|This day after Labor Day, in addition to celebrating and appreciating all workers, we celebrate the just-finalized historic alliance between the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers. Now, together, we represent more higher education workers than any other union. Our game-changing partnership brings together AAUP’s academic expertise and AFT’s power and reach, and creates a movement with the strength of hundreds of thousands of higher education workers. Together, we will be stronger in our work to dismantle systemic racism and fight white supremacy; we vow to bring a racial equity lens to all aspects of all of our work. Together, we will be more effective at beating back outrageous legislative intrusions into the academy—intrusions that obliterate the academic freedom needed for effective teaching, research and free inquiry. Together, we will be united in our efforts to ensure that higher education plays its essential role as a public good in a democracy.|
Because our affiliation builds on our successful joint organizing work, we anticipate bringing even more academic workers into our movement, and we anticipate being able to disseminate AAUP’s essential work on academic freedom and shared governance more broadly throughout the higher education community. We will be working together to organize a more powerful academic labor movement around our principles on campuses, in statehouses, and in Congress.
This has been one of the most invigorating summers of our careers, beginning in June when delegates voted overwhelmingly to ratify the affiliation agreement at the June 2022 Biennial Association Meeting, and continuing into July with the signing of the agreement at the AFT convention to thunderous applause and digital fireworks. Now, as we start the new academic year, we get to work as partners protecting higher education, demanding that higher ed lives up to its promise for everyone. We’ll be fighting with you and for you. It’s an exciting time and we have never been stronger.
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President
Randi Weingarten, AFT President
The governing Council of the American Association of University Professors voted unanimously today to pass a joint resolution resoundingly condemning the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and System Office for multiple violations of widely accepted standards of shared governance and academic freedom and for a sustained climate of institutional racism.
The vote comes less than two months after the AAUP’s publication of a special committee report calling attention to the alarming trends in the UNC system perpetuated by increased political pressure and interference within the system. The resolution is a step forward in acknowledging and beginning to address systemic and institutional racism in the academy.
The AAUP’s Council also voted to add Linfield University to the Association’s list of censured administrations over the dismissal of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured English professor who spoke up about multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the university’s board of trustees. The Council vote follows a recommendation from the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which published a report in April that found that the administration retaliated against Pollack-Pelzner for speech and conduct he exercised as part of his responsibilities as a faculty trustee and that the institution violated its own regulations as well as the AAUP’s widely adopted principles of academic freedom and tenure by not demonstrating adequate cause for the dismissal.
In more positive news, the AAUP’s Council voted to accept the recommendation of Committee A and remove St. Edward’s University from the Association’s list of censured administrations. St. Edward’s University was added to the list in 2019 as the result of the termination of a tenure-track and two tenured faculty members who were not afforded a dismissal procedure that comported with AAUP-supported standards. In July 2021 the institution’s newly installed president wrote that she had made removal of censure a priority that she hoped to achieve through shared governance. The administration began working with the faculty senate to address institutional policies implicated in the actions that led to censure. In May 2022, the governing board adopted several sets of revisions to the faculty manual that, among other issues, established tenure protections where they had previously existed only nominally. Last month the two tenured faculty members reported having reached an out-of-court settlement with the university. The case of the tenure-track faculty member is scheduled for jury trial in August. In late May, an AAUP representative made a virtual visit to campus on behalf of the AAUP’s national office, to confirm that current conditions for academic freedom and tenure at St. Edward’s are sound. Her report states that the university had taken “all the actions that the AAUP suggested” and that the faculty leaders with whom she spoke attested to “an improved climate for academic freedom and tenure.”
Find more information here.
Charles Toombs, Professor, San Diego State University
Chair of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure
With support from a strong majority of Miami University faculty, on Friday the Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM) filed a petition for certification at the Ohio State Employment Relations Board (SERB) to form a union with the AAUP. Ohio statute allows the Miami administration to avoid a drawn-out and costly election by voluntarily recognizing the union.
This is a significant moment for faculty at Miami and for collective bargaining in Ohio. The Miami University union drive builds on a national wave of higher education organizing in recent years. Miami would join the ten out of fourteen other four-year Ohio public universities with collective bargaining agreements and would be the largest bargaining unit to file since Bowling Green State University in 2010.
