AAUP@FHSU


AAUP Legal Work: Victories and New Briefs

We have a number of updates to share with you about legal cases addressing discrimination and AAUP policies in which we’ve filed amicus briefs or been otherwise involved.

In March the AAUP joined with Brady: United Against Gun Violence and its youth-led initiative, Team Enough, in submitting an amicus brief to the Michigan Supreme Court. The brief supports the defendant in the appeal of Joshua Wade v. University of Michigan, affirming a lower-court ruling that the university’s prohibition on firearms does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. It argues in favor of the right to impose gun-control measures on campuses to protect faculty members and students and explains how the presence of firearms could have a negative impact on academic freedom. Citing a 2015 statement opposing “campus-carry” laws that the AAUP issued jointly with the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the brief notes that “students and faculty members will not feel comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room” and summarizes research that supports this claim.

The AAUP also submitted a brief in the Oregon Court of Appeals in March in a case that involves the distribution of antiunion FAQs by Oregon State University. The appeal arose from an Oregon Employment Relations Board decision—based on the filing of an unfair labor practices complaint by United Academics of Oregon State University—finding that the university had violated a state law requiring neutrality in union organizing drives by circulating the FAQs. According to the board, after soliciting faculty questions, OSU wrote or edited many of the questions in the FAQs, presented them as having been asked by members of the faculty, and failed to disclose substantive changes to some questions. Oregon State University and six other public universities submitted an amicus brief that argued that the FAQs were protected by shared governance. The AAUP amicus brief challenged that claim, explaining the importance of shared governance as a framework for faculty participation in decision-making and asserting that the unilaterally created FAQs neither constituted nor contributed to meaningful shared governance.

This spring also brought positive developments in two legal cases in which the AAUP previously filed amicus briefs.

The first case involves Margaret DeWeese-Boyd, a professor of social work who alleges that she was denied a promotion by Gordon College because of her outspoken criticism regarding LGBTQ issues at the Christian college. As reported in the winter issue of Academe, the AAUP authored and filed an amicus brief in support of DeWeese-Boyd, arguing that she is not a “minister” and that the college had inappropriately invoked the “ministerial exception” to First Amendment law in an attempt to avoid application of Massachusetts employment laws. In March, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that DeWeese-Boyd is not a ministerial employee and returned the case to the trial court to determine whether the university had violated Massachusetts antidiscrimination laws.

More good news came in a ruling that allows Jennifer Freyd to proceed with a discrimination suit against the University of Oregon alleging she was underpaid due largely to retention raises given to comparable male faculty. After a lower court dismissed her suit, Freyd filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the AAUP submitted an amicus brief in September 2019 supporting her case. The brief provided information about gender-based wage discrimination in academia and about faculty work, explaining that the pay differentials Freyd documented were not justified and arguing that her department’s retention-raise practice had a discriminatory impact that the university could have corrected. The appeals court found in March that the faculty jobs of women and men were “comparable” for legal purposes and that the university could have avoided the discriminatory impact of retention raises by revisiting the pay of comparable faculty when retention raises were given.

Finally, as we let you know in an email earlier this month, in a major victory for graduate employees at private universities, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it was withdrawing a rule proposed in late 2019 that would have barred graduate assistants from engaging in union organizing and collective bargaining under the protection of federal law. With the withdrawal of the proposed rule, the governing standard remains the one established in a 2016 NLRB decision that allowed graduate employees at Columbia University to unionize. The AAUP has long supported the bargaining rights of graduate employees and submitted an amicus brief in the Columbia University case, which was cited and relied upon by the board in its decision.

Amicus briefs in which the AAUP participates appear, along with summaries of the cases they support, on the AAUP website at https://www.aaup.org/our-work/legal-program/amicus-briefs. The summaries are updated after courts issue decisions in the cases.

The AAUP


September COVID-19 Update

As many faculty have begun a new term, we continue to work to provide everyone with guidance and trainings to help navigate these difficult times. Check out our upcoming webinar, a newly announced investigation, and updated campus opening guidance below.

Financial Exigency during COVID

On Thursday, October 1, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, we will host a webinar for AAUP members providing an overview of recommended AAUP-supported standards on financial exigency and program elimination that should be included in faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements, with a particular focus on financial exigency and the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar will be led by Hans-Joerg Tiede, a senior program officer at the AAUP, and Mark Criley, a professor at Illinois Wesleyan University. Note that this webinar covers much of the same material as the financial exigency webinar held in April 2020. RSVP here.

