AAUP@FHSU


podcast@aaup (2022 ep1): Student Debt and the Fight for Florida

In our first new episode of 2022, I talk to Kaitlyn Vitez, federal government relations specialist in AAUP’s national office, and Jessica Sponsler, art historian and adjunct professor and AAUP’s Pennsylvania state conference president, about student debt and its impact on faculty and higher education. With more than 45 million borrowers saddled with $1.7 trillion dollars in debt, a movement to cancel debt and expand opportunities for debt forgiveness is underway as the return to repayment of federal loans, paused during the pandemic, looms in May. Listen here.

In episode five of our inaugural season, I sit down with Paul Ortiz, professor of history at the University of Florida and president of the United Faculty of Florida-UF to talk about ongoing attacks on academic freedom in Florida and how the faculty from the University of Florida has fought back against what Paul calls “anticipatory obedience,” awakening a growing movement of faculty who are ready to, as he puts it “get their hands dirty” and fight political and legislative attempts to diminish faculty right and chill academic freedom. Here’s the episode.

We stay in Florida for the sixth episode. The AAUP’s Kelly Benjamin talks to Michele Rayner, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, about attacks on academic freedom, the motivation for anti-critical race theory bills, and the state of the broader political situation in Florida. Play that episode here.

The episodes are on the AAUP website at aaup.org/aaup-presents, where you’ll find links to listen to them on major platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. We plan to release more episodes this spring. Have an idea for an episode? Email me at mquinn@aaup.org with your suggestions.

Happy listening.

Mariah Quinn
Digital Organizer, AAUP

Episode logo in a graphic


AAUP/AFT solidarity

In September 2021, we announced that the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers were exploring ways to expand and enhance our very successful ten-plus-year organizing partnership.

We are incredibly proud of the work that AAUP and AFT have done together to organize faculty and graduate employees around the US and to strengthen higher education and the profession. As a result of our partnership, more than twenty thousand faculty and other academic workers are in unions that are jointly represented by the AAUP and the AFT. In addition, we have worked together on important legislative efforts at the federal and state level to expand access to higher education, ensure adequate funding for public institutions, increase Pell grants, and expand academic workers’ right to unionize. AAUP members are already being included in planned student loan debt clinics run by AFT higher ed staff, and AFT members have had the opportunity to attend our Summer Institutes. Since last fall, we’ve been discussing how to best build on our successful organizing work, support our shared commitment to education and the common good, and build a stronger and more inclusive higher education movement.

We don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that democracy is hanging on by a thread right now, and a strong higher education movement is part of what’s needed to salvage and strengthen our democracy. In the few months since we started exploring possibilities for affiliation, the attacks on higher education and the common good have increased. Educational gag order legislation aimed at curtailing academic freedom has been introduced in thirty-eight states. We see administrations acquiescing to pressure from governing boards and state legislatures on fundamental issues such as academic freedom, faculty shared governance, and due process. We see state systems launching full assaults on tenure.

At the same time, we see a renewed interest in organizing to confront these challenges among faculty and other academic workers. On campuses where unionization is possible, we see faculty forming organizing committees and starting union campaigns. We also see a renewed interest in building and strengthening advocacy chapters as a vehicle for campus change. The ongoing challenges facing higher education and this renewed interest in organizing underscore the need for solidarity—with our colleagues and within our own organization, to be sure, but also with other organizations and with the academic labor movement as a whole. This affiliation will help all of us—AAUP and AFT Higher Education members together—achieve this.

Sincerely,

Irene Mulvey, President
Paul Davis, Vice President
Chris Sinclair, Secretary-Treasurer


AAUP Censures University System of Georgia

At its meeting today, the governing Council of the AAUP voted to censure the University System of Georgia (USG) for the unilateral action of its administration and governing board to remove the protections of tenure and academic freedom from the system’s post-tenure review policy.

Last October the USG board of regents adopted changes to the system’s post-tenure review policy that make it possible to fire tenured faculty members without affording them a dismissal hearing. The move was condemned by the AAUP for effectively abolishing tenure in Georgia’s public colleges and universities in flagrant violation of long established principles of academic freedom and tenure that have been endorsed by more than 250 higher education organizations.

