AAUP@FHSU


SCOTUS decides Janus case

Today, a narrow majority of Supreme Court justices sided with extremely wealthy interests in the long-awaited decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31. Although this decision was not unexpected, we are disappointed by the opinion of the majority in this case, which seeks to undermine our freedom to join together to create better colleges and universities for everyone. Stay tuned for more information about the impact of Janus as we analyze the repercussions of this opinion.

You can find out about the background of this case at https://www.aaupcbc.org/together.

You may have heard in the news that this case is about being “forced” to pay union dues. But what it’s really about is an effort to undermine the voice of faculty at our colleges and universities and to diminish the rights of working people all over. The Janus case and similar court cases and legislative initiatives are part of a broad assault that seeks to erode our freedom to join together to ensure that our students have challenging learning environments and to strengthen our institutions of higher education.

But make no mistake, our fight as AAUP members to have a positive impact on our colleges and universities, to strengthen public higher education, and to protect academic freedom is not over. Together, we will continue to fight for our students, our campuses, and our communities. We will continue to say, loudly and clearly, that strong universities and well-educated citizens are essential to our survival as a democracy. That’s why our work as educators, union members, and advocates has never been more important than it is now.

In solidarity,

Rudy Fichtenbaum              Paul Davis
President, AAUP                  Chair, AAUP-CBC


Liberal Arts Matter: Sign On to the Statement

We stand for the protection of liberal arts education.

This week the AAUP issued a statement jointly with Association of American Colleges and Universities calling for the protection of the liberal arts disciplines.

This comes at a time when politicians have proposed linking tuition to the alleged market value of given majors. Students majoring in literature, art, philosophy, and history are routinely considered unemployable in the technology and information economy, despite the fact that employers in that economy strenuously argue that liberal arts majors make great tech-sector workers precisely because they are trained to think critically and creatively, and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

We strongly believe that higher education serves the common good — and that education is much more than narrow vocational training and should seek to enhance students’ capacities for lifelong learning.

To read the full statement, click here.

The AAUP


Oregon leads the way in organizing

We have great news to report! Yesterday, faculty at both the Oregon Institute of Technology and Oregon State University moved to form unions affiliated with the AAUP. With this, faculty at all public universities in the state have joined together in unions in an effort to protect quality higher education and strengthen teaching, learning, and research. It’s a powerful movement and an important counter to widespread attacks on academics, education, and public institutions.

Faculty unions, nonunionized AAUP chapters, and faculty senates are crucial vehicles for democracy in the academic workplace. They champion academic freedom, advance shared governance, and promote economic security for all who teach and conduct research in higher education.

That’s why we help organize and protect the faculty voice, and why we’re proud to see our ranks growing in Oregon. The new AAUP union chapter at Oregon Tech will represent 180 full-time faculty members, on and off the tenure track. The faculty aims to strengthen shared governance and to establish a legally enforceable contract with respect to working conditions, pay, and benefits.

United Academics of Oregon State University will be comprised of more than 2,400 members. As a faculty union jointly affiliated with the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers, United Academics seeks to strengthen shared governance, improve working conditions, and create the best possible environment for teaching, learning, research, and outreach.

We warmly welcome these new members to the AAUP! If you’re active on social media, you can help us welcome them by sharing the news on Facebook or Twitter.

The AAUP


AAUP Releases Investigation of Campus Protest Case

I’m writing to you today about a case that crystallizes the current right-wing assault on higher education. It involves issues that the AAUP has been working on intensively this year: faculty harassment and exaggerated controversies over free speech on campus.

The case concerns Courtney Lawton, a graduate student, and part-time lecturer at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. At the beginning of the fall semester, Lawton protested an on-campus recruitment table of Turning Point USA, a conservative organization that maintains the Professor Watchlist. Her protest was recorded by the undergraduate student staffing the table, and the resulting video was widely disseminated online—one of the primary strategies of right-wing groups in their attacks on higher education—leading to threats against her and the university.

While Lawton was under vicious attack for her protest speech, state legislators launched a campaign of political pressure on the university, suggesting that Lawton’s conduct toward the student staffing the recruitment table was representative of a campus climate hostile to conservative views and calling for her dismissal. The Nebraska Republican Party filed open-records requests for email correspondence related to the case, and “campus free-speech” legislation was introduced in a clear example of legislative overreach.

Under pressure, the university administration suspended Lawton from her teaching responsibilities and subsequently refused to reinstate her to the classroom, thus extending her suspension to the end of her term of appointment. This action was tantamount to summary dismissal, as the administration did not afford her any academic due process. An AAUP investigation found that “the conclusion seems inescapable that the basis for Ms. Lawton’s dismissal was related to the political content of her speech and thus may have violated her academic freedom, a conclusion that stands unrebutted absent the affordance of a dismissal hearing.”

We’ll be discussing the case during a Facebook Live tomorrow, May 11, at 1:30 EST. Click here to RSVP.

Campaigns of targeted harassment against individual faculty members and legislative attempts to impose misguided rules on institutions of higher education are on the rise. The AAUP believes that democracy thrives on dissent, critical inquiry, free speech, and free research. That’s why we investigated the case at the University of Nebraska and why we’ve developed resources for you to use in fighting harassment of faculty and misleading “free-speech” legislation on your own campus.

Read our investigative report here.

Hans-Joerg Tiede
Senior Program Officer, Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance


Professor’s Academic Freedom Violated, AAUP Brief Argues

In an amicus brief filed on Friday, the AAUP emphasized the importance of faculty being able to use controversial language and ideas to challenge students in the classroom, and argued that Professor Teresa Buchanan’s academic freedom was violated when Louisiana State University dismissed her for making statements in the classroom that the university improperly characterized as sexual harassment.

