AAUP@FHSU


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


AAUP Files Brief in Gender-Based Pay Disparity Case

The AAUP has filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Professor Jennifer Freyd, who sued the University of Oregon (UO) for pay discrimination based on significant pay disparities with male faculty members. A district court had dismissed her suit based, in part, on the court’s conclusions that she and her male colleagues did not perform equal work, and that the reasons for the pay differentials did not have a disparate impact on women.

The district court, in ruling against Professor Freyd, also claimed that the pay differential was justified by the “academic freedom” of faculty to “remake their job.” The AAUP’s brief refutes this argument, writing, “academic freedom is a condition of employment that all faculty hold in common to enhance their ability to engage in teaching, research, and service. It is not a weapon to be wielded as a justification for gender-based inequalities”

The amicus brief notes that “the wage disparity in Freyd’s case is an example of the ongoing gender-based salary inequalities in the academic profession, generally, and for women full professors in doctoral institutions, in particular.”

Professor Freyd is paid substantially less than her male colleagues in the psychology department who hold the same positions as full professors. A 2016 department study found a “significant equity problem with respect to salaries at the full professor level.” The UO psychology department also underwent an external review, which found gender disparity in faculty salaries at the full professor level. It recommended that the department “continue pressing for gender equity in terms of pay at the senior levels of the faculty.” Both reviews traced the disparity back to retention raises given to male professors who pursued outside offers of employment.

While UO policy provides for gender equity adjustments, administrators failed to adjust Professor Freyd’s salary. The AAUP’s brief argues that the UO retention raise practice was not a valid defense to the discrimination claims, since UO policy provides for gender-equity adjustments but didn’t make any after boosting the pay of male faculty.

You can find a link to the full brief here. We will keep you posted as the case develops.

Risa Lieberwitz
AAUP General Counsel

P.S.–Breaking news update: in a win for affirmative action, a federal judge has upheld Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions standards. The AAUP had previously joined an amicus brief supporting Harvard’s right to exercise its academic judgment in setting admissions standards. More on that here.


A Strike, Investigations, and a Fight for Quality Teaching

Greetings!

AAUP members make higher ed work, and as many campuses approach the end of the spring term, we wanted to take a moment to highlight what a strong year it has been so far.

Here’s a video highlighting our work. Click to watch it on YouTube.

The Year So Far AAUP video

Want to share the video on Facebook? Here’s the link.

A few quick highlights:

Faculty fought to protect quality teaching over corporate profit, making gains against privatization efforts at Purdue, Eastern Michigan, and George Mason Universities.

In Ohio, the Wright State AAUP chapter won a hard-fought contract after a 20-day strike, maintaining solidarity in the face of enormous pressure. Full-time faculty and graduate employees at Rutgers settled a historic contract last month, winning significant gains just ahead of a planned strike. As of this writing, the chapter representing part-time faculty at Rutgers is still fighting for a fair contract.

The AAUP/AFT chapter at the University of Illinois-Chicago has tentatively agreed to a new contract with pay raises, increased minimum salaries, and more job protections for non-tenure-track faculty, after a year of hard-fought bargaining.

We investigated violations of academic freedom at Nunez Community College, where the dismissal of a professor who disagreed with the administration over an accreditation report was likely retaliatory, violating his academic freedom. We also released an investigative report examining how partisan ideology and political ambition motivated drastic changes by the board to institutional decision-making processes at Maricopa Community Colleges.

The thread uniting all this work? AAUP members like you. We hope to see many of you at the Annual Conference and the Summer Institute! Thank you for being a member of the AAUP.

To a solidarity-filled summer!

The AAUP


Is a Campus “Free Speech” Bill in Your Legislature?

The answer is: Extremely likely.

Due to a surge in efforts to chill dissent, undermine academic freedom, and destabilize higher education, over a dozen states currently have a campus “free speech” bill in their state house or senate.

Use this free tool to search for the bill in your state, track its progress, and capture contact information for the legislative committee members reviewing the bill. Simply click on your state, select “Bills” at the top, and type “campus free speech” into the search bar to the right. For committee members, click “Committees” at the top.

Then see the AAUP’s Campus “Free Speech” Toolkit for a phone script, talking points, a primer, and a full report on the issue. With the toolkit, it’s easy to make a quick call or fire off an email to the appropriate legislator.

You’ll be glad you did. Campus speech legislation is an example of legislative interference in the autonomy of universities and colleges. It undermines academic freedom, and chills dissent on campus. This damaging legislation often has some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. Forbids public institutions from disinviting speakers and requires that they remain neutral on “issues of public controversy.”
  2. Establishes mandatory minimum penalties for students or others found to have twice interfered with the free expression of others. Suggested minimum penalties are suspension and expulsion.
  3. Provides that individuals who believe that their free speech has been disrupted or prevented on a public campus may sue the institution to enforce the legislation and can recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
  4. Requires that public institutions create an oversight committee, sometimes called a “Committee on Free Expression,” to oversee the implementation of campus free-speech law and to produce an annual report about the management of free speech on campus.
  5. Requires public institutions to provide training to incoming students, faculty, and staff on their free speech rights under the new law.

Concerned? We all are.

You can make a difference. First, track the bill here.

Then review the AAUP’s Campus Free Speech Toolkit.

Thank you for defending higher education from this unnecessary and speech-chilling legislation.

Monica Owens
Political Organizer, AAUP

P.S. Want to get more involved in defending against campus “free speech” legislation? Click here and an AAUP organizer will get in touch.


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