AAUP on Capitol Hill

Higher education is dangerous because it raises expectations.

That was the argument Professor Gordon Lafer of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon made in a speech to AAUP members.  What’s more, he said, academics are those who are best positioned to lead the fight to protect higher education in a positive, active way. His talk came on the heels of a busy day of lobbying and meetings on Capitol Hill, where AAUP members from across the country were doing exactly as he advised.

As part of the AAUP Annual Conference, faculty visited the offices of members of Congress from Ohio to Connecticut to Texas and beyond. Their message was clear: make college accessible and affordable and block harmful Trump budget cuts to student aid and federal research and humanities programs.

The work of the AAUP members on Capitol Hill was reinforced by thousands of you–11,000, to be precise. That’s the number of people who signed petitions in support of the College for Act and against the harmful cuts to higher education proposed by the Trump budget. Those petitions were delivered directly to  Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who serves as the vice ranking member of the House Budget Committee. She plans to have the signatures and comments against the cuts to higher education introduced into the official record of the Budget Committee. Copies of the petition were also delivered Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and to education staffers at the offices of Bernie Sanders (the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee), Elizabeth Warren, and Chuck Schumer.

Check out the Facebook photos here.

First Amendment on Campus: A Facebook Live Event

Interested in the issues surrounding free speech on campus? Join us tomorrow, June 14, at 3 p.m. for a Facebook Livestream of a symposium on current challenges to free speech on college campuses, the First Amendment’s role, and the future of the student press at American universities.

RSVP now and visit the AAUP’s Facebook page tomorrow at 3 to watch live.

Co-hosted by the AAUP and the Newseum, the first panel on free speech will feature Newseum CEO Jeffrey Herbst, former president of Colgate University and author of a recent white paper, “Addressing the Real Crisis of Free Expression on Campus”; John K. Wilson, co-editor of the AAUP’s Academe Blog and author of Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies; and Catherine Ross, professor of law at George Washington University and author of Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights.

The second panel, on student press, will feature Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center; Henry Reichman, first vice president of the AAUP and chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure; and Courtney Rozen, editor-in-chief of The Eagle, the student newspaper at American University. Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, will moderate both panel discussions.


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Faculty and Border Patrol Searches

In conjunction with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the AAUP is seeking information from any faculty members who have had their cell phones or other electronic devices searched by US border patrol officers at the nation’s borders while traveling internationally.  The Knight First Amendment Institute is a recently created non-profit organization that works to defend and strengthen freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age through litigation, research, and education.

The AAUP is concerned with the chilling effect such searches may have on academic freedom and with invasion into the privacy of academic work.  We are looking into legal issues related to a US regulation that authorizes border patrol officers to search a traveler’s cell phones and other electronic devices at the borders without any basis for suspecting that the person has done anything wrong. The government enforces this policy against both American citizens and noncitizens, and there has been a sharp uptick in these types of searches over the past year.

We are seeking to learn more about people who have been searched and to explore possible avenues for legal relief. We are interested in hearing from anyone who has experienced anything along the lines of the following while traveling into or out of the United States:

  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has asked to examine the contents of your phone, tablet, laptop, or any other electronic device, including asking you to unlock your device and/or provide a password to unlock your device;
  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has examined the contents of your phone or other electronic device, and/or has taken your device outside of your presence for a period of time;
  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has sought to examine your social media postings on your device, including by asking you for social media passwords and/or user names or handles;
  • You have reason to believe that a border patrol officer (or ICE officer) made a copy of the contents of your cell phone or other electronic device; or
  • A border patrol officer (or ICE officer) has kept your cell phone or other electronic device for some period of time and then returned it to you.

We are interested in hearing from both citizens and noncitizens.  Please send an email with a brief description of your experience and your contact information to katie.fallow@knightcolumbia.org. We will keep your information confidential.

The American Association of University Professors

Students, Faculty Suffer Under New Trump Budget

The Trump administration’s proposed budget, released last week, cuts the Department of Education budget by 13.5 percent and reads like a primer on how to destroy higher education and research. The budget cuts student-loan forgiveness, subsidized loans, the federal work study program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Fulbright program, to name a few targets.

Back in March, we opposed similar cuts proposed in the administration’s “skinny budget,” and we continue to stand strongly against the new budget proposal.

Sign on to an open letter opposing the cuts. We will deliver it to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on June 15, during our annual lobbying day.

Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, AAUP

I Was a Threat Because I Wouldn’t Be Quiet

A report of an AAUP investigation released recently concludes that the administration of Spalding University in Kentucky summarily dismissed Erlene Grise-Owens, a long-serving professor of social work, in blatant violation of her academic freedom and normative standards of academic governance and due process.

Erlene Grise-Owens

The report finds that Spalding’s president and provost abruptly terminated Professor Grise-Owens’s tenured appointment because she criticized the administration’s handling of an incident involving a student who brought a gun to a campus parking lot, showed it to a fellow student, and said, “I’m tired of these people f–king with me.” When the student who was shown the gun reported the incident to institutional authorities, the school’s chair immediately alerted social work faculty about the incident—except the school’s three faculty members of color, one of whom was scheduled to have the student in class the next day. The student had a history of making racially charged comments in class.

