establish institutional policies related to faculty matters and to make recommendations on salary and budgets.

The board also eliminated the role of the only district-level representative faculty governance body. This also served as the governing body of the faculty association, an organization that was incorporated as a union, but which did not have collective-bargaining rights under state law. In short, the board’s actions destroyed what had been an effective system of shared governance.

Our investigating committee—Bethany Carson of Santa Fe Community College, Emily M.S. Houh of the University of Cincinnati, and I—found that the governing board acted in disregard of normative standards of academic governance, as laid out in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

We also found evidence, based on correspondence obtained through open records requests, which strongly suggests that the board’s intervention was an engineered performance of political theater motivated by the partisan ideology of two former Republican members of the Arizona House of Representatives—one who served as chair of the board and the other as a member.

Join me for a Facebook Live discussion of the report tomorrow at 12 ET. RSVP here.

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few select cases annually in which severe departures from widely accepted principles and standards of academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite efforts to resolve them. Governance investigations are an important tool in our work to protect and advance the faculty’s voice in decision making; they shine a light on egregious practices and are intended to motivate institutions to improve these practices.

In this case, improvements came quickly. Not long after the visit of the investigating committee, three new members were elected to the Maricopa governing board and the existing board president announced his resignation. After the AAUP shared our findings with the administration, the board passed a proposal that rescinded the earlier changes and will eventually restore many of the shared governance mechanisms that the old board had terminated.

You can read the full report here.

Best,
Irene Mulvey,
Chair of the Investigating Committee,
Professor of Mathematics, Fairfield University

P.S.–You can support governance and academic freedom investigations by donating to the AAUP Foundation today.


No to Executive Action on Campus Free Speech

Over the weekend, during a speech to activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference, President Trump pledged to issue an executive order that would deny federal research funds to colleges and universities that do not “support free speech.”

The AAUP’s position on this is clear. We strongly support freedom of expression on campus and the rights of faculty and students to invite speakers of their choosing. And we support the institutional autonomy of colleges and universities and the roles of faculty, administration, and governing boards in institutional decision-making. The president’s proposal is a dangerous solution to a largely nonexistent problem.

Add your name to the AAUP’s open letter condemning Trump’s plan to take executive action on free speech on campus.

Even if the current political environment poses significant problems for free speech, the view that the free exchange of ideas no longer occurs on campuses is grossly exaggerated. There are and always will be individuals on campus and in society generally who wish to silence those with whom they disagree. But punitive and simplistic measures will only exacerbate the problems they may create. While the specific provisions of the promised executive order have not been revealed, they would doubtless be of a kind with the problematic provisions of recent state-level legislation that seeks to regulate free speech —in ways more likely to stifle than encourage free expression and diversity of opinion.

Stand with us in calling on Trump to not interfere with the role of faculty, administration, and governing board in institutional decision-making around free speech, as well as the role of students in the formulation and application of institutional policies affecting student affairs.

Add your name now.

The AAUP

P.S. Check out our One Faculty, One Resistance website and Campus Free Speech Toolkit to learn more about the conservative forces behind these new restrictive speech policy proposals and how faculty can take them on in their state legislatures.


Faculty Power Wins at Purdue! Forced Arbitration Dropped

American Association of University Professors members in Indiana have won another victory to reclaim Purdue University for students, not corporate profit.

After mounting pressure from an Indiana AAUP statewide campaign, the Kaplan-run Purdue University Global has announced an end to the use of a mandatory arbitration agreement against students. The agreement, contained within documents required for enrollment in the online university, stripped students of their legal rights to sue or join a class action lawsuit in cases of abuse. Kaplan, a for-profit university purchased by Purdue in 2017 and charged with running its online campus, has been the subject of multiple federal and state investigations for misleading marketing, inaccurate job placement numbers, and other false claims.

This victory was won by faculty-powered organizing. Will you take action to reclaim online college courses from private, corporate management by downloading the Education Not Privatization toolkit? The toolkit contains a primer on the rise of corporate online education, what’s at stake for faculty and students, and actions you can take to shape quality, faculty-led online courses at your institution.

Purdue Global announced that they will drop the abusive enrollment policy after the Indiana AAUP and allies brought it to light. Activists alerted regional accrediting agency the Higher Learning Commission, and eight AAUP chapters and several university senates in the state passed resolutions demanding an end to mandatory arbitration against students. The victory arrives on the heels of another recent faculty win at Purdue in fall 2018 when Indiana AAUP’s public pressure campaign successfully ended the use of non-disclosure agreements as a condition of faculty employment.

Recent wins by Indiana AAUP chapters set crucial limits to the privatization of public higher education, which threatens to erode academic freedom, shared governance, educational quality, and ultimately student success. These limits establish a precedent for faculty at colleges and universities around the country who want to reclaim higher education for students, not corporate profit.

You can reclaim your institution’s online education from private, profit-driven, corporate control and place it in the hands of faculty by downloading the toolkit here.

In Solidarity,
Bill V. Mullen
Professor of American Studies, Purdue University
Vice-president of Purdue AAUP

P.S. For more on the end to mandatory arbitration read Inside Higher Ed’s ”Purdue Global Nixes Student Arbitration Agreement” and for more on the fall 2018 NDA win, check out Inside Higher Ed’“Purdue Global Nondisclosure Agreement Gone.”


Dismissal of Professor Likely Retaliatory

According to an AAUP investigative report released today, the most plausible explanation for the dismissal of a faculty member from Nunez Community College was that it occurred as a retaliatory measure, violating his academic freedom. Professor Richard Schmitt, a nontenured associate professor of English with twenty-two years of service at the institution, had disagreed with the administration over the accuracy of an accreditation report.

Schmitt was informed during a conference call that his appointment was not to be renewed. In blatant disregard of commonly accepted standards in higher education, he was given no due process for contesting his termination, no dismissal hearing, and no reason for the decision not to renew his contract.

A little about the work of the investigating committee, on which I served as chair: AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few select cases annually in which severe departures from widely accepted principles and standards of 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; Professor James Klein of Del Mar College served on the Nunez investigating committee with me.

To learn more about the case, join me for a brief Facebook Live on Thursday, February 14, at 2 p.m. ET,  where I’ll discuss the investigation and its implications. RSVP here.

A recorded version will be available on the AAUP’s One Faculty, One Resistance site and Facebook page after the conclusion of the broadcast.

Nunez Community College, located in Chalmette, Louisiana, does not have a formal tenure system, and appoints all of its instructors on contracts of one year or less, in violation of the widely accepted academic standards codified by the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. That statement, jointly formulated by the AAUP and the American Association of Colleges and Universities, has been endorsed by more than 250 scholarly and educational groups. Because he had served well past an acceptable probationary period, AAUP standards recognize Schmitt’s appointment to be with de facto continuous tenure. Accordingly, he should be dismissed only for cause or as a result of institutional financial exigency or program closures for educational reasons.

The administration’s abrupt nonrenewal of Schmitt’s appointment, without stated cause, after more than two decades of service, constitutes a gross violation of the protections of academic due process, and in the absence of any stated cause for the administration’s actions and on the basis of the available information, must be deemed a retaliatory measure that violated his academic freedom.

You can read the full report here.

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

Nicholas Fleisher
Chair of the AAUP Investigating Committee
Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee


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