The brief explains that sexual harassment policies, particularly those focused on speech, must be narrowly drawn and sufficiently precise to ensure that their provisions do not infringe on rights of free speech and academic freedom. In public universities, these policies must meet constitutional standards under the First Amendment. LSU’s policies, and their application to the facts, failed this test.

The case originated when, in 2014, LSU’s Office of Human Resource Management found Buchanan guilty of sexual harassment based solely on her occasional use of profanity and sexually explicit language with her students, despite the fact that Buchanan did not use language in a sexual context and instead employed it to further educational objectives. Buchanan’s dean recommended her dismissal, and has stated that he did not condone “any practices where sexual language and profanity are used educating students.”

Subsequently, a faculty hearing committee recommended unanimously against the dismissal of Buchanan. While the committee faulted her for having violated LSU’s policies on sexual harassment by her occasional use of “profanity, poorly worded jokes, and sometimes sexually explicit ‘jokes’ in her methodologies,” it found no evidence that this behavior was “systematically directed at any particular individual.” Despite this, Buchanan was dismissed.

Professor Buchanan filed suit against the school, arguing that LSU’s sexual harassment policy violated her First Amendment rights because it was vague and overbroad both facially and as applied in her case, and that her due process rights were violated. The district court ruled against her, Buchanan appealed, and the AAUP filed an amicus brief in support of her appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The use of provocative ideas and language to engage students, and to enliven the learning process, is well within the scope of academic freedom and is protected by the First Amendment. Many things a professor says may “offend” or even “intimidate” some students. If every such statement could lead to formal sanctions, and possibly even loss of employment, the pursuit of knowledge and the testing of ideas in the college classroom would be profoundly chilled.

The AAUP recognizes the importance of combating sexual harassment and has long emphasized that there is no necessary contradiction between a university’s obligation to address problems of sexual harassment effectively and its duty to protect academic freedom. To achieve these dual goals, hostile environment policies, particularly those focused on speech alone, must be narrowly drawn and sufficiently precise to ensure that their provisions do not infringe on First Amendment rights of free speech and academic freedom.

You can read the full brief here.

Risa Lieberwitz
General Counsel, AAUP
Aaron Nisenson
Senior Counsel, AAUP

P.S. If you’d like to support AAUP’s legal work, you can donate to the AAUP Foundation today.


A New Age of Activism

From teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona to faculty walkouts in the UK, we’re reminded of how activism can breathe life into movements. Thanks to these amazing demonstrations of solidarity and a renewed focus on education and educators in the media, we have an opportunity to remind the public why faculty and higher education matter.

Summer is a great time to get more involved with this work.

Our Summer Institute will be held July 19 to 22 in Durham, New Hampshire. 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. Learn more here.

You can also take the summer to dive into two of our recently released toolkits, one focused on the targeted harassment of faculty and the other on “campus free-speech” legislation.

  • Campaigns of targeted harassment pose a profound challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. Our toolkit pulls together resources for addressing it, focusing specifically on Turning Point USA, the right-wing organization behind the Professor Watchlist. Find out more here.
  • “Campus free-speech” legislation, increasingly prevalent in state legislatures, is a solution in search of a problem. Bills purporting to protect free speech on campus have become a popular method for chilling campus dissent and undermining the institutional autonomy of public colleges and universities. Read more and access the toolkit here.

With a potentially damaging decision in the Janus case expected by the end of June, a strong and organized academic workforce has never been more important. Our collective voice is a powerful force to set standards, protect and create better workplaces in our country and in higher education. Standing together also makes it possible for us to negotiate affordable healthcare, a fair return on our work, and the ability to retire with dignity. To learn more about this case, check out our resources on preparing for the challenges ahead.

National AAUP staff and leaders will be busy this summer as well. We’re working to protect your rights to organize and bargain collectively. When opportunities arise, we file amicus briefs in court cases that impact union rights, academic freedom, and other key issues. We respond to incidents of faculty harassment and violations of academic freedom. And we help chapters organize and grow stronger to face the challenges ahead.

Make sure to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to get regular updates.

Mariah Quinn
Digital Organizer, AAUP


Challenges to Academic Governance at Maricopa

Today we wrote to the governing board of the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona to convey our concern over apparent departures from generally accepted principles of academic governance. The matter stems from a February resolution of the 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. The “meet-and-confer” process is specified in the current faculty policy manual as a process of deliberation “for the purpose of articulating agreement regarding change with respect to responsibilities, wages, governance, benefits, and all other terms and conditions of Residential Faculty employment.”

Significant changes to the structure and procedures for faculty participation in institutional governance should not be made unilaterally. As 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 Colleges and Universities, observes, “The structure and procedures for faculty participation should be designed, approved, and established by joint action of the components of the institution.” The governing board’s action to terminate the “meet-and-confer” provision effectively eliminated the role of its representative faculty body in the process of making changes to the policy manual and thus has unilaterally modified the structure and procedure for faculty participation 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.

The AAUP’s letter further expresses concern that, following the adoption of the governing board’s resolution, Provost Karla Fisher wrote to college presidents to inform them that “Senate Presidents and Representatives must be dutiful in avoiding any [Faculty Executive Council] or Faculty Association-related work or conversations during business hours.” As the AAUP’s statement On the Relationship of Faculty Governance to Academic Freedom observes, “The academic freedom of faculty members includes the freedom to express their views … on matters having to do with their institution and its policies.” The provost’s directive thus appears to interfere with the academic freedom of the identified faculty members.

The letter concludes by urging the governing board to rescind its resolution and restore the “meet-and-confer” provision. It further urges the administration to rescind its proscription against certain “conversations during business hours.”

Read the full letter here.

Hans-Joerg Tiede
Senior Program Officer,  Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance