Victory at Trinity College

In a victory for academic freedom, the administration of Trinity College in Connecticut acknowledged today that Professor Johnny Williams’s social media posts “were protected by academic freedom and did not violate Trinity College policies.”

The administration observed that “Our understanding of academic freedom in America today is rooted largely in a joint statement from 1940 by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges that asserted the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth.”

Williams had been placed on involuntary leave after reports on the website Campus Reform about his posts were followed by threats and the closure of the campus. The administration’s statement notes that “the initial report by Campus Reform led to distortions and an ensuing harassment that has become troublingly common for people of color and those who speak out on issues of race and racism.”

The AAUP had urged the Trinity administration to lift Williams’s suspension and planned to send a committee of inquiry to visit Trinity on July 20. With the resolution of this case, our further intervention is no longer warranted. Professor Williams has agreed to remain on a leave of absence through the fall semester.

We applaud the excellent work of our local chapter at Trinity College, which organized expressions of solidarity and opposition to the administration’s actions.


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,

Sign to Support College For All Act

Access to free public higher education and strong protections for faculty? That’s a bill we can get behind.

Last month the AAUP endorsed the College for All Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, which would make four-year public college free for families making less than $125,000 and community college free for all. Former students would be able to refinance their student loans with lower interest rates, easing the burden for those who may be struggling. The funding would come from a Wall Street speculation tax. The bill also includes provisions to increase the percentage of faculty jobs that are full-time and on the tenure track, compensate faculty on part-time appointments for work done outside the classroom, and support faculty access to professional development and shared governance.

Next month (June, 2017),  AAUP members will meet with members of Congress as part of Capitol Hill Day during our Annual Conference. We’ll be delivering a letter of support for the College for All Act to members of Congress.

Add your name to the letter now.

The College for All Act reaffirms a commitment to quality, public higher education as a right for all Americans. It will help current and former students tackle crippling debt by refinancing loans. Crucially for faculty, it would cut down on the abuse of adjunct labor and strengthen academic freedom protections by increasing the percentage of faculty positions that are on the tenure track.

The AAUP is proud to endorse the bill. Join us and add your name.

Best regards,
Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, AAUP