AAUP@FHSU


AAUP Files Brief Opposing Political Attacks on Teaching About Race in Texas

Last week the AAUP submitted a brief to Texas attorney general Ken Paxton strongly opposing recent political efforts to ban ideas from the classroom. The brief was filed in response to a recent request from State Rep. James White for an opinion on whether teaching about race and racism in America, including critical race theory (CRT), would violate the civil rights of Texans. This insidious political maneuver to ban discussion of racial inequality is part of a broader right wing assault on the ability to teach truthfully about the impact of racism on American history and society.

These attempts to limit classroom discussion stand in irreconcilable conflict with the principles of free inquiry, free thought, and free expression, which the AAUP has championed for more than a century. The AAUP’s brief underscores how these transparent attempts to dictate the education provided by faculty could undermine higher education, violate academic freedom, and result in censorship and indoctrination. As the brief states,

“Academic freedom is the chief cornerstone of higher education. Unless academic activity is protected from government intrusion, the integrity of the educational system as a whole is imperiled. In higher education, the principle of academic freedom is closely linked to the function of the university as an institution charged with the attainment of the common good through the discovery and transmission of knowledge. In the absence of academic freedom, colleges and universities are prone to becoming instruments for the advancement of narrow partisan interests, mouthpieces for the propagation of specific doctrines, and factories of indoctrination rather than places of legitimate education. A government ban on classroom discussions of ideas and analysis concerning historical context and current issues of race and racism in the United States would violate academic freedom and undermine the higher education system.”

The deadline for the Texas attorney general to issue an opinion is January 31, 2022. An AAUP statement on legislation restricting teaching on race can be found here. We will keep you posted on updates in the case.

Aaron Nisenson, AAUP Senior Counsel


Solidarity on Labor Day in Uncertain and Perilous Times

Labor Day 2021 feels very different from Labor Days past. Even more, Labor Day 2021 feels very different from what many of us started looking forward to last spring, when we were rolling up our sleeves to get vaccinated. COVID-19 still represents a global public health crisis, the Delta variant is more contagious and more virulent, hospitals in many locations are full and turning patients away, more children are at risk of very serious illness or death, and there is no end in sight. It didn’t have to be this way.

The way to end the pandemic is with collective action. In some states, however, we see governors and legislatures doing exactly the opposite of what needs to be done: banning mask mandates indoors—effectively guaranteeing that the virus will continue to spread, will continue to sicken and kill people, and will have ample opportunity to mutate into another more deadly and more contagious variant against which our current vaccines may be less effective.

In far too many of our colleges and universities, instead of dealing with the reality of a more contagious variant and how that will spread through a population that is not fully vaccinated, we see magical thinking and plans being put into place as if the pandemic is effectively over. Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to be places where the best science and the most effective requirements and guidelines—based on the expertise of public health faculty—should be put into place. Our institutions of higher education should be leading the way out of the pandemic. I am dismayed at the lack of leadership in many of our institutions and in mid-August called for administrations to do everything possible to ensure the highest level of health and safety, and to follow the guidance of public health experts to use every available tool to protect students, faculty, staff, and neighboring communities from further spread of COVID.

In today’s message, I want to go further and encourage AAUP members everywhere to use all legal and appropriate levers of accountability in order to make the workplaces safe. I am heartened by the spirit of solidarity I see nearly every day when faculty refuse to passively accept unsafe working conditions being imposed on a campus, but use their collective voice to object and to demand better. In addition to our call to administrators, we have many resources for faculty to consider as they organize to demand that public health be prioritized over the bottom line and the magical thinking behind a premature “return to the on-campus learning experience.” I hope these resources, which include AAUP’s special report on COVID-19 and Academic Governance, are useful to you as we organize, advocate and work together for a safe present and a strong future for higher education.

Let’s be clear: the fight for a safe working environment as we begin the new academic year is our fight since it is inextricably linked to genuine shared governance and collaborative decision making, and to academic freedom in the classroom and on campus. Faculty are the ones taking all the risks in our classrooms. It is outrageous for a faculty member to find herself in a position where she needs to consider the probability of bringing the virus home where it might be responsible for the death of a vulnerable family member. When the administration isn’t making the best decisions for the institution, it’s the faculty’s responsibility to stand up, speak out and do all they can to ensure that the core academic mission is carried out in the most effective way for the circumstances. As AAUP president, I thank you for your work in this regard. I am privileged to represent members of the AAUP as we work together during these very trying times.

Aside from the resources AAUP has put together to help faculty during the pandemic, our work continues on a number of other fronts:

Race and Higher Education: Under my leadership the AAUP is engaged in a multi-faceted long-term initiative to better understand the role of racism in higher education and within the AAUP. We will continue to update you as this work progresses. In particular, the AAUP staff has developed a series of resources to address legislative interference, typically at the state level, in the teaching of the role of racism in US history and society.

The New Deal for Higher Education: As part of our focus on racial justice and social justice we remain committed to fighting for a New Deal for Higher Education. The AAUP continues to press for reform of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. With the impending passage of the American Families Plan, we are now embarking on a campaign to double Pell Grants, secure tuition-free community college, and give grants to four-year institutions to quickly and effectively bring an affordable, high-quality education within reach of all students. Stay tuned for more coming this fall.

For those seeking useful data to organize and advocate for faculty, I urge you to look at two recent major reports by the AAUP. This year’s edition of the always highly anticipated Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession does not disappoint. The report examines long-standing economic crises in higher education, declining fiscal support, overreliance on contingent faculty, growth of administrations, and spiraling institutional debt, while also delving into some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAUP Research Department also published a second report on data collected from the 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey, the first national survey on shared governance since 2001.