Read the full report here.

Professor Grise-Owens and two of the three faculty members filed formal complaints about the administration’s failure to notify the faculty members of color about the incident. After the administration dismissed their complaint as groundless, they brought it in person to the faculty senate. The same day as their meeting with the Senate, Professor Grise-Owens received notice of dismissal at her home by certified mail.

Following the administration’s action, the other two faculty members resigned in protest. One stated, “I cannot be part of such a system, and I will not be part of a system that continuously models disparity between principles and actions and in so doing puts my life and the lives of my students in harm’s way.” The investigating committee found that Professor Grise-Owens was dismissed for “speaking out against institutional policies and practices she deemed inadequate” and, as one faculty member put it, for “being connected to the marginalized voices” of faculty of color.

The AAUP conducts investigations in a few select cases, in which faculty members allege that severe departures from widely accepted academic standards have occurred and persist despite efforts to achieve an appropriate resolution.

Please share the report with your colleagues.

Michael DeCesare
Merrimack College
Chair of the Investigating Committee

AAUP Annual Conference Registration

This year’s Annual Conference on the State of Higher Education conference marks fifty years since the AAUP and four other groups issued a Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. Many issues covered in the statement are as pertinent now as they were in 1967, and a series of sessions at this year’s conference will take a closer look at topics ranging from student activism in the 1960s to free speech issues on campus today.

Thanks to support from the AAUP Foundation, we will offer a screening of A Time to Stir, a documentary about the 1968 student protests at Columbia University. Film excerpts will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Paul Cronin, historian Ellen Schrecker, journalist Juan González, and AAUP first vice president Henry Reichman.

Learn more or register.

You won’t want to miss Ibram X. Kendi’s plenary address; Kendi, assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida and winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, will discuss his book Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.

At our Saturday luncheon, we will honor Harry Keyishian in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 US Supreme Court case Keyishian v. Board of Regents. In this landmark case, the Court ruled against New York’s loyalty oath for public employees and established academic freedom as a “special concern” of the First Amendment.

Learn more or register.

As always, the conference encompasses important Association business meetings and events. At Capitol Hill Day on Thursday, AAUP members will form state delegations and visit their elected representatives to lobby on issues of importance to higher education. As part of Capitol Hill Day, AAUP members will deliver a letter of support for the College for All Act, which would make four-year public college free for families making less than $125,000 and community college free for all.

Saturday will be the AAUP’s Annual Meeting, a gathering at which delegates carry out responsibilities specified in the AAUP Constitution. One of the most important of those responsibilities is the imposition and removal of censure. Censure results from the Association’s findings that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university and its removal is a sign of an institution’s academic health and of the continuing vitality of the principles and standards to which it has committed itself.

I hope to see you in June!

Gwendolyn Bradley
Director of External Relations

A Working Summer for the AAUP

With the end of the academic term upon us, we wanted to reach out to let you know what the AAUP is working on, now and through the summer.

We’ll be releasing a report next week on the summary dismissal of a tenured faculty member at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Our investigating committee found that her dismissal came as the direct result of her criticism of the administration’s handling of an incident in which a student brought a gun to campus and made what could reasonably be interpreted as a threat. A department chair immediately informed faculty about the incident—except for the department’s three faculty members of color, even though the student was scheduled to attend class with one of them the next day and had previously made racially charged statements in class. Be on the lookout for an e-mail with the full report.

We’ll also continue working with graduate employees at the University of Chicago, who filed authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board yesterday to form a union affiliated with the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers. A union would give graduate employees a seat at the table where decisions are made that affect them, their students, and the broader university community. An election is expected in late June.

Some good news: guidance out from the United States Department of Labor increases the potential for faculty on contingent appointments to receive unemployment compensation over breaks between semesters. The AAUP, along with other organizations, pushed the labor department to address this issue and provided information to the labor department regarding the changed reality of contingent faculty on university campuses. See the guidance here.

Our summer studies will continue in Ohio! The 2017 AAUP/AAUP-CBC Summer Institute is coming to University of Cincinnati. From July 27 to July 30, more than two hundred higher education professionals from around the country will gather for four days of exciting workshops and special programs. We bring in organizers, data analysts, seasoned campaigners, and issue experts to build your skills as an advocate for AAUP principles, collective bargaining, and higher education. Registration is now open; join us.

And here’s what you can do this summer. Be a voice for academic freedom.

  1. Donate to the AAUP Foundation. Your donation is crucial to our work fighting for faculty and higher education.
  2. Be social. Follow us on Facebook and share stories about our work so that we reach more people.
  3. Share your stories. We’re collecting reports from faculty members about experiences of targeted harassment and intimidation. Submit here.

We look forward to an exciting and productive summer!

Best regards,