FAM has built a strong organization rooted in member activism and centered on strengthening the role of faculty at their institution. “Through FAM, teaching and learning will be reinvigorated at Miami University,” says Theresa Kulbaga, professor of English and a lead FAM organizer. “Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. When faculty are valued and supported, the quality of our programs and our teaching are strengthened.”
The move was prompted by long-standing issues with working conditions, shared governance, compensation, and academic freedom.
“Miami’s faculty and administration can work together to support high quality teaching and learning,” notes Todd Edwards, FAM press secretary. “As institutions of higher education face unprecedented challenges, faculty have an important role to play in the search for solutions. A stronger voice for faculty means a stronger Miami.”
Congratulations to everyone who worked on the campaign!
The academic year is winding down and so are many state legislatures. Activity has decreased significantly around educational gag orders as state legislatures adjourn and/or bills die in committee. We’ve gone from tracking more than 150 bills to just sixty. To date, nearly sixty of the bills we were tracking have died in committee or otherwise failed.
On April 15, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers vetoed another educational gag order that had been passed by the state legislature. And two bills in Iowa failed when that legislature adjourned the week of April 18.
Unfortunately, a handful of EGOs have been signed into law. In Tennessee, the Governor recently signed H.B. 2670, which doesn’t ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” but says neither students nor staff can be required to “endorse” a divisive concept, nor can they be penalized for not doing so. As with many of these bills, the language is troublingly vague, as it does not define or give examples of what it means to “endorse.” Does it include answering questions on a test or completing homework assignments? The bill doesn’t say. A bill in South Dakota was also signed into law at the end of March.
In states like Tennessee, where bills have been enacted, the next important step is to address these ambiguous terms. It will be vital for the state attorney general or similar office to weigh in on or outright define these words. It’s important to pressure state AGs for clarity, and equally important for faculty to make strong arguments as to why classwork should not be included in definitions related to H.B. 2670 or similar bills in other states.
With about twenty states still in session, and dozens of active educational gag orders, threats to academic freedom remain, and we expect to see another wave of activity in the fall seeking to suppress teaching about race and racism.
The good news is that faculty, including AAUP members, have been instrumental this year in fighting against and defeating some of the worst legislation.
Today the AAUP released a report of the Special Committee on Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System. The report considers the influence of the North Carolina state legislature on the systemwide board of governors and campus boards of trustees. It discusses how political pressure and top-down leadership have obstructed meaningful faculty participation in the UNC system, jeopardized academic freedom, and reinforced institutional racism.
The special committee, for which we served as co-chairs, focused in-depth on UNC‒Chapel Hill as the flagship campus, but also examined events across the entire system. Through interviews with more than fifty individuals across the UNC system, the report details the pattern of political interference from the legislature and unilateral decision-making from university leadership that has increasingly come to affect the entire UNC system, with clear violations of AAUP-supported principles of academic governance set forth in the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.
The report surveys the environment for governance and academic freedom in the UNC system against this backdrop of overtly partisan political control. It details how the intersection of broken governance, threats to academic freedom, and institutional racism affected campus-level matters, such as the closure of multiple academic centers run by faculty members who had been vocal critics of state leadership; the barring of centers from conducting litigation, which particularly affected the UNC‒Chapel Hill School of Law Center for Civil Rights; the controversial deal regarding “Silent Sam,” a Confederate monument; and the 2021 failed appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to an endowed chair in the School of Journalism and Media.
The report also details long-standing patterns of institutional racism that make the UNC system a particularly hostile environment for faculty, staff, and students of color. In examining the structural and cultural elements of racism within the UNC system, the report points to the racial climate; institutional inequities as manifested in the racial composition of the administration and faculty; the distribution of power, authority, and resources within the system; and retention of faculty and staff of color.
The special committee concluded that UNC needs strong and independent leadership that respects faculty expertise and observes widely accepted principles of academic governance, that defends academic inquiry from political pressures and constraints, and that is willing to do more than simply pay lip service to the idea of equity. The report emphasizes that the system- and campus-level governing boards not only need to fulfill their “special obligation to ensure that the history of the college or university shall serve as a prelude and inspiration to the future,” as described in the Statement on Government, but also “must ensure that the history of UNC inspires and serves as a prelude to a future that looks very different from its past and its present.”
To read the full report, visit the AAUP website.
Nicholas Fleisher, professor of Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Afshan Jafar, professor of Sociology at Connecticut College
Co-chairs of the special committee