I encourage you to make the most of the AAUP as a resource in these trying and perilous times, and let us know how we can help you. We stand united.

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President


The Problem of Institutional Debt

Much attention has been given—and rightfully so—to the student debt crisis in the United States. Collectively, outstanding student loan balances have ballooned to a record $1.7 trillion. And as student debt has grown, so has institutional debt, with colleges and universities increasing their debt load to fund ambitious projects and cover expenses.

In fiscal year 2018–19, 70 percent of public and private nonprofit colleges and universities in the United States held interest-bearing debt, amounting to more than $336 billion.

This year’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession examines the explosion of institutional debt, which might limit an institutions’ options for dealing with financial adversity, from 2008–09 to 2018–19.

Over $336 billion in long-term debt was reported by US colleges and universities in fiscal year 2018–19, a growth of 71.1 percent since fiscal year 2008–09. Long-term debt grew 50.2 percent among public institutions and 116.0 percent among private institutions.

State support is a key financial indicator for public institutions, although the majority of funding for public higher education in half of the states now comes from student tuition and fees, according to a 2018 study by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. For 2020– 21, state support per FTE student remained roughly the same as in 2019–20, due in part to nearly $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding. But following the cuts and slow recovery from the Great Recession of the late 2000s, more cuts are looming large because state revenues are projected to fall by as much as $200 billion by the end of the 2020–21 fiscal year, according to projections by the Urban Institute.

Debt is now woven into the fabric of higher education—both institutional debt and student debt. But for an institution with a poor outlook for growth, debt can become a burden and might limit its ability to deal with adversity.

The AAUP’s New Deal for Higher Education campaign has been focusing on the issue of institutional debt and other issues covered in the report, including contingency. You can find a webinar called “Rebudgeting the University” that discusses the issue of institutional debt here, with other webinars from the series.

The full annual report can be found here.

The AAUP Research Department

P.S. Share this graphic on Facebook.

Institutional Debt Graphic


Contingency and Upper Management Growth on the Rise in Higher Ed

The steady rise of contingent faculty appointments and the growth of administration in higher education present a significant threat to academic freedom and shared governance. That’s the conclusion of studies on contingency and administrative growth in the AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2020–21.

Some key findings on contingency and administrative growth:

  • In fall 2019, 63.0 percent of faculty members were on contingent appointments; 20.0 percent were full-time contingent faculty members and 42.9 percent were part-time contingent faculty members. Only 26.5 percent of faculty members were tenured and 10.5 percent were on the tenure track.
  • From fiscal year 2011–12 to fiscal year 2018–19, the numbers of staff classified as “management” increased 12 percent per FTE student, real average salaries increased 7 percent, and salary outlays per FTE student increased 19 percent, including an extraordinary 24 percent increase in real salary expenditures per FTE student in public colleges and universities.

As we note in the report, contingent appointments are the least secure, lowest remunerated, and generally least supported faculty positions. Most faculty members who are paid per course section do not receive retirement or medical benefit contributions, and in most states, adjunct faculty members do not have rights to unemployment insurance. Faculty tenure is the only secure protection for academic freedom in teaching, research, and service.

The prevalence of contingent faculty appointments also means that shared governance in higher education is increasingly at risk. Without adequate numbers of full-time tenure-line faculty members, many institutions now appoint administrators to committees that govern areas formerly within the sole purview of faculty committees.

This deep imbalance between the rise of contingency and the rise of management, particularly the exorbitant rise in high-level administrative salaries, requires urgent action. Governing boards, legislators, and other policy makers must provide funds for a substantial readjustment of academic salary levels to avoid irreparable harm to the US higher education system. Additionally, the AAUP holds that full and part-time faculty members, regardless of rank, are to be considered eligible for tenure and the protections it affords. Faculty teaching, research, and service must remain the focus of higher education.

You can read the full report and view charts of our findings on contingency and administrative growth here.

Next week, we will discuss the report’s findings on rising institutional debt and share resources from our New Deal for Higher Education campaign on this issue.

The AAUP Research Department


Student debt relief?

Today, hundreds of thousands of professors and other campus workers face financial uncertainty. Faculty were promised student loan forgiveness in exchange for years of service to our communities and our country. But after rising time and again to meet unprecedented financial challenges for our colleges, faculty have been denied debt relief and left behind.

Now is the time to tell President Biden and the Department of Education your Public Service Loan Forgiveness story and demand student debt relief.

This week, for the first time ever, the US Department of Education is asking for borrowers to share their stories about public service and debt forgiveness. This is our chance to make the case directly to President Biden and Secretary Cardona that Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is broken, particularly for adjunct faculty, and that only sweeping action to deliver debt relief can right a decade of wrongs by the department and the student loan industry.

PSLF was created to alleviate the burden of student debt for dedicated public service workers. The idea was simple: work in public service for ten years and have your remaining student debt forgiven. Unfortunately, PSLF has been plagued by problems and abuse at every turn, with 98% of borrowers applying for forgiveness being rejected. Because of the program’s failures, some public service workers may not even know this student debt relief is available to us – or may be left out entirely if they cannot find full-time employment.

That is why it’s so important for you to tell President Biden your story and demand he deliver on the promise of PSLF.

The department’s public inquiry into the PSLF program offers renewed hope for public service workers. For the first time, the federal government is asking those of us who depend on the program to help decide what comes next – and to shape the way the program will operate in the future.

Join us today in calling on President Biden to deliver on his promise to public service workers and provide immediate debt relief.

Best,

Kaitlyn Vitez, AAUP Government Relations