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


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


Protecting Organizing Rights for Faculty at Religious Institutions

The AAUP filed an amicus brief yesterday in support of Duquesne University faculty who have voted to form a union. The case, Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit v. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is currently before the federal court of appeals in DC.

The brief explains that academic freedom is essential to higher education and that the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, jointly formulated by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (and endorsed by more than 250 higher education institutions) is its bedrock. Most religiously affiliated institutions recognize the need for unencumbered academic freedom for faculty. The statement establishes that in those instances in which a university seeks to impose a religiously based limitation on academic freedom it must do so in a way that is clear to faculty members, prospective faculty members, students, and the public.

The NLRB established an analogous principle in its 2015 decision in the Pacific Lutheran University case, which found that unless a religious institution has held out faculty as performing a specific religious function, faculty have a right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act.

Based on this precedent and supported by the widely accepted tenets of the 1940 Statement, we argue that an institution’s failure to articulate a religious function for its faculty in advance of an appointment means that it is subject to NLRB jurisdiction, and the faculty should have a right to organize.

The case started in 2012 when adjunct faculty in the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts at Duquesne sought to form a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers. The Duquesne administration fought at every step, but the faculty voted overwhelmingly to unionize. Duquesne refused to recognize the faculty vote and to bargain with the union and ultimately appealed to federal court. In doing so, it is seeking to overturn the Pacific Lutheran University case. Thus, the ruling in this case could impact not just the faculty at Duquesne, but faculty at many of the nearly 1,000 religiously affiliated institutions in the United States.

We’ll keep you posted on developments in the case. To read the brief, go to this link.

Aaron Nisenson
Senior Counsel, AAUP

P.S. Help support the AAUP’s legal work. Donate to the AAUP Foundation’s Legal Defense Fund.


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