The principal purpose of tenure is to safeguard academic freedom, which is necessary for all who teach and conduct research in higher education. When faculty members can lose their positions because of their speech, publications, or research findings, they cannot properly fulfill their core responsibilities to advance and transmit knowledge. In service of the common good, tenure allows faculty members to pursue research and innovation and to draw evidence-based conclusions free from corporate, religious, or political pressure.

The AAUP released a report in December emphasizing the magnitude and singularity of the USG’s attack on tenure and academic freedom, which affects more than 5,800 tenured faculty members in twenty-five colleges and universities and confers on the University System of Georgia the dubious distinction of being the only system of public higher education to take such a radical action in nearly fifty years.

In censuring USG, the Council acted on the recommendation of the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

We call upon the USG regents to rescind the changes to the post-tenure review policy so that essential academic freedom is protected.

Learn more about AAUP censure or read this announcement on the web.


How has two years without student debt affected you?

The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have been challenging ones for American higher education. And, given how 2022 has started, we have many more fights ahead of us to protect faculty and quality education.

There is one bright spot. The pause on federal student loan repayment has given Americans much-needed breathing room as the pandemic threatens livelihoods and economic recovery. Let’s keep it going. Join with our partners at the Debt Collective, and tell President Biden to cancel student debt today.

We’ve heard from borrowers what this pause on federal student loan repayment has meant for them. The student debt crisis is part and parcel of the faculty labor crisis, and adjunctification has made it more difficult for faculty to pay back their loans. Beyond faculty, we all know staff whose hours were reduced or eliminated, students who graduated into a turbulent job market, or friends and family who are struggling to pay the bills in a time of high inflation. Imagine what a world without student debt would look like!

I recently talked about the student debt crisis on our podcast, AAUP Presents, with AAUP Pennsylvania state conference president Jessica Sponsler. You can listen to that here.

While there are some promising signs that the Biden administration may fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and hold bad loan servicers accountable, more needs to be done. At the very least, we need another extension of the repayment pause while student loan reforms are implemented. Beyond that, our leaders need to clear out student debt and chart a path toward free college for all. Sign on to a letter to President Biden today, telling him to cancel student debt.

Thanks for taking action.

Onwards,
Kaitlyn Vitez, AAUP Government Relations

Graphic of AAUP Presents podcast with link to episode.


Educational Gag Orders: February Update

Opposition to educational gag orders (EGOs) has really ramped up over the last month. Here are some of the highlights:

University of South Carolina (U of SC) faculty showed up in force to a state committee hearing where educational gag orders were the only bills on the agenda. Several U of SC faculty members gave testimony, speaking strongly against these censorship bills. Our coalition partners at ACLU SC and NAACP Legal Defense Fund gave testimony as well. When all was said and done, the ratio of “opposed” to “in favor” testimony was more than four-to-one.

In Indiana, a hearing on HB 1134 drew over two hundred people, who showed up to voice their opposition to the proposed educational censorship. The state House committee chamber was so packed that several people were unable to get inside. The Indiana Senate has pulled its version of the EGO, and the House version, though still active, has been significantly watered down. There’s consensus among members of our education coalition that continued pressure on Indiana lawmakers could successfully defeat the bill.

Missouri’s coalition is continuing to apply pressure, culminating in a lobby day that’s planned for March 3. The sole focus will be that state’s educational gag orders. There’s currently an effort among some legislators to combine several of the bills (Missouri has over a dozen) into one omnibus and remove the most extreme language. It’s a step in the right direction, but we’ll continue working to defeat the bills outright.

Those are just three examples of the groundswell of opposition we’re seeing across the country. Members of the education community, along with concerned parents and students, are speaking out against educational gag orders in Wisconsin, Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia, and New York—to name just a few of the places where we’re seeing increased resistance.

For a list of all the active bills we’re tracking, visit our Educational Gag Orders dashboard. And don’t forget to check out our EGO landing page to access our draft op-ed, model legislative resolution, and other resources.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Lamore, AAUP Government Relations