AAUP Investigates Academic Governance during COVID-19

The AAUP has authorized an investigation of the crisis in academic governance that has occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on seven institutions: Canisius College (NY), Illinois Wesleyan University, Keuka College (NY), Marian University (WI), Medaille College (NY), National University (CA), and Wittenberg University (OH). Given the comprehensive nature of the undertaking, the investigating committee may decide to discuss relevant situations at additional institutions. The report, to be released in early 2021, will reach findings on whether there have been departures from AAUP-supported principles and standards of academic governance, as set forth in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities and derivative AAUP policy documents, but it may explore other issues as well, such as the effects of unilaterally imposed mass layoffs on academic freedom and tenure, the enrollment and financial challenges facing many institutions, and the impact of these challenges on higher education, especially the humanities and liberal arts. Read more and watch a Facebook Live with the co-chairpersons of the investigation here.

Campus Opening Guidance Updated

We have updated our guidance on reopening and operating campuses during the pandemic to include recent developments.

Fall Academe Preview

Last week, Academe published several online articles, including a new series of “pandemic reflections” by faculty members and AAUP activists, in a preview of our forthcoming fall issue on the COVID-19 crisis. Visit Academe online to read more.

An Invitation from Academe Blog

Colleges and universities around the country have approached the fall term in a variety of ways, and those approaches are constantly evolving. Whether your institution is holding classes in person or online or using a hybrid model, Academe Blog welcomes submissions from members about the challenges of teaching and engaging with and supporting students—and about other faculty concerns—during the ongoing pandemic. See submissions information here.

We’ll be in touch with another COVID-19 update in October. Stay strong, stay safe.

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


August COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 graphic

Here’s a round-up of some of our latest work that touches on the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you are staying safe and well in these trying times.

Medical Faculty Solidarity Letter

AAUP president Irene Mulvey saluted the work of AAUP clinical, medical research, nursing, and health professions faculty. The statement of solidarity provides guidance for all chapters and members on how they can support such faculty going forward. Read more here.

Recommendations of the AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession

The AAUP’s Committee on Contingency and the Profession provided recommendations to the higher education community about how to address the unique challenges contingent faculty face during the pandemic. These recommendations are followed by resources that can help chapters fighting for contingent faculty to get paid sick leave, to increase their job security in the fall, to apply for unemployment benefits, to retain their intellectual property rights after the emergency transition to remote instruction, to protect their academic freedom, and to gain better access to shared governance structures. Read more here.

AAUP Masks

New swag for new times: our online store will be offering non-medical-grade masks starting next week. There will be six different versions, including ones with the AAUP logo and another that says, “You can’t silence academic freedom.” We’ll share the link to the masks in the next update. In the meantime, you can check out other items in our store.

Masks image

AAUP Joins Amicus Brief Opposing DHS Directive

The AAUP joined over seventy other higher education organizations in submitting an amicus brief, prepared by the American Council on Education, in support of a successful legal challenge filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against the US Department of Homeland Security in the US District Court in Massachusetts. The challenge sought to prevent DHS’s July 6 directive, which rescinded a prior COVID-19 exemption for international students participating in online education, from taking effect so that thousands of international students couldn’t continue to participate in educational opportunities in the United States, even if their course of study is online. Read more here.

Virtual Summer Institute

The AAUP Summer Institute was virtual this year. Our ninety-minute sessions covered a wide range of topics, from campus decisions about reopening to supporting student protests to pushing back against austerity budgets. A special plenary panel highlighted the experiences of frontline health-care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch recordings of the sessions here.

Academe and Academe Blog

Last month, Academe published several new online articles addressing the COVID-19 crisis in higher education, and Academe Blog continues to highlight faculty perspectives on the pandemic in blog posts about academic governance during a financial crisis, mask mandates, remote teaching, and other topics.

We’ll be in touch with another COVID-19 update in September.

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


First Amendment on Campus: A Facebook Live Event

Interested in the issues surrounding free speech on campus? Join us tomorrow, June 14, at 3 p.m. for a Facebook Livestream of a symposium on current challenges to free speech on college campuses, the First Amendment’s role, and the future of the student press at American universities.

RSVP now and visit the AAUP’s Facebook page tomorrow at 3 to watch live.

Co-hosted by the AAUP and the Newseum, the first panel on free speech will feature Newseum CEO Jeffrey Herbst, former president of Colgate University and author of a recent white paper, “Addressing the Real Crisis of Free Expression on Campus”; John K. Wilson, co-editor of the AAUP’s Academe Blog and author of Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies; and Catherine Ross, professor of law at George Washington University and author of Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights.

The second panel, on student press, will feature Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center; Henry Reichman, first vice president of the AAUP and chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure; and Courtney Rozen, editor-in-chief of The Eagle, the student newspaper at American University. Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, will moderate both panel discussions.

The AAUP

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